With the falling prices of data storages solutions in recent years, the challenge of recording and storing video in surveillance deployments has almost become an afterthought. In an industry that once featured a multitude of companies that specialized in developing dedicated video surveillance storage solutions, only a few remain. However, issues surrounding video recording are as important as ever given the push within both the public and private sector to retain video footage over longer periods of time.
Wayne Arvidson, vice president for video surveillance solutions at Quantum, believes that there has been a lack of education in the market about the vital role that storage plays in video surveillance infrastructure.
“We really contend that storage needs to be the foundation on which you build everything else,” said Arvidson. “If you look at what the buying processes have evolved into – people looking at cameras because they’ve got a physical facility they need to gather data on and protect, the VMS they want to use to manage that and then the analytics they want to apply to it – storage has really been stuck in a peripheral role. Now people are realizing the importance of being able to manage their data more intelligently. Camera resolutions are going up, there are more of them, retention policies are certainly changing and elongating, and there’s a lot more sophisticated analytics being applied to the data. There is also an evolution going on in the industry where people are seeing that, ‘Ok, I’m capturing this information, I am paying to store and manage this information, what else can I do with it?’”
Quantum, which has over 100,000 customer deployments in nearly 100 countries, entered the surveillance industry about 18 years ago after developing a file system for handling video and other unstructured data. The system was initially used by government intelligence agencies, but it is now being leveraged by the private sector as well.
Another mistake that Arvidson said end-users have fallen victim to is making trade-offs in how long they will retain video data for based on how much disk space storage they can afford, which is where Quantum really differentiates itself in the market
“We’ve got a tiered storage approach, and what I mean by that is we have high-performance primary disk storage, which is important as I’m aggregating information from multiple networks and video recorders… but then what we look at after some period of time is, ‘I don’t need the expense of keeping that on a high-performance storage solution, I want to put it on a high-capacity, lower cost tier of storage that is still readily accessible but I just don’t need that real-time performance,’ explained Arvidson. “Then, after some period of time, I would certainly like to put it some cheaper tier of storage and what we have are tape libraries that not only support traditional archive and backup types of applications for things like disaster recovery, but we also support file-based tape and so I am able to write something that is 10 cents on the dollar compared to high performance disk storage, yet I still have the immediate accessibility. The fourth element of our solution is cloud-based because there may be stuff I want to migrate offsite.”
Even with high-performance disk storage, however, appliances in the field have not always performed up to the expectations of end-users. According to Aubrey Muhlach, surveillance segment marketing manager for Seagate Technology, which manufactures surveillance-optimized hard drives for a number of different companies, one of the problems the industry experienced in years past was the failure of surveillance drives in the field, many of which were not designed to handle the day-to-day to stresses placed on them by video data.
“They called us to say, ‘Help us figure this out, what’s going on, we need a better solution because whatever is out there is not working for us today,’” she explained. “What we found was people were taking traditional desktop drives like you would find in a PC at home - it’s not running every day, it’s doing web, it’s doing PowerPoint, email, kind of smaller tasks if you will - and they were taking those drives and sticking them into surveillance systems that are constantly streaming massive amounts of data into one central location and they have to run all day, every day. The drives just couldn’t keep up with that environment and they were failing.”
With the aforementioned advances in imaging resolution and analytics, Muhlach said the demands being placed on surveillance systems is greater today than it ever has been and that maintaining the integrity of video data is paramount, which is where having surveillance-optimized hard drives comes into play.
“We’ve had our surveillance-optimized drives for almost 10 years and we have capacities that go up to six terabytes, which is 600-plus hours of high-definition content. But people are storing that content for at least 30 days, some people want to save it for a year or two and some people need to save it for multiple years for insurance retention and industry regulations,” said Muhlach.
“The amount of storage that is being required is really going up and then you’re ingesting this from multiple cameras and big, continuous blocks and that puts a lot of strain on a storage system,” added Arvidson.
Muhlach said Seagate has been able to remain successful in the industry by evolving with the needs of the market.
“One thing we are really good at is making sure we understand (the customer’s) business and their needs,” said Muhlach, “We did a rebranding recently so we’re reworking our positioning. We’re no longer just a drive company. Moving forward, some of the solutions we’re really pushing are not just the drives but cloud services, data recovery services and retail products. All of those are now included in the Seagate brand and experience, if you will, that you’re getting from us so we have to evolve with that market if we want to stay relevant. The drive is a part of the story, but there is a lot more to it to make it work properly.”