End To End Vs Multi Vendor Solutions

I have bumped into this question on a number of occasions recently would really like to hear the forums opinion. There are currently a number of end to end solutions Bosch Avigilon etc and the consulting engineers seem to favor this over, for example Milestone and Axis or any other options which run Onvif.

What are your feelings on the matter.


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.

Wait, are you telling me Milestone and Axis are not a single vendor solution? Last I checked, they are divisions of the same company :)

Milestone and Axis act about as related as a brother and sister waiting at the same school bus-stop. ;)

Not really an end-to-end solution, more like an end-and-end one. Not even a single vendor solution, as they each have their own t&c and a single bill doesn't come from Canon/Japan.

And you have to reach all the way up to Fujio Mitarai level to get to the "one throat to choke"...;)

As you know, I am somewhat kidding about that.

On the other hand, it would be insanely foolish for Axis and Milestone not to ensure that every product of each works together seamlessly. This does not mean they cross-sell or they give discounts but if I am Canon, it seems to be a no brainer to make sure that every Axis / Milestone integration issue is fixed asap. They are each other's largest partners anyway even before the deal, so it's not a strech.

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.

Michaels comments are spot on. However I do take exception to his “I think that using them almost always guarantees project mediocrity”. I agree that the overall solution may be mediocre, however in many cases, I prioritize simplicity and support over mediocrity.

"I agree that the overall solution may be mediocre, however in many cases, I prioritize simplicity and support over mediocrity."

Rob, though that depends on the complexity of the client's / project's needs. Someone who only needs the basics (say the corner pizzeria), may be happy with an 'end to end solution' from Costco, even if 'mediocre'. But the larger and more complex the customer is, the more likely 'mediocre' becomes a problem.

Agreed!

This is in reply to Michael Silva,

I agree with most of your statements, but can't help being frustrated with that reality. Businesses hire engineering companies to do the research and build a system that provides the most value to them. I find it somewhat lazy on their part not to look deeper into the options available. It might take a couple phone calls, but it's not hard to find the integration level of the products out there. Sure there are times where the end-to-end is spec'd simply because the customer likes, and is comfortable with that solution. When that's the case, kudos to the manufacturer and integrator for supplying good product and great support. The reality though, is that the later is not the norm.

That's also why post bid you work with your integrators before construction even begins. Building those relationships and putting aside pride to ask questions is what makes many of the great firms stand out from the rest. It's funny sometimes to step back and look at the hierarchy created in some open bid construction work. The engineer, to the general, to the electrical, to the security integrator; we still all work for the customer, and unfortunately we all seem to lose that perspective at times.

We are all busy and don't often have time, but it's amazing how easy it is to work with and go to these firms/contractors after having a simple conversation over lunch; not to pitch product or your business, but to talk stategy and how to meet common goals. Personally, making time for this is not my strong suit which is why I'm glad there are others in my organization that push to work this into our schedules and lately, I've really been seeing the benefit. We've been extremely lucky in our area where most of those entities find value in getting together, working through the design or issues, and finding resolutions based on the experience/knowledge of the group. Sometimes I don't have the best answer or someone's idea uses a product I've never heard of before. It's a great learning tool and hopefully something I remember and can use going forward in future designs.

Lastly when it comes to the finger pointing if something doesn't work well or at all, thats on us as integrators, not the manufacturers. Either we didn't take the time to research the product or didn't speak up when we could have. Yes manufacturer reps can sometimes over sell their product, but its up to us to do followup fact checking. I would rather chance upsetting someone briefly when approaching flawed design than scamble, make excuses, and have unaccounted labor hours trying to coble something together. Been there, done that, trying to learn from it, and it's jawdropping how fast some issues diminish your profit margin. If we follow through on design, provide detail and explain the issues if there are any, but they choose not to listen; well hopefully we did so in an email for documentation purposes when those problems come to fruition.

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.

Chuck, as for IndigoVision's ONVIF support, I was told by one of your end users that this required "separate software called IP Camera Gateway" that needed to be purchased separately. Is this correct? Is this still the process?

John,

That is incorrect, we handle ONVIF directly. Camera Gateway is a free software application that is used to bring in non-ONVIF cameras where a custom driver is needed, (think 1st generation IP cameras that are not ONVIF h.264 or are MPEG-4). Our solution is distributed and does not have a central server so Camera Gateway is used to transcode non-standard streams into something our client and NVRs understand.

Our SMART.core line of cameras/encoders has separate ONVIF firmware but it provides full functionality.

To clarify, I mean for third party cameras connecting into IndigoVision's VMS. For example, if I wanted to integrate (for example) a Brickcom camera that supports ONVIF Profile S, how does that work with IndigoVision?

John,

That would be handled directly. The client can view it and the NVR can record it. The NVR will require a recording license but that is true for any camera in our solution.

Our experience is that if a camera is listed on the ONVIF site, we support it.

IndigoVision Control Center v11 and later (currently on 12 and 13 is coming out soon) can pull in any camera that is truly conformant to ONVIF Profile S (and listed as tested on ONVIF's site) directly with no additional application.

The Camera Gateway software is only for non-ONVIF cameras for which drivers have been written to the 3rd party camera vendor's API.

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.

Robb,

Yes, surprised me too. Even among just integrators, the voting is 52% multi, 48% single. We will do a dedicated survey on this to integrators next month to get clearer, more accurate feedback.