The Building Blocks

Educational institutions face an increasing risk environment. Recent high-profile incidents emphasize these risks and magnify the vulnerabilities that educational facilities face. This has led to an increase in public demand for improved security solutions across campuses. K-12 schools, early-learning institutions and higher education alike strive to meet the safety expectation of all stakeholders.

However, the primary mission of these organizations is to deliver quality education to students, and they face the challenge of balancing between a highly secure facility and one that supports open interaction and advancements in technology, particularly in video surveillance. This can help solve security problems but can also add challenges.

Institutions across the country are adopting video surveillance the fastest rate in history. According to recent research, nine out of every 10 schools have video systems in place, and the vast majority continues to grow and expand existing deployments. Administrators are starting to take cues from the law enforcement community, exploring new applications for body cameras, opportunities for public-private partnerships and sharing video with first responders—fire department, local police and public safety departments. Video surveillance and these newer initiatives improve overall situational awareness that helps stakeholders respond to incidents more effectively, sometimes as they are occurring, and even preventing incidents from happening altogether.

There is a huge demand for video surveillance, in particular, including new advancements in technology such as 360-degree cameras and video analytics. Schools are adopting updated video use cases (i.e. using video to detect unauthorized visitors or classroom operations) and these trends, along with growing security concerns, are propelling longer retention requirements for stored video. At the same time, prices for surveillance technologies have decreased.

All of these drivers point to the explosion of data generated by surveillance cameras and other security software on a daily basis. IP video surveillance will generate more than 1500 petabytes of new data every single day in 2017, according to market research from IHS. That is three times the amount of data generated in 2014. In essence, video surveillance data capture doubles roughly every 18 months.

Not only are schools collecting massive amounts of information, but the data obtained is more important than ever before. Modern organizations can no longer tolerate video loss, system downtime or the inability to access live or recorded video. Data loss can lead to major liabilities, and therefore more significance is placed on server and storage infrastructure.

Because of the increase in data generation and the growing importance of video and integrated security solutions, technology has shifted from closed, proprietary systems to more a mission-critical application that is often hosted inside of a data center and managed by an IT department. This evolution is important to note because IT departments will often turn to traditional technologies for video and data storage infrastructure. But traditional infrastructure, such as standard servers or SAN storage, is not well suited for video surveillance environments and can lead to underperformance.

In today’s video surveillance environments, image quality is imperative, and poor system performance can drastically impact the quality of the video being stored—in a negative way. Traditional IT systems either don’t work well with intensive surveillance workloads or they can be prohibitively expensive.

To solve some of these new challenges, new technologies and infrastructure platforms are being introduced to the market. Flash technology— while still cost prohibitive for primary video storage—can be used strategically to improve video capture performance and prevent image quality degradation.

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is an another desirable option because it eliminates complexity and cost, and brings enterprise- class technology and benefits at a more affordable price point. At a very basic level, HCI combines highly sophisticated, expensive data storage and server hardware together through software into a simple appliance-based solution. HCI leverages software-defined storage and server virtualization, deployed on industry standard, offthe- shelf server hardware.

The concept of HCI is causing significant disruption in the traditional IT infrastructure industry. The legacy storage market that is based on expensive proprietary hardware is transforming into one that is driven by software innovation on commodity hardware. The companies leading this transformation are not necessarily the incumbent providers commonly seen in the data center world. This is considered a significant change in not only the technology but also how these solutions are deployed.

HCI might be a buzzword in the IT space, but the concept is wellsuited to a wide variety of applications. HCI solutions can be purposebuilt to meet the unique needs of video surveillance, offering far more functionality to schools than traditional IT infrastructure. As more educational facilities look to adopt advanced technologies, such as panoramic cameras, more traditional IT storage solutions will be challenged by the write-intensive nature of surveillance.

Performance is the single most important aspect of delivering highquality video and schools need to confirm that all aspects of a video monitoring system can meet performance expectations 24/7. The ability to store large amounts of video without dropping frames, which leads to image quality degradation, is of paramount importance. Resiliency is critical as it eliminates what schools can no longer tolerate system downtime and data loss. Live and recorded video is available and accessible even when hardware fails. School systems also require scalability, allowing facilities to start small and grow system as needs and budgets change.

Educational campuses are designed to help students expand upon their intellectual capabilities to drive tomorrow’s research and leadership efforts, but these open environments are increasingly becoming targets of evolving physical threats. New technologies can help schools be more efficient and secure, but they must be delivered in a cost-effective manner. There is a growing focus on increasing surveillance deployments to provide safe and secure places to grow and learn, and new technologies can offer these institutions system resiliency and data protection for their video needs, which are paramount to providing security and peace-of-mind to all parties involved.

This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of CSLS.