Cloud Guy Prints Book, Misses Irony

By: John Honovich, Published on Sep 15, 2017

On-premise security systems are dead.

But $75 print books are alive and well.

Such are the lessons from Brivo's CEO new book "The Five Technological Forces Disrupting Security" to all of you 'server-huggers' out there.

It does raise a fascinating point, if cloud based physical security systems are so great, why does Brivo have a <0.1% share of the market nearly 20 years after their launch? And why does cloud continue to struggle in physical security despite the efforts of 'thought leaders' like Brivo's CEO?

The root problems of Brivo's book are the same as Brivo's competitive positioning. In this note, we examine the continuing cause of this problem.

Core Problem of Cloud Physical Security

The dilemma is this:

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Comments (38)

Great article. Cloud physical security is not ideal (yet) for enterprise users. Seems that the ones that recommend it are those who sell it while dreaming of the RMR.

I would say its not ideal for small users either, at least from a cost perspective. 

P.S. The book is $61.75 (USD) on Amazon right now, but out of stock and no reviews. It's also available used for $127.54, so clearly this book is a collectors' item already.

Only one copy available used - it's the authors copy.

I figured it was the one John returned for a refund.

And we're supposed to believe that these elegantly bound hardcovers,

 

are really just digital teases of non-existent physical objects, poorly photoshopped as some sort of a joke? ;)

No, you are good at photoshop!

 

right there with Fredrick Nilsson's book (second edition @ $52.00 hard cover)...

Intelligent Network Video: Understanding Modern Video Surveillance Systems, Second Edition

by Fredrik NilssonCommunications Axis

and Lars Thinggaard's shameless self-promotion on LinkedIn of his book... 

Any book of that type is going to be self-serving. That's a given. CEOs and the businesses they create and/or lead don't exist to be altruistic. Before one devotes precious time to reading it, The key question should be - has the author achieved business success using the principles he is touting? 

Good assessment of the realities of cloud limitations. These problems are inherent across all cloud applications in all industries.

agree with your conclusion that cloud applications are complementary- a part of overall solutions - and not likely to be the magic bullet replacement for all applications and the solution for all problems, as the marketing propaganda suggests. 

 

"What you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul." - complements to Billy Madison

Yeah, the cloud thing is just a fad. I mean who would use something like this for a business solution!

Sincerely,

Salesforce, ADP, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google, IBM Cloud and Softlayer, The General Services Administration, The IRS, and your bank

 

Speaking of not seeing the irony... Isn't IPVM a cloud based commentary and isn't everyone reading this and adding their own invaluable two cents doing so via the cloud? Oops! Did I say commentary? I meant independent and objective testing organization. 

lol, #5, here you go, video embedded:

While certainly funny, you are strawmanning me and ignoring the analysis presented above.

The point is not that cloud is a 'fad' or that cloud is 'bad', it is the fit of cloud for specific solutions. Cloud is simply a much better fit for some applications than others.

For example, cloud email makes a lot of sense - inherently network based, low bandwidth, high complexity to manage.

Cloud video surveillance not so much.

If you have specific counters / criticisms to the analysis we presented in the article, happy to hear it.

"if cloud based physical security systems are so great, why does Brivo have a <0.1% share of the market nearly 20 years after their launch?" 

I believe the answer to this question is they (Brivo) were forced to sell to an industry who always saw IT in an adversarial light. Most of the security "integrators" I have met have been dragged kicking and screaming into learning about IP, and then only because manufacturers had moved to utilize IP based infrastructure. This site (IPVM) is a prime example of attempting to serve and teach an industry about the BASICS of IP, and this (the online education) a good 4 years after starting the site. Most IT organizations I have worked with are very leery of working with physical security "integrators" because the manufacturers moved to IP long before their channel was ready. Brivo's biggest challenge is the channel.

"Where cloud physical security is 'good enough', it is far too expensive.

Where cloud physical security costs are acceptable, its performance is not.

This broadly applies to Axis, Brivo and the various false starts and crumbled efforts to bring physical security to the cloud."

