The Network is the New Table

December 13, 2021

Years ago in this forum I was pretty vehement about the conference room table. It seemed to me that this magical piece of furniture had lost it’s way. It is my understanding that the humble table was built to keep stuff off the floor and closer to the person that wants access to his/her stuff when seated. So one might put
a laptop on a table. Maybe a notepad. Even in some cases, a Kleen Kanteen aluminum water vessel.

Then some very smart people got together and made a proclamation. The use case for these tables has been changed. They now only serve as some sort of a pylon or median to separate and distance the chairs and possible visitors in a room. Do not ever place ITEMS on the table! It will not only mess up the photo-shot, but you may damage the table. AND IN NO CIRCUMSTANCES IS ANY AUDIO VIDEO STUFF EVER, EVER ALLOWED TO BE VISIBLE IN ANY WAY ON OR NEAR THIS TABLE. No way. Can’t see it. We will turn to a pillar of salt if we see a USB connector.

I write this because I was in a brand, new executive conference room the other day. It was beautiful. They had a big, giant display and around 20 or so seats. It was acoustically fantastic. The table was beautiful. The connectors, the HDMI, power, etc were installed using under-table connector systems. The architect/designer
did not want these flush with the edge of the table, so they were set back as designed. About 6 inches from the edges of the table.

So the CEO of this tech company, and it is a big company (Fortune 100), is going to have to get on his/her hands and knees , turn their phone onto “flashlight mode” and fumble around to get their laptop connected to anything. You literally have to climb under the table to use the room.

The table is gorgeous. Just don’t touch it.

(Please read the following passage in the voice of David Attenborough)

Then…then in this same building, inside of this amazing monument to technology, there is a network. It is a pristine beautiful network with the fanciest boutique switches, routers, access points from the fanciest suppliers. No protocol is unavailable. This network is beautiful. The cable management in the MDFs and
IDFs is a work of art.

But keep your grubby mitts and your AV junk off this network. DO NOT TOUCH THIS NETWORK OR PLUG THINGS INTO THIS NETWORK. It is PRISTINE and must stay that way. It keeps it SECURE if we literally plug nothing into it. We don’t need your multicast flooding. We don’t need your demanding QOS on this network. This network is perfect. Don’t mess it up with stupid data!

So at some point, the network became the new Table. The networks were all built with only one thing in mind. One thing. That thing is collaboration. Networks are literally built to share data. Share ideas. It is in the operating systems. They call it SHARING.

Our industry has done a terrible job of becoming a trustworthy technology partner. Instead of acceptance as part of the network, we are a product that “uses” the network for some unknown purpose. We are often told, “get off my network” or, “go make your own network”.

This is silly. Very silly. The network is for sharing data…and commercial AV is literally the most collaborative and real time data there is. The network was built for this, but it has become the fine-china of enterprise. Only use it for special occasions and wear an ascot when doing so.

I can’t actually go to a client or an office and say any of this. I will get machine-gunned with data-breach stories, DDS attacks, blah blah. I don’t know a ton about all that stuff. To me, it seems the IT world is set up to handle that.. but they routinely make it my problem. It is actually now MY PROBLEM. In order for me to put my stuff on their fine china network, I literally have to learn how to manage their network better than their IT staff. This is not an exaggeration. It is true. Fortunately, the Farm has access to not one, but TWO organizations that know how to work networks better than the IT staffs of even the most powerful users. These folks we access are not smarter than every network person out there. They just dug deeper due to necessity. These are folks that are frustrated by our industry’s inability to educate and are trying to do it on their own. It is working, but at this pace, we will be flying around in jetpacks before we plug our display into an RJ45.

So here is my big ask from YOU. My call to action. Tell your AV manufacturers that you are interested in AV specific network training. Real network training. And that you are willing to pay for it…pay for it by buying and using their gear or literally just throwing down your What’s In Your Wallet Visa card. Tell em. They are not
listening to me…but they will listen to you. You have all the influence here. You have a real seat at the table, so to speak. Just don’t put anything on it.