A/V and IT have choices for controller management today. AMX’s Resource Management Suite, Crestron’s Fursion-RV and Extron’s GlobalViewer Enterprise all offer scheduling, product monitoring and management tools. However, aside from finding a product with the most appropriate feature set, analyzing cost, scalability and redundancy are key factors.
Enterprise-class software solutions can be priced in different ways, including by rooms or servers. Software can be inexpensive to start, but expanding the number of rooms controlled can drive up prices. “A product that is economical for 100 rooms may be prohibitive at 1,000 rooms,” says Josh Stene, director of Technology Management at Crestron. “Alternatively, it’s possible to pay a higher price up front and add as many rooms as necessary.”
For Joe Andrulis, AMX’s vice president of Marketing, cost-effectiveness hinges on a balance between standardization and runaway customization. There can be pressure to design a showplace A/V space with more features than needed to get the job done, increasing development and implementation costs, and requiring special expertise to maintain. The problem, he says, is losing sight of what is simply good enough. “It’s the difference between consumable commercial art that gets the job done and fine art that overshoots what’s needed.”
Derek Joncas, product marketing manager at Extron agrees with the idea of managing expectations and the concept of good-enoughness. Best practices suggest weighing management systems’ capabilities against situational reality, he says. “Deciding what data you want to log and the types of reports to generate is essential. Since you can’t be in every room every day or get to every classroom, collect only what your organization finds necessary and no more.”
All agree that redundancy is not optional. When controlling hundreds or thousands of rooms, the loss of a server connection that leaves A/V without access to outlying rooms can give rise to financially devastating chargebacks. Server failover and redundancy is crucial.
“The bottom line is that whatever we put in has to be proven reliable,” says Marko Jarymovych, director of IT for Public Technology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “You can’t shoot the news twice; it must go smoothly the first time.” One way Wharton ensures reliability is through its aggressive strategy of prototyping, and he urges other A/V managers to do the same. “Until you bring a controller supervision solution into your own network environment, interface it with your own code, and test it completely. There is no guarantee it will work.”
Controlling the controllers continues to grow in significance. Solutions abound, but the real challenge lies in overcoming the AV-IT divide, minimizing unique room types to simplify administration and maintenance, and managing the wish lists of room planners and users.