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The Next Focus: Data Storage and Management
The Editorial Team 2007/8/17

As CCTV systems become larger, resolution increases, frame rates are enhanced and video is stored for ever-longer periods, companies are shifting their attention to data storage and management. As CCTV systems become larger, resolution increases, frame rates are enhanced and video is stored for ever-longer periods, companies are shifting their attention to data storage and management.

"Traditionally," said Kevin Lee, Managing Di rector, APAC Channel Sales and Marketing at Seagate Technology, "the focus was on conversion from analog to digital, but now most systems are already digital so the shift has been to look at data storage and management in better ways. People want to be able to add more intelligence in order to be able to not only store data more effectively and efficiently but also search and retrieve data in a timely and cost-effective manner."

"We understand that people need reliable, cost-effective data solutions," said Ruud Toonders, Product Marketing Manager, Digital CCTV, Bosch Security Systems. "After all, data storage can make up, on average, 60 percent of the cost of a surveillance solution. If a customer requires video storage for one to two years, then it could be even higher."

When talking about intelligence, Lee cautioned that, it must be remembered, first, that for it to even be possible, the right levels of resolution and frame rate are required. If frame rate is too slow or resolution too low, then operators will not be able to see images properly; this reduces the effectiveness of the search. "Of course, when you increase the frame rate and up the resolution, you are going to need a lot more storage capacity," said Lee. "That means storing not only images, but also index files. Today, however, hard-disk costs have dropped substantially so adding the appropriate amount of storage is affordable."

As CCTV systems become larger and larger, there are more cameras than ever on one system, said Francis Lachance, Product Manager at Genetec. "The end user wants to record thousands of cameras and keep recorded video for longer periods of time, not just a few weeks, but maybe for many months or even years." He also observed that digital camera quality is becoming higher and higher. Recording higher quality images means that more hard-disk space is required and that means even more space for storage as well.

What kind of storage needs are we talking about? According to an IDC study, the Expanding Digital Universe, the amount of digital information created and replicated each year (not just for security) will increase from 161 billion gigabytes in 2006 to 988 billion gigabytes in 2010, a six-fold increase, representing compound annual growth of 57 percent. In 2007, the amount of information created will surpass, for the first time, the storage capacity available.

Key Players

Genetec is present in Canada, the U.S., EMEA and Asia. DMA is its agent in Southeast Asia; Javatel in Japan; IBM, ADT and Simplex Grinnell in North America; and Siemens and Assystem in Europe. Major competitors are Milestone and Lenel in the U.S. as well as Milestone in Europe, and Verint and Pelco all over the world. IndigoVision is a strong player in IP, but not for all-in-one systems, said one player.

Meanwhile, according to Lee, the major companies are Pelco, GE Security, Bosch Security, Honeywell and Asian players like Hikvision, Dahua, IDIS, AV Tech, EverFocus and Chateau. "Obviously," he explained, "a lot more players are entering as this is a very exciting market right now."

For Toonders, "Apart from Pelco, Verint and Siemens, Bosch Security Systems is a major global player, with more than 40 offices worldwide."

Airports, Government, Banks Early Adopters of Technology

All the various companies involved in this sector, noted Lachance, are attempting to develop products for all verticals. Genetec, for example, has highly scalable solutions to provide products and services to very large transportation and airport users. In addition, it has solutions and systems for retail chains, where the solution is composed of many smaller and distributed nationwide systems that can be federated into one single location for central monitoring. Then, there are also systems and solutions being developed specifically for public safety (prisons and correctional facilities) and educational campuses.

"We were early adopters of solutions for large installations like airports," said Lachance. "In Europe, we have systems that involve thousands of cameras using standard, non-proprietary servers. That means that our solutions can be used on any PC regardless of whether it is from HP, Dell or IBM; it simply does not matter." Airports, correctional facilities, and casinos and gaming facilities, he continued, are all using high-quality systems that provide lots of video storage space.

