The Value Of 3rd Party Security Servers?

I have seen a significant uptick in the number of 3rd party IP camera server companies present themselves to me lately. The pitch is you buy their server (optimized for IP video) and from their menu, you can select the operating system (manufacturer) you wish to connect to from a drop down menu, preconfigured for you. Is there any value in this? Positives, negatives? I would think that a company (vendor/partner) like a Milestone or Avigilon would frown on this. Have others seen it? Do you use it?


As an edit, I will be out in the field most of the day, so if you have questions vs comments, I may be a while getting to them.

"I would think that a company (vendor/partner) like a Milestone ... would frown on this"

How dare you accuse the open platform champion of frowning on this! :)

Pre-Husky, there was no doubt Milestone partnered frequently with these providers. Now, with Husky, obviously that has cut into that relationship.

But overall, there are quite a number of 3rd party server specialists focusing in video surveillance, alphabetically, off the top of my head, they include BCD, Iomnis, Seneca. Of course, the most infamous is Intransa, who blew themselves up with this model. I don't think the number of these providers is materially increasing, maybe they are getting more aggressive in outbound marketing given the increased competition from their once partners.

I don't believe there is any significant secret sauce but there can be benefits in specification, support, and reduced setup time. I'll leave it to others to share their individual experiences.

...Intransa, who blew themselves up...

Intransa != Intrinsic

I don't think the number of these providers is materially increasing, maybe they are getting more aggressive in outbound marketing given the increased competition from their once partners.

John well said. It seems as though many manufacturers are providing recorders as well (ie. milestone, avigilon, exacq) and more will most likely more will begin to do the same... how long will a server manufacturer be able to stay viable in the market without other offerings?

I find some of those prices absurd. With a Windows certified manufacturer, you can get Windows Server Foundation for not much more than Windows 7/8. My stock server, with Windows Server 2012 Foundation, Intel Quad Xeon, 16 GB RAM, LSI 8 drive RAID card, 8 hot swap bays, 4U RM server, Power, keyboard, mouse, is about $2400 (Do not ask me where I get it). Most deployments are 8 x ?? SATA drives for storage, but I can do a "starter" with expansion by using this plus a 4 TB drive for about $2500. Can go up to 24 TB (RAID) if needed or more with ESata expansion. I choose to not design based on price and customer, but keep a consistent package for all customers. The new purple drives for < $200 for 4 TB are a game changer, really.

I kick myself because about 80-90% of my business this year has been existing customers needing new sites, upgrades, or replacement. The boxes with no expandability are difficult. One of these boxes (above) you have many options.

An Exacqvision A series 4 TB 2U box is about $2400 (basically same price as this box). You do get 4 licenses. But no RAID?? This is a "low cost, sell Exacq" option. You need RAID!! With Exacq, you need to record to a virtual drive cluster. Single JBOD drives do not give you the expanded R/W ability, which is the limiting factor on systems without trancoding/server side motion and processing. RAID gives you this. Seneca Data was showing off their NVR solution, for $1600, which was a Windows 7 i5 with a storage and SSD OS drive. Where do I go with this. "Sorry, mister customer, I know I sold you this last year, but you need a new box for what you plan to do".

I must admit, I am becoming a little smitten with Hikvision Pro series NVR solutions. The software is not that bad, really. I use it for my home system and the mobile app is decent. 64 channel system with 12 TB of storage and RAID for less than $2500. Heck, Exacq licenses would cost over $10K for the software alone (plus $1600 per year). Milestone/Genetec/Other licenses would cost even more. Plus, you get to add Axis/Vivotek/ACTI/Sony/etc.

After intransa went down, we pretty much stopped using third party servers. we use Dell or HP depending the customers preference. Occasionally we use BCD or Iomnis but they are Dell & HP servers with a little extra config.

To Undisclosed 1 above: I get that you are using Dell or HP and I think I even understand why. Most manufacturers I listen to tout the three-year warranty, on-sight (Dell) technician response etc. My question to you is this: If Dell is doing on-site response, what are your technicians doing for work? By making use of the on-site support agreement, aren't you cutting their throats in the long run? What is your long-term strategy to support your technical staff salaries if you are using Dell techs to do your tech's work? Not picking, serious question.

It seems to me, at arm's length that eventually you will not have the service revenue to continue to employ your own technicians. Layoff's are inevitable. That can be cost effective for you the owner, but don't you the owner owe these people something?

To date, when I hear this from a manufacturer or rep, I ask the obvious question: If Dell is doing that work, what are my people doing?

As others have stated, the onsite support is really mostly used for hardware. I have had Hard drives die and a technician from dell out there the next day (we are cheap). I had a motherboard and Raid Controller fry itself at a jail and I had a technician from Dell there with a new mobo and raid card in 4 hours as well. I had a SAN with a misconfiguration that a Dell Tech was able to remote in and do a webex to help get a firmware version updated to resolve a conflict between VM Ware and the SAN. The pro support and support plans from the manufacturer are a good thing and they will not replace your tech, but they will make you look really really really good when you get a major issue fixed that day.

