Avigilon Vs Exacq Servers Required On A 250 Camera Project

We have to estimate a project that involves the following cameras:

  • 47 outdoor, 2 MP, 20X, PTZ cameras
  • 10 outdoor, 2 MP fixed cameras
  • 77 indoor, 3 MP fixed cameras
  • 110 indoor, 1 MP fixed cameras

We are an Avigilon integrator and we estimate that, regardless of the retention period, we need 9 servers to handle all those cameras. (Avigilon/Dell servers with Intel® Xeon® E5-2407 processors)

Our competiotion offers Exacqvision and reccomends only 3 servers equiped with I7 processors... That makes quite a difference in the price, but I doubt that only 3 servers can handle that many cameras (running Win 7, 64 bits with I7 processors)?

What do tou think?

Thanks for your comments


Michael,

Have you verified that both estimates are using the same assumptions?

For example, how much bandwidth / throughput are you estimating for those 250 cameras? Are you both assuming local monitoring or no local monitoring?

From your estimate, it appears that your design allocates less than 30 cameras per server, yes? That sounds low. Is that verified by an Avigilon SE?

For example, on Avigilon's System Requirements page, they are estimating "a recording capacity of 32 MB/s (256 Mbps) from up to 128 cameras" with a quad core Xeon like the one you mention.

Thoughts?

John,

I don't think that our competitor uses the same assumptions, however, the customer will only know when the system is installed.

I agree that less than 30 cameras per server is low, but taking into consideration that there are a lot of outdoor and outdoor PTZ cameras, the level of activity at any given moment may be very high; taking snow or rain into account may highly affect the rate of change of any single frame, thus generating a high volume of data to be processed.

Of course, very few customers realize that they lose a certain quantity of frames because the server can't keep up with the requirements;... until something happens.

To estimate the number of servers, I used the online tool provided by Avigilon, and got that number. Their SE also estimated the same number of servers (without knowing our estimate).

However, let's assume I over estimated the requirements by 30%.... and even 50%... ; can Exacqvision do the same with only 3 servers equiped with I7 processors???? There is a termendous difference between 3xI7 and 9xXeon...

Is Exacqvision that efficient, considering that they don't have their own cameras? Which should benefit Avigilon...

... I simply don't understand!

Exacq Pro lists a Core i3 as handling up to 250 Mbps. Presumably an i7 would do a bit better. Also running on Linux reportedly improves that a bit further.

They also sell Z Series NVRs which list up to 1200 Mbps throughput.

So is it possible they're doing it on three servers? Maybe. I can't tell you exactly how much throughput we've pushed through our test servers, but anecdotally I can tell you that we've pushed multiple high megapixel cameras (5 MP and up, 45 Mbps, at least) through an AMD based mini-PC and it didn't even hit 10% CPU.

All that being said, I don't think the two have huge differences in efficiency, and I'd bet it's a few percent one way or the other. Undisclosed A's recommendation makes sense. I would agree that 3-5 is likely.

If Avigilon's server spec is 256 Mbps per server, and you're only doing 30 cameras per, that amounts to 8.5 Mbps bitrate each, and that is simply overkill. On the 110 1 MP cameras indoors, that's likely at least 4x the actual max bitrate. In all the tests I've done with it, the 3MP has consumed about 3 Mbps during the day and I'd wager capping it at 5 Mbps is plenty for night. And if you are worried about nighttime bandwidth spikes, set the VBR cap aggressively. We recently tested this (not released yet) and the visual difference is minimal.

FYI: Avigilons design tool estimates all cameras at worst case for sizing server. All cameras more than likely will not be at their highest bitrate simultaneously in real world.

Also FYI: 256mbs is a recommended limit - we have Avigilon servers pushing over 350mbs with NO problems at all.

So, you could reduce your servers by 1/3 to 1/2 and be safe unless you are using rearly high frame rates and image quality.

Do this: set your maximum bitrate to 2000kbs - 5000kbs depending on camera and then if you want to stick to Avigilons recommended 256mbs you would need worse case 5 servers with 50 cameras each at 5000kbs. Really you probably only need 3 or 4.

This is based on significant experience utilizing Avigilon.

The Avigilon estimation tool allows us to specifiy the FPS, the "Activity level" in a frame, and many other parameters; some of them are useful to estimate the Had drive requirements which is not the object of this current discussion, while other criteria affect the total "mbs" required...

We have a few hundred Avigilon servers installed without major problems, but we try to stay rather close to the estimated requirement at the "first installation" stage knowing that the customer will add cameras and hate to be told that the the system must be upgraded.

That means that most systems become over loaded (based on Avigilon tools) after a while. Therfore, I agree that we can go beyond Avigilon's estimate (after all, they want to sell hardware)...but not to the extent that 3xI7 can replace ... say 6 Avigilon servers.

How can an i3 handle 250 Mps for Exacq while it requires a XEON for Avigilon?

