Matrox Extio KVM extenders and Expanders have recently been installed in New Zealand’s National Control Centres, which operate the national grid power system. The electric utility installed Extio to simplify PC maintenance by isolating computers in a separate, secure environment, while Matrox’s unique remote graphics extension technology provides real-time control of keyboard, mouse and multi-display operator consoles. Matrox Extio units are installed on all operator desks, with up to 18 displays per desk, allowing operators to monitor over 11,000 km (over 7,300 mi) of transmission lines.
New operator PCs needed to be installed in a separate location away from the operators’ desks and an extension solution was required to transmit keyboard, mouse, and video signals within the control centres. “Our main goal was to be able to house desktop PCs in a secure environment, physically separated from the end users and monitors,” said Andy Marsh, Project Manager at Transpower New Zealand Ltd. “This avoids the need to undertake system maintenance directly on/under operator desks, simplifying PC hardware replacement and other tasks.”
The extension solution would have to extend computer data and control to operator desks at varying distances, with a large number of displays, so cabling and multi-display support were important considerations when revamping the control rooms. System performance and reliability were also key, given the 24/7 operation of the nationwide power grid
Technology partner and value-added distributor WestconGroup suggested Matrox Extio F2408 fiber-optic KVM extenders supporting up to five USB 2.0 HIDs and up to four 2560x1600 displays by up to 1 km (3280 feet) from the host computer with no compression and no latency—all over a single fiber-optic cable. Additional monitor support is available with the optional Matrox Extio F2408E Expander unit to drive up to four more monitors from the same fiber-optic cable between operator and host PC system.
Maximum Workflow, Minimal Cabling
Cabling complexity can be a big concern for major deployments. Matrox Extio minimized the amount of cabling required for this installation in the National Grid operating centres—reducing the total cost of ownership and dramatically simplifying system installation as well. Matrox Extio KVM extenders are designed to simplify cabling by extending multiple signals including up to 4 displays over a single dual-LC fiber-optic cable. A total of 8 displays can be supported over the same cable by daisy-chaining an Expander to the Extio unit. And if you run a second cable with an additional Extio and Expander pair, you can get a total of 16 displays from the same PC. This practical design was critical during the control-room-wide deployment of the new remote, multi-monitor setups.
Now using a combination of Extio and Expander units, the National Grid operating centers feature operator desks with up to 18 Dell™ UltraSharp™ displays, at resolutions of 2560x1600 per display. Matrox Extio’s small footprint design allows for it to be mounted discretely onto a support structure behind the operator displays and facilitated the installation of rise/fall desks. Meanwhile, all the workstations are stored in a dedicated rack within a secure and separate machine room.
A Control Room Transformed
Matrox Extio F2408’s cabling and performance meets Transpower requirements to reliably manage New Zealand’s electrical power system. Operators today work across productivity-enhancing, multi-monitor desks without the presence of noise and heat-emitting system equipment, while the centralization of assets enables IT staff to efficiently administer and maintain these.
“Matrox Extio KVM extenders allow desktop PCs to be located in a dedicated secure environment, simplifying desktop PC hardware replacement and allowing for the installation of rise/fall desks,” said Marsh. “Operators haven’t noticed a difference over traditional graphics technology which was also a major consideration – the technology should be invisible.”