I'm a little confused as to what you think that Dell technician is going to do, and why you think that your technicans won't be involved. Short of a simple power supply issue, there is probably going to be reconfiguration involved. Trust me, the Dell tech isn't going to do that, and you wouldn't want them to anyway.

For this reason, on-site warranties don't really blow my skirt up, as my techs can replace power supplies, hard drives, etc. I can only think of one time we needed a motherboard replaced, and that was due to a faulty Displayport connector. And again, if Dell needs to send someone out, one of my techs is meeting him out there.

I agree with Keith. Dell will only maintain the hardware not the applications running on the servers or workstations. most of the time we dont have dell come on site we ask for parts only. Ive had 1 issue where I had Dell come on site (4 hour responce is Real) with new HDD and Raid Controller to get a large system back up and running. those kinds of respones are what makes us look good to the customer. there is no way that I would be able to get a new raid controller and 3 new drives that fast (im in NYC).

Personally I have much the same thought process as Keith and Und 1; our personnel will always be first-line responders. But reps (when they find themselves in front of customers at shows or meetings, whether I am there or not) make it sound like Dell is or can replace or furnish a lot of the support going forward. When customers here that, dollar signs (in the form of savings) start rolling around in their eyes. If your organization has 1500 servers in the field, that represents large dollars that as it turns out, is just part of the "pitch". Like vaporware. IT managers are sitting in on these meetings now too. "Just let the Dell tech take care of the problem".

I just wanted some other opinions of real-world applications and experience. Customers (and often the entire supply chain) have to be fully educated to manage their expectations.

Like others have stated the Dell Warrenty is mainly for parts as we always have our techs onsite too. Getting parts for a server in 4 hours is huge as we couldn't possibly stock all the different server parts we could need. We had a server Dell server fail at 4PM on a Friday for a major customer and we had the MB replaced and the system back up by 7PM. Customer was extremely happy.

Obviously the VMS manufacturers have determined by bundling licenses and hardware it increases their customers potential to purchase both. The problem isn't the software typically but the undersized hardware in most scenarios to compete with the HP, Dell, Intransa etc servers.

As a Seneca manufacturers rep I can tell you there is a secret sauce included with their hardware. You are getting better components as a part of a $25 million+ computer hardware susidiary of Arrow. On top of that you get Next business day onsite support with a 3 yr warranty. Plus this is truly open platform with a multitude of VMS manufacturers with customer images to increase throughput better than the VMS manufacturers themselves.

You can buy Dell or HP servers but the same spec Seneca box will blow out the competitors due to the custom image being geared specifically for video surveillance. Best of all the pricing is a fraction of what you'd traditionally pay for the hardware provided by the VMS company. In addition to an NVR Seneca Can also provide an access control server, client station, hybrid server, management server, expandable storage, viewing station, SAS storage, or SAN. One stop shop for your hardware needs.

Installers worried about their 3rd party server manufacturer taking food off their table with support instead can make money servicing Seneca servers. You can become a certified partner and actually get paid to service the equipment yourself as well as servers you didn't necessarily install in the first place.

I run the DSS lab at Seneca.

To go along with Pierce's glowing is some test data and observations that we recently performed in our lab.

Over the summer we purchased a nice Dual CPU Dell system (R730XD -PWE-C1) and had a Dell rep come in and set it up since we are not Dell experts. We told him what it was to be used for and he did his thing.

This config is like our XNVR400 systems so we matched a build by CPU, Memory, OS and Storage.

I installed Milestone Corp on both machines and ran them between 700 and 800 mbits camera input for several days so the storage would fill up.

My observations were …

1) Storage was about the same performance with either machine being better than the other at any given time. Both were 8 spindles in RAID5, The OS was SSD in both systems.

2) The Dell CPU was running 100% whereas our was running at 50% (the blue line you can see on the Task Manager which says what clock is running at).

3) The Dell machine had 100s of thousands of discarded NIC packets vs our machine with zero. This was by far the largest delta and is the result of the settings we put on the well as the NIC hardware selection. The NIC hardware was the same vendor…so it boiled down to the settings we apply.

4) Anecdotal…. The Dell server was quite complicated to set up vs our server. I think that was because of the health monitoring system they have (DRAC). Even compared to HP servers I have worked on recently they are more complicated.

So...are the settings truly secret?...not really..but you do have to do some research and experimenting to discover them. We have done that work in the lab.
Then we automated those settings so that when our customer gets the system…they get applied at first boot post windows license.
The automation saves a bunch of config time wandering around Control Panel and RAID setups.
The settings in general have shown anywhere from 5 to 30% performance improvement (vs defaults) depending on the VMS.
BTW...we build the RAID arrays for free which saves hours of time.

Does your Tier1 brand vender have a Surveillance group that is familiar with how VMSs use the hardware? I can only speak for us that we do.... and for many VMSs we have nice relationships with their technical crews. This makes it much more convenient when a field issue happens in that we already know who to reach out to when the issue seems to be going past the hardware into the application level.

Thank you Mr. Dotson, that is very helpful and well documented.