Security Players Eye Storage Solutions

Security Players Eye Storage Solutions
Evolving far beyond their manned-guard roots, security players are looking at strategic assets, namely video data. Evolving technology has allowed video to be delivered and managed as a digital asset rather than as a real-time observation tool. In fact, more than 40 percent of a digital video solution's cost now goes to storage. Insufficient storage, however, can render a sophisticated video system useless. Exacerbating this is the fact that traditional storage systems that typically service files and databases are by no means easy to configure to support video.

Five years ago, the security industry exper ienced revolut ionary changethe transition from analog to digital or tape to disk recording. Digitization has changed the value of video. In the past, enterprises deployed analog video technologies via CCTVs, where video channels were streamed to a central multiplexer over coaxial cable run within a building.

The multiplexer interweaved multiple channels of video onto a tape, shifting between each channel at different time intervals. CCTVs compromised capture rates to support more cameras using less tape. Video was not usable because tapes were awkward to access and there was insufficient detail.

Proware, founded in 1994, entered the security industry in 2001. "We are a system provider that supplies hardware components to DVR manufacturers," said Amanda Lee, Applications Manager.

Another companyInfortrendstarted out as a controller manufacturer. In 2002, it looked to storage applications. This was also the time when the London Underground replaced all tapes with disk recording. "Infortend was involved in all the security applications in the London Underground," said Scott Wu, General Manager of the Asia-Pacific Sales Division.

Terrorism provided another spur. MaxTronic, a subsystem and solution provider, entered the security industry following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "Suddenly, the market required reliable storage solutions," said Eric Chang, Vice President of the Business Division.

Storage Criteria for Security

"Good disk arrays should be reliable with sufficient storage capacity and effective performance," said Wu. "After dealing with the London Underground, I realized that providing high-quality storage to niche applications, such as security, would enable us to leverage the benefits of time-saving video backup."

According to Chang, performance, video streaming, stability and bandwidth are equally important. "We provide our customers with different storage capacity, performance and integration. It really depends on the security solution. Integration is another consideration. As a storage manufacturer, we regard ourselves as a backend device provider. Through application programming interfaces (API), we enable our DVR customers to monitor status of disk arrays for malfunctions. Security applications do not require fancy features, but stability."

Infor t rend has in-house RAID technology for complete storage solutions; it also designs its own ASIC (applicationspecific integrated circuit) and firmware. "We put most of our resources into R&D," said Wu. "We are implementing two strategies: vertical integration of products and horizontal integration with customers." While the company once had more than 900 clients, it chose to concentrate on the high-end ones.

Chang also stressed research capabilities. "We are not just an OEM company. With nearly 100 R&D staff, we also deliver more practical, better solutions such as our eSATA RAID (External SATA), which enhances video image storage by combining the most advanced RAID features with inexpensive, high-capacity SATA hard-disk drives."

eSATA is up to five times faster than existing external USB storage solutions. It is inexpensive, fast and reliable with large storage capacity. It ensures that data is protected against hardware failure, while providing faster, more secure connections. "We are now approaching entry-level DVR manufacturers," said Chang.

IP Storage Security

Video surveillance is growing at an eye-popping rate with the world market for network video surveillance products increasing by 41.9 percent in 2006, according to IMS Research. IPthe next phaseis bringing complete digitization closer.

Accessibility of the IP video output from any point on the network makes it an ideal solution for any location with an already installed local area network or larger corporate network. Security mangers can configure any system on the network to be the hub of the surveillance system.

This leads to greater flexibility and security in terms of backup and resource allocation. The most important advantage is ability to store large quantities of video footage in a relatively limited space with much higher image quality than analog networks.

"IP technology is ready to go for cameras and servers," said Lee. "The main problem is Ethernet bandwidth; IP bandwidth offers one gigabyte. When you have more than one IP camera on the local-area network (LAN) or wide-area network (WAN), that amount is insufficient for real-time video transmission."

Integrating cameras with DVRs and controlling video images from multiple IP cameras before storing them directly on the Internet also present problems. Software, said Lee, controls images from IP cameras, determining where they should be stored. "The software generates maximum use of storage," she added.

Most major DVR manufacturers would like to develop a platform to store images directly onto DVRs without servers. To build pure-IP storage on LAN, the bandwidth is the first priority. Lee predicts that, by 2010, IP storage will be "broadly accepted because of affordable network cards."

Flash Disks

Apacer flash disks debuted in train applications in Europe three years ago. Network cameras with embedded flash disks provide much more stability as trains enter stations.

"After out first foray into security applications, we have begun supplying flash products to DVR manufacturers," said Weilin Chen, Product Manager. "Flash disks are designed to replace hard-disk drives; they feature high quality and reliability. As a flash drive manufacturer, we are looking at all applications to see where we can expand sales."

Pricing is still the top concern for security manufacturers so Apacer has adopted a new strategy. "The technology is still new to the security industry," said Chen. "Because the prices are higher than hard-disk drives, we are offering one solution that combines flash drives and HDDs."

Before the advent of digitization, much data space was wasted recording non-crucial video images. With intelligent video software, however, it is possible to distinguish which video images are important. Recording only during events saves not only storage space but also manpower.

For demanding applications, such as banks, using flash drives and HDDs delivers nonstop recording for longer periods. "Spending more on extra storage devices, however, may not be economical; it is better to ensure that key data is secure," said Chen.

According to Chen, in three or four years, prices for one-gigabyte flash drives will drop to an acceptable level; on average, prices are falling 50 percent per year.

Today, one gigabyte costs US$15; this will be roughly $8 in the fourth quarter of 2008. One gigabyte may cost $4 in 2010. "If the market goes as predicted," said Chen, "2010 will provide high-end security manufacturers with a good opportunity to replace HDDs with flash drives."
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