Testing OnSSI's NetDVMS and Ocularis Client LiteBy: John Honovich, Published on Jan 17, 2010
OnSSI, one of the most well known VMS providers, gained significant attention with their 2009 announcement of the Ocularis 'platform' [link no longer available]. The most regularly mentioned item was the Ocularis's client [link no longer available] with its 'slick' user interface.
In this test, we examine OnSSI's NetDVMS [link no longer available] system with their Ocularis Client Lite application (specifically NetDVMS 6.5f and Ocularis Client Lite 1.62). [Note: you can download and try it out yourself with a free 30 day trial of NetDVMS [link no longer available].]
Our key findings include:
- NetDVMS offers the same features as Milestone Enterprise with the same applications and layout. As such, the core strengths and weakness of the two systems are the same.
- Ocularis Client Lite is unique to OnSSI (not available from Milestone)
- Operators are unlikely to be overwhelmed or distracted due to the minimalist design of Ocularis Client Lite.
- However, Ocularis Client Lite may confuse and disorient operators as it is hard to know what each functionality does and where to access them. With training and regular use, operators may be able to overcome this.
- Ocularis Client Lite has notable limitations on PCs supported and sharing exported video.
- NOTE: We did not test the touchscreen features of the client. Those who use touchscreens or are interested in using them for surveillance monitoring may find this valuable.
In May 2009, OnSSI and Milestone announced a 'component OEM' agreement [link no longer available] whereby OnSSI would OEM Milestone XProtect as a 'recording engine'. Based on our tests results, recording engine is misleading. OnSSI is using all of Milestone Enterprise and providing an additional client.
Additionally, OnSSI will be offering Ocularis DS [link no longer available] and ES, platforms that include an Ocularis Management Server (called Ocularis Base) and a 'full' Ocularis Client [link no longer available]. This is currently in 'controlled' release. When it is in general release, we plan to test and release results on this.
Overview of NetDVMS
In this 5 minute screencast, we explain the major applications and components of the NetDVMS/Milestone Enterprise system. Since there are 5 of components, it is important to understand how the system is segmented. This video is from the Milestone test and shows the exact same functionalities as OnSSI NetDVMS. Only the labels for the applications differs.
Contrast Between Milestone and OnSSI + Intro to Ocularis Client Lite
- How the OnSSI NetGuard EVS client and NetDVMS applications are the same as Milestone Enterprise.
- How the Ocularis Client Lite is the main differentiator and what it looks like
Since the main product differentiation between the two is the Ocularis Client Lite, we provide extensive commentary and demonstration on its use and usability. Ocularis Client Lite provides live and investigation functionalities. Administration and configuration is still performed through the traditional NetDVMS/Milestone Enterprise applications.
This is the most important screencast in the OnSSI NetDVMS review:
Usability Challenges in the core NetDVMS system
We encountered repeated usability challenges across almost all aspects of the system. In this 17 minute video, we examine and demonstrate those issues. This video is from the Milestone review but demonstrates the same issues in using NetDVMS (excluding Ocularis Client Lite, shown above).
We examine steps to administer/set up the system in the 14 minute screencast below. This if from Milestone Enterprise but works exactly the same in NetDVMS.
NetGuard EVS Live Monitoring Overview
OnSSI NetDVMS provides (2) live monitoring clients - the traditional NetGuard EVS, which is Milestone's Smart Client and the new Ocularis Client Lite.
The screencast below shows live monitoring with Milestone's Smart Client which is the same as the OnSSI NetGuard EVS.
The screencast below shows investigations with Milestone's Smart Client which is the same as the OnSSI NetGuard EVS.
How do I watch live video?
NetGuard EVS: All cameras are accessed through user defined 'views' which are customized layouts of specific cameras. The system does not offer a camera tree hierarchy to allow users to pick whatever camera they want. If you right click on a currently displayed video, you can choose to display a camera from the list.
What ways can I monitor many video feeds simultaneously?
NetGuard EVS: The system allows 15 types of layouts to be defined as 'views'. These views include traditional 2x2, 3x3 matrix layouts as well other layouts like 1 x 3, 1 x 7, 2 + 8. Each view must be set up in the 'setup' tab. The cameras displayed in a view can be changed by right-clicking and selecting a new camera. However, the layouts can only be changed or added by modifying in the setup.
How can I be notified and review alarms?
NetGuard EVS: In the 'live' view, configured events can trigger audible and visible flashes to notify an operator. In the 'browse' or investigation view, configured alerts can be searched.
The system does not support an event viewer in the live tab that provides rows for each new event with means to playback event video.
How do I search for recorded video?
NetGuard EVS: The system provides a 'go to' time functionality in the Time Navigation pane that allows users to specify a specific time. The function is a row in the middle of 7 panes and can be overlooked.
The system also provides a smart search functionality. The functionality only allows for motion based searching in the time immediate prior or after a specific time. It requires the operator to set an 'interval' setting that defines how frequently a frame will be searched. Longer intervals makes the search shorter but is likely a confusing setting to those not specifically trained in the implementation of this function.
