Five years after moving to their new HQ in 1993, the company had originally installed two 100in VistaGRAPHX 2500 systems from Electrohome (the forbearer of Christie), and after short-listing three vendors during the procurement process this time around, Christie again bid successfully for the contract.
Mindful of Orange’s expanding needs (but restricted control room height) — and the possibility of future relocation of their first floor infrastructure — Christie recommended an 8 x 2 GraphXMASTER CX50 (50in XGA cube) media wall, which — due to favorable pricing — they were later able to augment with a further 2 x 3 wall.
While the larger wall meets the requirements of Orange’s Technology Management Center (TMC) the adjacent smaller display is dedicated to the needs of the Service Management Center (SMC).
However, the delivery necessitated a long and fastidious selection process — a two year path towards procurement and eventual commissioning, as Service Delivery Manager, Mike Curry explained.
“We had been running the VistaGRAPHX, with a 2 x 4 array of cubes and additional 42in plasmas … but the source was fixed to RGB and we had impaired visibility because of the poor sightlines.
“Aside from the lack of flexibility, other key factors were the increasing cost of support and maintenance, deterioration of the displays, and the fact that it was neither future proof nor scalable.”
One of the key areas in which Orange has displayed proficiency, Mike believes, is end-to-end management, supporting the needs of the customer, with a current initiative based on Next Generation Network (NGN) technology. It also has a proud reputation as solution providers, creating its own monitoring tools and proprietary software.
“A lot of Telco’s are moving towards convergence and we needed to revitalize our network and acknowledge the growing convergence between what is IT and what is Telecoms. The purpose of the new mediawall is to provide an overall network view and serve as a commercial selling point, enabling us to bring in external customers.”
The company implemented the initial Request for Proposal, and as a result of the ensuing site visits from six companies (subsequently short-listed to three), prepared a scoring matrix.
“What ultimately went in Christie’s favor, aside from their keen pricing, was the dynamic that already existed. One of the factors for wanting to change in the first place was support — and Christie had an established support network.”
Mike Curry was also suddenly confronted by a reduced budget, so in addition to CAPEX considerations, as implementation manager his concern was with the ongoing maintenance and lamp replacement costs. “I had a directive to make sure we made the best use of expenditure. DLP was a proven technology — we knew it would deliver consistent image quality, whereas we were concerned about the burn-in effect of LCD. "
“We also wanted to make sure that aside from being portable there was sufficient functionality in the cubes and controller, with the ability to connect to the Orange LAN and determine user profiles — as well as integrate existing media hardware into the wall control. It also had to be upgradeable in the event of any relocation, and had to adopt standards like DVI."
One of the strongest concerns was the scheduling and programming of scenarios. “We are extremely technical in Network Management and we wanted to be sure that our fixed and remote AMX touch panels were both easy to use and could display corporate imagery via switching SVGA, RGB and audio feeds.”
Orange also required default and specific configurations which, at the click of the button could set up the video wall instantaneously to be able to provide a graphical display of information pertinent to the current network condition or ergonomic requirements. This could manifest itself during a live incident — prompting them to show Service Impact information (such as call queue) or performance information from the Java-enabled Mercury Interactive Topaz platform (which conducts synthetic tests and is designed to meet Application Performance Management needs).
Finally, Orange operates a number of Management Tools that support “north-bound” SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) alerts— and needed these alerts to be received by the display wall controller. “As a 24/7 operation we have a duty of care to people working alone in remote locations,” Mike explained. Orange have thus developed a ‘Man Down’ notifier; SMS messages are sent incrementally to engineers mobile handsets, and if the engineer fails to respond by sending a SMS message back, an alarm is flagged — a feature which had to be integrated into the Workforce Management System.
Tasked with meeting these exacting requirements, Christie initiated a dynamic response to provide a total solution.
Having recommended the cubes based on the room height, viewing distance and the possible relocation of the TMC, project manager David Griffiths introduced Christie’s proprietary Application Programmable Interface (API).
This is a programmable Interrupt — providing a number of tags which bridge the gap between the two sets of software, enabling Orange to implement their ‘Man Down’ alarm. “It is an open command system which provides them with the programming links into their software,” explained Griffiths.
Christie also supplied the FRC 5100 Display Wall Controller - which now forms part of the company’s newly-released MASTERSuite 4, along with wired and wireless touch screen control, plus all cabling and cladding.
Composed of two main components, MediaManager™ and WallManager™, the Christie MASTERSuite 4.0 upgrade offers a powerful, next-generation graphical user interface (GUI) and format which significantly simplifies the setup, management and monitoring of content displayed in multi-screen control rooms.
The MediaManager provides an intuitive interface for displaying and managing all media sources channeled through Christie’s FRC series tiled display wall controller, while the WallManager component provides networked users with multiple levels of remote wall monitoring and control capability. The software’s new web-based architecture allows for easy access, workstation control and live monitoring of the entire display wall.
“We were very clear about what Orange wanted and they were very clear about what could be achieved; they managed it extremely well and thanks to Master Suite 4, all customization can now be done at their end,” says David Griffiths, adding that Christie have a rich pedigree of client retention.
“As a full wall management system it allows Orange to capture the physical wall back on a laptop, and an unlimited number of client workstations to be connected, any of which can be located in the control room itself or in another city or country; this is a useful feature, as Orange is a global company, owned by France Telecom.”
As a result, the company now has greater control of its new media wall — with the flexibility to place any image of any size onto any area of the wall. The displays are dynamic in so far as they react to events such as SNMP traps which increase the impact of information, while the time taken to add, remove or refresh information following fault conditions has decreased tremendously.
As Mike Curry summarizes, “We now have a seamless, high-resolution wall, individually addressed from the desktop, and taking DVI, RGB and composite video feeds, which enables us to configure any number of different incident scenarios.”
And of course it has enabled Orange to set up important site visits by potential corporate customers to their control room viewing gallery.