Ethernet

Inside the Ethernet

Gaining a cost-effective perspective in advanced networks

As the need for more advanced security networks has increased, so has their complexity, upfront planning and cost. Gone are the days of simple point-to-point closed-circuit surveillance systems with a single control center recording a limited number of video channels for a limited time. These systems simply do not meet today's security challenges.

The emergence of Ethernet/IP networks in security applications has added benefits and options that have never before been offered. Unfortunately, with those benefits comes a level of complexity security professionals have never faced.

One of the challenges is how to achieve system reliability, flexibility and scalability yet maintain user and installer friendliness. The downward migration and integration of Ethernet protocol into the classic security network have solved many of the feasibility questions but have created new questions about how to design and deploy the networks. The Ethernet network's configuration parameters must be set and managed for the network to run at optimal efficiency.

These settings, although common in the IT world, can be challenging for security dealers and integrators who may not be familiar with implementing Ethernet networks. As with any network, the ability to maintain system functionality in the event of a device or node failure is critical. The inherent capability of Ethernet to have redundant transmission paths, coupled with intelligent fiber-optic-enabled Ethernet devices, all but eliminates single-point failures.

Challenges and Benefits

The very nature of an Ethernet network includes the ability to add or drop data at specific locations along the network. Ethernet networks offer high data rates, long distances and the ability to scale. They benefit from an optical fiber infrastructure that allows maximum system flexibility.

Taking advantage of an installed analog video system on an Ethernet network is the challenge. An interface device must be used to properly format the signals that are to be inserted on the network into the proper Ethernet/IP packet structure. Using video encoders, the analog video stream is converted into Ethernet packets that travel along the network and can be treated as any other Ethernet packet. Using Com- Net's serial data-to-Ethernet converters, commonly called a terminal server, serial data is converted to Ethernet packets. These devices add to the overall cost of the system due to the added electronics needed to digitize and packetize the data, as well as having Ethernet network hardware to now transmit the data.

However, the added benefit is the flexibility of viewing, storing and controlling the destination of the video, audio and data streams.

Ethernet standards specify that Cat-5e/6 media is limited to a maximum distance of 100 meters between Ethernet devices. In instances where two Ethernet devices are located more than 100 meters apart and where maximum bandwidth is required, an optical fiber medium is used. Most integrators are familiar with fiber-optic equipment suppliers that provide solutions for simple point-to-point analog systems. However, those pointto- point systems no longer meet today's requirements.

Looking Ahead

As new Ethernet devices evolve, an Ethernet- based system will soon be available to meet the requirements of a state-ofthe- art video surveillance network.

Fiber-optic suppliers also are evolving and no longer solely focus on fiberoptic transmission products. As the security market evolves, companies' communication networks are offering a broader range of transmission products, allowing them to play a larger role in the retrofit market.

Legacy analog surveillance systems are being upgraded to Ethernet/IP systems, providing the user with greater flexibility. In cases where fiber is installed as the medium, simply installing new Ethernet devices on either end of the fiber will allow for the adaptation of the new equipment into the network. Many fiber-optic Ethernet devices can use existing optical fiber, which enables a seamless integration of these Ethernet devices onto the existing fiber plant.

In the past, when coaxial or twisted pair was used instead of optical fiber as the medium for transmission, upgrading a system to Ethernet or some other form of digital transmission was a costly proposition. The existing copper media would have to be replaced, and optical fiber would have to be installed. This not only added extra cost to the system but also had a major impact on timeliness.

Solutions are available to take advantage of the existing cabling. Using Com- Net's Ethernet-over-VDSL products, existing cabling infrastructure can remain in place. Any Ethernet devices—such as a camera, an NVR or an access control panel—can be directly connected to the products' RJ-45 interface. The corresponding Ethernet packets are transmitted up to 1,500 feet on coax or 10,000 feet on twisted pair. The value proposition is exceptional; no longer does every upgrade require a total system retrofit. This allows for a greater percentage of the project budget to be allocated for current and future system features.

In today's competitive market place, offering a more cost-effective solution gives an integrator a better chance of securing a project. Dollars are not spent "behind the wall" but instead are dedicated to tangible user features.

As today's surveillance systems evolve, no longer is the design simply a point-to-point transmission of signals. Different applications, from casinos to parking garages, require more complex system architectures. For the system integrator, choosing optical fiber at the beginning of the project gives the end user a great amount of flexibility, futureproofs the network and protects the customer's investment.

Different topologies are achievable by choosing the right transmission equipment, from simple point-to-point to ring. Partnering with a leading transmission company with a broad solution set offers today's integrator a wide variety of solutions for customers' needs.

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