Center Stage 2012

Infrastructures, mobility, HD video and data center capacity in the spotlight

Although networks will continue to become more capable of transmitting larger amounts of data, the resolution of security cameras is improving at a rapid pace as well. As the resolution of video increases over the next year and beyond, the performance of network infrastructure cabling will have to keep up to provide enough throughput capacity to handle high definition surveillance video. The growth of megapixel IP-based video surveillance cameras and high definition video is a main contributing factor to the need for robust cabling infrastructures to support increasing bandwidth usage.

With the speed at which bandwidth requirements have advanced, it is inevitable that the bandwidth provided by Category 5e will be exceeded in the very near future, making it an obsolete technology. In fact, Category 5e cables may no longer be recognized as a standard for horizontal cabling if proposed recommendations are approved for the Telecommunications Industry Association TIA-942-A Standard, which is expected to be finalized in 2012[2]. If approved, the revised standard will no longer recognize Category 3 and Category 5e as a standard for horizontal cabling. Instead TIA-942-A will recognize Category 6 and Category 6a balanced twisted-pair cable types for horizontal cabling. This means that many current systems will not be equipped to handle the bandwidth required for advanced security and surveillance systems.

Currently, Category 6 and Category 6a cables are the recommended standard, but fiber optic systems show the most potential for providing enough bandwidth and reliability at a low enough cost to meet bandwidth demands for the next decade, especially as the use of video increases. Fiber optic cables, which transmit larger amounts of data at higher speeds over greater distances using fewer cables than copper cables, provide an option to help end users balance the increasing need for speed and high-volume data transfer with the cost of technology. Fiber optic cables also mean less power consumption for the IT network, which equates to lower power consumption and overall energy and operating costs.

Data center density challenges

One challenge that will remain throughout 2012 and possibly beyond is mastering data center density. As mobile devices, video and other high bandwidth applications tax current network infrastructures, organizations have to find new ways to increase data center capacity within existing data center spaces. Data center capacity directly impacts surveillance systems housed on the enterprise-wide network infrastructure, as systems with a video component can be viewed as a threat to network bandwidth and storage capability.

Numerous inefficiencies are limiting the performance of many of today’s data centers. For instance, x86 servers on average are running at only 12 percent utilization. Racks are often populated to just 50 to 60 percent capacity. Data center equipment is spread out to diffuse heat[3]. In order to extract more performance per square foot, the trend toward higher density cabinets and racks will continue to grow throughout 2012. In the coming year, organizations with multiple facilities and separate data centers will be challenged to merge existing data centers into a single, high capacity data center. This may mean that designated data centers for security departments may be merged into a single enterprise data center. For many organizations, data center hardware will also likely be updated with equipment that will provide a higher performance per kilowatt.

According to Gartner, new capacity planning strategies and emerging data center technologies will provide an estimated 300 percent growth in capacity in 60 percent less space than current data centers[4]. However, there will come a point in the near future when the ratio of data center density and cooling costs will become unbalanced. Even some of today’s data center technologies are testing the limits of existing cooling systems. New advancements will have to be made in both sever technologies and cooling systems.

The year 2012 will be a year of change for many security professionals and IT departments alike. As security technologies move from analog technologies to IP-based technologies, security professionals will have to gain a deeper awareness of how the security and surveillance system impacts the overall network infrastructure. The growth of mobile devices accessing data remotely will provide new opportunities, as well as new challenges, for the security industry. Staying ahead of bandwidth needs will become a main priority, especially as the resolution of video continues to improve, and data center efficiency and capacity will be a main driving force behind numerous technology decisions in 2012. Security professionals who have a big picture view of their organization’s overall technology will be a valued asset in 2012 and the years to come.