Cisco Reboots Video Surveillance

Author: John Honovich, Published on Sep 23, 2012

Cisco has unquestionably become the best company in video surveillance ... for people to laugh at. What started out in 2006 with great hopes for industry domination by the company and even its security rivals has never come close to fruition.

Now, Cisco is making its strongest and, in our view, best decisions to reboot their approach to video surveillance and provide a real competitive foundation. In this report, we examine what went wrong and how they are substantially improving.

The Glorious Entrance

Cisco swept into the surveillance market in 2006 - 2007, spending ~$100 Million on two acquisitions, Broadware and Sypixx. Excitement and dread built, culminating in an ISC West 2007 keynote address from a Cisco executive, surprising considering Cisco's 0% market in surveillance at that time and for the rose petals that incumbent executives placed at the podium (note: Cisco's marketing share now is ~0.5% and the rose petals are an exaggeration).


It did not take long for Cisco video surveillance to start showing its flaws. Key mistakes included:

  • Buying two companies and trying to munge merge the products together is very hard, especially when they had overlap (e.g., up until last year, Cisco supported two overlapping recorder lines).
  • The Broadware acquisition was a serious mistake, both for its product and retained management. Originally Broadware was video distribution platform designed during the late 90s bubble, later awkwardly repositioned as a VMS.
  • Cisco assumed IT convergence would sweep them to victory even if their products were not competitive for physical security management's needs.

The cracks really started to show in 2009, just two years later, when they ironically could not afford to exhibit at ISC West, a trade magazine editor called them 'The Lindsay Lohan of video surveillance', and their spokesmen admitted that Cisco targets dupes customers who will buy anything from them. In the midst of all this, Cisco as a whole continued to face major problems.

Falling Apart

Then, last year, in 2011, it seemed that Cisco video surveillance was on the verge of death. They discontinued a slew of products, many employees quit or were laid off and finally their long term GM, the former Broadware executive, left. By the end of 2011, their public strategy was essentially a retreat to the super high end of the market with a subset of their long term uncompetitive products.

Fixing Major Mistakes and New Products

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

Now, in 2012, they have a brand new leadership team for the physical security business unit, a brand new VMS codebase and a sensible strategy on how they can optimally integrate the network with surveillance systems.

The most important improvement was for their VMS, where they essentially abandoned the legacy Broadware offering, building a new VMS from the ground up. Cisco reports that ~70 engineers spent 2 years working on this. While they call the release VSM 7.0, implying that it is an upgrade to the earlier 6.0, it is actually a new platform requiring a migration for existing users and implementing new APIs. Whatever minor inconvenience this may cause in the short term, we believe the benefits of replacing a 15+ year old unsuccessful architecture is worth it.

Bucking the common practice of Windows based VMS software running on COTS PCs, the new Cisco VMS will only run on Cisco appliances and will be fully virtualized (see our post on Cisco VSM virtualization). While this increases cost and complexity for small systems, for larger ones that Cisco is targeting this could simplify managing and reduce operational problems.

Additionally, Cisco is maturing their integration of MediaNet into their surveillance offering, which also has the potential to reduce the cost and complexity of setting up and managing surveillance systems. While this requires a high end Cisco infrastructure, it offers an automated network management process nowhere else offered in surveillance.

The most disappointing Cisco release is their new 6000 series camera line, which is barely an improvement over their old line and, save for MediaNet support, is little different from dozens of no-name overseas manufacturer. Cisco indicated more new cameras releases in the near future and they will need it if they really expect to compete as the end to end solution they hope to market.

Going Forward

Despite Cisco's numerous mistakes in the surveillance market, they have always had the resources and skills to dominate. However, they have never had the right mindset, with way too much focus on the network and far little appreciation of domain specific problems. Changing their physec management team and re-doing their VSM are two really important steps in establishing a more solid foundation. They still have a long way to go but they have a far better shot at competing than ever before.

1 report cite this report:

New Cisco Video Surveillance - Still Going Nowhere on Jul 14, 2015
'Everyone' knew Cisco would dominate video surveillance back in 2008. They failed. But, they have not given up.  Recently the company touted a...

