The Data Dilemma

The Data Dilemma

Solve video surveillance with a multi-tier approach

Today, smart devices seem to be everyplace—homes, cars, transit stations, workplaces, stores, restaurants, and even on our bodies to name just a few—capturing information and creating massive amounts of data. According to recent reports, approximately 3 exabytes of raw storage capacity was shipped to customers in 2015 to address the growth. With the explosion of sensor-enabled, network-addressable devices out there, it is no wonder storage and data analytics are such hot topics, and both are affecting not only the way we live and work, but also in how we use video-based data to protect ourselves.


The security and surveillance industry has undergone a steady transition in recent years, and the pace is accelerating. An industry long dominated by stationary analog cameras is embracing digital on a large scale with HD camera shipments exceeding analog cameras for the first time in 2015.

High-resolution, multi-sensor panoramic cameras are fast-becoming the new normal for video surveillance, streaming more HD images than ever before and requiring huge increases in storage capacity and performance to handle it. These new cameras produced 556 petabytes of data per day in 2015, and that is expected to steadily increase. In fact, the total RAW capacity of enterprise storage used just for video surveillance is expected to increase by 48 percent in 2016, according to predictions by IHS. By 2019, the average amount of data generated daily by new surveillance cameras is projected to reach 2.5 exabytes.

In addition, retention times are also increasing. To adhere to regulatory requirements and protect against litigation, many companies and municipalities are keeping surveillance data much longer—years instead of days—and that is putting even more demand on storage infrastructures.

Another factor forcing change in the industry is the ongoing maturation and expanded adoption of video analytics applications. Trends and patterns emerge as data is integrated from different inputs and analyzed over long periods of time. Analytics solutions are becoming more sophisticated, integrating video data with other systems and sensor input and requiring data to be kept longer in order for patterns to be determined over time. As new use cases for these applications emerge, non-traditional business units are taking notice that video-based data— when integrated and correlated with data from other systems—can be used to make better business decisions. Logistics companies use video data to track cargo through ports and rail yards to improve efficiency. Retail companies use video to observe shopper behavior to make better decisions regarding product placement, store layout, and advertising. Municipalities use video to analyze traffic flow, reduce congestion, and increase commerce.

Given the industry challenges and new uses for video-based data via enhanced analytics, storage is no longer just a peripheral consideration. It is the foundation of today’s—and tomorrow’s—security and surveillance system. As a result, storage architecture decisions need to be made carefully in order to meet the future demands.


Today’s storage infrastructure for video surveillance must be high-performing, scalable and affordable. It must provide the capability to keep video files for a long time while providing easy access and retrieval. The best approach is to implement a tiered architecture, especially one that can be tuned specifically for processing video files and viewed as a single file system.

In a tiered architecture, multiple levels of storage exist. The architecture consists of high performance disk, secondary disk, tape, and cloud storage structured in tiers, enabling data sets to be stored on the most cost-effective medium based on user-defined policies. High priority, frequently-used files are stored on high performance disk while lower priority files are stored on tape or in the cloud. Done well, the architecture provides a single file system view, and the system manages the movement of data between tiers keeping the metadata intact, allowing files to be retained economically for a long period of time and still remain accessible for analysis when needed.

Whether implementing new fixed cameras, expanding existing installations, or implementing new law enforcement solutions via body-worn or vehicle-mounted cameras, selecting the right storage infrastructure is essential in order to build the right foundation. But regardless of which configuration is implemented the full benefits of a tiered storage solution are available, including high-performance, scalable capacity, low-cost alternatives for long-term retention, and accessibility through a single file system interface.


Sometimes it seems that cameras are everywhere. Stationary cameras monitor public and commercial buildings, transit stations, ports, and a host of other spaces, and more are installed every day. Camera counts can vary widely depending on the need—anywhere from tens of units to tens of thousands of units, and all points in between. Implementing a storage infrastructure that can grow as camera counts increase, camera technology changes and file sizes get bigger can be a challenge.

For fixed camera storage environments it is vital that the basic foundational elements of a robust storage infrastructure can be implemented in the beginning, and then scaled accordingly to address increasing capacity needs over time.


As already mentioned, deploying more cameras and shifting to HD technology stresses existing storage infrastructures, forcing the infrastructure to change. However, with existing installations, sizeable investments in storage infrastructure have already been made, making expansion difficult without throwing away money. This is where gateway reference architectures can help.

A gateway architecture can provide customers with the ability to migrate to a tiered storage infrastructure without sacrificing the investment they have already made in their existing infrastructure. No forklift upgrade is required. The foundational elements of a tiered architecture can be implemented alongside the existing infrastructure and used for new camera installations. With the foundation in place, existing storage can be retired over time as refresh cycles dictate, and new capacity added to the tiered system in its place. Using this approach saves money by protecting investments made in storage while not slowing down the move to new HD technology.


While first responders, like paramedics and firefighters may use them, mobile cameras are most often used by law enforcement staff. Video footage captured by body-worn and vehicle-mounted cameras serves as crucial evidence in helping bring criminals to justice, and provides a valuable tool to meet the public demand for greater police accountability and transparency.

Video data from mobile cameras adds another layer of complexity to police operations that are already struggling with understaffed IT departments trying to manage volumes of digital evidence from still images, audio recordings from wiretaps, and recorded video from interviews and interrogations. A mobile camera reference architecture as seen in figure 3 below can help alleviate some of the challenges.

With a tiered architecture for mobile camera environments, law enforcement personnel can access video files and maintain control of the data for evidence management without relying on a dedicated IT staff. In addition, the cost-effective nature of storing files on the least expensive tier delivers robust functionality without busting departmental budgets.


Data is vital for efforts to improve our society and to spur ongoing innovation. Technological advancements and the Internet of Things are making it possible to capture and use unprecedented amounts of data. Success in every industry, including security and surveillance, is increasingly dependent on finding creative new uses for data and technology, driving significant changes in IT infrastructure.

Keeping up with the increased demand for capacity and unlocking the value of video-based data through enhanced analytics requires a storage infrastructure that is flexible, high-performing and affordable. Today, storage is no longer a peripheral consideration. It is the foundation of a robust surveillance system, and selecting the right storage solution is essential. Managing video data from new fixed cameras, or expanding existing installations, or implementing new law enforcements solutions, all can benefit from tiered storage architecture, the most scalable, cost-effective approach to meeting the need for more capacity.

This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of Security Today.


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