"Mr. Convergence" Understands Surveillance Storage Infrastructure, Do You?

by Dan Dunkel - President, New Era Associates

Published in Today's Systems Integrator

I just returned from the ASIS show more convinced then ever that the physical security industry needs an IT education. Physical security practitioners must know IT history to understand how IT management and the IT infrastructure evolved. This will assist in successfully positioning their products with senior management during the security convergence cycle. The good news is that history is easier to grasp then learning the more technical aspects of information technology.

Mr. Convergence is Dave Tyson, Senior Manager - City of Vancouver, where he is responsible for supporting both physical & IT business services. My friend Ray O'Hara, Senior Managing Director of VANCE and Chair of the Alliance for Enterprise Security & Risk Management (AESRM) presented Dave with both an achievement award and his new title at the show. Dave shared an interesting story during a panel discussion on convergence and his message should be heard load and clear in the physical security vendor and channel community.

The city of Vancouver will be hosting the Winter Olympic games in 2010. This fact makes Dave's life more interesting as he prepares security for this event. He mentioned that part of his strategy involves the purchase of 700 security cameras. The budget for the NVR's to support those cameras is 500K. (Before you NVR vendors call Dave, read on.)

Realizing that collaboration with the IT department is good business, he shared his vision with his technical counterparts. In reviewing the city's IT Infrastructure they realized Dave could utilize the existing SAN (Storage Area Network) for the surveillance storage. A SAN is a large block of disk storage accessible from the network and managed centrally. Purchasing approximately 40K in disk space and adding it to the existing SAN could satisfy his video surveillance storage requirement. The savings over the NVR purchases was 460K. That's $460,000 dollars. That's also the future for NVR sales.

A key point during my presentation at ASIS this year was that understanding IT history is key to your selling strategy. For example, PC servers and DVR/NVR product positioning is similar. The issue is that 15 years ago the IT industry started moving away from the pc server model to centralized storage as disk space exploded. This is why SAN architectures were invented in the first place. Less administrative complexity equals easier storage management at lower cost. Video adds huge volumes of storage. Selling hundreds of distributed NVR's to IT will be tough. Competing against IBM and EMC in the data center may be even tougher.

This is not to say that distributed storage models do not have a place in the enterprise. They clearly do. Which is why server vendors are introducing iscsi servers (IP Storage Servers) that scale to numerous TB's of storage starting at just 5K. The next step is understanding failover and providing that software and integration support.

If your company is pouring R&D money into next generation NVR hardware it might be better invested in software development or hiring IT storage expertise. Additionally, the unit forecasts for NVR sales might need to be reworked from thousands to hundreds if you were counting on enterprise revenue without first understanding their existing storage infrastructure. The good news is that video surveillance is being embraced within the commercial enterprise, which means major deployments if sold strategically.

BIG opportunities await the vendors that understand IT thinking and position accounts for the future. That future is not with the traditional security department buying and deploying "silo" analog surveillance. IT management will lead the way with installations of digital video over IP networks.

 Now I understand that analog has over 80% of the market share today but remember two critical facts, (1) the enterprise decision cycle favors the IT department, and (2) the analog solution you sold the security department in 2006 will destroy your sales credibility with the IT decision maker in 2008. IT will understand the future in 2006 was clearly digital but you took the easy way out. And just as that account deploys digital video surveillance across the IP enterprise; this is exactly where you may wind up...out. The biggest mistake you can make is selling a big company old technology during a transition period, it creates long-term resentment. In the end you hang yourself and the IT sales person will be there to hand you the rope.

Sales strategy is not a short-term tactic, which is why it is called strategy; it positions your company for long-term account control by getting customers in front of the trends.

Get IT Educated and Sell Strategically.