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Adam Bannister is a contributor to IFSEC Global, having been in the role of Editor from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam also had stints as a journalist at cybersecurity publication, The Daily Swig, and as Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
February 29, 2016


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Open Platform, Scalable Surveillance Storage and Big Data: Interview with EMC’s Ken Mills

Below is an interview with Ken Mills, senior manager for global business development at EMC, who discusses in depth the technicalities surrounding video surveillance storage solutions and the management of big data.

EMC surveillance

EMC is an American multinational with specialisms in cloud computing, data storage, IT security and big data.

This interview was originally published on SecuritySolutionsWatch.com.

Ken Mills EMCSecuritySolutionsWatch.com:  Thank you for joining us today, Ken. Before discussing EMC surveillance, storage, and big data capabilities in greater detail, please tell us about your background and your role at EMC.

Ken Mills: I have spent the last 15 years in the surveillance industry, splitting my time between traditional surveillance industry roles and time at big IT companies. I was a founding member of the Cisco Systems incubation organization called Emerging Technologies, and spent almost eight years building a thriving business for Cisco focused on surveillance, access control, and emergency response.

I joined EMC Corporation in 2013 to help build another thriving business around surveillance. I am responsible for the global go-to-market, channel, advertising and sales enablement strategy for the EMC Federation, focused on the surveillance and reconnaissance business.

SSW: Surveillance footage now comes in from a huge range of sources – including body cameras, drones, in-car video, satellite, license plate capture and audio, as well as CCTV.  How do you keep this data secure, reliable, and available to multiple user groups across key applications?

KM: To address the changing surveillance data needs of organizations all over the world, EMC has built and continues to develop, validate, and document a robust portfolio of surveillance solutions built on a data lake architecture and offering an open platform, best-of-breed EMC Federation storage technologies, and an extensive partner ecosystem.

Disparate data sources feed into a scalable surveillance storage layer comprising distributed, centralized, and cloud architectures, and are enhanced by over 21 tested and validated partner solutions built to simplify surveillance.

Storage is the foundation layer of the data lake architecture. It must support an open platform capable of managing disparate data sets (from multiple devices) while addressing the challenge of scale head-on. There are three major surveillance architectures, and organizations must determine which is best suited to their size, requirements, and business objectives:

Distributed architectures typically support several hundred surveillance devices. They store video and surveillance data locally and then periodically transfer the digital data set to the central platform.

For example, a ‘satellite’ police station may store data locally in office, then periodically transfer it over to headquarters—the centralized location. Distributed architectures often integrate the data with applications and other systems, such as access control and intrusion detection, without engaging a central server. The resulting architecture reduces single points of failure and distributes processing requirements over many, smaller sites.

Centralized architectures are best suited to organizations where scale is the primary consideration. Commonly used by police headquarters, schools, Federal/government, airports, and energy companies, for example, centralized surveillance architectures host high camera- or device-count environments—typically thousands of surveillance devices—and are able to support large amounts of surveillance data.

Storage must be made efficient and utilization rates must be high to prevent price creep, while migration time must be extremely low to non-existent to seamlessly apply changes in resolution or pixilation.

Many companies opt to go on-prem for their primary storage, but use cloud architectures for deeper, ‘cold’ storage. Cloud provides an elastic storage platform that easily expands as data volumes grow.

For surveillance-specific industries, this means expanding volumes in a centralized private cloud or even leveraging public cloud storage for more rapid capacity expansion. Ultimately, cloud storage can improve storage efficiencies and help reduce the costs associated with storing inactive data on more expensive storage solutions.

However, using the cloud for surveillance data involves many different availability, security, and cost decisions, so EMC helps organizations determine if private, hybrid, or public cloud is the best approach for their business objectives.

SSW: Is leveraging a data lake for surveillance a relatively new EMC way of responding to market demands?

KM: EMC has been in the surveillance business for over 10 years. However, the move to IP, longer retention times, and more/higher-resolution cameras call for a different approach than what the surveillance industry has traditionally deployed.

We have many customers that require petabytes of data, when just five years ago a couple of terabytes was considered a lot of storage. This changing landscape is creating a shift in the way the enterprise is thinking about surveillance.

Our customers are looking to move away from black boxes, proprietary appliances, and siloed storage solutions to best-in-class platforms for storage, compute, and networking. EMC’s open, data lake architecture and connectivity options eliminate “rip and replace” due to mismatched surveillance requirements.

And because security has also become a significant concern, EMC Surveillance Solutions provide multiple security features, including a highly resilient architecture, and built-in features that prevent accidental, premature or malicious alteration of surveillance data.

