Understanding hidden VMS solution support costs and deployment issues.

Justin Schorn is VP of Product Management and co-founder of Aimetis.

The deployment and on-going support requirements of leading VMS solutions can be surprisingly different.

The leading open platform Video Management Software (VMS) solutions may appear to operate in much the same way as each other, however, their deployment requirements and on-going support can be surprisingly different. In this article, Justin Schorn of Aimetis, highlights some key areas integrators should consider when choosing a VMS solution. System limitations are generally only apparent after installation and can be costly for integrators to rectify.

An independent VMS gives the greatest flexibility.

Choosing a VMS solution that supports the widest possible range of current video cameras, manufacturers and technologies, like Aimetis Symphony™, is a prudent decision. Larger CCTV applications, where VMS solutions are most prevalent, are regularly updated and expanded. They use video hardware from a range of manufacturers and require client viewing from different types of PC, tablet and smartphone. A VMS that supports a wide range of products, will reduce camera obsolescence and site costs, by enabling the re-use of existing site cameras, such as PTZ domes.

It is very easy to confuse a manufacturer’s own control software solution with an open platform VMS, but the difference is stark. A manufacturer’s control software is designed to control its own hardware solutions as a priority. It often has limited capability to handle a wide variety of video hardware, locking the integrator into a specific manufacturer and a limited range of client PCs, tablets and smartphones.

Aimetis’ development process ensures that cameras from leading manufacturers, both now and in the future, are fully integrated. Similarly, PC’s, tablets and smartphones and their operating systems are also supported.

System specification.

Defining the server and network bandwidth required for a VMS system has a massive impact on its design, deployment and operation. An IT infrastructure is used and the IT specialists at the end user’s site will be involved throughout the project. If an inadequate infrastructure is provided the system’s performance will be compromised.

Aimetis has developed an on-line, system design tool, which calculates the number of servers, total storage, storage bandwidth and camera bandwidth required, to make the design of a system and its future expansion predictable.

License structure for simple expansion.

VMS providers usually charge a license fee for their software. This is applied to all the cameras, servers, storage and other network devices used in a system. Some VMS solutions will also impose artificial camera channel limits per server and lock the software to a specific, MAC address. If a device fails, re-allocation of the MAC address can delay and complicate support.

Aimetis VMS licenses are applied to camera channels, not cameras. All other aspects of the system, such as servers, clients and alarm interfaces, carry no license fee and may be easily expanded. Aimetis offers just three license levels; Standard for single-server applications, Professional for multiple servers and Enterprise for analytics. Licenses can be moved between cameras and simply upgraded if additional functionality is required.

Video analytics and metadata.

Video analytics are increasingly being used to make surveillance systems intelligent, providing real time alerts and alarms to security threats. Systems that offer built-in analytics, instead of third party analytics, avoid integration issues and maximise processing efficiency.

Aimetis Symphony™ software combines VMS and analytics in one package, allowing the use of video metadata to identify changes and activity within a video stream. Metadata is far more efficient for a server to process than the full video stream and makes searches extremely quick. Analytics functions can also be applied to recorded video for “forensic” searches, retrospectively. For example, Aimetis can return all alarms and alerts from 31 days of HD recording in less than a minute, if a new analytics rule is applied to an existing channel. This speed of searching, accuracy and processing efficiency is simply not possible if the VMS uses third-party analytics.

Camera to server density.

Using metadata increases video processing efficiency, so fewer servers are needed for the same job. Fewer servers means faster and simpler installation, reduced running costs, simpler system configuration and less support.

Aimetis can support 100 cameras at 1080p, recording at 25 FPS, using a single Intel Xeon processor-based server, as well as supporting multiple clients for day-to-day system use. That is a staggering 2,500 FPS record rate. An NVR solution with the same camera count would typically use 7 NVRs, still require a server to control them and be significantly less reliable.

System failover.

Any security system can fail and a VMS must offer a satisfactory solution and response to this possibility. RAID storage can mitigate HDD failure in NVR solutions, but not an NVR failure itself. A server-based, VMS solution would typically be more reliable than an NVR, but can still fail. Aimetis is able to support any level of system failover design in the form of redundant servers, storage arrays, RAID and camera migration. The specified system failover should be proportional to the critical level of the security application.

In summary, not all VMS solutions are created equal. It is worth integrators and end users spending time ensuring that the system they select meets their requirements in terms of function and deployment.

Justin Schorn is VP of Product Management and co-founder of Aimetis.