Since the beginning of digitally recorded video, designers and end-users have sought to reduce single points of failure in video recording hardware. The high failure rate of hard drives (particularly in the early days) led to a wide range of redundancy solutions over the years, including simple Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) solutions, fully redundant recording arrays, and fault tolerant servers.
In more recent years, the prevalence of virtualized software platforms has become increasingly common, particularly at the enterprise end of the market. Solutions like those developed by VMWare completely abstract instances of application software from computing hardware, enabling a single software platform to be run on a group of servers.
Many consultants – including me – would agree that in an enterprise environment, the performance of a virtualized platform is a viable solution that avoids reliance on single hardware components.
That said, virtualized platforms are not right for all end-users. Solutions like VMWare require a certain level of IT know-how, certification and expertise in order to implement and maintain. A small to medium-sized end-user would likely find that meeting these requirements is cost-prohibitive and opt for more traditional RAID or redundant recording solutions; however, it still begs the question whether or not there is a middle ground that would more easily allow those mid-level users to reduce hardware dependency.
BCDVideo is one manufacturer who has recently introduced a solution to answer that question. The company’s Hyperconverged Infrastructure for Video Surveillance (HCI-VS), which is based on Scale Computing’s HC3 software, is similar to enterprise-level virtualization platforms in that it enables end-users to run software instances on a pool of hardware resources rather than a single machine.
Hyperconvergence refers to modular appliances sold by a single vendor, which contain storage, computing and virtualization hardware in one. The solution scales by simply adding more boxes. What makes this solution more attractive for smaller end-users is that it can be deployed in hours, without special certifications or high-level IT knowledge. Simply drop an appliance into the pool, and the system adds it to its available resources. Virtual machines can be added in minutes.
While it may lack some of the high-end bells and whistles of an enterprise platform like VMWare, solutions like Hyperconverged Infrastructure fill a definite market gap of mid-level end-users that demand the benefits of virtualization without the capability to deploy an enterprise-level platform.
One-on-One with BCDVideo
I had the opportunity to discuss the benefits of Hyperconverged Infrastructure with Darren Giacomini, Director of Advanced Systems Architecture at BCDVideo.
“Environments that are mission critical, or face heavy fines for not being able to access video during their retention time frame are a perfect fit for HCI-VS,” Giacomini says. “If an end-user cannot afford to lose access to their recorded video, then server, networking, and power outages need to be accounted for. If a video archive server were to go down, none of the video on that server is available for review until that server is brought back online. If that server cannot be brought back online, the video is lost forever.
“HCI-VS creates a clustered environment that can shift the role of the archiver to other hardware in the cluster to avoid these types of outages or loss,” he says.
BCDVideo developed the HCI-VS product around ease of implementation for the video integrator market.
“There are a lot of companies creating virtualization in the IT space; however, very few are adapting the technology to create high-availability environments for video,” Giacomini says. “Video data and IT data are very different animals. For many manufacturers, the expertise required to design, manage and deploy these types of solutions for IP video surveillance applications outweighs the advantages of the technology.
“In addition to performance, manufacturers need to remove the complexity of deploying and managing hyperconvergence,” he continues. “Expecting every integrator to become certified and trained in concepts of virtualization is a very hard sell, and can take years of training to perfect. The interface for HCI-VS can be learned in less than an hour without complex certifications and deployment requirements.”
An additional benefit of HCI-VS over traditional virtualized environments is reduced latency, which can make or break a video recording platform. “The platform excels at delivering low-latency video for both live view and recording,” Giacomini says. “The HC3 software uses technology based on SCRIBE (Scale Computing Reliable Independent Block Engine), which allows the virtual machines to access the clustered storage with less overhead than traditional virtualization and HCI technology. By reducing the hop-counts the VM takes to access the physical data, SCRIBE can execute efficiently on an all rotational disk cluster, while minimizing the latency attributed to traditional HCI that does not leverage SSD.”
Looking to the future, one burning question is whether cloud storage of video for high camera-count projects will ever become mainstream. Letting Amazon or Microsoft handle video storage in a high-availability, high-security data center does have a level of allure to many end-users; however, until now and for the foreseeable future, bandwidth remains cost-prohibitive.
“Conceptually is seems like a great way to approach the physical security market, but the bandwidth required to store solutions to the cloud makes it unobtainable by most,” Giacomini says. “Very few companies are willing to invest in the outgoing bandwidth to record all video to cloud storage. There has also been a great deal of pushback on sensitive video being stored to the cloud, and how secure the solution really is.”
For now, it looks like we will need to continue to develop high-availability on-premises storage solutions. In that regard, solutions like BCDVideo’s HCI-VS platform certainly appear to have moved the ball forward.
Brian Coulombe is Principal and Director of Operations at DVS, a division of Ross & Baruzzini. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, through Linked in at www.linkedin.com/in/brian-coulombe, or on Twitter @DVS_RB.