Magazine Article | May 21, 2012

The Growing Video Storage Opportunity

By Brian Albright, Business Solutions magazine

Resellers can leverage video storage solutions to provide value-added security and video management services.

With the advent of lower-cost video cameras and IP-based security and surveillance systems, there has been an increase in demand for digital video recorder and network video recorder (DVR/NVR) technology and video storage. According to IMS Research, the video storage market was $1.7B in 2011, representing a reseller margin opportunity of $340M — an opportunity the channel could miss out on if they don’t stay on top of key trends in the market.

According to Bud Broomhead, CEO of Intransa, the proliferation of server, camera, and storage options, along with the impact IP has had on the market, are driving users to search for simplified solutions. “We expect to see customers opting to purchase simplified platforms that reduce the installation risk of picking the wrong hardware or improper configuration, and that they will be further attracted by the reduced operational costs that simple, modular appliances bring,” Broomhead says. “These lower ongoing costs and reduced support challenges far outweigh the minimal price premium by about 10% over buying a security appliance rather than commodity hardware and rolling their own.”

Virtualization is another important trend, says Lee Caswell, founder and chief strategy officer at Pivot3. Virtualization of these storage solutions can reduce power, cooling requirements, rack space, and cost by up to 40% by eliminating physical servers.

“With servers and storage making up half of the bid cost in major projects, virtualization is a tremendous lever for increasing reseller margins or reducing bid costs to become more competitive,” Caswell says. “Virtualization integrated with storage is only available from open systems providers and therefore, virtualization becomes the ultimate tool for displacing systems from proprietary integrated systems with limited margin potential.”

Then there is the shift to edge-based camera recording, which can reduce the bottlenecks in centralized video systems by storing video on the camera or on a local hard drive. “Storage capacity with edge-based recording is still limited in terms of total capacity, limiting appeal for this type of storage to the mass market,” says Richard Cecchini, storage architect engineer at Seneca. “Demand for larger capacity centralized storage/network storage will remain prevalent for many SMBs.”

Beware Video Storage Networking Challenges
For network-savvy integrators, video storage solutions present a few technical challenges. First, don’t under power the system; select a modular appliance solution that can grow and adapt as the customer’s needs expand. “Integrators need to understand how to properly size a system based on the requirements for the use of the appliance,” Cecchini says. “Recognizing the relationships between the camera, switch, server, and storage requirements are important in knowing the amount of storage needed for the application.”

Find storage solutions that have been tested and jointly certified with a wide range of video management systems, access control, physical security information management (PSIM), and analytics vendors to reduce risk. “Consider that in IT, if a server goes down it may impact email or database access and be inconvenient for users,” Broomhead says. “If that same server hosted a video surveillance deployment, there is a strong risk that all video is lost, resulting in anything from lost income and halted production to legal action.”

Those resellers familiar with IP networks have an incentive to leverage that knowledge by selecting IP SAN (storage area network) scale-out storage based on Ethernet switches, built-in Ethernet NICs, and Ethernet cabling. “Ethernet storage eliminates the learning curve, training, and costs associated with proprietary Fibre Channel storage, Fibre Channel switches, and Fibre Channel add-in Host Bus Adapter Cards,” Caswell says.

Bandwidth Can Make or Break Video Solutions
Video makes significant demands on a network, and resellers must be able to carefully match end user requirements with the right hardware, video management system (VMS), and cameras. “The system requirements for each VMS vary based on the number of cameras, resolution, CODEC (coder-decoder), FPS (frames per second), analytics, and the environment that the cameras will be monitoring/recording,” Cecchini says. “Integrators need to be certain that they are seeking purpose-built, optimized platforms for security and surveillance deployments.”

Storage systems must be specified by bandwidth to support the streaming nature of simultaneous video cameras. “Video surveillance data is simply too big to back up or replicate offsite, so systems must offer system-level reliability in place of conventional component reliability,” Caswell says. “Motionsensitive camera compression algorithms drive localized spikes in capacity and performance needs that must be easily distributed and load-balanced in order to avoid frame loss; and the limited availability of dedicated storage administrators means that systems need to be easily supported in the field by surveillance technicians with minimum training. Overall, the best systems will simply be self-healing for both server and storage faults.”

Cloud Solutions Appeal to Smaller Customers
For SMBs, cloud-based video solutions have increasing appeal, since they can be deployed faster and at a lower cost. For resellers, this represents both a bandwidth networking challenge and a business challenge.

“The opportunity is not in the actual transportation of video through the cloud, but the ability to remotely manage the infrastructure,” Broomhead says. “The challenge is to develop business models to take the new technology to market. If you find a business model, the technology will follow, and that’s what the industry is wrestling with now.”

The utility of the cloud model will depend on the size of the deployment. “Cloud performance depends on the bandwidth of the connection,” Cecchini says. “Small camera count sites that use relatively low image resolution seem to have utility for small deployments. That same utility does not apply to medium and large enterprises with larger camera counts with higher resolutions, which consumes more bandwidth than a typical VPN over the Web can accommodate.”

That’s why smaller companies are likely to turn to these solutions; they are looking for ways to reduce cost, equipment needs, and the need for local support staff, and their storage needs are relatively modest. They are also looking for outside help to manage these solutions.

“And that’s where the money is for channel companies,” Broomhead says. “Cloud-based surveillance solutions are a better fit for their typical clients — budget-conscious SMBs — than for the security departments of banks, retail chains, and other organizations that have a greater need for high-quality surveillance images.”