I have found the Brivo cloud based solution to be far superior to most server based solutions we sell due to lower upfront cost, ease of implementation, ease of use and real time customer support. I have customers using this solution throughout the US and even in some remote locations in Europe, where building a conventional dedicated wide area network is impractical and extremely expensive. As companies begin to adopt more cloud based services, their need for building a dedicated corporate WAN is diminished and the true cost of dedicated network development and ongoing support is realized. I do recognize limitations with moving IP video solutions to the cloud, but for physical access control systems and intrusion detection systems, I find cloud solutions provide the same or higher level of performance, without being burdened by the constant OS patches, updates and vulnerabilities, not to mention end of life/end of support announcements. As bandwidth to the cloud increases and cloud based storage becomes less expensive, I expect video solutions will share in these same advantages.

"Lenel is better (i.e., has far more important power user features) than Brivo."

This is clearly subjective. What are the most common features physical access control system users utilize that Lenel has and Brivo doesn't? Lot's of manufacturers rush to add "features" that are good for "checking the box" so they can say they have a capability, but are seldom used. In fact, adding lots of features that are not used by the customer makes basic user training that much more complicated. Adding and deleting users/cards, assigning access levels, creating and applying schedules and running reports are what most end users care about. The simpler we can make that, the happier the customer is with the system. 

"Exacq is better (i.e., has far more important power user features) than Eagle Eye, etc."

Again, subjective. What does it take for an enterprise user of Exacq to retrieve video remotely or on their smartphone compared with Eagle Eye, OpenEye, Smartvue or Envysion? What is required of the IT organization at a typical enterprise customer in order to provide remote viewing, control or support for Exacq? Just because an NVR manufacturer offers a mobile interface or a webviewer does not mean they are easy to deploy, manage or make secure on an enterprise network. Many of the embedded video recorders that offer a free DDNS service actually create a series of vulnerabilities that, when discovered, most IT organizations will require to be shut down or put on physically separate networks. It is this "hidden" cost of network support that actually makes the TCO argument for Brivo. When all enterprises feared cloud based services, the cost of building and maintaining a secure WAN was just assumed. And if you have to have a secure WAN anyway, then the cost of adding a few more servers and IP devices to that WAN seemed negligible. Now, as more large enterprises are using cloud based services, their need to build a secure WAN for business processing is diminished or in some cases completely mitigated. For these organizations, the idea of having to build a WAN to support their physical security systems becomes very expensive compared to Brivo.

The channel likes selling servers and software support agreements because they see it as "sticky" business. But the market will continue to drive demand for cloud based solutions. Look how many companies said that Brivo would never make it 15 years ago, but who are now offering their own "cloud based" solutions. While imitation has been said to be the sincerest form of flattery, these "just like Brivo" offerings are at least 15 years behind the one who started it, and are still trying to have it both ways. Putting a public IP address on a server you have in your office in order to sell books you have sitting on your shelf does not mean you are "just like" Amazon either.

There are many examples of some very well respected and very smart people who DID think the Internet was a fad. They seem foolish now because we have hindsight. Of course I don't write this response to try to convince any of the conventional security "integrators" on this forum. Frankly, it is easier to compete with the old school security companies who don't understand IT, because most large organizations have pushed physical security budgets to their IT groups. I am writing this because I am concerned that this forum has become more of an opinion based editorial page than one that provides independent and objective analysis of the security market.

One last thought. Did you purchase and read the book before you wrote this article? With such limited distribution I am curious how you were able to get it, read it and write this article about it.

With such limited distribution I am curious how you were able to get it, read it and write this article about it.

Cloud distributon of e-book is not working?

#5, thanks for the detailed response.

Look how many companies said that Brivo would never make it 15 years ago, but who are now offering their own "cloud based" solutions

Do you mean literally? If so, whom?

I'll take myself as a skeptic of cloud and I can go back nearly 10 years on IPVM. If someone told me that a decade later, cloud physical security would be where it is at today (meaning still very niche), that would sound about right to 2008 John.

We certainly disagree but I think Brivo's financial standing has proven the skeptics right.

There are many examples of some very well respected and very smart people who DID think the Internet was a fad. They seem foolish now because we have hindsight.

Again, you are continuing to straw man. Outside of you liking Brivo, do you have evidence that I think cloud is a fad? And as you said, and I agree, IPVM is a cloud business and I am fully aware of that. As I mentioned above, some businesses are simply much better fits for the cloud.

