Magazine Article | November 13, 2012

Is Cloud-Based Video Management Software Ready For Prime Time?

By Brian Albright, Business Solutions Magazine

Cloud-based solutions can provide recurring revenue but are not suited to every client.

The video management software (VMS) market is largely fragmented, even in light of mergers and acquisitions within the video surveillance space. For VARs, that means it’s still important to carefully evaluate VMS partners for financial stability and product reliability.

Product selection has become more complex, with both software- and appliance-based solutions available, and limited VMS functionality available on some IP-based cameras. The lines are also blurring between VMS and physical security information management (PSIM) solutions that can manage multiple, unconnected security systems. There has also been continued integration with analytics software, holistic security solutions, and mobile applications that can provide some remote visibility into the system via smartphones and tablets.

“Large organizations are looking for solutions that can provide holistic security intelligence leveraging the big data captured across all their systems — security and non-security,” says Debjit Das, VP of global marketing at Verint Video Intelligence Solutions. “Customers expect the next generation video and situation intelligence solutions to fulfill that need — and provide them the actionable intelligence they need to identify, respond, and manage incidents faster, while more efficiently leveraging information across all their systems, not just video. Moreover, customers are looking to harness the visual data captured by their video solutions to provide them the untapped business intelligence.”

Many clients still just want a stand-alone VMS, however. “Though an integrated security platform may provide value for large, complex deployments, the feeling is that most users require a simple and intuitive CCTV platform for most of their daily activities,” says Ely Maspero, product manager for VMS solutions at March Networks. “It’s unlikely that VMS platforms will evolve into true PSIM solutions in the next few years; however, we do expect that this trend will bring a new set of useful functionalities to existing VMSs.”

The shift from analog to digital/IP-based cameras has expanded the need for VMS. “As IP camera adoption has increased, so has the value of VMS software,” says Shawn Mather, director of channel management and major accounts at Genetec. “Many features of VMS solutions are only available when using end-to-end IP products. The ways we can use the higher video resolution, configurability, and flexibility of IP solutions are a clear advantage over analog technologies.”

The type of VMS capability adopted can vary by market. According to Maspero, VMS has been widely adopted in commercial/industrial environments such as office buildings, campuses, and airports. “However, [these solutions] still struggle in more conservative markets, such as banking or retail, where the primary choice remains a hybrid appliance that supports both analog and IP video capture and therefore extends existing analog camera investments while allowing a smooth migration to megapixel technologies,” Maspero says.

IP Video Is Here To Stay
The biggest challenge in the transition from analog to IP is the ability for a reseller to keep up with the technological shift, Maspero says. “While VMS solutions are easier for customers to use once they are up and running, they can be a source of deep frustration for those who are still used to working with analog DVRs. VMS manufacturers offer a wide range of training options that all VARs working in this field should take advantage of, as they did when VoIP first emerged years ago,” Maspero says.

Among the technology advancements affecting the market are cloud-enabled solutions, improved network bandwidth, the use of mobile devices, and the availability of higher resolution cameras. “It is important to follow and understand these technologies because several of them have yet to gain significant adoption,” Das says. “As a result, integrators will be better served by actually understanding specific customer needs and environments, and using the new technologies in situations only where they will be effective, vis-à-vis providing them purely based on their cost and promise.”

Education is extremely important for VARs that may not have the experience with new camera equipment or the IP background to successfully install these new systems. “For those integrators with little IP background and without service technicians on staff who have experience with IP technologies, the simplest of network-related problems can be quite daunting and time consuming,” says Mather. “Overcoming this knowledge shortfall starts by recognizing that IP products and solutions are here to stay and by investing in the education of existing employees while also focusing on hiring new employees with a background in IP technologies.”

Cloud-Based VMS Presents Revenue Challenge
VARs should start to investigate the capabilities that are brought in the near term by cloud-based VMS solutions and Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) offerings. “While VARs may find it is or is not time to begin adoption, it is definitely time to do the research and understand what these technologies and services will mean to their organization,” Mather says. “Once understood, it may take a VAR a year or more to prepare their organization to fully take advantage of the recurring revenue opportunities being brought by this technology trend.”

Making those types of solutions pay off for the VAR could be challenging, particularly as many clients prefer (or even require) on-premise solutions. “While VSaaS holds promise for B2C business models, we do not see value and high adoption of multi-tenant VSaaS offerings for B2B business models where customers continue to host and maintain their VMS infrastructure in-house,” Das says. “It is important for VARs and integrators to realize this distinction when considering VMS and VSaaS offerings for their customers.”

Outside of cloud-based arrangements, a typical VMS offering is priced on a per-server and per-channel fee, with additional fees for multiple locations. In some cases, VMS may be a free component of a camera, but “while such VMS solutions may serve the needs of consumers in B2C business models, they are far less mature and lack the capabilities of enterprise class VMS systems that large organizations require,” Das warns.

The vendors contacted for this story indicated that while interoperability among security solutions providers can be problematic, there is increasing adoption of the ONVIF (open network video interface forum) standard for IP security devices. That will help ease client concerns about being locked into one vendor’s technology. VMS solutions can also help tie together disparate components. “The quality VMS providers will continue to make sub-system integration faster and easier for the integrator to meet the needs of the end user while increasing the capabilities of those combined and integrated systems,” Mather says.

VARs should also expect to see more adoption of analytics solutions that will allow video data to be used for workforce management, customer experience marketing, merchandising, and other types of applications. Pitching these add-on solutions to new and existing surveillance clients will help improve the return on investment for the client, while developing new revenue opportunities for the VAR, provided they are able to develop or partner with viable solutions providers that can deliver that type of video integration.

In the short term, VARs will have to take into account the existing analog security infrastructure, which means that many clients will run hybrid video solutions. “I would recommend VARs focus on video surveillance solutions that can scale well while protecting their customers’ current CCTV investments (i.e., mixed environments consisting of DVRs/NVRs and software-based recording platforms) and can better address different end user requirements,” Maspero says. “They should also lead with Web-based solutions as much as possible to enhance the user experience and cut down on the time and resources needed to deploy and upgrade the systems.”