SSW: EMC’s brand recognition and track record is truly second to none. What is your perspective, Ken, regarding the unique value proposition that EMC delivers around surveillance? Why do public and private sector organizations increasingly rely on EMC?

KM: It is clear that legacy DVR/NVR technology is being outmoded, with surveillance applications moving to the enterprise and being treated like other mission-critical applications. Storage is the foundation of any successful surveillance deployment, yet organizations tend to overlook the fact that storage is not only one of the largest budget items for a surveillance project, but also potentially one of the most disruptive; a bad storage solution can lead to unsupported devices, scale issues, and more.

We believe that no company is more capable of storing surveillance and evidence video than EMC. We offer the most open, scalable storage platform for surveillance; best-in-class TCO; and the broadest portfolio of solutions for distributed, centralized, and cloud surveillance needs, built on proven solutions for the surveillance market—earning us distinction as the industry surveillance storage leader for 5 years running.

EMC brings its industry leading reputation for building mission critical storage to the surveillance market through a mix of on-prem, hybrid, and cloud storage architectures and an extensive ecosystem of validated EMC Partners.

EMC has also made a multi-year investment to form the industry’s largest and most advanced test and certification surveillance labs. EMC Surveillance Validation Labs contain leading technology from all major surveillance vendors in order to validate best-in-breed physical security applications with EMC’s portfolio of products, and we believe they are a unique industry differentiator. Both public and private sector customers benefit from optimized VMS application features that leverage EMC’s industry-leading framework of products, and more efficient, effective delivery support, as demonstrated by a high overall level of customer satisfaction.

Our labs deliver a proactive approach to solution validation through partner testing and validation, proof of concept, a test-to-fail philosophy, and a dedicated engineering team.

EMC conducts platform performance benchmarking, tests fault tolerance and high-availability options, and validates virtual and non-virtual architectures, utilizing a “testing at scale” approach. Our labs have been designed to validate multiple independent software vendor (ISV) products simultaneously and carry out functional testing for technical discovery with new ISV partners. No other IT infrastructure provider in the industry has committed the resources to provide validated solution architectures as comprehensive as what EMC offers.

Through proof of concept, our largest partners and customers can be assured that EMC will provide a proven system design and has tested the proposed solution at scale to ensure implementation is seamless and is built to meet their future requirements.

EMC has developed a comprehensive test plan with a test-to-fail methodology that closely matches our customer’s production workload at scale. We test at scale with the ability to generate thousands of video feeds in our labs. This ensures that our solution will deliver enterprise class performance to meet our customer’s mission critical requirements.

All work is performed by a dedicated EMC surveillance validation engineering team whose expertise spans virtualization, platform performance benchmarking and sizing, network security for physical security assets, and big data analytics related to the video surveillance dataset.

SSW: We understand that Australia’s largest city council, Brisbane, relies on EMC to protect employees and visitors to City Hall. Care to elaborate?

KM: With a $3.1 billion annual budget, Brisbane City Council operates the country’s largest and most diverse local government asset base, including roads and bridges, storm water drains, entertainment venues, halls, parks, sporting venues, pools, malls and public transport, serving 1.1 million people living in a 1,400 square kilometer area in the Queensland capital.

As part of a three-year, $125-million restoration of its crumbling headquarters—the heritage-listed, Italian Renaissance style City Hall Building—the council partnered with EMC to implement the storage platform for a surveillance system that could protect visitors, employees and the revitalized, expanded City Hall itself. The system needed to enable security officers to analyze visitor flows and behaviors within City Hall’s function rooms, 1,600-seat auditorium, two cafes, industrial kitchen, the offices of Brisbane’s Lord Mayor, council chambers, and the Museum of Brisbane.

We implemented an EMC VNXe system running Genetec Security Centre 5.3 and supporting 200 AXIS cameras, 200 access control points, eight 46-inch and four 26-inc HD video monitors showing static and variable views, as well as 130 channels of Agent Vi analytics. The cameras are monitored from a 24-hour on-site control room, with a second room available within five minutes in the event of a disaster. The 70-terabyte-capacity VNXe incorporates 44 nearline SAS drives and stores 720p video—at eight frames per second continuous or 25 frames per second on-motion—for a standard 30 days, or longer if required.