I am writing this because I am concerned that this forum has become more of an opinion based editorial page than one that provides independent and objective analysis of the security market.

No, you disagree with me on something. If I said something you agreed with (like Brivo is great), you would surely not express concerns about the future of IPVM.

As for specific feature comparison you raise, I will let Brian Rhodes and Ethan respectively comment on these details. Generally, though, I will say the perspective of "good for "checking the box" so they can say they have a capability, but are seldom used" is simultaneously true and false. It's true that these are seldom used, in percentage of user terms; it's false in that the seldom users who use it tend to be large enterprises where these features are make or break for the biggest deals.

As for specific feature comparison you raise, I will let Brian Rhodes and Ethan respectively comment on these details

For example, the level/number of local video/fire/intrusion/visitor management integrations Brivo supports is far less than a platform like Lenel/Software House/S2 supports out of the box.

What percentage of the industry are you saying these seldom used features are "make or break"? You claim that Brivo has <0.1% of the market share. Based on what data? What is your source? PACS have been around a long time so I am in no way disputing your claim. I just want to know more about the data you used.

If your data is truly empirical, could you share what is the average number of readers installed per server? I have heard statistics thrown around like "average system is 8 readers or less" but have yet to find someone with the data to back up that claim. The argument for cloud software for PACS you made yourself "inherently network based, low bandwidth, high complexity to manage." Low reader count, geographically disperse locations, thousands of users and cardholders, makes an ideal scenario for Brivo.

Also, you never answered whether or not you actually read the book before (or even after) writing an article criticizing not only it's content but also it's author. Seems like a fair question to me.

Yes, I bought the Kindle version. Even without buying it, anyone can read most of the book online using the 'look inside' Amazon feature. To be clear, though, I am criticizing cloud in physical security. There were many details to criticize in the book but a book that is going to be read by so few people is not worth criticizing page by page.

You claim that Brivo has <0.1% of the market share. Based on what data? 

When Brivo was acquired 2 years ago, they disclosed servicing 100,000 doors. Compare that to how many doors have electronic access control. Easily 100 million (which would 0.1%) and IHS is claiming ~2 billion.

I'm relatively new to IPVM but I have to say I've been questioning the objectivity of many articles I've come across, and I'll point to the below links as examples:

https://ipvm.com/reports/ospa-2017

https://ipvm.com/reports/robot-entertain

https://ipvm.com/reports/drako-grant

https://ipvm.com/forums/video-surveillance/topics/no-industry-experience-like-glengarry-glen-ross-want-to-pretend-to-be-an-expert-join-eagle-eye

And the article I'm commenting on as well. 

I am not condoning the grants, the usefulness of a security robot, or the job listing but I am bringing to light the fact that these articles are opinionated. Truly objective writing would merely present the facts and analyze these in a matter that contains no feelings, bias, or opinions.

I come here for facts and industry context. Not opinions on grants or a company's response to their product messing up. 

 

 

I have to say I've been questioning the objectivity of many articles I've come across

#9, aka undisclosed Brivo employee. Let me ask, as a person like yourself dedicated to objectivity, why did you not disclose that you are employed by Brivo? Do you not think your employment had any relevance to your critique of IPVM on a post that criticizes your employer?

Since you are new, I am happy to explain our approach. IPVM is independent, not neutral, which means our coverage is not shaped by manufacturer payments (advertising, sponsorship, etc.), It does not mean we are going to refrain from taking positions when we believe that the facts fit them.

While you are here, do you think it was a good use of your CEO's time to spend ~2 years writing a print book? An executive with his claimed talents would seemingly be far more effective breaking Brivo into bold new markets or winning megadeals, etc., no?

While you are here, do you think it was a good use of your CEO's time to spend ~2 years writing a print book? 

How hard could it be?

Truly objective writing would merely present the facts and analyze these in a matter that contains no feelings, bias, or opinions.

Ok.  Here's the article rewritten to your spec:

The CEO of Brivo, Steven Van Til, has published a new book: "The Five Technological Forces Disrupting Security, How Cloud, Social, Mobile, Big Data and IoT are Transforming Physical Security in the Digital Age".  

