If We Can't Engineer It, Build It, And Deploy It Fully Independent Of The Manufacturer Then How Good Are We?

This comment was posted on the BCDVideo Company Profile and I wanted to feature it here because it raises an interesting point:

We constantly go back and forth with the concept of using BCD Video vs building our own Dell machines. I think this article does an excellent job explaining the value proposition of BCD Video. However, we always go back to this: If BCD Video fully optimizes the servers and workstations for us, how will our team of engineers and technicians really know where to start when troubleshooting? Or when explaining to IT about why certain hardware was selected over other hardware? Or when in a casino, why the client has to allow a BCD Video tech remote in (if permitted) or why a BCD Video tech is responding to the hardware issue?

We recently hired an experienced engineer who cannot build/quote a server on his own, or optimize it on his own from the ground up, because of his former company's dependence on BCD Video. His knowledge gap is extensive and, frankly, a bit unsettling - especially when he states "BCD Video has always done that for me". I always go back to the question: If we can't engineer it, build it, deploy it fully and independent of the manufacture then how good are we really?


Well, it's not like it's that hard to get a new engineer up to speed on server configuration and support. There are a ton of really great, free resources available. A knowledge gap is bad, admittedly, but an easily remedied knowledge gap isn't the worst problem I ever heard. As long as 1) you know there's a problem and 2) take active steps to remedy problem as soon as practical, which isn't always the case.

I think it's possible to see both sides of this.

Some integrators prefer to be end-to-end experts on all aspects of their products. This gives them (at least in their perception) more granular understanding of the products they support, a greater ability to craft custom solutions, and the ability to solve/fix any issues that arise over time. These companies tend to have very technical-oriented leadership (in my experience), and so this culture/concept pervades through the company.

Other companies see their strength as being able to amass a large number of contacts/relationships with experts in various technologies or solutions, so that when a customer has a particular problem or need they can bring the proper individual experts/products together to create a solution. These companies tend to have more sales/marketing or "general business" oriented leadership (in my experience), and the spirit of the company leans more towards being a kind of "trusted advisor" than technical expert.

The downside on the tech-heavy concept is that it tends to be more time-consuming for everyone in the company to keep up with what is the latest/best RAID controller (for example), and what are the optimal BIOS settings and so forth. Though many of the kinds of people attracted to these companies see these things as half fun/half work, so it's not terrible. You'll also likely find the employees at companies like these can command a higher salary, so their payroll costs may be higher than average.

The downside to the "trusted advisor" kinds of companies is that they may miss major trends, or not realize the full capabilities/limits of certain products, though this is potentially offset by maintaining the right relationships. A customer might ask for a solution or configuration that is technically possible, but this company doesn't realize it and either says no to the job, or has to spend too much time researching the answer instead of just configuring and quoting a system.

Overall, many customers may not care which company type they deal with, as long as they get a reliable solution for the money. However, there are surely customers who prefer each type of solution provider. Some customers will want their contact to be an expert on everything and able to fix any issue or answer any question, and other customers may have more confidence "knowing the guy that knows the guy", where they look at their integrator as being able to solve MOST problems, and get expert help for other issues.

In the example above, if the engineer is really "experienced", I think you could expect them to have other domain expertise in place of knowing intimate details of server configurations. If that engineer really has knowledge that is more "a mile wide and an inch deep", then they are not (IMO) "experienced" as much as they are just familiar with things and been around a while.

Not sure the prerequisites for the engineer hire were, but..

BCDVideo has always placed a tremendous amount of emphasis on our white-glove approach to servicing the integrators, so actually this comment is quite flattering to us. Not quite sure what the negative here is? Every server is purpose-built/project built for the particular site and yes, our integrators count on us to set the bandwidth and storage parameters, due to our guarantee. Takes the risk out of it for them. We are a hands-on manufacturer, both in the selling and servicing cycle.

We feel your pain in explaining to IT. We run into all of the time. But it's not like the IT guy can call DELL and ask them to build them a Milestone or Genetec server. They'll think you're speaking a foreign language. DELL builds DELL servers. Just like HPE builds HPE servers. Neither builds video servers, just servers that customers use for video. There is a performance difference that I am sure can/will be debated.

However, we certainly don't build in such a proprietary way as to avoid the integrator getting his hands inside the system. Many of our integrator partners are self-servicing. Each customer is different and we work with each customer independently based upon their comfort zones.

We do like to be the first point of contact as we can easily help identify what the issue is and by remoting in via our SMARTconnect feature (as stated, with permission). We can easily identify and fix what is going on inside the system. It's not about control as much as it is about getting the site up and running quickly and efficiently. Our customers believe that our hands-on support adds depth to their service organization, especially for the three-to-five years they are on the hook to manage the project.

We feel our customers are "Independent of the manufacturer", yet dependent on us as an extension of their service efforts. It is exactly where we want to be. That's what makes us partners. That's what builds trust. The integrator has enough on his plate keeping the site clicking without having to mess around with the recording server. That should be the manufacturer's job.

