The rise of HCI and the fall of the NVR

Sept. 22, 2016
Hyper-convergence leverages specialized software to combine and replace proprietary server and storage hardware

Video surveillance has never been more important to organizations than it is today. Our society is hungry for data — the growth of Big Data, devices and services associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) and the increase in video surveillance deployments drives the collection of a wide variety of information that can be transformed into actionable intelligence. The knowledge derived from these sources is highly valuable to organizations, helping glean new insights into improved operations and stronger, more proactive security planning including such issues as:

  •  Video enabling responders to assess a situation in real time and execute an informed response to reduce incident impact and increase the likelihood of prevention.
  • Regulations that vary by industry and geography, but legislation and standards increasingly require the use, retention and protection of video surveillance, and non-compliance may result in fines and penalties.
  • Video that can be critical to preventing operational disruptions. For example, video system outages can cost casinos thousands of dollars per hour or cause manufacturer shutdowns.
  • Insurance fraud which amounts to nearly $32 billion per year — video surveillance systems captures the evidence necessary to defend against fraudulent liability claims.

All of these factors point to the high-value organization's place on video surveillance. But just as the value of video increases, it is more susceptible to being lost than ever before. System failures — where live or recorded video becomes inaccessible, recording disabled, and data lost — leave organizations exposed to increased risks, vulnerabilities, and operational interruptions. In mission-critical environments and regulatory-driven industries, this is unacceptable and potentially catastrophic. The simple fact is that modern organizations cannot tolerate downtime or data loss.

In the surveillance world, users have long relied on NVRs and DVRs to store video surveillance. These products were designed as a replacement for VCRs and are built on Direct Attached Storage (DAS) servers with bundled video management software. Designed mostly for small or static surveillance applications, NVRs are best suited for environments where data loss and downtime are tolerable.

The Emergence of Hyper-Convergence

Because video is mission critical to a majority of organizations, the days of the NVR are probably numbered. Surveillance and IT leaders now look beyond the devices of the past to more modern IT solutions, including hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) and SAN-based storage, to deliver comprehensive data and video protection. But what is hyper convergence?

Hyper-convergence leverages specialized software to combine and replace proprietary server and storage hardware. HCI software is deployed on industry-standard x86 servers, transforming them into enterprise-class data center infrastructure that is much simpler to deploy, manage and scale.  Storage, compute and networking resources are pooled to deliver continuous performance, efficiency and ease of operation that paves the way for future growth. When deployed in video surveillance applications, retention and throughput capacity can be scaled linearly as an organization’s security and business requirements evolve, a critical benefit considering today’s data-driven business needs.

Sound enticing? Here are five ways in which these innovations are a stronger option over the antiquated architecture of NVRs.


IT departments shifted away from DAS in the 1990s to virtualized servers with shared SAN storage and centralized management, which greatly reduces server hardware, management complexity, and costs. Because NVRs are based on DAS, virtualization and centralization are extremely challenging – and in some cases impossible – as each NVR must be operated as a separate system and monitored individually to ensure optimal performance. This de-centralized approach can allow failures to go unnoticed, and increase complexity and costs.

By consolidating all servers, storage and client workstations onto a single enterprise-class platform, infrastructure can be administered and managed quickly and efficiently from one location by a single person.


NVRs cannot scale storage, compute or networking resources, or access needed resources from other machines inside a larger system. Adding an additional NVR introduces another stand-alone system, leading to system downtime, manual rebalancing, added complexity and highly inefficient utilization of system resources.

As business and security plans evolve and budgets change, systems must scale compute, storage and bandwidth resources simultaneously to adapt to ever-changing requirements. With hyper-convergence, you can buy what you need now and grow storage and compute linearly without disrupting system operations as needs change.

Failover Protection

NVRs introduce critical single points of failure. If a box fails, access to live video is lost, recording stops and recorded video is irretrievable – potentially permanently. VMS failover can restore live video and recording capability, but comes at a substantial cost and offers no protection for previously recorded video or integrated applications.

NVRs rely on RAID technology (developed in the 1970s) to protect data against disk failures. But just like a flip phone from the 1990s isn’t ideal for today’s modern communications, RAID is not sufficient for protecting against the increased likelihood of multiple simultaneous failures. As drive capacities reach 8 and 10TB, rebuilds can last days or even weeks, placing a strain on system resources, significantly slowing performance and increasing the likelihood of another failure that will lead to permanent data loss.

With HCI, virtual servers restart with no user intervention during failures, and all previously recorded video remains instantly accessible. Scalar erasure coding protects data much better than aging RAID technology and can withstand the simultaneous failure of five disks or an entire appliance plus two additional drives, ensuring that data remains protected and accessible at all times.


DAS technology was designed for read-intensive applications. Because video data is highly variable, unpredictable, and write-intensive, NVRs must often be overprovisioned to plan for the worst case scenario. NVRs can perform adequately during ideal conditions, but performance suffers during video data spikes and degraded operations (i.e. disk failures), which leads to video loss and image degradation.

HCI streamlines system performance, improving the capacity for video and data capture. Designed for write-intensive environments such as IP video surveillance and enterprise IT applications, hyper-convergence provides the highest levels of performance, resiliency, and scalability, enabling organizations to protect and ensure availability of critical video surveillance data.

Improved Client Access

In addition to servers and storage, stakeholders can consolidate video management, access control, building management and other related client applications onto a single platform, eliminating the need for expensive graphics workstations, enabling fully functional access from mobile devices and providing much higher levels of resiliency and fault tolerance to the entire application suite. This approach results in an opportunity to increase situational awareness while reducing costs, complexity, and physical footprint.

All of these factors demonstrate how NVRs can limit system performance and reliability. It’s time to push toward a new normal when it comes to storage, one that is designed to deliver the robust protection massive amounts of critical video data requires. Capturing, protecting and mobilizing this data is paramount, and a very challenging task for NVRs. HCI offers software-defined SAN storage and server infrastructure that is purpose-built for data-intensive video surveillance workloads and designed to fully protect video data, so it is always available when and where it is needed most.

It is time that the security industry begins to leverage best practices and solutions proven in the world of IT. DAS solutions, like NVRs, do not have the resilience required to protect and store mission critical data. The interest in hyper-convergence for surveillance is growing at a rapid rate, and you need to become savvy on what these technologies can deliver to your security program. Don’t leave your valuable video data to chance. Transform your surveillance data protection by looking to innovations trusted by your IT departments.

About the Author: Brandon Reich, Senior Director of Surveillance Solutions at Pivot3 Inc. is a technology evangelist, product marketing and sales leader for the pioneer of Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI). His goal is to drive security and surveillance solutions strategy, sales and marketing initiatives with highly differentiated solutions for enterprise security and IT customer segments. HCI is revolutionizing IT data center technology, and Pivot3 has optimized it for video surveillance, virtual desktop, and backup/disaster recovery workloads.