This book contains 244 pages.  It's available here for $74.95.  

It was assigned an ISBN of 9780128050958.

Sigh, #2, you have a future as a trade magazine editor, if you dream big!

I'm dreaming of a pair of Nike running shoes, a coach seat to China and a stuffed moose.

Selling and installing access systems for almost 20 years I have seen every variety. I have installed server based, web based, cloud based, etc..  So I have seen the up and downs of all of these systems being called into service systems I haven't even installed.  The data as far as the expense to run a server based solution are obviously skewed but that is the least of it.  A cloud solution is far easier to implement and administer.  The bells and whistles that a "Lenel" type system might provide aren't used by most users of access control.  The availability and flexibility that cloud services provide doesn't even compare to an on site solution.  Security is also a major concern. We see all too often and old, un patched and updated PC running a company access control system.  Not every site has a maintained server sitting in a rack being overseen by an IT department. The former scenario is what we see more often than not.  Does it sound expensive now?  

Also from an installation and service standpoint there is no comparison as to which system I would rather install.  Cloud makes my life easier.  From and end user perspective it is also easier to use as well and all the data is backed up remotely.  I have been to many a site through the years where the system failed and they had no backup requiring a complete database rebuild. 

After reading your post, it just reminds me that end users need to buy the system they need (or will need) and can properly maintain. Not everyone needs a Lenel and not every organization is staffed to maintain enterprise servers.  

And yet the access control interface panels, power supplies, door strikes, card readers, REX switches, I/O interfaces are all very much premises based. The only portion of the solution that can be moved into the cloud is the management software. And, being a security and/ or life safety System requires it to have local survivability should internet service be lost.

So, the premises vs cloud argument doesnt make much sense. At best, you can only have a hybrid-cloud environment with physical security. There is no either/or because the endpoints are permanently installed non-mobile infrastructure as opposed to a tablet/smartphone/PC accessing an email or accounting or file -based "pure cloud" construct. 

That is why "cloud" remains a small complementary niche in the physical security field.

I didn't even read the article yet but I don't think there is really an argument. It is a preference of where you want your data and how you want to access and use it.  Do you want high availability and maximum up-time?  Do you want secure remote access from any device and not have to worry about backing up your data?  Some people want to house their own data and are sometimes required to do so.  For me as an installation company I can deploy, perform maintenance/service and do everything quicker and easier when I have remote access to my systems. This is all much simpler when the systems are hosted.  So regardless of any RMR it is a more profitable model for us. It's not a good fit for everybody depending on their needs but it is a good fit for most.  

 

We used to have an in house server for email and applications.  Now we use Office 365 and other hosted applications.  Why?  I don't have to worry about keeping servers running anymore and I know my data is backed up and secure.  My email and other applications are available from any device anywhere and I don't have to punch one hole in a firewall or jumps through hoops on a VPN.  I have a set cost per month so there are no surprises.  With this in mind why would I not want to do this with my access system or everything I can for that matter?

So the cloud or hosted model is not a small niche in any facet of our lives so I don't think physical security will be any different.  In the post it says why does "Brivo have a <0.1% share of the market nearly 20 years after their launch?"  I had an email server in my server room up until about 5 years ago.  It's a bad analogy but now cloud services are running our lives.  They weren't 20 or even 10 years ago. Also think about this:  Brivo has a couple hundred thousand panels online.  Say they are charging the dealer $5/door/month.  It is actually more than that but being conservative for arguments sake that is $1 millon a month in vaporware before they ship one piece of hardware for a privately held company working out of a single office in Maryland.  That money won't stop coming in month after month and will only grow.  So say what you want, they had a long term vision on how to churn a profit.  I don't think cloud access is struggling at all.  More and more companies are getting on board with it so just wait a few years and I think you will see more hosted systems than server/software systems in use.  I see it in our own sales here.  The scales are tipping and our increasing monthly revenue couldn't be happier.  

