Cloud computing has amassed a legion of fans over the past two years, including tech giants Google and IBM. Physical security players are keen to take advantage of its benefits, but its applicability remains unclear. A&S takes a look at what cloud computing has to offer and how the security industry can benefit from it.
In the future, computers face extinction. Laptops and desktop PCs will disappear from houses and briefcases, as well as excessive maintenance fees and inconvenience. The time has arrived for cloud computing — shared network-based computing where resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand.
In the security world, the demand for networking, centralized storage and efficient searches are on the rise. Thus, as cloud computing projects and new terminology — cloud platform, cloud storage and cloud NVR — are introduced, security players look to this new technology for better ways to connect.
The security world is migrating towards network and centralized data storage. The evolution of a product name better explains this transition. Take DVRs, for example. In the security industry, it is a product that has migrated from traditional analog to the digital era of IP. Today, NVRs have become a common security term, taking inputs directly from network cameras. A mere difference in a letter is the result of IT's influence on physical security.
DVRs are based on small systems and managed locally by remote controls or buttons on the device. Conversely, NVRs are designed for a network environment through a control platform. In short, the evolution of technology in physical security underscores the importance of transition. Should it become necessary to adopt cloud computing, the security industry will not let the opportunity slip by.
Business Models Cloud computing lets users share information in the cloud, rather than storing software or other services on individual workstations. This is data on demand — available anywhere, anytime. It is aided by software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS), managed service providers (MSP) and other business models. Currently, cloud computing comprises five business models: SaaS, utility computing, network services, PaaS and service commerce platforms. The following takes a look at each model and its relevance to the security industry.
● SaaS: Current security software lacks three things — unified formats, unified agreements (protocols) and standards. SaaS in cloud computing delivers a single application through the browser to thousands of customers. From a user's perspective, this saves money on server and software licenses. From a supplier's perspective, maintenance costs are lower compared to conventional hosting, as only one application needs to be maintained.
● Utility Computing: In the security industry, large quantities of real-time video data call for corresponding amounts of storage. Cloud computing is able to create a Cloud computing has amassed a legion of fans over the past two years, including tech giants Google and IBM. Physical security players are keen to take advantage of its benefits, but its applicability remains unclear. A&S takes a look at what cloud computing has to offer and how the security industry can benefit from it. by A&S China Linking Cloud Computing and Security 4202 NOV 2010 www.asmag.com 22 Tech Corner simulated data center where storage and computational capacities are stitched together to form a resource pool available over the network.
● Network Services: Network service provides users with APIs that enable developers to develop more functionality over the network as opposed to delivering entire applications. This creates scalability for security applications.
● PaaS: PaaS delivers development environments as a service, building applications that run on the provider's infrastructure and are delivered to users over the provider's servers. The vendor's design and capabilities result in tradeoffs for predictability and pre-integration.
● Service Commerce Platform: This form of cloud computing is a hybrid of SaaS and MSP, offering a platform for interaction between security users and suppliers. It is known as a cloud platform and similar to services offered by home monitoring companies.
For example, if a building is on fire, information — door access data, employee locations and fire system information — can be retrieved from a common platform. The following information combined with video surveillance images immediately locates the fire and gauges its size. With the assistance of live broadcasting systems that aid evacuation, suitable solutions can be applied and reduce the loss of lives and property.
Filling the Gap
Cloud computing will fill the gap between small and large enterprises due to its low cost of entry — the lack of capital expenses and requirements, such as the need to staff an IT department.
Cloud computing supports multiplatform development environments, which means resources can be universally shared in a rapid manner. Thus, once cloud computing is applied in the security industry, small- and large-scale companies can enjoy the benefits of lower upfront investments and simplified operations.
Servicing User Demands
In the future, security platforms will become a big cloud platform where resources can be arbitrarily allocated. By integrating communications technology, cloud computing and network, a wide variety of users can receive the security it needs via a unified interface platform. Each user needs only a standard interface to benefit from all the products, functions and services from this particular platform. Gone will be the need for high deployments of browsers, large storage hard disks or any other control software. The computing ability of the end user's interface will be constrained by local hardware restrictions. Costs are saved and efficiency is maximized.
Reducing Upfront Investment
Large-scale projects, such as Sichuan's Safe City project, require exorbitant upfront investments for storage. Currently, the security systems for this city surveillance project number close to 50,000 sites, with 500 GB of storage for each site. Total storage requirements for this project approach a whopping 30,000 TB.
Telecommunication carriers have spent extraordinary amounts on the purchase, installation and maintenance of storage. As cloud storage makes efficient use of storage at the server rooms of these telecom carriers, the security budget can be significantly reduced.
While cloud computing is all the rage and widely lauded, it is still limited by several factors in its current stages. Security and network environment problems are a few kinks that need to be worked out.
The biggest and most frequently overlooked problem by security players is bandwidth. Bandwidth used for video transmission is higher than data file transmission. While cloud storage and cloud computing can deliver video images data through multiple network nodes, bandwidth bottlenecks make this process unpractical. Furthermore, storing video at the nodes may cause the entire network to crash.
Cloud computing can be considered a cutting-edge alternative in IT. Thus, as the security industry becomes increasingly IT-oriented, cloud computing becomes a more relevant concept to physical security. However, cloud computing applications should cater to the physical security's characteristics and needs. Mere duplication of the technology will not be successful. In parts of the security market, cloud computing has already taken the form of SaaS. Having been widely applied as a hosted service model, it gives the security world a healthy boost of confidence in the practicality of cloud computing and a tantalizing glimpse of security's future.