Converging Technologies

Rich functionality delivered by IT systems aids adoption of IP-based surveillance


Customers are constantly searching for new ways to gather, manage and store data to run their businesses more efficiently while maintaining budgets. This is especially true in the security industry where captured video surveillance footage and access control events are highly valued from a safety and compliance standpoint. With an influx in the number of cameras, especially high-resolution models, more surveillance video is being captured and analyzed today than ever before. At the same time, customers of all sizes and market focuses are finding new ways to capture and leverage information from multiple devices—video surveillance cameras, access control systems, video analytics and PSIM platforms—to develop reports and trends to enhance not only security but optimize internal operations.

The influx in the need for security data—from an increasing set of devices and systems—is driving a massive expansion in storage capacity, compute power and network bandwidth required to meet streaming video feeds. Using conventional IT designs, these new performance and scale requirements can only be met with the most complex and expensive legacy server, network and storage infrastructure. Emerging vendors offer a scale-out infrastructure alternative that distributes storage workloads over many appliances, integrates virtual servers into the same appliances and aggregates network performance to meet the functionality and scale needs of the application. The use of high-volume commodity server appliances as the underlying physical hardware simplifies system configuration and consolidates server and storage hardware to save footprint and power while tapping into the economics of high-volume commodity hardware. Therefore, it’s now possible to scale to petabytes of capacity with hundreds of virtual machines using common appliances and standard Ethernet interconnects.

Security experts agree that it is impossible to monitor multiple live video feeds on a real-time basis. The human eye and attention span are simply not able to maintain vigilance for live detection of events. As a result, most surveillance data is used as a forensic tool. There are high expectations from users and law enforcement that video data from installed systems should be available for later viewing, regardless of events that might compromise recording integrity, such as power outages, disk failures, network switch problems and even operator error. Surveillance operators also expect that the search capabilities they find on YouTube—such as random access to video, search capability and filters for relevant new content—will be provided in today’s systems. This use case is certainly not supported by traditional CCTV systems where single point of failure VCRs require interruption to record, are serially accessed and have no searchable identifiers. Much like audio CDs replaced eight-track tapes from the 70s, newer IP infrastructures are quickly replacing aging analog infrastructures because of the reliability, searchability and push-model distribution that match user expectations.

Leveraging standard Ethernet networks

All of this functionality required a new approach to meet the manageability and cost expectations of the video surveillance market. At the forefront of the revolution is the need for IP-based storage technology that could leverage standard Ethernet networks and provide unified storage and computing resources in a common appliance. This first wave of innovation cost reduced surveillance infrastructure to the end customer—up to 40 percent in power, cooling and data center build-out.

Now, we’re experiencing the next evolution. As more security systems embrace IP infrastructure, storage vendors are incorporating even more functionality in appliances so that IT managers can handle surveillance and IT systems in a common way. Management of these multi-petabyte systems is quickly becoming the next battlefield as surveillance and IT users look to manage sprawling systems with the same or even less people.

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