"Omnicast," said Lachance, "has been able to address their needs most efficiently. First, the software is flexible and adaptable to serve all client needs. There are no problems with customization. Given that the needs of each client are different, there have been no incidences where these types of systems are facing the same sets of problems among end users from the same verticals. Therefore, there are no unique airport or casino challenges when using these systems."

The early adopters and most important verticals, pointed out Lee, have long been government and banking. "Now, however, there has been a proliferation in verticals with retail shops and private housing projects moving to incorporate video surveillance. In fact, video surveillance is becoming standard in most condo and housing projects."

Hot Functions and Features

In terms of new features and functions, said Lachance, manufacturers are developing software system solutions to manage video, audio and data across any IP network. Genetec is not only working on these systems but offers a complete line of innovative IP security products such as IP Access Control and IP LPR (License Plate Recognition). Omnicast is the IP video management platform.

The integrator's goal, he added, is to provide complete solutions to end users. They, therefore, seek to offer both the software and hardware, including the cameras, PCs, storage systems and wiring; they are developing complete series of solutions that offer everything from the wiring to software installation.

Omnicast, said Lachance, provides an open architecture solution that can be used with all major brands of IP cameras and encoders, and with any type of server or workstation, as well as recording on any type of storage deviceSAN, NAS or DAS.

Bosch, said Toonders, pioneered high-security storage solutions in 2006. "We are seeing IP encoders and cameras that record directly to high-security disk arrays. There is no need for a network video recorder." The company is also a strong believer in H.264 compression. Finally, it is also looking at providing erosive storage in 2008. This will enable the user to determine at what quality level the video should be stored at, thus reducing storage requirements; the user can allocate storage space while retaining video fragments.

He further noted that the company can also integrate systems to provide analytics in cameras and storage areas with the Bosch Video Management System (Bosch VMS), the all-in-one, futureproof management system for most of the company's video products. "In terms of stability," he added, "Windows is no longer needed so you are taking it out of the critical chain. That means a shorter chain and this, in turn, delivers greater reliability."

Video Content Analysis (VCA) is one of the many areas where Bosch is active, for example, in the automotive industry for which video algorithms have been developed. One application is for detecting people walking alongside roads and a warning is given to the driver of the car via a head-up display. Another application example is the detection of small children playing in an area close to the road. The algorithms, therefore, alert drivers to potential dangers.

VCA is now being applied in CCTV cameras, which can now detect specific objects like dropped baggage, direction of movement and even suspicious behavior such as loiteringall in real timeand particularly relevant in airports and train stations. First, Bosch launched its Intelligent Video Motion Detection (IVMD) 1.0, which is now being followed by IVMD 2.0. This includes new features such as an extended range of filters for detecting suspicious behavior like cars stopping in a tunnel and a new image-stabilization algorithm that eliminates jitter in images from cameras mounted on unstable supports.

The system can also be used to detect people walking alongside roads, in which case detection is extended by an aspect ratio rule. For example, a person standing by the side of the road may have an aspect ratio of 4:1, while a car's aspect ratio might be 2:4. This depends on the angle of the camera in relationship to the scene. VRM can also be combined with the IVMD 2.0 to retrieve metadata on activity within scenes. Then, systems can be integrated to provide analytics on live and stored video with, for instance, Bosch VMS as a head-end.

Smart Searches

Because Genetec offers solutions for large systems, it must be able to offer solutions that are capable of efficiently scanning or doing searches on recorded video, said Lachance. "We must enable our customers to be able to conduct sophisticated research queries. We are, therefore, delivering a complete video solution. End users do not want to waste a lot of time and energy doing searches; they want to be able to search for a particular event and find it right away."

Omnicast offers very sophisticated ways to search for video. The search tool is based on metadata such a video analytic and access control eventsmotion and alarms. It searches all video for particular areas with specifically described types of motion. That means that the solution is not querying video, but using metadata to conduct searches.

