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IT in the video spotlight
In the not so distant past, IT barely noticed conventional video surveillance and generally had little interest in getting involved. Video surveillance was handled by the guards, guns and dogs crowd, or by the facilities group that took responsibility for fire alarms, smoke detectors, maintenance and phone services.

From a storage standpoint, video surveillance was totally uninteresting. Initially, the data was stored and viewed on VCRs, and tapes were continually rerecorded in a rotation. Rarely did organizations keep surveillance data for more than a month; often, it was kept for a week or less. Things became more interesting when the DVR, which contained a few hard drives, came on the scene. As disk capacity increased, the amount of storage in a DVR grew. With the advent of IP video and NVRs, the video surveillance effort required the services of the storage group.

"The problem is that most video surveillance purchasers are not IT-sophisticated," says Norall at Taneja Group. "They went with packaged systems based on direct-attached storage. But that is hard to scale and expensive to manage." The scale of video surveillance storage can be staggering. A retailer can have dozens of cameras per store, while a single large casino can have thousands of megapixel cameras generating high-resolution video streams

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The typical enterprise IT storage infrastructure isn't optimally set up for surveillance video storage. "This is absolutely not an FC [Fibre Channel] market, and clusters of NAS filers won't do the job either," says Norall. "Block-based iSCSI storage is what makes the most sense," he adds, while the security industry has shown a preference for packaged proprietary systems.

Storage challenges
Even with block-based iSCSI storage, not every product can handle the demands of video surveillance storage. For starters, the amount of storage can be staggering. "Video surveillance will probably make up the single biggest data store in the enterprise," says Bentley at Connexed Technologies.

Storage managers who think giving each email user 2GB of storage space is a big deal will be shocked. Consider the following formula: Take the number of cameras generating video streams 24/7 and the megapixel resolution of the new cameras and an acceptable frame per second (fps) rate (3fps to 5fps won't cut it--think 10fps, 15fps, 20fps) with medium compression and multiply that by the length of time you want to store the data.


This was first published in January 2008

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