Axis Edge Storage Enhancements Examined
While on board storage has been available in IP cameras for years, for most manufacturers, including Axis, it was practically useless as it could not be effectively integrated and managed remotely. In September 2011, Axis announced a significant improvement in their edge storage support delivered in their 5.40 firmware release. In this note we examine how this impacts the market and a promising application of NAS integration.
The most obvious application of edge storage is to integrate SD card storage inside a camera with third party VMS software. In this announcement, Axis cites edge storage support by Aimetis, Genetec, Milestone and Seetec which is a fairly significant segment of the market. Genetec already had edge storage support (review our test of Genetec's trickling feature for more info and videos).
Stability and performance have been improved, with SD cards now able to be formatted in ext4, a Linux file system. ext4 has some advantages, including quicker disk error checking, and it is less prone to write errors from unexpected loss of power than Windows file systems due to how it writes to disk. For example, we expect this will resolve the issues we found with integrating Axis camera's edge storage with Genetec.
Nonetheless, users will still need to check what level of support the third party VMS provides. For instance, while Genetec supports both redundant and long term edge storage on Axis cameras across all their versions, Milestone only supports redundancy for their top tier VMS version (Corporate).
The more interesting new element here is the ability to integrate NAS based storage. Axis cameras using this updated firmware will be able to mount Windows shares as "edge storage". For example, an M series camera (which do not include edge storage) could be set to stream video directly to a NAS, some of which can be found online for only a few hundred dollars. When a VMS seeks archived video from one of these cameras, it will be retrieved from the NAS, instead of an on-board SD card. This is a concept similar to Bosch's VRM [link no longer available] (e.g., integrated with Genetec) which uses iSCSI storage in the same way.
The ability to store video on NAS rather than a server opens up some possibilities for users with remote sites connected with limited bandwidth. Most times connections from these remote sites to the central monitoring location are not reliable enough to rely on them for storing video, but leaving the video on-site and streaming it back for review performs fine. End users such as chain retail or food service and K-12 education, which normally have multiple sites with no need for viewing at the location, could see substantial savings by installing NAS instead of a server. K-12, for example, may implement full-blown server-based systems at junior and senior high schools, while elementary schools, athletic facilities, and maintenance buildings (locations which normally have fewer cameras and no local viewing) could utilize the NAS for edge storage.