Storage Manufacturers Enter NVR Market

By John Honovich, Published May 14, 2010, 08:00pm EDT

Competition in the NVR market is heating up with a number of new options for video surveillance professionals to consider. In the last few months, well funded startups Intransa and Pivot3 have both launched NVR solutions.

  • Intransa's VideoAppliances offers IP video software pre-loaded on Intransa servers. 
  • Pivot3's Serverless Computing [link no longer available] allows IP video software to be run inside their storage array using virtualization (winning ISC West Best in Show [link no longer available] last month)
This is a major shift, as a year ago, these companies were only providing storage, requiring the use of 3rd party servers. Now, both companies are offering their own integrated sever and storage solution.

IP Video designers today frequently select and integrate 3 components from 3 different suppliers:

  • IP video surveillance software to manage video
  • PC/Server to process video
  • Storage arrays to store video
This exposes the designer to risks and problems in selecting the right combination of products and sizes to meet the needs of the application. Specific problems include:
  • Overerestimating the amount of cameras that a PC/Server can handle, resulting in reliability problems
  • Making mistakes in loading software and configuring the application, creating potential performance and information security issues
  • Underestimating the amount of storage the system needs
With the storage providers providing both servers and storage, this eliminates one portion of the problem. To the extent that the IP video software is pre-loaded on the server, this eliminates the other.
Indeed, this approach returns video surveillance systems to a state similar to the old DVRs where application, server and storage were bundled. However, there are important competitive differences that we will explore in the concluding section.

Application/ Market Segment Fits

Storage manufacturer NVRs fit best for deployments between 30 and 300 cameras per site where the end user values simplicity of deployment. For camera counts at the lower end of this range, Intransa is likely to be a strong fit than Pivot3.

For camera counts under 32 (approximate), less expensive and simple options exist from many hybrid DVR providers. Also, low camera count deployments tend to have analog cameras, which also favor hybrid DVRs over the storage manufacturer (as the hybrid DVR can encode video directly without the use of separate encoders).

Camera counts over 300 (approximate) often have extensive involvement from in-house IT staff may prefer to use their existing server providers given their training and expertise with such equipment. Such deployments may still choose storage from Intransa or Pivot3 but may be more motivated to use their existing servers.

The use of video analytics on cameras and integrations with 3rd party security systems should not impact the selection of NVR hardware. Neither of these applications are materially improved by choice of NVR hardware.

Operational Details of these Product Offerings

While both Intransa and Pivot3 bundle software, server and storage, they do so in distinct ways. While Intransa is providing real servers that look and operate like your existing Dell or HP devices, Pivot3 takes its existing storage arrays and 'virtually' loads the IP video software inside them.

Pivot3

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Pivot3 manufacturers storage appliances which can be collected into groups which they call RAIGE arrays [link no longer available]. The storage is network accessible allowing video surveillance users to connect Pivot3 storage to existing video surveillance servers. 

Recently, Pivot3 enhanced the RAIGE arrays to run application software inside. They call this serverless computing (see their datasheet [link no longer available] and a high level marketing demo [link no longer available]). IP video software applications will be loaded and run in virtual servers inside of the storage array. [If you are not familiar with virtualization, see an introductory video and an overview of virtualization.]

To start with Pivot3, you would purchase a databank with minimum storage of 6TB to 12TB. The IP video surveillance application could then be loaded onto the device.

Intransa

Intransa offers a combination of classic servers and a range of storage products. They call their servers VideoAppliances. The 3 options are all 1RU appliances which differ on the amount of load the servers can handle and fault-tolerances features of the units (see the AE specification [link no longer available] for details). Each of the VideoAppliance servers can then be combined with Intransa storage offerings including the entry level StarterBlock [link no longer available] (providing from 2TB to 16TB of storage) and a variety of large-scale offerings supporting up to hundreds of TBs of storage.

Here is a pricing overview of an entry level Intransa NVR solution:

  • The MSRP of the VA10 (the basic server supporting up to 2000 frames of 4CIF MPEG-4) is $2,775)
  • The MSRP of the 2TB StarterBlock is $4,900 or 4TB for $6,800
  • These two devices are combined with IP video software. Currently supported are Exacq, JDS, Milestone and OnSSI.
Street price will be a combination of these three elements (less than MSRP of course). Distributors, such as Anixter, will take orders for the various components. The software will be pre-loaded on the servers, allowing the components to be deployed as an integrated and tested system.

Why Pivot3 and Intransa are Motivated to enter this Market

Selling storage by itself makes it more difficult to get into accounts and increases the cost and complexity of getting into new deals. Most server providers (whether it is traditional DVRs or large IT hardware manufacturers) have their own storage offerings. Server providers have an advantage in upselling to their storage offerings. Secondly, if Intransa and Pivot3 can provide both it reduces the cost and complexity of deploying systems using their products - lowering their costs and increasing the probability of successful deployment.

Also, because of the significant VC investment into both companies, these companies need to grow revenue to meet investor's expectations. By expanding into servers, these companies significantly expand their market size potential.

How This Impacts Other Offerings in the Market

The main incumbents in this space are the DVR manufacturers and the COTS server providers (Dell, HP, etc.). 

DVR Manufacturers

The advantage of the DVR manufacturers is that they have existing deployments and existing relationships with the security channel. The disadvantage is that the DVR deployments tend to be quite costly for large scale deployments. Given the significant investment both Pivot3 and Intransa are making into building a security channel, over the next few years, I would expect a significant migration away from the DVR manufacturers for use in larger sites to solutions like Pivot3 and Intransa.

COTS Providers

The advantage of the COTS providers are that end users have existing relationships with them and technical expertise in their products. They also tend to be less expensive than traditional DVRs. The downside is that integrators need to setup and optimize the systems themselves. Less technical users/integrators will likely be attracted away from COTS servers but most will continue to be satisfied with existing providers.

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