I would say the Microsoft 365/email analogy doesn't work. Microsoft 365 offers a compelling value proposition: rather than spend upwards toward $600.00 per fully loaded office license tied to a specific machine, you can pay a monthly fee that is basically arrived at by dividing the cost of the license by the average 36 month refresh period, and Microsoft sweetens it by allowing multiple devices to access the license without add cost - in other words, the device is entirely divested from the software, which can be accessed from anywhere - this is cloud in its purest form. 

that model simply does not translate to physical security. You aren't going to pop a card reader off a door and move it to a different building and access the cloud with it. It is going to stay there, as part of a fixed system, in many cases for a decade or longer. Charging people a monthly fee per door in perpetuity simply to host the database off site is not, to me at least, a compelling value proposition. 

A small customer with say 8 doors doesn't require a server farm. We all know most systems that small have databases that live on small PCs. In the age of automated managed services a PC like that could be backed up and maintained for a pittance - almost for free and rolled into any service contract for the substantial physical end of a door access or surveillance installation. 

Just not seeing the value at all on small systems paying monthly subscriptions to access their tiny database from a smartphone.

on larger enterprise systems with multiple distributed sites, yes, a cloud construct offers value by consolidating and centralizing what would otherwise be many duplicated servers and managed service fees. But then you get back to the problem mentioned in John's original post - limitations on API, integration capacity, scaling, feature set, etc.

for cloud to penetrate the physical security space in a meaningful way it is going to take more than platitudes and buzz words - cloud providers are going to have to start offering compelling value propositions. 

 

 

I think your comments are a great example of the misunderstanding here. This is about the software that is used to manage the system, not the control panels or card readers.  

As far as 8 reader systems being "backed up", I have been selling access control for 25 years. I always love going to a customer site after their cheap PC dies and they start getting quotes to rebuild the system. When you ask them if they have a recent backup, I often hear "Backup? What's that?" or,  "I thought the company who installed it took care of that when they installed the system 5 years ago, but now they say they can't find it.", or better yet, "Well we used to back that up to a drive on our local file server, but that all got moved to the cloud and I don't think anyone thought about this system when they did that." Even the embedded options that are out there now, which are very easy to automate for backups to a network attached storage device or a cloud service, seldom have a backup that can be used. They should be, but they just aren't, and again I blame the company that sold it to the customer. Most access control systems are small systems. It is these small systems that are the most at risk, yet it is also the small systems that are the least likely to have any form of disaster recovery applied. The cloud solves this. $80 per month begins to sound pretty cheap when you have to build an 8 reader system from scratch again, and then either rebadge all the employees or get each employee to re-enroll their cards. 

Ultimately the customer for a new system will be the one to decide whether to choose a cloud based server or a local server. Since most security contractors only sell servers to manage the software, because that's what they know how to sell, most customers aren't even given the option. Low adoption rate for cloud based solutions in the physical security space is directly related to the security vendors not offering it, because they don't see the value in the offering themselves, just like you have expressed. It is difficult to sell something you don't believe in and have any long term success.

By the same token, when a customer calls 5 security companies to buy a new physical access control system, all 5 of them are going to talk about locks, cards, card readers and control panels. But when they talk about how to manage the system, the software, if 4 of them only sell servers (I am including the cheap PC options) and the 5th is able to differentiate themselves by selling the software in the same way that the customer buys their other business applications, I believe they have a significant advantage over the other 4. Then again, those who are having success selling a managed service want to compete against the traditional server sales, especially if they are selling to someone who only uses Apple products. Good luck selling the one off Windows machine to that guy.

I am all for competition. Stick with what works for you. At the end of the day, the best salesperson will always win, and the best salesperson is the one who can demonstrate value that their competitors cannot.

I notice that you keep going to the back-up of the database as the selling point for a cloud-based management system. Does it offer anything else other than that in the way of differentiation? 

our increasing monthly revenue couldn't be happier.

To be clear, if it is doing well for you, that's great.

It still does not change the fact that overall there is a real problem for cloud physical security adoption, as overall adoption remains quite low (compare Brivo's market share to the top 10 or so access control management companies, e.g.), despite the fact, as you point out, that RMR is quite appealing for many dealers.

So returning to the title of this article, it's a strange tactic, that if cloud is such a great fit for the security industry that Brivo's CEO spent 2 years writing a print book about it.

