Bridging over troubled waters

Guntermann & Drunck (G&D) is a German manufacturer and supplier of KVM equipment that enables the user to control multiple computers from a single workstation – or for multiple users to control a multiple workstations. The equipment also offers extenders that bridge distances between computer and user up to 10,000 metres, providing far greater flexibility in the design and layout of remote access as well as administration.

Udo Guntermann and Martin Drunck founded G&D in 1985 and its first product, Video-Net, which provided hardware support in software training, gained success through its distribution by Philips. It expanded its portfolio in 1987 with the VN-32 Plus, a multifunctional PC networker capable of transmitting both keystrokes and video signals. Numerous spinoffs from this basic model made the company a success and provided it the financial footing to develop the first of its modern range: the multi-PC control (MPC) switch, which offered control of up to ten PCs from a single console. From this it went on to develop a wide range of KVM units and accessories.

There is a broad range of applications in KVM. Today G&D is a well established name in the media broadcast, industrial, and air traffic control sectors where its products are supplied to end users through integrators. It has also been involved with the maritime industry for almost 14 years, since initial collaborations with Van Oord to solve workspace issues, but it is only during the last few years that it has taken the opportunity to establish itself as a strong partner in the maritime market.

“We discovered over time that G&D was gaining experience in vessels and offshore platforms as a result of our partnerships,” states director of sales and marketing Roland Ollek. “Because we are also expanding into markets beyond Germany, the maritime industry’s global reach was very appealing to us. Furthermore there is some comparability between the maritime and the air traffic markets in terms of quality, reliability and durability expected by end users. We got to a point about two years ago where we recognised we could gain something with maritime users that we already have done within air traffic control.”

He goes on to discuss the critical point that drew G&D into the maritime industry and how its KVMs aid vessels: “The first thing was really the classic KVM scenario – that Van Oord found it necessary to decouple the user from the technology, so that PCs do not need to be built into the bridge or control rooms. Instead, the PCs and servers can be installed in a dedicated technical room and the crew can use them from consoles in the control rooms. This where our extenders provided an advantage – even if a ship is large the workspace might not be so there is only space enough for one keyboard, mouse and screen. From here it was necessary for them to control maybe five of six servers and so our extenders meant the technical room could be installed anywhere onboard with sufficient space and remain at the control of the crew. Our KVM equipment helped Van Oord solve this issue.”

G&D’s maritime product ukportfolio is varied and offers numerous methods of solving controlling tasks. It includes extenders, switches, matrix switches, consoles and accessories such as panels, and there have been a number of recent additions. One is the DL-MUX4-MC2, a switch designed for four PCs and two video channels that has gained the Tempest approval for public safety and military use. Another is the DVICenter that allows switching between a huge number of users and PCs. Currently it is possible to have up to 32 different users and 32 different PCs on a single DVICenter with one person controlling 32 PCs, 32 users controlling one PC, or any numbers in between. There is also a smaller, DP16 model that offers up to 16 connections at either end. Other recent additions include the DL-Vision, an extender system for dual-link video, and a sophisticated operator panel that allows control over switches at the press of a button.

“These are all quite new to the market and provide a huge range of functions and features,” says technical editor Annette Häbel. “In particular, it offers real time monitoring so that crew can observe every part of the ship’s processes and ensure that there is no downtime upcoming or issues about to arise. It means the crew is always prepared, one step ahead of any errors or failures that might arise.” When approaching new product ideas, the primary concern for G&D is to produce a reliable, high quality solution that can be used by as many of its customers as possible. It does not design bespoke products: it supplies KVMs that can be applied across industrial, offshore, air traffic and media broadcast markets equally. Each of these industries also provides G&D with a valuable source of inspiration and information. This approach was used in for monitoring via SNMP that was developed in conjunction with, and for, the air traffic market but has proved to be useful onboard ships as well due to the length of time it might be at sea. “Industries are often comparable with each other because the requirements are comparable: they look for safety and reliability,” Annette adds.

Consequently, G&D’s products have ended up in the hands of a wide range of customers throughout its core markets of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands. These include the Deutsche Flugischerung, Deutsche Bundesmarine, and Imtech, Boskalis, the Vessel Traffic Centre in the Netherlands, the EOS frigate and of course its first maritime customer Van Oord. The flexibility and advantages offered by KVM systems mean that end users include vessels of all types including war ships, freighters, dredgers, yachts, and miscellaneous special purpose boats.

Having created a good foundation for itself, G&D is now looking at branching out to markets further afield. Roland elaborates: “We are trying to extend our reach by doing the same thing that made us popular in air traffic: going to trade shows and exhibitions. This year, for the first time, we will be going to SMM in order to attract interest from integrators. When we take on projects, we always look for system integrators that share the technical or business vocabulary of the end user. The maritime sector, like the broadcast or air traffic sectors, has its own language and it is important the customer understands and feels understood. It is not our aim to just sell units to the customer, we want to be a partner and want our partners to look after the customer by understanding the entire application. That is why integrators are important, and how SMM will help us achieve our ultimate aims.”

Having been immersed in the maritime market for the last few years, making contents and grasping the basics of seagoing PC networks, G&D is now prepared to spread its solutions throughout the international maritime market. “Within five years we hope to have a strong partner network worldwide with maritime integrators, as well as content and happy customers,” Roland concludes. “Sustainable growth is also important: fast money is not important to us, we want to slowly and steadily build up relationships that will last. G&D’s aim is not to be a manufacturer but a partner, to have humanity and approachability behind the products we sell.”

Range of new products
First SMM appearance in 2012
Strong presence in other markets