Hosted Video: What’s in Your Cloud?

Cloud computing and outsourcing is top of mind for every industry. But it’s especially an evolution in action for the video security industry as it moves to the hosted services model.

In order to understand video surveillance’s evolutionary move to hosted environments in specific applications or use cases, we need to define cloud computing. Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. (Source: NIST Working Definition of Cloud Computing published by the U.S. Government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.)

The most popular type of service is Software as a Service, delivered from the Public Cloud. We experience these service’s benefits in our daily lives with online banking, Gmail, shipment tracking and customer relationship manager solutions. The physical security industry now benefits from identity and visitor management and video surveillance, recording and processing services delivered from the public cloud.

Software as a Service (SaaS) positively impacted video surveillance by moving the software to a “hosted” or “managed” video portal. These services are delivered by video hosting service providers and deliver some significant advantages to certain video surveillance applications.

Here’s a common problem: there is a massive aging population of digital video recorders that are either partly or non-operational. Should the security practitioners and designers replace these systems with newer versions? Or can they save money by leveraging cloud computing security solutions, designed for multiple locations of small- to mid-sized installations? In fact, some of today’s hosted video solutions can work via video encoders and small network attached storage devices, eliminating the DVR.

Cost savings realized
The answer is that video hosting systems can deliver monitoring and recording via cloud computing (Software as a Service) and still use the latest camera technology to the end-user via hosting providers at a substantial cost savings. When compared with a replacement DVR system, the user can save over 10-50 percent for a four-year period, or up to $5,000 for a four-camera system. HDTV cameras have a higher bandwidth stream that is sent locally to a Network Attached Storage Device (NAS). The NAS is also there to record if the Internet connection goes down. Larger end-user facilities can deploy this on their own network and achieve even greater savings. Hosted video solutions represent a growing market as they are the lowest cost, technologically superior and easiest solution for video surveillance systems that are small and geographically dispersed. The user simply needs to decide whether to deploy the solution themselves or through service (hosting) providers. When a hosted video solution is used to replace aging DVRs, only about 25 percent of the labor costs are incurred as compared to a replacement DVR.

The future of video surveillance
It’s fun to imagine what will be useful to users of video surveillance systems in the future and of course hosted solutions will play a major role. Cameras that not only become intelligent by way of small programs or specialized algorithms will, when multiplied, become an intelligent “Security Net” or “Intelligent Hive” that communicates peer-to-peer, analyzing and tracking potential threats, dynamically reallocating collective computing power and learning from the results. The intelligence of years of metadata and event results will be proactive in providing the most appropriate response to a given situation.

Also, today’s individual video-based object recognition that can retrieve synopses of video clips that correspond to criteria will automate the reaction process by presenting video footage before and after events, making the video management system imitate repetitive review tasks and reduce manpower. Manpower will be better allocated as a result of this; for example statistical temporal correlation of domestic violence cases linked to times of the month or year will “sensitize” public surveillance tools in operation and will move the eyes of law enforcement to areas needing it. The direct impact will be to move the job of security to a smarter, better armed and allocated law enforcement agency that cooperates with the public and shares the surveillance function.

The use of the cloud and hosted services to support these efforts is the evolution of all these scenarios moving forward. The effect will be monumental and we’ve only begun to see the true impact.

Reference document: Hosted Video Use Cases (pdf download)  [The use cases chart, created and submitted by Axis Communications, illustrates a variety of different vertical market hosted video use case scenarios and their possible recording status and other parameters which may be suited for these particular customers.]

There are significant benefits for deploying hosted video solutions:

  • No software upgrades or anti-virus software required for duration of service
  • Mobile and remote devices like BlackBerry, Android, iPhones, iPads and Laptops are supported directly from the Internet site: you still get alarms, real time and recorded video even if local storage is damaged
  • Reduced installation time
  • Works with existing infrastructure four ways:
    • Existing analog cameras
    • Wireless Ethernet
    • Wired Ethernet
    • Ethernet over powerline

Here are some important terms in hosted video and cloud computing:
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)--Whether it is storage or computing power, companies providing these cloud solutions are a great complement to SaaS.The IaaS customer is a software owner that is in need of a hosting environment to run their software. IaaS vendors use virtualization technologies to provide computing power.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)--There’s a whole new breed of companies offering a developer’s platform for hosted solutions. A customer of a Platform as a Service offering is also a software owner that is in need of a hosting environment for their application. PaaS delivers computing power by providing a runtime environment for application code.
Public Cloud--In simple terms, public cloud services are characterized as being available to clients from a third-party service provider via the Internet. The term “public” does not always mean free, even though it can be free or inexpensive. A public cloud does not mean that a user’s data is publicly visible; public cloud vendors typically provide an access control mechanism for their users.
Private Cloud--A private cloud offers many of the benefits of a public cloud computing environment, such as being elastic and service based. The difference is that in a private cloud-based service, data and processes are managed within the organization without the restrictions of network bandwidth, security exposures and legal requirements using public cloud services might entail. In addition, private cloud services offer the provider and the user greater control of the cloud infrastructure, improving security and resiliency because user access and the networks used are restricted and designated.
Community Cloud--A community cloud is controlled and used by a group of organizations that have shared interests, such as specific security requirements or a common mission. The members of the community share access to the data and applications in the cloud.
Hybrid Cloud--A hybrid cloud is a combination of a public and private cloud that interoperates. In this model users typically outsource non-business- critical information and processing to the public cloud, while keeping business-critical services and data in their control.
Service Providers or Video Hosting Providers--Operate a server platform providing services directly to end user or through service resellers or video service providers. Sometimes this terminology is misunderstood since the IT industry uses the term service provider for what the security industry calls video hosting provider.
Video Service Providers--Qualify the application, match it with a use case and sell the hosted solution. They typically offer the hosted video provider’s service to end users and maintain the system at the remote site.

**The DVR example assumes four-year replacement program with regular yearly recommended HDD maintenance and remote device use. The hosted video example is based on three AXIS M1011-W Network Cameras with 640x480 resolution, H.264 compression, 12 fps, medium to low compression (high quality) and average scene activity, with a redundant local 2TB recording device onsite.

About the author: Steve Surfaro is the business development manager, industry liaaison, Axis Communications, Chelmsford, Mass.