Data management, agreed Toonders, is key to efficient searches. "If you store video without any information next to it, then of what use is it? The company's IVMD 2.0 puts intelligence in the camera to recognize moving objects. It detects and then spits out metadata to describe textually what is happening in the scene. This is done at a much lower data rate than with streaming video." "If you want to do a search on loitering people, for example, then you can do a smart search on loitering events. The search is done only on the textual data so this can be done much more quickly."

Video Analytics

Major differentiation is being provided by coupling video analytics with video management solutions. "Everyone," said Lachance, "wants to provide solutions that offer VA solutions. This is definitely where the market is going. This means that the end user will be able to not only record but also record and view video only when alarms are triggered by VA systems. This will deliver truly intelligent detection."

Solutions, he said, are moving fast to adopt new technology. That said, some scenarios involving VA are not as effective, though major improvements will take place in the next several years. That will see VA becoming much more effective in all scenarios such as dealing with crowded airports and train stations. "It is just a matter of time; VA, after all, has been on the market for a few years already. During that time, we have already seen many major improvements in existing products and technology."

"While intelligent video has its challenges," pointed out Lee, "the interesting thing about software developers is that, one way or another, they can solve any probl em. The question really is the time frame, cost and performance level involved. Today, you can see phenomenal software with functions that blow your mind away. That means excellent abilities to recognize faces and behavior. The challenges will always be there, but inexpensive storage and microprocessor power are alleviating the situation."

Major software providers, said Lee, include its partner ObjectVideo, which is well-known for its facial and behavior recognition technology. The software is also capable of doing statistical analysis on, say, traffic flows. "It is important to realize," said Lee, "that these companies are not only present in the U.S. but also in the Asia-Pacific, where a number of creative companies are doing software development to provide unique functions at affordable prices."

Talking Disk Drives

The real meat and potatoes, however, involve data storage and management issues.

"Omnicast," emphasized Lachance, "can be used with multi-level type storage. While disk prices have been dropping, they are still more expensive than using tape libraries to store video. With Omnicast, you can store video on disks for, say, 15 days and then on tapes for up to two years." Omnicast, he added, works with hierarchical storage management. "Users can choose the kind of system that they want and, more important, what they need." Naturally, a higher price delivers a higher quality system, while the lower price offers lower performance for larger storage needs.

With high-quality, high-capacity hard drives involving hundreds or more cameras on one system, a lot of bandwidth is required. That means that very qualified hardware is needed to go with the software. "It really depends on how the final system is designed for the customer," said Lachance. "If, for example, the customer requires a system with distributed recording, then there is less need for high performance, because subsystems will record fewer cameras. If the customer requires a central system, then you may need high-performance disks because customers usually want to record as much as possible on a single server." Omnicast can record up to 300 cameras on a single server; dealing with all the throughput requires high-performance disks.

Not all hard disks are the same, cautioned Lee. "Hard disks were initially designed for PC use. These, however, are not necessarily good when it comes to surveillance purposes. Surveillance requires that hard disks write 24/7, 365 days a year. PCs read more than write. If there is a sudden requirement to read or write data during surveillance, they often pause. You cannot have that happen."

Surveillance, he stressed, requires continuous data flows. "What we have done to deliver that is to design a hard disk that can accurately write, while checking to ensure that data is written properly with no pause or delay, not even for a few seconds. It is important to remember that even if you lose a pixel or two, given the sheer number of pixels involved, that it is not really important. The operator will not even notice. The key factor is the time lag."

With tens of hard drives hooked up to one DVR, however, he warned that issues of power consumption and heat generation appear. "Our SV35 series (35 stands for 3.5 inch) was designed expressly for surveillance applications. With PCs, you have at most one or two hard drives so the power consumption is substantially lower." Then he noted that enough capacity has to be put up front to cater to future needs.

Then, there is the usage environment. PCs are usually in place at well-protected data centers or offices with stable temperatures and humidity levels; that is not the case for hard drives being used for surveillance. "These may be placed in bad environments with major temperature differences and high humidity levels," said Lee. "They may also be exposed to violence and/or shock. Think of systems used in police cards that need to write data continuously. We designed our EE25 series for these kinds of environments that require rugged systems to withstand high temperatures, extreme cold and shock."

