The Last Word

Looking Outside the Box

IN an age of rapid change in both security and technology, the term convergence continues to be the buzzword of the moment. Some companies must find creative solutions to remain competitive while saving time and money. San Antonio, Texas-based MDI Security Systems is one of those companies.

Since 1979, the company has been providing open architecture security management solutions to a number of high-security enterprise customers around the globe, including financial institutions, nuclear power facilities, industrial manufacturers and government agencies.

Some of the functions combined under the platform are access control, intrusion detection, video surveillance and systems management for military installations. Users of the platform can manage security events from a dashboard-style desktop application to help ensure faster response times.

One of MDI's cornerstones is the open-architecture command and control ONETM Unified Technology. The platform unifies vital components for managing and monitoring physical security, network and business management systems of multi-site facilities.

Some of the functions combined under the platform are access control, intrusion detection, video surveillance and systems management for military installations. Users of the platform can manage security events from a dashboard-style desktop application to help ensure faster response times.

"Our customers range from small convenience stores to highly classified and meticulously customized military sites around the globe," said Michael Garcia, vice president of marketing at MDI. "Each customer has different security needs, and the system has to be agile enough to accommodate them all. Plus, technologies like biometrics, facial recognition and bomb detection sensors that can be integrated into our ONE platform are constantly evolving, so a wide variety of security products have to interoperate effectively."

Looking for a New Solution
Achieving the desired agility and technical ability while adhering to security technology mandates and product compliance procedures required a strong amount of dedication from MDI. Initially, the company produced its own system hardware, but keeping up with Underwriters Laboratories requirements and government specifications was time consuming and not cost effective in the long run.

After looking at several major manufacturers, the company looked less than 100 miles north for an outside hardware vendor solution, Dell -- headquartered in Round Rock, Texas.

"It wasn't just because the systems are scalable, the support is excellent and the cost was right where it needed to be -- it was also the fact that Dell is so well accepted by the market we serve," said Tim Rohrbach, MDI's vice president of technology and chief information officer. "Dell is seen as the benchmark for the federal government, and the federal government is seen as the security benchmark for commercial, industrial and educational leaders around the world. It makes sense for us to partner with a premier company that leaders across all markets already know and trust."

MDI's systems are hosted on Dell PowerEdge 2850 servers with a 3 GHz Intel Xenon processors, which are clustered for redundancy and can run a variety of fault-tolerance software, including EMC® LEGATO® software and Microsoft® Cluster Server to allow system fail-over in the event of an outage.

Each server hosts the main MDI application and Microsoft SQL Server 2000 and 2005 databases, with the option of separating the servers and creating additional redundancies. The ONE Unified Technology and SQL servers run on Windows® Server 2003 OS.

"PowerEdge servers running Windows, SQL servers and MDI's software have proven to be a very stable platform," Rohrbach said. "Our customers also like the variety of options you can buy with the servers. The range of options enables us to provide value add-ons and greatly improve customer satisfaction."

MDI also uses Dell desktops and notebooks as part of the company's system.

The OptiPlex GX620 desktops are used by security personnel while Latitude D600 notebooks can be used for remote diagnostics and by mobile security personnel.

All of MDI systems also use Dell flat-panel displays -- in some instances up to even 50 inches. Rohrbach said the clarity and color matching with the ATI graphics engine in Dell's products are essential for MDI's customers in a number of different applications -- including video surveillance, license plate recognition and intelligent video analytics.

"A good example would be work we have done for some well-known casino chains where the video security system needs to be sharp enough to differentiate a red chip from a maroon chip at extended distances," Rohrbach said. "You need the right technology to accomplish custom solutions like that."

A New Advantage
Another plus for MDI is that the company can obtain all the parts needed from Dell while also depending on the company for technical support of the systems.

"There is zero margin for error in our business," Garcia said. "One of the best things about Dell support is that it is almost never needed. But if there is a glitch in the hardware, we need redundancy and technically capable staff to quickly resolve the issue. Down time in a secure environment is not acceptable. Dell's support staff understands the technology involved in keeping these systems up and running."

And with Dell hardware running its systems, MDI has seen significantly less troubleshooting on a fully installed system, reducing MDI's IT management cost and improving customer satisfaction.

"Dell has established a reputation of stability and reliability," Garcia said. "When we deliver our unified security solutions on Dell servers and equipment, our customers associate us with that same level of technical trust."

This article originally appeared in the August 2006 issue of Security Products, pg. 88.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .


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