Kelly, interesting questions. Thanks for sharing. I added a poll to the bottom of your comment to help get an overall feel.
A couple thoughts to start:
The quality of end-to-end solutions vary tremendously. Even if one likes them, in general, some single vendor end-to-end offerings are much better than others. For example, while Bosch has good cameras, their VMSes are far less mature and capable than Avigilon's. For that reason alone, Avigilon is a better single vendor solution than Bosch. Pelco has an end-to-end solution but its VMSes are also weak. DVTel has an end-to-end solution but their cameras are weaker. Those are just a few examples.
Wait, are you telling me Milestone and Axis are not a single vendor solution? Last I checked, they are divisions of the same company :)
A lot of the 'independent' offerings have deep integration between each other, that do not depend on ONVIF.
Finally, I am a little surprised to hear consulting engineers prefer single vendor solutions, primarily because projects that require a consultant are you usually sufficiently complex that they can benefit from multiple vendors that deliver a range of capabilities they need for their specific concerns.
Silva Consultants | 07/20/15 12:54pm
A few comments on this from the consulting side.
In cases where the consultant (consulting engineer) is not qualified to design the security/surveillance systems, he or she often relies on a manufacturer to do most of the design and spec writing for this portion of the project. In these cases, the consultant often prefers a single-vendor solution because everything can be designed/spec'ed by a single party, allowing the consultant to quickly move on to designing the lighting, power distribution system, etc.
That being said, even competent consultants sometimes prefer an end-to-end solution because a single manufacturer can be held accountable for system performance. This "one neck to wring" philosophy is valued by some consultants, especially those who have been burned in the past by finger-pointing between manufacturers when a project goes bad.
New consultants start off fresh-faced and full of optimism, willing to try the latest and greatest concepts and technology on their projects. As time goes by, they start to see products that work well in the lab but not the field, poor execution on the part of the integrators who are unable to see the genius of their design, and manufacturers who simply disappear when the limits of their "revolutionary new product" become apparent.
As time goes by, the consultant becomes more and more conservative, understanding that what is technically possible is not always practical to execute through normal contracting channels. They stop being early adopters, preferring well-proven products over technically-innovative ones. The final stage of this evolution is to use end-to-end solution providers on all projects, and limit themselves to using only the small handful of manufacturers that they can trust.
I personally dislike end-to-end solution providers as I think that using them almost always guarantees project mediocrity - no one company can be the best at everything. However, I do try to minimize the number of different manufacturers on a project whenever possible, and generally prefer proven products over those which have been just launched.
Disclaimer - I work for IndigoVision, an end to end solution provider
Single provider solutions offer 2 benefits, 1 throat to choke (already discussed) and the potential for better support. For example in a single provider solution, it is possible for the support engineer to setup what you are having trouble with and either instruct you on proper setup or confirm the bug in the solution and hopefully fix it.
Single provider solutions can also be open so that you have options. ONVIF enables this. For example, we do not make every type of camera people want, so we support them via ONVIF. Also every VMS I am aware of has SDK's available for custom integrations and most have integrations that can be purchased so that applications such as access control, analytics, perimeter detection, etc can provide alerts and alarms to the VMS.
I think the correct solution depends on the problem you are trying to solve. Many problems have multiple solutions but some problems are better solved by a specific soltuion that has the components needed to meet the challenge and no one has a one size fits all solution.
Wow kind of suprised the polling is that close. I came from an organization that used end-to-end for years. It was extremely frustrating being locked into a particular camera or set of cameras. All manufacturers have different strong points and it's essential for me to pick and choose when necessary. If you plan, pay attention to the environment, and look at providing the most value to the customer, I personally don't believe there is an end-to-end that can provide that (again, just my opinion). ONVIF does not make all systems "open". ONVIF can be and is used as a bandaid to hide a system's lack of deep integration.
Overall it's great having the ability to choose from multiple manufacturers, use new tech the same year it's released, and switch manufacturers when one stops providing value to the customer. I was an end user/administrator of access control/VMS platforms a lot longer than I've been an integrator and bid projects like I still am one.