What ways can I search multiple video feeds?
NetGuard EVS: The system supports simultaneous search and playback across multiple videos that are displayed on a predefined view.
How do you share images from video?
NetGuard EVS: The system offers a right click 'copy' function but does not have a one step export to jpeg or bitmap.
How do you share video clips from recorded video?
NetGuard EVS: The system offers two export functions - one to AVI and another to a Milestone proprietary format. The OnSSI format (called a "Database Export" allows for exporting multiple videos including fisheye/panoramic views and for advanced controls of the enclosed video (panning/zooming, etc.). The Database export generates a new folder with numerous files including the playback executable (There is no wrapped single file player). Also, doing 2 database exports in a row to the default location (the desktop) will silently delete the first export).
How do I know if I am in live or recorded video mode?
NetGuard EVS: The system has clearly defined 'live' and browse' tabs that respectively display live and recorded video. It would be very difficult to be confused about what mode one was in.
How do you switch between live video, investigations and configuration?
NetGuard EVS: Live video and investigations are both conducted in the NetGuard EVS (using separate tabs - live and browse). Most of the administration and configuration is divided amongst three applications - Image Server Administrator, Administration and System Status.
How do I add/set up a camera?
The administrator tool offers an 'add device' button that provides a wizard to set up a single camera. The workflow is straightforward except for an extremely long drop down list to select the camera type. The system (6.5f) does not automatically discover cameras. It does offer to discover the type of the camera when an IP address is input but this process can be very long and may not always work.
How do you restrict access to the system?
From the Image Server Administrator, the system offers 2 types of user administration: basic and windows. Basic users are usernames/passwords that are specific to the OnSSI system only. Windows users utilize authentication through Windows accounts, including Active Directory integration.
How do you restrict access to certain features or functionalities?
From the Image Server Administrator, the system allows to select 'restrict user access' (though the default is to allow access to all cameras and functionalities). Users can then be limited to only using some functionalities and accessing a subset of cameras.
Note: there are no user groups so configuration of restrictions needs to be done for each individual user account.
Note: when restricted user access is enabled, adding in new cameras by default are restricted from all users. The administration must remember to manually enable access for the new camera(s).
How can you set up the VMS to handle failures to servers/appliances?
The system (NetDVMS) does not offer any built-in failover or redundancy capability for a recording server or master server going off-line.
How can you access reports or alerts on the health status of the servers/ appliances/ applications?
The System Status utility displays a list of cameras identifying connected cameras with a green icon and disconnected ones with a red icon.
How can you upgrade the VMS software?
What, if any, VMS functionalities regularly take more than 10 seconds to load?
NetGuard EVS: We noticed significant latency/delays in loading from: logging in to the smart client (regularly), logging in to the administrator (infrequent), exiting the administrator (sometimes), detecting camera type (frequent) and exporting to AVI (frequent).
We tested both with a Dual Core/4GB machine with local recording and user access as well as remote access to a Virtual Machine running Enterprise 6.5f configured for 2GB RAM on an Quad Core server. Latency results were similar for both.
While latency can vary significantly depending on the setup, NetDVMS 6.5f latency was far greater than at least 5 other VMS systems we are testing in the same setup.
What happens when the VMS client cannot connect to a camera?
NetGuard EVS: The viewing client displays an error message "The server has lost connection to the camera" overlayed on center of the last displayed video image. The system status tool displays the camera with a red icon.
The system is designed to automatically reconnect. There is no way to force a disconnect or reconnect to the stream. The presence of a picture from the last image captured can confuse an operator into thinking that the camera is still live.
What options does the VMS provide to reduce storage consumption?
The system supports motion based recording and a 'speedup' mode. The speedup mode allows the system to record continuously at a lower frame rate and then 'speedup' to a higher frame rate when motion is detected. It is our understanding that this works only with MJPEG streams and not MPEG-4 or H.264.
The system does not support frame dropping or pruning.
What help functionality does the VMS provide while using the client?
NetGuard EVS: The system provides extensive help/supporting information but it is hidden. To access it, requires clicking on a downward facing arrow and selecting help or clicking the F1 key (neither of which is likely for an operator to guess or stumble upon).
How similar is the use of the VMS client to a DVR?
NetGuard EVS: In the live view, the lack of a camera tree picker will be confusing and frustrating for most users used to this common and key control in DVRs. In the browse tab, DVR users can be overwhelmed by the many options provided and the quirks of selecting amongst them.
How similar is the configuration of the VMS server to a DVR?
Configuration of OnSSI NetDVMS is radically different from DVR setup. With key functions spread across multiple applications, untrained integrators will likely be confused by a variety of the issues and complexity of setting up basic functionalities.
How simple is it for an untrained operator?
NetGuard EVS: While the system does not require significant IT expertise, the various usability concerns makes formal training to be very important to most operators.
How powerful is it for the expert operator?
NetGuard EVS: The system offers a number of advanced options to set up the keyboard for personalized key combinations and the views for customized monitoring/searching.