The New Post-Milestone OnSSI Tested

By Ethan Ace, Published Jun 01, 2015, 12:00am EDT (Research)

OnSSI surprised the industry earlier this year by acquiring rival VMS company Seetec.

For years, OnSSI's market position has been hurt by the perception that they were just Milestone with a different client, due to their OEMing of Milestone's 'recorder engine'.

Now, by acquiring one of the largest VMSes in Europe, not only has OnSSI eliminated that criticism, the combined companies have a stronger position across the Western world.

But is the new OnSSI VMS good? What does OnSSI lose (or gain) from moving away from Milestone?

In our testing, we found Ocularis 5.0's technology / features to be overall similar to the previous Milestone-based Ocularis. There were no fundamental problems or flaws with the new combination. While 5.0 adds some potentially useful niche features and eliminates the MAC licensing and live/archive database requirements of the Milestone based 4.x, the SeeTec based recorder functions as more of a drop-in replacement than a feature upgrade.

So while this does not enable OnSSI to jump ahead of Milestone, it does enable them to move away from Milestone with their own credible complete VMS.

The most notable downside is reduced device support. Even some big brand cameras which have been available for months to a year were not listed nor did they work with generic drivers, while they are supported by Milestone / previous Ocularis. Additionally, Milestone supports far more older and niche models than OnSSI / Seetec.

On the pricing side, the new Ocularis makes OnSSI more attractive to larger scale buyers but less so to smaller ones as OnSSI reduced higher-end pricing but eliminated their lowest tier VMS offering.

Ocularis Versions and Pricing

There are three versions of Ocularis 5.0:

  • Professional: $139 per camera, $449 base, up to 64 cameras per server, unlimited servers
  • Enterprise: $189 per camera/$999 base, unlimited cameras per server, unlimited servers
  • Ultimate: $299 per camera/$1,999 base, unlimited cameras per server, unlimited servers

Note that advanced features, such as recorder failover, multicast, and video aging, are only available in Ultimate.

Ocularis 5 does not offer any lower cost entry level license typical of many VMSes, such as the $50 ExacqVision Start, ACC Core, or XProtect Essential.

Compared to competitive mid to high tier VMS licenses, this pricing is average, with licenses typically $150-200 for mid tier, and $250-300 for high.

Compared to 4.X pricing

Compared to equivalent 4.X versions, this pricing is significantly lower, ranging from at least 15% to over 50%. However, Ocularis 5 eliminates the lowest cost 4.x version, PS, significantly lower than other levels:

  • Ocularis 5 has no equivalent to the entry level 4.x version, PS which had been $99 per camera /$199 per server
  • Ocularis 5 Pro: $139 camera/$449 base vs. 4.x IS: vs. $199 camera/$999 base
  • Ocularis 5 Ent: $189/$999 vs. 4.x CS: $249/$1,999
  • Ocularis 5 Ult: $299/$1,999 vs. 4.x ES: $359/$3,499

Support For Legacy Milestone Recorders

Ocularis 5 exclusively uses the SeeTec recorder for new installations. However, users with existing Milestone recorders (OnSSI branded or not) may connect them to Ocularis server as well. Using Ocularis Ultimate, any number of either recorder (as well as Camera NVRs) may be added to a system.

OnSSI explains this program, called Mix & Match, in this PDF.

Limited IP Camera Support

Ocularis 5's IP camera support is far more limited compared to 4.x, due to the adoption of SeeTec as the recorder. OnSSI lists current device support of the new recorder at "over 1,000", while 4.x's Milestone based device support was over 3,000.

In our tests, cameras such as the Axis Q1615 and Samsung Wisenet Lite cameras, which were not listed as supported, did not connect when using generic drivers. The Q1615 connects using ONVIF, but motion is not integrated as it is in the direct Axis driver. Wisenet Lite cameras did not connect using even the ONVIF driver.

No More MAC Licensing

The new Ocularis 5 recorder does not require an additional license activation or registration based on MAC address each time a camera is added to the system. This was a common annoyance among OnSSI 4.x/Milestone users previously, with the MAC activation process adding an additional step and time to installation. Note that most other VMSes, such as Avigilon, Genetec, Exacq, etc., do not require this step, either.

When adding cameras to the SeeTec based recorder, users simply add the camera and it is licensed. There is no additional step, no restart of services required, and no need to go through a manual activation process. This is seen in this video:

Faster Camera Discovery and Addition

Along with the removal of MAC licensing, Ocularis 5 also speeds camera addition. While Ocularis 4.x/Milestone require time to load device pack information (often more than a minute), users may discover and add multiple cameras in under a minute using the SeeTec base.

This video demonstrates this process, discovering, selecting driver, and adding two cameras to the VMS in under 30 seconds.

Single Database, Not Live/Archive

Ocularis 5 uses a single database for video storage, unlike 4.x/Milestone, which uses a set of "fast" drives (SAS/SCSI) as a temporary "live" database before moving video to a permanent location. This architecture required more expensive faster drives to be used for live storage, due to the larger number of reads and writes as video was moved. Additionally, improperly configuring the move from live to archive could result in video written to the live drive faster than it was removed, resulting in lost footage, issues which are discussed in detail in this thread.

This video briefly shows database configuration in the Ocularis 5 Recorder Administration tool, with only two options: drive path and maximum size (if any).

Ocularis Client/Server Functionally the Same

While the recording server has changed, the Ocularis client and base server applications are functionally very similar to 4.X versions.

Ocularis Client has added simple back/forward controls similar to a web browser, so users may quickly switch beteen views and return to previously viewed layouts. No other notable features have been added.

Ocularis Administrator has not changed, with camera priveleges, layouts, maps, events, etc., all still managed from this interface.

In this video we review these changes (or lack thereof) and show how different current, legacy, Milestone, and Camera NVR servers display in Ocularis Administrator.

Two Step Camera Addition Still Required

Ocularis 5, as in 4.x, still requires users to add cameras first to the recorder, then assign them permissions in the Ocularis base server before they can be viewed. This is one of users' most common annoyances with Ocularis and may cause confusion when cameras will not appear in Ocularis Client. 

OnSSI tells us they have plans to integrate SeeTec recorder management into the Ocularis server management application, but does not have a timeline for this release. Most VMSes do not require this extra step, with adding cameras and permissions management accessed from one application.

Critical Camera Failover

Critical camera failover was introduced in Ocularis 4.0, but never tested by IPVM. This feature allows users to assign a camera or cameras to be displayed in layouts if another should fail. This provides some situational awareness by replacing a failed camera with an adjacent one.

In our tests, cameras failed over and back quickly, with the failover camera displayed in about 5 seconds after unplugging the initial camera. Once the failed camera was rebooted, it once again replaced the failover camera in the view:


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