Security Convergence…The Future of Video Storage

by Dan Dunkel - President, New Era Associates

Published in Today's Systems Integrator

TechSec 2007 was held in Dallas, Texas last week and the Fairmont Hotel proved a welcome venue. I have really liked the show in the past, and have attended all three to date. TechSec provides much more insight into security convergence issues than you get at the ASIS show. One very valuable session (among many) was moderated by Paul Smith, chief operating officer of DVTEL, and included Axis Communications, Network Appliance, Hewlett Packard, Siemens and HID. The topic was titled: Stronger Together: IT and Security Convergence and the need for Open Standards in an IP-driven Security World. (I told you these sessions were in the convergence sweet spot).

An audience member asked, “Who in the physical security industry will step up and drive the standards issues to conclusion?” Good question, but what I found more interesting was the way Network Appliance and Hewlett Packard, both vendors providing storage servers, were quick to answer that the IT industry created standards around storage years ago. This is a critical area for the physical security industry and their integrator channel to understand. It is also a major reason the IT storage server vendors are entering the security convergence market.

Similarities can be made between DVR and NVR technologies and the personal computer servers that preceded the Network Attached Storage (NAS) and Storage Area Network (SAN) architectures. The key word here is “preceded”. NAS and SAN were essentially created to provide the ability to store more data and to streamline the administration of multiple, smaller servers. The issue was not that the PC server model did not work, as much as it became too costly and cumbersome to manage little points of storage all over the enterprise. This is not to say that single points of storage, or DVR/NVR platforms, do not have a market—they clearly do. The question is, will NVR’s be deployed in mass across the enterprise? My answer is, probably not.

If you wanted a clear example, all you had to do was attend the TechSec keynote from Dave Tyson, CSO, City of Vancouver. He explained how his $500,000 budget for NVR’s to accompany his 700 IP surveillance cameras turned into a purchase order for less then $40,000 worth of disk drives to plug into an existing SAN. Welcome to the future of surveillance storage over IP.

Before you panic, realize that this model is a blessing for integrators because larger storage deployments incorporate additional application solutions and require consulting and integration services. The IT vendors understand that there is value in video image storage. They don’t erase it and throw it all away. They want to run applications against it and provide dual uses for surveillance video to tap into the $34 billion market for employee training that U.S. corporations spend annually. Retail cashiers, marketing departments, HR and law enforcement/security personnel can all benefit from surveillance video.

Self-proclaimed “video evangelist” at IBM Len Johnson believes that, “As the security industry transforms to one that is based on open standards and IT infrastructure, video data moves to file based formats. By keeping video longer and using sophisticated video analysis tools, new and different trends can be uncovered. Video data mining is on the brink of being real.” Johnson travels the globe looking for security solutions to deploy on IBM blade (storage) servers.

Cisco Systems and the other network vendors have a vested interest in heavily promoting video storage over IP. Companies of these sizes tend to influence IT purchasing. One Silicon Valley firm, 3VR (www.3vr.com), is leveraging the video data mining concept by providing unique software solutions that convert unstructured video into intelligent information in a database that can also integrate with other application solutions, including photographs (mug shots).

The market also has the attention of an innovative server startup, Intransa Corporation of San Jose, Calif. (www.intransa.com ), that was active at TechSec promoting their scalable IP storage platform. Vice President of Sales George Vaiser stated, “We are focusing squarely on the video surveillance and storage market for our platform; it is the perfect fit technology-wise. But we also want to provide the physical security integrator channel with IP networking and storage training, if necessary, as well as our knowledge of selling into IT departments.”  Another example of convergence is when smaller firms like Intransa see opportunity to position unique value below the radar of the market leaders.

The question for the integrator channel is really two fold: can you jump-start your education about enterprise storage models to be credible with potential partners and enterprise customers? And, do you have a storage strategy beyond NVR’s that can integrate into an exiting NAS or SAN model, similar to what Dave Tyson “Mr. Convergence” saw at the City of Vancouver? One additional question goes out to the NVR manufacturers, “Do you recognize the video storage trends?” Do your competitors? (DVTEL may be moving in the right direction). One terabyte is not a lot of data storage. The future is the convergence of voice, data and video storage over IP.

“Video data mining is on the brink of being real.”

What are you doing to prepare for it?