The integrator has enough on his plate keeping the site clicking without having to mess around with the recording server.

I don't know about that...

Isn't that what an integrator should be responsible for? If an integrator isn't capable of 'mess[ing] around with the recording server', then what is their value? Relationships? Contracts?

It's like saying the integrator has enough on his plate without having to mess around with the cameras...

On the other hand, I do agree that products that are more robust or simpler to use are generally a benefit to both integrator and users. However, a good (high-end) integrator should be able to go deep on his cameras and recorders, no?

It has absolutely nothing to do with integrator capability, John. They are more than capable. They can go as deep as they like. But there is a genuine difference in wanting to and having to. They just shouldn't have to. That's our view of it, anyway.

We are behind the scenes. Positive effect on their value, the relationship, and the contract.

They are more than capable. They can go as deep as they like.

What? Did you not read the opening discussion? Seriously?

We recently hired an experienced engineer who cannot build/quote a server on his own, or optimize it on his own from the ground up, because of his former company's dependence on BCD Video.

Yes, I did read the opening discussion and realized you were the initial poster. Sounds more like a hiring qualification issue. Have no idea what was asked during the interview process of the experienced engineer. That in an internal issue. Perhaps they can respond to that.

Jeff, you made a claim that your integrators are more than capable in a discussion where a real integrator is specifically saying their engineer was not 'more than capable' citing his dependency on BCD.

This statement is interesting to me:

"Every server is purpose-built/project built for the particular site and yes, our integrators count on us to set the bandwidth and storage parameters, due to our guarantee. Takes the risk out of it for them."

Storage and bandwidth calculations are easily padded by 25% over what is "actually" needed to ensure that "guarantee" risk is mitigated on BCDV's side. So while the overall cost of the BCD video server may be close to what we could build on our own, once you build in the "guarantee" padded storage the pricing is not actually as close as it would be if we did our own storage calculations. Arguably, if both servers with built with the excess storage the cost gap would shrink.

Another interesting question is: Why is the BCD video server supported to nearly 3x's+ higher bandwidth than a server that we purpose build ourselves through Dell (which is the basis of the BCDV server)? I understand that this bandwidth guarantee can't be provided across the board to all integrators, but if I build a server and send the specification to Genetec for "approval" that meets or exceeds that of BCDV's "secret sauce" then why can't I be supported up to the bandwidth that the BDCV server is supported to?

integrators count on us to set the bandwidth and storage parameters, due to our guarantee.

Related: Guaranteed Video Storage Calculation? Iomnis; like you said, guarantees requiring padding.

"The integrator has enough on his plate keeping the site clicking without having to mess around with the recording server. That should be the manufacturer's job." Jeff Burgess, BCD Video, May 2016

"The integrator must portray themselves to the end user as an outsourced security technology company that will provide a turnkey solution with maintenance." Tom Larsen, Director of Sales, BCD Video, June 2016

Which is it, BCD?

you will always have varying levels of skill and knowledge in this field. that being said if you are an "engineer" I dont expect you to know everything but you should be able to understand core principles/concepts, in this case what you are looking for hardware/software wise to build servers, or at least know how to figure them out on your own.

if you cant then it means one of two things

A. they are full of crap and should shamed out of conversation

B. if it is the case that a Manufacturer license's/certifies/endorses that level of competency as an engineer, then its is a case of manufacturers doing the integration with over glorified " on site button pushers" as "engineers"

either one isnt good for the long term.

its one thing when you say "yeah i have installed a lot of kit-based IP systems"

its an entirely different thing to say you are an engineer and you know or can learn a system inside and out.

John,

While we are on the subject....

Has IPVM written any articles on best practices for building/engineering a video optimized server?

Let's see, so much to answer here.. I'll give it one more go-around before retiring from this "conversation"

To Undisclosed 2 Integrator (or competitor or whoever you may really be)

1. Regarding us padding the bandwidth/storage to cover the guarantee. Get you head out of your backside. A. We build from an HPE-based platform, not a white box, not a DELL with third party drives. Where would there POSSIBLY be room to "pad" the price, considering everyone competes against us on price, not performance? Just another non-informed expert out there. B. We send the actually calculations with the quote, detailing the necessary bandwidth and storage. This includes all of the parameters which were asked for such as frames, motion, VMS, retention, etc. So the integrator can easily cross check to ensure it is correct.

And Undisclosed 2 Integrator (or competitor of whoever you may really be), we did not come up with those bandwidth certifications. Genetec did. Milestone did, HPE did. You should send your server to one of them and let them certify it for you. They will need your name and company, though. They have standards.

John, in regards to the Iomnis calculator you represented. You may want to do a follow-up on that. Also, a little research perhaps, as that is a money back guarantee, with a asterisk on it. Read the fine print on what that money back actually guarantees. Play it out, assuming you can get it. The integrator quoted a server based on their price. Server does not work fluidly for the site and cannot handle the camera ingestion. I am sure the end-user will have no issue cutting a new PO for an additional $1000-$5000 to offset the fact they you tried to go cheap on their project. In essence, the Iomnis money-back guarantee did more harm than good to the integrator. We guarantee the unpadded, proven calculation with covering the cost of the hardware should there be any shortfall. Last checked, that it unique to the industry. But I am sure you will have issue with that as well, John.

