March Cloud Service Reviewed
Historically, video surveillance recorders and the cloud did not mix. Now, March Networks is adding a cloud service to their existing product lines. In this note, we examine why this is a strong move for them and how we see this as a template for what we expect many other incumbents to do in the next three years.
The most important element is that March is making this backwards compatible across their existing recorder appliances and VMS software [link no longer available]. Typically with VSaaS, a new cloud offering is added while the old offering has no cloud support. Axis's approach is a good example of this. If you use Axis Camera Station, their traditional VMS, no cloud access is available. You instead need to switch to AVHS. This makes cloud adoption harder as it forces a platform change. With the March approach, you keep what you have and add in the cloud element.
Mobile App and Web Client Support
March is offering both mobile application and web client support, including Apple iOS, Android, RIM, Windows Mobile as well as IE, Chrome and Firefox. This is a very broad and only leaves out the traditional thick client, which is less useful for remote, on the go browsing.
The Technical Approach
March is adding a software module, called CloudBridges [link no longer available], that allow their products to 'phone home' to March's cloud service without having to set up port forwarding or open up firewall holes. This minimizes the need for IT to get involved or to spend time at each site setting up remote access - the most common barriers for historically enabling off site / off network viewing.
The Limitation - Video Recording Off Site
Proponents of 'pure' cloud surveillance will rightfully note that this offering still requires video to be recorded locally at each site, branch, store, etc. Most cloud surveillance offerings today are hosted, enabling the video to be stored centrally, off site. By contrast, March's offering is a managed solution, where access to video is cloud enabled but not the storage of it. [For background, see our VSaaS Basics training.]
For most surveillance users, hosted video is both uneconomical and infeasible. For instance, with March's core markets of banking and retail, their sites often have less than 1Mb/s total and that needs to be shared with critical transaction and financial data. Sending video off site continuously is not happening even with a hosted video option.
March's pricing structure is fairly aggressive and uncommon. Rather than charge per camera or recorder (which is typical), March is only charging per user account. The MSRP per user is $99 per year, sold through their channel partners. Even if you had a 1000 cameras enabled, if only 3 users needed to see video, it would be less than $300 per year - an incredibly low price.
March anticipates that larger organizations will want to share video with more people - a team centrally, a user in each store/branch, remote managers, etc. With this price structure, it will be fairly easily for end users to justify adding the feature.
We are not aware of any major recorder or VMS provider offering a similiar approach. Milestone has added in Axis One-Click which makes it easier to add Axis cameras at remote sites but does not provide a plug and play remote access offering. Genetec offers Trickling / Edge Storage as a means to connect to remote cameras but again does not provide similar remote access. Lorex is probably the closest example with their managed DVR offering.
The most notable newer entrant is Envysion who has lead with managed cloud video access and grown quickly over the last few years, especially in the small box retailer space. One advantage Envysion has is that, with the same cloud interface, they include PoS and Exception Based Recording where the March version is video only.
In retail and banking, where March is strongest, we think this will be a very attractive feature, especially since prime appliance competitors like Verint and 3VR do not have this.
We think this is the right move and a sign of things to come (see our VMS vs VSaaS report for background). The most valuable part of cloud for surveillance is simplifying remote access (especially since large scale off site recording is a dream). By adding this and making it backwards compatible, this provides a strong defense against cloud new entrants in the professional market. By offering it at a reasonable price point, this will further spur adoption and block rivals. In the next few years, we expect this to become a common feature for VMS / recorder providers.