The Shrinking Security Operations Center

After integrated hardware and GUIs, focus turns to visualization software technology


The security industry has undergone a series of exciting evolutionary steps in the last few years. First, there was the transition from analog to digital; then, the advent and spreading of systems integration. Soon after, we experienced convergence as the IP network became a de facto standard and a focal point for security innovation and integration. These advances—digitization, integration and convergence—have resulted in improved security, increased productivity and a physical shrinking of the security operations center (SOC). But they were just a prelude to the dynamic advancements now taking place.

The SOC Evolves
The security operations center is a barometer of where security innovation is going. Early in the process of hardware digitization, first-generation SOCs were roughly the same size as earlier analog rooms. Think Mission Control from the Apollo days—rows of consoles, lots of monitors, and a back room or two crammed with hardware.

At this point, digital was still just a word for a type of implementation. What did it actually bring us? We progressed from an analog recorder to a DVR. Accessing video faster certainly was an improvement, but beyond that, the benefits were relatively minor. As time went on, footprints got smaller, but no significant change occurred until the leap from the DVR to the NVR, or network video recorder. Because the NVR is a software solution, it opened up a lot of real estate in the SOC. The matrix switch, multiplexer and DVR all disappeared onto the desktop.

Not Just for the Fortune 500
Walk into an SOC today and it’s a far cry from “Houston, we have a problem.” You’ll likely find a moderate-size room operated by up to a half dozen people sitting at two or three consoles and controlling most functions from just a few graphical user interfaces (GUIs). How did we get to this point?

The lack of a single set of standards has led to the security industry to standardize on TCP/IP or ethernet for connectivity. This gives us the ability to share features, functionality and interoperability between different and formerly unconnected systems. It’s possible to control access, information security, CCTV, intrusion, building automation, asset management, fire alarms, and many other applications through one GUI.

This new SOC is based on flexible, scalable innovations that are available to mid-size and even smaller organizations. And with continued innovation and competition, initial investment prices will continue to come down, as will total cost of ownership. Today’s SOCs are dominated by a series of monitors that display the many separate CCTV views that must be watched. It is those views that will undergo the next round of innovation and change.

Focus on Surveillance Technology
The adoption of IT networking standards has opened the door for the next era of innovation in software—new flexible platforms, increased integration and advanced analytics.

At any given moment, more than 20 million cameras around the world collect data and transfer it back to security control rooms. It’s become accepted wisdom that there is far too much camera data being viewed and recorded and far too little intelligence being extracted. All this “potential” intelligence has provided ample motivation to focus on improving the collection and analysis of what cameras view. Advances are coming about from two directions: how we view what the camera sees and how we extract intelligence from the data. The latter group is what we call video analytics, and the former is represented by technology advances such as megapixel cameras and 360-degree immersive-view cameras.

360-degree cameras try to give the user a view we’ve not had before. Unfortunately, this technology generally produces low-resolution images using an existing image sensor technology to provide an enlarged view. The problem with this approach is that even a high-definition imager has far too few pixels to deliver the resolution provided by a conventional camera. The need for such a view is real, but the current implementation falls short of the goal.

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