With the VNXe as its cornerstone, the EMC platform is enabling City Hall to meet their mandate of protecting the public, council employees, and the restored building. Brisbane City Council now plans to integrate its CitySafe network of 80 pan-tilt-zoom cameras, which cover City Hall’s entrance and adjacent public areas, with an EMC Isilon scale–out storage architecture. Incorporating an NL400 series cluster with more than 200 TB of raw capacity, this architecture will provide a single point of management and load bearing capabilities and will support an environment expected to grow at about 20% per year.

SSW: We also understand that EMC solutions are in place at Metlife Stadium and Norman Oklahoma Police Department. Without divulging anything proprietary or confidential, of course, can you tell us more about the solutions EMC delivered here?

KM: The 2.1-million-square-foot, 90,000-seat MetLife Stadium hosts 20 NFL games each year plus major concerts, entertainment, and college sporting events, international soccer matches, motor sports, and family shows. However, their security system stored only six days of video, limiting their ability to review incidents and identify disruptive attendees. Also, tape backups of security video required up to 10 hours of downtime, making backing up video impossible during weeks with multiple stadium events, and risking the loss of critical footage.

In preparation for the Super Bowl, MetLife Stadium turned to EMC for a new solution—just weeks before the football season began—and chose EMC® Isilon® scale-out storage for its proven integration with the state-of-the-art Genetec Security Center video surveillance system and security platform.

Within hours of receiving the equipment, MetLife Stadium’s technician deployed two Isilon NL-Series clusters to support the stadium’s Genetec Security Center video surveillance and management solution, which captures video from 575 IP cameras, including 72 Arecont 10-megapixel cameras positioned throughout the stadium. The first Isilon cluster has approximately 700 terabytes of capacity to store 45 days of round-the-clock video, and the second, located in a separate adjacent facility, holds long-term archival footage with a retention period of three and a half years. The 500-terabyte archive is expected to grow to more than one petabyte in three years.

With EMC and Genetec, MetLife Stadium now captures video 24 hours a day of every single seat and the general stadium areas, and has the storage performance and capacity to actively monitor 45 days of video instead of just six days. This is essential to investigating incidents and ensuring fan safety. Since video is automatically archived onto a separate Isilon cluster, MetLife Stadium preserves video evidence long term to protect the organization in case litigation occurs. The archive also eliminates the need for tape backups, avoiding downtime and saving $6,000 in annual tape and offsite warehousing costs. And while gaining vast increases in storage capacity, the organization also reduced the time to manage video storage.

Not only does MetLife Stadium have plenty of capacity for surveillance video today, but EMC Isilon provides the scalability to handle virtually unlimited growth resulting from advancing video technologies or longer retention requirements.

EMC Isilon was also the solution of choice for the Norman Police Department, which was utilizing video for documenting police interviews, beat officer activity, and surveillance of facilities to keep the crime rate low in Oklahoma’s third-largest city. The department deployed a five-node EMC Isilon X-Series cluster that supports their entire video storage environment, which includes video feeds from approximately 30 building security cameras managed by Genetec Security Center, and dozens of other cameras across the city that eventually will be integrated into the Genetec system.

The Norman Police Department also relies on Isilon for its MediaSolv Evidence Management Solution, which provides police station interview room recording, in-car video for approximately 66 police vehicles, and body-worn cameras for 175 officers. The department uses EMC Isilon data management and resource optimization software to streamline storage administration, and EMC unified storage for Microsoft SQL Server, CIFS file shares, and VMware infrastructure—with the EMC RecoverPoint® remote data protection solution—to replicate EMC unified storage from the department’s production data center to a disaster recovery site.

With Isilon’s extensive scalability high performance, and ease of provisioning and managing storage capacity, the Norman Police Department is able to aggressively pursue its strategic video projects, and will be among the first of only a handful of police departments across the nation to roll out both body-worn and in-car video.

SSW: Any other success stories you care to mention?

KM: EMC partners with the largest, most important players in information technology (IT) to provide jointly engineered services and solutions that speed deployment, improve performance, and maximize return on investment (ROI).

Additionally, EMC Surveillance has an extensive partner ecosystem of VMS, virtualization, security, analytics and applications partners, which we consider to be the most robust surveillance storage ecosystem in the industry. Just a few weeks ago, for example, we established a new joint solution with Avnet Embedded which is a purpose-built solution for video surveillance that is affordable, simplifies sourcing and insures compatibility with leading VMS providers.

EMC has a rich history of building, validating and documenting solutions with the top technology companies around the world.

Avnet is just one great example of an instance where two technology giants come together to solve for an overarching surveillance industry challenge. In the upcoming weeks, EMC will be announcing additional partnerships which are focused in the extremely hot area of body worn devices – we are thrilled to share more about these solutions as they become available.


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