Interview with Markus Drautz, Sales Director

Markus Drautz is one of IHSE’s longest-standing members and currently the company’s Sales Director. Over the years he has helped shape the way the organization has evolved and influenced the design and architecture of the range of KVM products that are now so successfully deployed throughout a wide range of industries. His involvement in most of the large projects has allowed him to develop an extensive understanding of the needs of the industry and significant expertise in specifying and deploying all IHSE products; from the simple, but essential point-to-point extender right up to the largest and most complex KVM and video matrix switch.

What is IHSE’s most important business sector?

Currently we are extremely busy installing KVM matrix switches in the broadcast industry. Many TV and radio studios in Europe and America, such as SRF, NDR, SWR, YLR and SVT use Draco major and tera switches in a variety of chassis formats and sizes. They are used to manage playout operations, distribute advertising and audio files and create virtual studios by assigning monitors to remote computers according to the particular requirement. This means that studios do not have to be dedicated to specific tasks or programs but can be multi-purpose; assigned as and when necessary to programs and presenters, usually by instant switching to pre-configured and stored studio setups. Thus saving time and space and without tying up valuable equipment.

A similar situation occurs in the post-production world. Here, virtual post and edit suites can be created instantly in a general-purpose room equipped with a range of terminals by connecting them to computers running specific applications including Avid Symphony, DS, and Media Composer, as well as DaVinci Resolve and Final Cut Pro. It means that services are supplied where they are needed without duplication of equipment and data file storage can be centralized for security, version control and ease of access. Organisations such as Viditech, Shapeshifter, Skywalker and Technicolor benefit from IHSE KVM matrix switches in this way to streamline their operations and increase their productivity in this way.

Our products are also extremely useful for outside broadcast and electronic and satellite news gathering (ENG and SNG) vehicles where space is at a premium and it is desirable to minimise the amount and consumption of equipment to reduce cooling and power demands. Matrix switches provide these facilities. A typical example of this application field is the Netherlands-based Facilities House where the Draco tera has been installed in their latest HD outside broadcast vehicle.

How do you see this changing in the future?

The rate of conversion of studios and OB vehicles from standard definition (SD) to high definition (HD) is tailing off throughout Western Europe and America as conversions are completed. However, there are still many broadcasters and facilities providers that have yet to do this in Eastern and Southern Europe. So whilst we expect the rate to drop a little there will still be very strong demand for KVM matrix switches in the broadcast sector, it is just that the geographical centre of activity will shift.

What other markets are you active in?

KVM extenders and matrix switches are used throughout all industries; anywhere that a computer and terminal are used and can benefit from being separated, either for convenience, safety, environmental or security reasons. There is a lot of activity in the core business sectors of government, banking, air traffic control, manufacturing and service industries, maritime and medical applications.

  • In government, the use of KVM devices is often related to the need for security and the preference to install computers together in secure areas, making them and their data less easily accessed by non-authorized staff. IHSE Draco switches have extensive access and configuration capability which prevents users from gaining access to machines to which they are not authorized.
  • Air traffic control towers and control centers are generally built with limited physical space and often the need to keep the weight of equipment as low as possible. This is facilitated by the way in which KVM equipment enables computers to be physically distant from operators. In the case of ATC towers, the equipment can be on ground level whilst the operators and their terminals, are on the observation deck hundreds of meters above them. This layout provides the best and most spacious environment for the operators.
  • There are many industrial applications and as many reasons for using KVM extenders and switches. As well as the security and space reasons that are typical of other sectors, there are often instances where computers are to be used in hostile environments – in car plants, foundries for example; which can be easily achieved using a rugged user terminal, perhaps with a touch screen, linked to a remote PC in a more stable environment.
  • Maritime applications call for this type of equipment in order to separate the controlling computers from harsh environments where sand, salt and spray might damage the computers and deck space is extremely limited. Again rugged terminals are often used to provide safe and effective user input.
  • Medical applications such as diagnostics are often run on very specialized, tightly managed computers but need to be accessed by a wide range of users. KVM matrix switches allow this configuration and provide instant and reliable interconnection; often a critical element in rapid response to emergencies.

With so many applications and market sectors, how does IHSE manage to serve them all effectively?

We use a highly-capable and very extensive supply chain comprising specialist dealers and integrators throughout the world. IHSE’s role is to fully support them in their activities and service to their customers. So rather than sell direct to end-users, we operate in total cooperation with the local dealer and will provide direct customer service and technical support as required to ensure that our products are installed and operated to the best possible level. Within IHSE, supporting our dealers is regarded as a highly important and a critical element of our operations by all staff.

What are the most popular sizes of installations?

It is difficult to say what installation sizes are most typical and popular because there are so many different sectors and applications. The Draco tera enterprise was initially constructed as matrix switch of 160 ports and has been extended to its current maximum of 288 ports in a single chassis. By now, the series also comprises smaller sizes of 48 and 80 ports. Each port is dynamically assignable as an input or output so there is no limitation on the total number or even permanent configuration that must be decided upon at the start of a project. It is modular system using plug-in boards. As the boards can be mixed-and-matched in groups of 8 ports it permits fiber and copper cables to be used on the same system so there is even greater flexibility. What often happens is that a user will specify a chassis larger than they actually require and sub-populate it, allowing for future expansion when needed. This is a highly cost-effective solution to anticipated growth.

Significant demand for smaller chassis configurations led us to develop the compact range in response. This range is both physically smaller and has fewer ports on each chassis. It is manufactured in a selection of fixed formats ranging from 8 ports, through 16, 32, 48 and 64 ports up to a maximum of 80 ports. They are provided in compact 19” rack housings as cost-effective solutions to many user requirements. The smaller sizes, up to 48 ports are copper only, the larger sizes 64 and 80 port units have some fibre ports included as an option; either 16 or 32 respectively.

How are the Draco tera switches controlled?

There is extensive control capability designed to suit all possible user installations, including basic on-screen user interface, serial and Ethernet APIs for third-party controllers; AMX and Crestron for example and a Java-tool graphical web interface. So configuration and control can be local or remote and user or administrator managed. There are also considerable configuration options that enable system managers to set up and store configurations for emergency or dedicated use and access control to allow or block users from specific paths to CPUs.

How do you foresee the future for IHSE products?

The enormous success of the product range so far, combined with the reliability and dedication that everyone at IHSE invests in the company is a solid base from which to grow even more rapidly in the future. We are continually innovating and adding new features to the switches. For example Multi Screen Control was added recently. This is a way that a single mouse and keyboard seamlessly moves between several monitors. So an operator does not need to change keyboards or press a selection button when moving between screens. The readiness of the design teams to provide bespoke solutions and to respond to individual customer requirements will stand us in good stead to continue with KVM products that are needed and wanted by the industry.