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Innovations: Audinate Dante Domain Manager

Brad Price, senior product marketing manager at Audinate, traces the history and development of Dante Domain Manager software, which allows users to build ever-larger, more sophisticated AV systems using brands they already know.

Audinate Dante Domain Manager
Audinate Dante Domain Manager

By the fall of 2016, engineers and product managers at Audinate had already been thinking about the functionality that would become Dante Domain Manager for quite some time. Input was solicited from different stakeholders in the AV industry, and it became clear that we needed to focus on other concerns of IT managers more directly.

Those “other concerns” were not about audio; they were about management, security and using the routed networks that were already ubiquitous. Nonetheless, it was critical that the ease-of-use so prized by AV professionals not be compromised. Rather than fixing what wasn’t broken, a strategy of embracing Dante Controller emerged. The system that evolved preserved all the normal functionality of a “regular” Dante network while providing controls and restrictions in a manner transparent to the operator.

For IT managers, the primary means of controlling access to areas and functions of a network is via user authentication. Users must log in using a directory (LDAP or Active Directory) in order to access resources, and a login permits only designated resources to be used. The directory is key, as it determines exactly who has what access across the entire network at any location.

Brad Price is senior product marketing manager at Audinate.
Brad Price is senior product marketing manager at Audinate.

Dante Domain Manager was designed to tap into and use existing directories so IT managers could use normal methods to add or remove people from access levels. This made Dante Domain Manager truly an integrated element of the overall network security scheme.

Networks are rarely presented to users as a single, flat group of devices. Once a network becomes large, such an arrangement is unwieldy and difficult to manage. Organization into functional groups helps IT to visualize groups of people or places that are affected by network operations and problems.

When the engineers at Audinate looked at this, they came to similar conclusions. It made sense for AV devices to be in useful groups, such as “Auditorium A” to represent an event space or “Theater department” to represent a group of people and devices that require interconnectivity. From these examples and many discussions, the idea of Dante Domains was born. A Dante Domain is a group of devices that can be assembled to represent spaces, departments, buildings, and more. Even though there is a single large Dante network in place containing all devices, domains permit these groups to operate as if they were “stand alone” systems, free from interference by other parts of the network.

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Domains give system operators a clearer view of what they are trying to accomplish. A domain allows users to see only those devices and no others, removing the visual clutter of a large AV network controller that shows everything at once.

IT managers and departments rarely design a network to be one big, flat group of devices on the same range of IP addresses. Networks are thus divided into smaller groups of different IP address ranges, which helps to manage traffic and allows for controlled use of broadcast and multicast communications between devices. In general, subnet boundaries do not permit multicast traffic to pass, which can be a good or a bad thing.

Subnets represent a problem for AV-over-IP. The networking standard for clocking – Precision Time Protocol (PTP) – uses multicast traffic and is thus defined to operate only within a single subnet. This limitation meant that useful AV-over-IP was constrained to single-subnet networks or VLANs. This isn’t generally a problem for things like live concert sound or installations in a single space, but for IT departments in charge of larger, more complex systems, it’s a very significant restriction.

Recognizing that such a problem could best be solved by a tool that could “see” the entire network and all subnets, Audinate built into Dante Domain Manager the ability to identify subnet boundaries and configure devices to pass clock signals between them, all without the end-user having to do the hard work to make that happen manually. Dante Domain Manager employs routable unicast traffic to cross subnets, which is then re-transmitted as multicast within each subnet. The end result is 100 percent transparent to system operators.

From the beginning, Dante gained acceptance by being easy to use. Dante Controller is now ubiquitous and is widely seen as “how you connect AV-over-IP” by thousands of users. With automatic discovery of devices, automatic clock configuration and one-click signal routing, it set the stage for the adoption of Dante around the world. No one at Audinate wanted to see that change.

In designing Dante Domain Manager, it was critical that users experienced in non-managed Dante systems have no problem using a managed one, so rather than building a new interface, Audinate extended Dante Controller to work seamlessly with Dante Domain Manager.

Dante Controller now supports mandatory authentication of individual users to Dante Domain Manager. Those users now may only enter and see the areas or domains to which they have been granted access. Once a logged-in user has selected a permitted domain, all Dante Controller features and functions remain as they have been from the beginning—clear, easy routing of signals, naming of devices and configuration of other system parameters.

Developing Dante Domain Manager was a huge effort for Audinate. The result has been a product that has enhanced the Dante ecosystem, allowing more customers to use Dante to build ever larger, more sophisticated AV systems using brands they already know and trust.

Brad Price is senior product marketing manager at Audinate.

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