Related Reports on VMS

Axis Video Revenue Down on Oct 20, 2016
An important milestone. Axis revenue for video products is down year over year. But Axis is now focusing on 'diversification'. In this report, we...
Worst Access Control 2016 on Oct 19, 2016
Two access control providers stood out as being the worst to work with for integrators. In this report, we analyze the answers to: "In the past...
Mobotix Founder Out, Company Embracing Open Platform on Oct 13, 2016
The founder of Mobotix, Dr. Ralf Hinkel, is out of Mobotix, just 7 months after the company was acquired by Konica-Minolta. With his departure,...
IndigoVision Going Head-To-Head Against Milestone, Genetec on Oct 12, 2016
Cameras are commodities, the money is in VMS. This is the new philosophy of IndigoVision, long known as a closed end-to-end systems provider. The...
VMS Installer Sizes Getting Out of Control on Oct 11, 2016
Huge VMS file sizes increase installation size and can cause problems in the field.  As VMSes become more mature and add features their file size...
Axis Employees Get $100 Bonus For Beating Out Avigilon on Oct 11, 2016
Axis offered its employees a $100 bonus for beating out Avigilon's VMS, according to an Axis communication obtained by IPVM. Axis...
How And When ONVIF Will Support H.265 on Oct 07, 2016
ONVIF Profile S does not support H.265. And Profile S is what literally every ONVIF device supports today for video. So what happens to H.265...
Axis Zipstream 2 Tested on Oct 03, 2016
Smart codecs are one of the big trends in the industry now. Axis was the first manufacturer to launch a smart codec, releasing Zipstream in Spring...
Hiring Spree At Aimetis 6 Months After Being Acquired on Sep 28, 2016
Aimetis was acquired in April 2016, and is now expanding almost all of their departments, hiring employees from Axis and other industry...
Axis Secretly Paid Anixter Sales People To Push Axis NVRs on Sep 26, 2016
Internal Axis communication shows how Axis paid Anixter and Tri-Ed sales people with secret bonuses to push Axis NVRs. In this report, we examine...

Most Recent Industry Reports

"WTF?!?!? Who is Brian Karas?!?" Exclaims Knightscope on Oct 21, 2016
Knightscope co-founder Stacy Stephens emailed us: He may not have intended to send it us and he probably can figure out who Brian Karas is,...
Security Consultants Speak Episode 1 - Protus3 on Oct 21, 2016
This is a first of a series of conversations with security consultants. If you are a security consultant that wants to talk and can share frank...
Sony and Samsung Breaking VBR on Oct 21, 2016
For years, users have known variable bitrate (VBR) as one thing only: bandwidth varies, compression stays the same. This is not an accident but an...
Pelco Matrix End Of Life - End Of An Era on Oct 20, 2016
Pelco Matrix switchers, once the pinnacle of large SD analog installations, are now literally impossible to build. The Matrix products were not...
Axis Video Revenue Down on Oct 20, 2016
An important milestone. Axis revenue for video products is down year over year. But Axis is now focusing on 'diversification'. In this report, we...
Worst Access Control 2016 on Oct 19, 2016
Two access control providers stood out as being the worst to work with for integrators. In this report, we analyze the answers to: "In the past...
Hacked DVRs Surge To 400,000 on Oct 19, 2016
The global internet is under attack from record breaking botnets. And it is getting worse, Mirai doubled in size in the last month. Shamefully,...
Longse Rips Off Hikvision on Oct 19, 2016
Longse is on the attack, and now they are targeting Hikvision. Evidently not content just to rip off Milestone and Video Insight, Longse has now...
China "Unswerving Leadership Over State-Owned Enterprises" Like Hikvision on Oct 18, 2016
The PR agency of the Chinese government declared: President Xi Jinping stressed the Communist Party of China's (CPC) unswerving leadership over...
Move Aside Cisco, Axis Has A Network Switch For Integrators on Oct 18, 2016
Cisco is a common choice for network switches, including in our Favorite Network Switches survey, but now Axis is releasing a 16 port PoE+ switch...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact