The Network

Beyond the usual network definition

The CopperLan native network topology is an abstract definition that can be applied to any existing or future physical connectivity solution; in other words, the CopperLan neutral topology can be conformed to the specifics of Ethernet, USB, etc through a Network Adaptation Layer. Thanks to its abstract upper topology, CopperLan can make a heterogeneous multi-network system appear as being unified.

Practically, besides its virtual networking capability inside computers, CopperLan can run on Ethernet, USB, Firewire, etc.

The variety in pricing and performance of the various physical links covered allows CopperLan to be tailored to any product profile, while guaranteeing a unified and seamless system.


  • Computer-centric setups
    To be CopperLan capable, a computer runs a VNM (Virtual Network Manager). This VNM is a cost-free download package available for MAC-OS® and Windows® platforms (Linux to follow), and is made of different parts:
    • A virtual network serving all CopperLan applications running on that computer.
    • Bridges, extending the CopperLan network to various physical connections:
      • real networks (e.g. Ethernet)
      • pseudo-networks; these are non-network links that CopperLan makes behave as networks (e.g. USB [3])
    • system extensions (e.g. CPMIDI converter[7])
    • system management extensions (e.g VNM config.)

  • Widely spread setups
    When the equipment cannot rely on a nearby computer, the cable length is the limiting factor. This is where CopperLan on Ethernet makes sense.
    On Ethernet, CopperLan uses its own protocol at the raw level. Not relying on TCP/IP improves the latency significantly. An added bonus is that a DHCP server is not required. This greatly simplifies non-computer based setups.
    With the PoE specification, Ethernet allows power through the cable in a similar way to USB. This is useful for many CopperLan products that could get up to 13 Watts without local supply (24 Watts with the new 802.3at specification)

    1. Ethernet hardware
    CopperLan works on ordinary Ethernet of any speed and relies on off-the-shelf Ethernet switches[4].

    2. Embedded Ethernet
    In embedded products, Ethernet connectivity is realized with a dedicated CopperLan-ready microcontroller or an embedded Linux platform. Note that there is no need to have a computer to run or setup a CopperLan network based on Ethernet (as there is no network setup needed).

  • Remote equipment without Ethernet connector
    With CopperLan it is possible to connect USB equipment to the network through a bridge box. Usually, such bridge will present one Ethernet port and one or more USB Host ports.
    • This functionality can be part of any product (e.g. the main unit of an electronic drum set [2]).
    • Alternatively, it can be an interface box dedicated to that sole purpose [5].
    This approach is particularly cost-effective to connect several affordable USB products without imposing them an Ethernet connectivity or restricting their use to a computer-based setup only.

  • Combining CopperLan and audio flows
    1. Audio hardware
    Among the many link types that CopperLan supports some also carry audio streams. The bridging of the audio links among different transports is done independently of CopperLan. CopperLan acts as a manager/supervisor of these streams. The bridging of the CopperLan network itself across these different links is totally transparent to the user and is done by the CopperLan VNM (Virtual Network Manager).
    CopperLan is adaptable on many links that carry audio: MADI[1], USB[2][3], Firewire[6], AES-50, CobraNet, Livewire, etc.

    2. Virtual Audio
    Within a computer, virtual audio is managed similarly to hardware audio. The audio bridging relies on existing solutions for matrixing and conversion. (e.g. JackAudio)

  • Hybrid setups
    CopperLan not only integrates MIDI smoothly, but makes its setup easier.
    There are 3 places where MIDI and CopperLan interact:
    • Computer hardware interfaces such as those offered in combined audio/midi via USB boxes[3], or equipment with a native MIDI-USB connection[7].
    • The virtual MIDI ports that run within computers and allow MIDI applications to communicate together without requiring any additional hardware.
    • CopperLan/MIDI conversion hardware that does not require a computer. Such Interface box will usually be Ethernet based, but could rely on other type of connectivity on the CopperLan side.

    All 3 interfacing bridges above are covered by CopperLan through the following solutions:
    • Computer hardware MIDI ports support in the VNM (Virtual Network Manager). This makes the current MIDI/USB interfaces to automatically become part of the CopperLan network. There is no limit to their number and type.
    • Computer virtual MIDI ports support in the CopperLan VNM, offering MIDI ports that will appear in existing MIDI applications.
    • Embedded products MIDI ports support via the CopperLan Ethernet embedded solution. This allows setting up CopperLan/MIDI hybrid systems with very long cables, unlimited number of MIDI ports, possibly without computer.

    The CopperLan concept for MIDI handling take care of converting the MIDI messages back and forth to CopperLan protocol so that within the network, only CopperLan messages are traveling.
    The immediate benefit of using a CopperLan network for managing MIDI equipment is that it behaves as a huge unified MIDI matrix, allowing any MIDI incoming flow to be directed on a channel basis to any destination, CopperLan or MIDI.
    The linking management is a default capability in CopperLan and can be done from any editing-capable piece of equipment part of the setup (e.g. the front panel of a CopperLan synth or mixing desk)

The vision of a hardware agnostic network
  • No self imposed hardware limitations
  • Use a meta-specification that encompasses existing solutions
  • Compliant with (audio) streaming capable links
  • Follow the cost/performance driven market options
  • Provide all bridging blocks for a hassle free integration
  • Fuse all physical and virtual nets in a unified entity

Allow products of all price/feature class to work together
  • Transparent networking of software and hardware devices
  • Fit for computer-centric and computer-less environments
  • Peer to peer between ALL members
  • No computer required for configuration
  • Based on widely available interfacing hardware and accessories
  • High bandwidth & low latency at the best cost

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