Finally, Seagate also has its Barracuda ES series, which was designed for the unique needs of data centers. "There, you have huge amounts of data being stored in one central location rather than distributed. There is a huge range of hard-disk drives placed together. You need, therefore, to be able to minimize the rotational vibration that occurs when so many machines are working next to each other. Vibration can degrade performance."

Virtualization

Virtualization and hierarchical storage are not new concepts, explained Lee. "All corporations need to do this; it is a common need. They want to consider how to protect the data and distribute it in the most effective way."

Bosch is also pioneering video recording management or VRMs to add virtualization to high-security recording. "It does not matter where the system is installed; you will be able to record video there," said Toonders. "Bosch's Video Recording Manager (VRM) is like a traffic cop. If there is a problem, it sends the video elsewhere to be recorded. We are the first in the market to come out with this. The major advantages are in terms of cost and flexibility. Not only does it save the customer in terms of maintenance costs but also investment costs as initial purchase price is lower."

The Bosch VRM provides centralized management and monitoring of video servers, cameras and iSCSI storage units within an IP-based CCTV network. It significantly enhances management of storage capacity by treating storage blocks within the system at the logical or virtual rather than physical level. Virtualization of storage blocks allows for complete flexibility and scalability in allocation of storage throughout the network. Recorded video is distributed over all available iSCSI RAID units on the network, rather than recording on a single storage device directly connected to an NVR.

Bosch VRM also optimizes the use of system resources by keeping track of storage usage per camera and dynamically assigning storage capacity to devices on the basis of demand. Under VRM control, encoders are able to directly store data on iSCSI units in one-gigabyte blocks without routing through a server and without need of a file system (both of which are potential causes of failure). In addition, using direct block addressing, old information is simply overwritten, not first deleted before new information can be written. This greatly improves system performance for very high bit rate recording, enabling iSCSI disk arrays to attain 200 megabits per second throughput, far exceeding the classical NVR's 70 megabit per second limit.

Lifecycle Management

" In terms of datalifecycle management," observed Toonders, "you have to remember that recording video on hard drives really stresses them. If only 1 percent of your hard drives fail, you are going to have quite a task swapping them out. You must think about how to manage this quickly and you need the manpower to do so." With big installations, it makes more sense to use fiber channel (FC).

When it comes to lifecycle and video retention, Lachance pointed out that Omnicast is also highly flexible. "The end user simply determines the period of time needed on a per camera basis. Maybe, the company could opt for 30 days for regular video, but 60 days in the event of an alarm. Omnicast also offers backup and restore features that provide online and offline archiving."

Encryption

"The sheer size of data today and the fact that some industries require that video be saved for up to six months," said Lee, "means that companies are looking for ways to store this not only securely but also cost-effectively." The security of the data, itself, is important. It has a huge value. Because of this, forensic logging has been developed to determine if and when unauthorized access has taken place.

"There is a lot of encryption software out there right now," said Lee. "The weakness is that, often, temporary files are not protected. That means that an unauthorized user can access the hard drive to download these. Whenever you open a Word document, the system creates a temporary file. If these are not encrypted as well, then you really do not have any kind of protection at all." Seagate provides full disk encryption not just that for files and folders. The protection is transparent to the system; users do not even realize that encryption is taking place. Another plus is that the series does not use CPU cycles. It has its own processor that resides directly on the hard disk. Forensic logging also keeps a log of everything that has been done to the hard diskreading, writing and changing. All this is recorded and it cannot be altered.

Likewise, Omnicast also watermarks; for this, it uses top-of-the-line 248-bit RSA encryption. "This allows us to bring digital video footage to court as we can certify that there has been no tampering," explained Lachance.

Bosch is also active in video encryption (128-bit AES) beginning at the camera itselfa significant security measurement; 802.x authentication is also provided as a security measurement. This means that a camera cannot be unplugged and then connected to a laptop to illegally access the IP video system.

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