VMS Migration Strategies

Over the past several years, the shift from analog to IP video surveillance has picked up considerable steam. The benefits of IP over analog are numerous and begin simply with better video quality. IP breaks past NTSC restrictions with newer codecs in encoders, along with the ability to use HD and megapixel IP cameras. It also allows us to retain data for longer with the help of larger hard drive devices and shared storage capacity on NVRs.

Switching over to IP also provides more flexibility in that organizations can use commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) IT equipment and network infrastructure that’s already in place. With the right security software installed, organizations can use their own servers and storage instead of the proprietary DVRs used with analog systems. Additionally, IP-based systems allow you to easily set up workstations and remote monitoring stations as long as there is network or Internet access.

The other major reasons to move to an IP network are reliability and intelligence. With NVRs, you have the ability to deploy redundancy and failover mechanisms; with DVRs you cannot. And IP networks enable you to better analyze and draw conclusions from captured video because of the additional metadata that can accompany the video.

Clearly the benefits of using an IP-based network for video surveillance are substantial enough for any organization to seriously consider a shift. So the question is — what’s the best way to migrate? Finding the most cost-effective and non-disruptive path for switching over has become a primary objective for many security and IT departments. The good news is there are migration paths that don’t require organizations to rip and replace everything, but instead allow them to migrate in steps.

To decide which migration option is best for your organization, you need to look at what the organization moving from, where you want the organization to be, and how long —and how much — should be spent to get there.

Today, a typical analog CCTV system might start with a set of analog cameras connected via coax and fiber to a set of DVRs, which are potentially looped through to an analog matrix switch. In this configuration, operators are either using a CCTV keyboard attached to the matrix switch to control camera call up on the matrix switch’s monitors, or they might be using DVR-viewing software on PCs to view multiple cameras from multiple DVRs.

Let’s look at some different options to migrate to IP.

 

Option 1: Video Encoders

One option would be to replace the DVRs with multi-channel network IP video encoders. The encoders could send the digitized video over the network to a set of NVRs, which are typically under the management of a single central server. The analog switch is replaced by the IP network switch and video management software. In order to view the video, analog matrix switch monitors would be replaced with PCs running decoder software that are attached to large flat screens. This then creates a Video Wall and the Virtual Matrix.

 

Option 2: Hybrid Recording

In the event that replacing DVRs is possible, but placing video on the network isn’t very attractive, hybrid recorders solve this issue. Hybrid recorders are essentially COTS NVRs with separate grabber cards inside them, or directly attached. As far as the operator is concerned, it looks and feels like IP video. And in the event that the network goes down or is congested, recording continues without fail. This concept is referred to as recording at the edge because the cameras’ video does not touch the IP network in order to be recorded.

With both option 1 and 2, the recorders can capture video from existing analog cameras as well as new IP cameras. This creates a smooth migration strategy that enables organizations to experiment with newer HD and megapixel cameras and gradually phase out and replace analog cameras as desired.

Another important aspect to note about these two options is that all the effort takes place at the head-end, which is all about how video is managed, recorded and displayed. In short, we’re not touching cameras or their wiring, which saves time, money and effort.

 

Option 3: IP Cameras

Now let’s say you wanted to replace analog cameras with IP cameras to give you the potential of HD or better video quality. This move still requires that you replace DVRs with NVRs or hybrid recorders. An IP camera is a network device and as such cannot simply reuse the existing coax cabling analog cameras use. You have two choices in this case:

Replace the coax with network cables (or wireless infrastructure, which is possible but not very common). It is a significant effort, but one which brings many benefits since a single network cable can carry video from many cameras, one- or two-way audio, PTZ control signals, alarm inputs, relay outputs and even power. Also, you may be able to leverage existing network switches and/or network cabling.

Use an adaptor. There are adaptors that can make a length of coax appear like a network cable by inserting one between the camera and the cable, and one between the cable and the network switch.

Option 3 requires the greatest amount of effort and cost but will move you immediately upon completion to pure IP. If you are not ready to take that leap, options 1 or 2 might be the right path for you. Just weigh your considerations carefully. If you plan to migrate to pure IP eventually, it may make sense to do it in one stage (option 3), rather than taking a two-stage approach (option 1 or 2, followed by option 3). Weigh the costs, benefits and other considerations carefully.

 

Other Migration Issues

Analog to IP aside, there are other video migration challenges that organizations can face. For example, say one company with one Video Management System (VMS) acquires another company with a totally different brand of VMS. Whether the two systems are analog or IP-based is not the main factor here — what is important is the need to merge the systems into a single user interface, so they are easily managed and appear as one system to the operator.

This can be achieved by replacing the two different user interfaces with a VMS-agnostic software that presents one view to the operator, while the separate Video Management Systems continue to run in the background. This software, known as PSIM (physical security information management), can merge different brands of systems into one user interface, whether they be VMS, access control, intrusion, or other physical security sub-systems.

A Merger & Acquisition (M&A) scenario is just one case where you might want to use PSIM to provide a single view of multiple VMS systems. Maybe you want to replace your existing video system for some other reason. Is the VMS vendor still in business? Have they “end-of-lifed” their product? Has their support gone downhill, their pricing gone up? You many have any one of a number of motivations to change.

Still, a full rip and replace may not be as attractive as a gradual phase out/replacement, for budgetary or other reasons. The right PSIM software can integrate multiple systems without the operator ever having to know there are two or more video systems running behind the scenes.

 

Dr. Bob Banerjee is Senior Director of Training and Development for NICE Systems Security Division. In this position, he develops programs and initiatives to educate, train and support the company’s extensive network of security system integrators and dealers, and provide thought leadership for its security industry outreach efforts. Banerjee has more than a decade of high tech and security industry experience, having also held senior marketing and global product management positions at Bosch Security Systems, Intuitive Systems, OneSource Information Services, Axeda Systems and Nortel Networks. He holds a Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence from the Advanced Research Center at the University of Bristol, England. Dr. Banerjee can be contacted at Bob.Banerjee@nice.com.

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