April 14, 2022 - There's been a constant drumbeat from offices across the globe as the modern workplace settles into its "new normal" — a mix of spaces that all need to be digitally outfitted, that is — a consistent control experience needs to be deployed across your enterprise. Control that enables everything from unified communications to lighting and scheduling needs to be available at the user's fingertips, from the smallest huddle room (or even alcove) to the biggest auditorium. As those spaces shift, as a company grows, expanded control of those spaces can rapidly become an overwhelming concern for IT departments. The issues are obvious: How much will this cost? Do I need new infrastructure? How do we manage the management system? What happens to all the "black boxes" we've already got in place?
One solution is virtual control — a software-based product with the ability to scale up quickly, the smarts to handle everything from AV to HVAC, and automation capabilities to boot. Of course, another concern from any IT department will be immediate (and valid): Will we need to learn how to program this thing properly? It's a legitimate worry — the modern, hybrid digital workplace can bring fresh sets of Help Desk tickets for any business, from interoperability to security to device management issues, and carving out time to learn the ins and outs of yet another platform can seem daunting.
Crestron's Mike DiBella, director of commercial product marketing, has the answer: "Crestron's products are highly customizable — which, like any powerful tool, requires some training. However, for standardized spaces that are designed to be simpler in nature, configuring rooms are very intuitive with VC-4, enabling anyone with any skill level to configure a room."
The Power of Choice
"It's never been more apparent that corporate IT departments need the power of choice when it comes to these deployments," DiBella adds. "If you're sticking with hardware, we've got solutions. If you are migrating over towards a software-based architecture, then we also have something for you."
That something, says DiBella, is Crestron's VC-4 Virtual Control, "a software-based system representing a more easily scalable alternative to Crestron's industry-leading appliance-based solutions," according to a recent press announcement. "With VC-4, you sacrifice no functionality — and you get all the downstream benefits that the software provides," DiBella explains.
Those benefits include the capability of VC-4 to manage (and receive updates for) up to 500 rooms from a single centralized server. "VC-4 is built for a convergent architecture, whatever blend of room functionality or complexity you need to achieve," says DiBella. "It's very IT-centric, provides redundancy, fault tolerance, and it's easy to manage — it carries all the benefits of a software solution."
Less Cost, Easy Implementation
Like any software package, deployment of VC-4 lowers the overall cost of ownership, especially at scale. DiBella gives this illustration: "Let's suppose you have, say, 300 spaces today that are up and running, but now you want to roll out another 100. That's a lot of ‘black boxes.' Many organizations are not properly equipped to from a manpower or budgetary standpoint to buy, configure, and install all these boxes, so the VC-4 software solution is designed to help those kinds of firms find a solution."
What's more, the VC-4 software is easy to deploy, whether you're using it for an entirely new set of spaces or adding to an existing build. "It works on power up," says DiBella. "From there, it's pretty simple to modify and tweak it just with a web-based configurator."
"Now, if you want something that is highly customized, you can still do that with standard programming languages, including C# for IT and SIMPL for AV professionals," DiBella notes — and, he adds, utilizing custom code for VC-4 is extremely simple. "Over the past five decades, Crestron has trained more than 20,000 programmers. With VC-4, every one of those programmers can immediately leverage all their existing projects — all that custom code that they've programmed for hardware-based control systems — that same code can be dropped into VC-4 without having to write anything new.
"The transition is seamless."
And, of course, there's another benefit to a virtual control system that can handle all the functions an enterprise needs: "There's a supply chain issue; there's a labor shortage," notes DiBella. "A virtual solution that's easy to deploy meets both those challenges at once."