How storage virtualization bridges gap between budget and needs

A comparison of data storage options for video surveillance

Standardized for surveillance
Conventional storage products were designed around an IT data center workload, which is a far cry from a typical surveillance installation. Capacity points in even large IT installations are typically small relative to surveillance. While a medium-size surveillance environment can easily exceed 100 Terabytes (or 100,000 Gigabytes), most large databases are less than 100 Gigabytes. Similarly, an Exchange system for a medium-size business rarely exceeds 100 Gigabytes.

Conventional storage products also use proprietary storage networking hardware to reach the high bandwidth needs of video surveillance. These proprietary storage networks, called Fibre Channel, require special switches, optical cables, server host bus adapters and weeks of training to deploy and manage. These systems are commonly deployed in the financial services market where specialized storage administrators are tasked with configuring, installing and maintaining systems.

An alternative approach is called a scale-out storage model, which repurposes server hardware to provide both storage and server resources in a common hardware platform. This approach meets both the capacity and bandwidth needs of the surveillance market by aggregating the resources of many appliances and presenting the combined resources as highly available capacity that can be shared among many servers. In addition, the scale-out appliances have more processing power than is required for just the storage aggregation. Therefore, it is possible to integrate server virtualization software on each appliance so that archiver software or NAS software can share the CPU and memory resources that are already in place to run the scale-out SAN.

This concept of running embedded virtual servers saves power, cooling and rackspace over the use of physical servers. It also adds high availability since the application can be automatically restarted on another appliance. The virtualization provides application failover without the need for standby servers with additional software licenses. This introduces high reliability with an appliance model which is easy to manage and cost-effective.

Due to the increase in demand for more cameras and enhanced video quality, surveillance users cannot simply add conventional servers and storage. Server applications that share storage hardware resources to reduce overall power and cooling are critical to reduce costs and secure high availability and reliability. NVR servers generally drive 50 percent of power and cooling requirements. Whether a small sheriff's office is looking to store 30 days of video on 20 TB of storage or a large metropolitan airport requires 1,200 cameras and 500 TB of storage, savings in power and cooling from a combined solution are immediate and long-term.

Virtualization is a key technology that can help bridge the gap between budgets and customer needs. Storage providers that incorporate virtualization technology can reduce acquisition costs by up to 25 percent and operational costs by up to 40 percent. With storage representing such a high cost component of installations, virtualization represents an important tool for resellers and customers looking to meet budgetary constraints.

About the author: Lee Caswell is founder and chief marketing officer at Pivot3. Prior to founding Pivot3, Lee was EVP Marketing and Business Development at VMware and held a series of senior management roles at Adaptec (ADPT) ending as VP and General Manager of Adaptec's $350M Storage Solutions Group. Prior to Adaptec, Lee was VP Sales and Marketing at Parallax Graphics, which introduced the first real-time video capture products for the video surveillance market. He spent the first five years of his career in management programs at GE. Lee has a BA from Carleton College and an MBA from the Tuck School at Dartmouth College.