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Leeward Expands Its Footprint

The company formed from the merger of MNC Software and SuiteLife Systems

MNC Software and SuiteLife Systems, two companies that provide network monitoring, control and asset management systems, recently merged and now do business as Leeward Software

SuiteLife, in Signal Hill, Calif., was owned by Nigel Brownett, who launched it in 2012. MNC, based in San Diego, was owned and operated by David Allen and James Bloomfield, who founded MNC in 2008.

Leeward is owned and managed by all three and based in Signal Hill. Its systems are used to monitor and control networks, infrastructure, buildings and systems. Product lines include Axess, Mosaic and Tessera software and GPX Pro hardware.

I spoke with Nigel Brownett.

Radio World: How did these two companies come together?

Nigel Brownett

Nigel Brownett: MNC has been around in its current form for about 16 years now. I formed SuiteLife in 2012 after Statmon Technologies got out of the business; I’d worked there for nine years, and they were looking for someone to take over support contracts and maintain the software in the broadcast market.

Joining SuiteLife and MNC together makes us more interesting to venture capital and private equity firms.

RW: You’re based in California.

Brownett: In Signal Hill, just down the road from LAX. MNC was based out of San Diego; now that we’ve merged, our business runs out of the office here in Signal Hill.

RW: Am I right that the two companies both have been more active on the video side than in radio?

Brownett: That’s correct. MNC is found in teleports. Their biggest client is DirecTV, running uplinks in El Segundo and Long Beach, Calif. They have more international clients than SuiteLife does; my installations have mostly been in North America and in Australia, where I’m from originally.

RW: What would you want a radio engineer or manager to know about your company’s offerings? 

Brownett: We offer control and management tools that are primarily used at transmitter sites. These were borne of an engineer who got sick of waking up at 3 o’clock in the morning because they were off the air and then having to drive to the transmitter site. Older systems would give you an alarm but didn’t tell you much more than that. 

As technology at transmitter sites has gotten more complicated, diagnosing has gotten harder. A lot of manufacturers are putting more intelligent monitoring interfaces into their products. Transmitters now have SNMP, so we go from a simple, general-purpose I/O type device to something that needs to speak serially or needs to talk SNMP.

A control screen for WHPT(FM), a Cox station in Sarasota, Fla., and its GatesAir transmitter.

And SNMP in turn now is starting to be replaced by REST APIs. Things are going in that direction, not just in broadcast, but in day-to-day everything. 

RW: Can you expand on that trend?

Brownett: As younger people come out of school, they understand REST APIs more than anything else. So, I think that as more manufacturers employ the younger generation and because modern remote control systems aren’t equipped that way off the shelf, there will be a need for upgrades.

Brain drain has been a problem in our industry and it’s difficult to get young people interested. So, we need to embrace their ways of thinking and understand how they’ve worked since they were children — they’re learning things in an IT-centric way.

RW: I’m sure you’ve had conversations with directors of engineering of radio groups who have been a part of trends toward virtualization and centralization of resources. Is this affecting your business and the installations that you do for broadcasters?

Brownett: It hasn’t to date. Our products are generally installed in a building on a remote mountaintop or in a swamp somewhere. You’d find it very difficult to virtualize that building. 

Certainly what’s feeding the transmitter site can be virtualized. In our merger, MNC products lend themselves more to living at the studio end, managing on-prem and cloud-based resources that generate the source material before it is sent to the site. 

RW: What else are you hearing from clients that we should know about?

Brownett: During COVID we had to continue to make television and radio, and we had to do it in a safe way, which was to get as much of it as possible into the cloud. 

But the industry now seems to be rethinking that because of cost. Some clients are saying, “Cloud costs are killing us. Do we really need to put it in the cloud? Is this something we can put on metal in our facility? Or in a datacenter that we own?”

To me, that was a key part of what I heard at NAB this year: How do we operate more efficiently and more effectively while trying to get our operational costs down?

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