Running a business isn't always about market share, but it is always about profitability.  There aren't any "Early Amazon's" in the physical security business that can refute this.  With few distinguishable features between one access control solution and the next, you have to wonder when does the perception of value stop and price consideration start.  Manufacturers are already showing signs of monetary desperation by cutting out their channel partners and selling direct to end-users, so obviously they aren't as well off as some would think.  For the years I've worked with Brivo, they've maintained a focused differentiation strategy that separates them in a world full of "me toos" but more importantly they have the unique ability to solve customer and dealer problems effectively, simply, and without all the noise.

Whoa, just saw the weekly email (don't check the site as often as should).  

2 notes:

- The cloud options do take a LOT of time to get into market.  Think about what Brivo (I personally don't like it) is battling, years and years of adoption of other services by integrators.  How do they, and others, finally convince those long standing (or 'old timers') into changing from what's comfortable?  Yes there has been some money pushed for cloud surveillance but maybe 5% of the other dollars on dvr's.

- what we find with a cloud option (small scale) is that we end up saving that company the IT dollars they would have been spending to manage it, so it becomes a trade-off.  They get newer software that is constantly updated instead of a stale DVR that won't work with the new i-Phone, and we get the recurring revenue and hosting of the video.

Those both being said most of our customers have some kind of combo; large buildings/properties are a managed server, smaller ones are pure cloud.  All run via same web login.

Lastly, companies have really taken the term 'cloud' to mean cloud-access.  Honeywell, EE...a lot that do an onsite appliance fully market them as cloud.  It's smart actually to utilize the terminology to stay current.  It's hard for a Honeywell to say 'Hey check out our new version of our 30 year old DVR'.  

John - really like your comment about the cloud adding physical security incrementally. Cloud hasn't been disrupting really but making things simpler in some cases.

In regards to TCO I think we see that many people are willing to pay a higher price if the solution is more modern, easier to use and less prone to errors.

Especially these days people like to buy high quality hardware and some providers do not feel the commoditization trend in the hardware yet.

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Coronavirus faked marketing is regrettably commonplace right now but Anixter...
Dahua USA Admits Thermal Solutions "Qualify As Medical Devices" on Jul 02, 2020
Dahua USA has issued a press release admitting a controversial point in the...

Recent Reports

Mobile Access Control Usage Statistics 2020 on Sep 21, 2020
Most smartphones can be used as access control credentials, but how...
Axis Compares Fever Camera Sellers to 9/11 on Sep 18, 2020
Axis Communications, the West's largest surveillance camera manufacturer, has...
Chilean Official Investigated for Motorola And Hikvision Contracts on Sep 17, 2020
A corruption investigation is underway in Chile after a crime prevention...
Huawei HiSilicon Production Shut Down on Sep 17, 2020
Huawei HiSilicon chips are no longer being manufactured or supplied to...
Virtual ISC West and GSX+ Exhibiting Contrasted on Sep 17, 2020
Both ISC West and ASIS GSX are going virtual this year, just weeks apart, but...
X.Labs Sues FLIR on Sep 16, 2020
X.Labs, the maker of Feevr, has sued FLIR, the publicly traded thermal...
Video Surveillance 101 September Course - Last Chance on Sep 16, 2020
Today is the last chance to sign up for the Fall Video Surveillance 101...
No Blackbody Mistake, Half Million Dollar, Hikvision Fever Camera System in Georgia on Sep 16, 2020
A Georgia school district touted buying Hikvision fever screening "about...
Costar Technologies / Arecont H1 2020 Financials Examined on Sep 16, 2020
Costar's financial results have been hit by the coronavirus with the company...
Startup Cawamo Presents Live Alerts With Edge AI and Cloud VMS on Sep 15, 2020
Cawamo, an Israeli edge-to-cloud analytics and VMS startup, presented its...
Favorite Access Control Credentials 2020 on Sep 15, 2020
Credential choice is more debated than ever, with hacking risk for 125kHz and...
Dangerous Hikvision Fever Screening Marketing In Africa on Sep 15, 2020
A multi-national African Hikvision distributor is marketing dangerously...
New Products Show Fall 2020 Announced - Register Now on Sep 14, 2020
IPVM's sixth online show will feature New Products from over 25...
Hanwha 8K / 33MP Camera Tested on Sep 14, 2020
Hanwha Techwin has released an 8K / 33MP resolution camera, the TNB-9000 with...