Michel,

I can confirm that Exacq can do 40 x 1MP plus 5 x 3MP plus 5 x 5mp, all set at 10 fps, variable bit rate, on a single server built with an i3 processor and 4 GB of ram. And this set-up has been replicated over 50 times in different stores of a chain. The processor usage does not even hit 20% unless you open a client on the server.

does Avigilon (forgive my lack of Avigilon knowledge) do server-side motion detection or do they use the motion detection built-in to the cameras? That could explain the difference in processor requirements.

Avigilon, like Exacq, supports camera side motion detection only, so there should be no skewing of the comparison from that.

Ah, there goes my best guess!

How about databases? Does Avigilon use SQL or another demanding database engine that could tax the processor?

I personally would do an RFI to have them state the values that they require to estimate storage. Most RFP's in my area are somethinig like "record all cameras at highest native resolution, 30% compression, 50% motion, 1FPS continuouse for 30 days. Then use the appropriate calculator to estimate it.

I wouldn't do exacq vision hardware for this project. Its cheaper to buy a dell r720xd, pack it full of drives and add a DAS then it is to screw around with exacq stuff. plus you get more horsepower and options. Just chose an option if that allows you the ability to throw more drives in it if you screw up your storage calcs and have to eat the cost of adding more drives. SAS drives are expensive, SAS+ a second DAS... that just hurts. Team the NICS, run the drives in a RAID, and let the system roar.

Thanks for tha advice.

Actualy, I would prefer staying with Avigilon rather than going to Exacqvision. I guess my question should have been: Is Exacq more efficient ---ON THE CPU --- than Avigilon to handle a large number of cameras.

CPU load on our Avigilon servers is negligible. We have one Avigilon branded machine we upgraded to Windows Server 2012R2 Standard and it's usual CPU load is around 13%. We have one Avigilon branded system still running Windows 7 Embedded and it runs around 7% CPU load. The systems running the dual Xeon processors (and Win Server 2012R2) usually run between 1-5% CPU capacity.

We're on ACC 5.2.2.22.

Hi Kevin,

Are you saying that CPU load is negligible with 30 to 40 cameras being recorded?

If so, why not record more cameras then?

It comes down to a storage capacity issue. Processing load is light, but we're maxed out on storage capacity since we want to retain 30 days.

The servers processing power and NICs could handle the throughput of many more cameras, but we would have to reduce retention time.

Thanks, Kevin. What about using external storage then (whether it is direct attached or network based)? Are there feasible options for that so you can limit the number of servers you need to buy?

On a per-terabyte basis, I can add another server for less than I can add a NAS. The difference in price between a server and NAS with equal storage is usually between $3-5K my cost.

From a "real world" application, our experience is that with a 20 TB Avigilon (Dell R520 I believe) server, RAID 5, average retention time of 30 days, motion only recording, average of 3.0MP per camera, average of 10 fps, one keyframe per second, slightly higher than default image quality/compression settings, high-traffic location, we can support around 30 cameras per Avigilon server. Typical bandwidth inbound appears to run between 150-180Mbps during the day. I've not checked nightime bandwidth usage.

Using a custom-spec'd Dell R720xd, 36TB, we can get around 40 cameras (some PTZs on tours included) per server with 30 days retention. We are very happy with the performance of the R720xd machines. Typically spec with dual 2.3Ghz Xeon, 16GB RAM, 1GB RAID card, separate 146GB 15K RAID 1 flex-bay drives for OS, and usually 12x3TB HDD.

I just purchased a R720xd with 48TB (12x4TB), but have not put into service yet. Hope to be able to support around 50 cameras with it.

One of our integrators told us about 18-20 months ago that Avigilon has a 256Mbps inbound limit. I have not confirmed or tested, but the system design tool the integrator was using would not allow more than an estimated 256Mbps camera bandwidth load per server.

And I forgot to mention that we're recording around 220 cameras with six (6) servers, and one of those is only running at around 25% capacity (storage). The others are between 90-98% capacity.

Server HDD capacities: 15TB, 21TB, 30TB, 36TB, 36TB, 36TB, but it should be noted that these are RAID 5 and on all but one of those servers I'm running one drive dedicated as a hot spare. So effective storage is 12TB, 15TB, 24TB, 30TB, 30TB, 30TB.

The above does not include the new R720xd that is not yet in service.

How important is reliability? I always sell against putting more than 32 cameras per DVR/NVR - just for reliability. I have been very successful doing this. We had on customer that had 64 cameras on the DVR and it went down. They were down for a couple of days because the integrator was incompetent. We sold them a new system and split that into two machines. This also allows you to move cameras around when failure does occur.

Another consideration not mentioned - are you viewing these cameras on a monitor connected to the recording machine? Most recommend derating if you do. Decompressing live H.264 need the processor, although some manufacturers are now supporting the video processor to do most of that work.