Sadly, this thread all started because someone screwed up in his interview process by not asking the right questions. Perhaps too much was assumed. Instead, we have become the bad guys because we strive for white-glove service for our customers and, this is obviously an issue with John because this ONE person was overly-dependent on our pre- and post-sales support. However, we refuse to apologize for trying to take the customer service in this market to a higher level.

Every server is purpose-built/project built for the particular site and yes, our integrators count on us to set the bandwidth and storage parameters, due to our guarantee.

Three factual questions

How often do you find that your initial bandwidth and/or storage parameters were set too low, and have to provide additional hardware or services to meet your guarantee?

Often, Rarely, Never?

Does the guarantee apply when a sever has been overspec'ed?

and finally

Where is the actual guarantee language on your site?, all I find is:

BCDVideo guarantees our project calculations to provide you with the best performance – every time.

Jeff,

You spurred this argument by declaring:

"It has absolutely nothing to do with integrator capability, John. They are more than capable. They can go as deep as they like."

It was a stupid statement that clearly showed you either did not read the discussion opening (which contradicts your boast) or did not care.

Your follow up on storage calculation proves your incompetence here. Let me explain.

You claim:

Regarding us padding the bandwidth/storage to cover the guarantee. Get you head out of your backside.

We send the actually calculations with the quote, detailing the necessary bandwidth and storage. This includes all of the parameters which were asked for such as frames, motion, VMS, retention, etc. So the integrator can easily cross check to ensure it is correct.

It is impossible to accurately and consistently project bandwidth/storage unless you are padding. The reason is there are too many factors that no one can estimate up front. The two most critical ones are:

  • The scene complexity - depending on the activity, the sunlight, the darkness, the background, etc. bandwidth can easily vary by 300%.
  • The camera model - Even with the same exact settings and scene, the bandwidth consumption of two models even from the same manufacturer can easily vary by 200% or more.

You can learn more about this here - Advanced Camera Bandwidth Test Results.

Your lack of attention (and evidently knowledge of) detail here is not impressive.

Jeff, No need to get aggressive. I like my head just where it is.

BCDVideo has a GREAT business plan. Genetec, a previously "open" solution who's market strategy was that they were hardware agnostic has now listed BCDVideo as the "standard requirement" for their high performance servers/archivers for SecurityCenter 5.4.

In fact, Genetec has gone so far as to not even list the performance requirements for a high performance server, but rather, integrators should "contact Genetec for BCDVideo solutions tailored to your requirement".

Security Center 5.4 on left, vs previous Security Center 5.2 on right.

Security Center 5.4 requirements VS earlier listed Security Center requirements

From this thread, I have learned the following:

  • BCD Video (of which I am not affiliated) provides servers optimized for video surveillance
  • They will share their calculations with customers who want to be involved in the process
  • If not, BCD will do it anyway and still guarantee performance

Meanwhile, an engineer that has used BCD in the past "cannot build/quote a server on his own, or optimize it on his own from the ground up" gets hired by an integrator that values such skills. And somehow that is the fault of BCD Video? What am I missing here? That convenience breeds ignorance?

Whaaaat? You don't set your own clock speeds? You let the motherboard's BIOS defaults do that for you? You know they derate (pad) those numbers, SLACKER.

As Brian posted above, some integrators are more "techy" and want to be in control of chipsets, controllers, and clock speeds. Others are more "feely" and would rather spend that time in sales, marketing, and relationship building. Apparently BCD caters to both "techy" and "feely" integrators. Good for them.

The real problem here is the OP's (from the original thread) hiring practices. At this point, the remedy is (as Ari posted above) an engineer closing his knowledge gap. BCD may wish to participate in that process and gain a new integrator customer in the process.

Disclaimer: These opinions are my own and not necessarily those of my employer.

They will share their calculations with customers who want to be involved in the process If not, BCD will do it anyway and still guarantee performance.

I don't see that. Instead the way Jeff describes it, you give them your camera count/retention data points, they build the machine and then guarantee that the machine will handle the load, like said here:

Every server is purpose-built/project built for the particular site and yes, our integrators count on us to set the bandwidth and storage parameters, due to our guarantee. Takes the risk out of it for them.

and then this:

We guarantee the unpadded, proven calculation with covering the cost of the hardware should there be any shortfall.

You want the guarantee, we set the parameters...

Notice that Jeff has not answered the question of how often they have to make good on a guarantee...

The reason is because there is no good answer;

if he says frequently, (which would certainly be the case if there was actually "no padding") we would not believe him because no one (including BCD) wants "to cut an additional P.O. for $5,000", plus cause disruption, as a matter of course.

if he says rarely then we know that it must be padded, as there is always considerable variance for the reasons John enumerated above.