Friday, June 19, 2009

Lots and lots of storage!

The second biggest barrier to entry that prevents customers from considering IP cameras is storage. Let's face it, you need a lot of storage. How much? Using Axis' design tool, I figured out that a single Axis 211A, under a moderate amount of motion, recording 24 hours a day, 6FPS at MJPEG, 640x480 at 50% compression, will suck up 10.3 GB a day. A day! Say you've got 16 cameras and you want to save 30 days of video. That's 4TB, 944 GB. besides the expense, you've got to manage all that, too. Don't you?

Well, it just got cheaper, and a whole lot easier, for ordinary, regular alarm guys with dirty pants to add big massive gobs of storage to IP projects. I give you the DroboPro 8 slot hard drive enclosure. I got to take a look at the thing earlier this week, and let me tell you, it is just perfect for medium sized surveillance projects.

Basically, this thing is an idiot-proof hard drive enclosure that will accept up to 8 drives of any type and size. You can mix and match any 3.5" drive of any manufacturer and size without worrying about matching- just slot it in and the DroboPro just automatically configures the thing. If you were on a budget but anticipated expanding in the future, you'd just buy a few drives and add more as you go.

The aforementioned ordinary regular alarm guys will be relieved to know that no knowledge of the various flavors of RAID is required. They've got this thing called BeyondRAID, which should be called AutoRAID (feel free to use that, Drobo), because that's what it is. You throw a bunch of drives in there and the box figures out the best RAID configuration and does it for you. Even adjusts the RAID on the fly for you. It also automatically detects bad drives and spreads the data elsewhere, giving you time to replace the drive.

The user panel is simplicity itself- easy enough that even a Mac user could figure out how to run the thing. There are a bunch of ways to connect the thing. You've got your choice between FireWire 800, USB, or even Ethernet, meaning you can put this drive anywhere along your network.

What about the price? The price is simply awesome. The array itself is just $1,199.95. You can also get it as a kit with 4TB for $1,689.95, 8TB for $2,189.95, or 16TB (that's right! sixteen big, beautiful terabytes!) for a mere $3,189.95! Do we live in a wonderous time, or what?


Steve said...

Ari, nice indeed. Have you actually hooked one up to a loaded system to see how it performs? I'd be interested in what bitrate it can sustain. Also reliability--an important aspect of our business.

John Honovich said...

Hi Ari, Along the line of Steve's question, my main concern would he how well it works for higher camera counts. I think it's well proven that connecting a 1TB hard drive for a few cameras works well for video surveillance. How would it perform if there were a dozen megapixel cameras attached?

The pricing is 4x to 10x less than standard video surveillance pricing so it's clearly attractive - the big issue is ensuring that there are no performance drawbacks.

The CameraMan said...

I have not tested it in the field. That said, when the rep came around to show it off, I did my best to break it. I smacked it, I changed settings, I pulled out a hard drive while playing a movie off the other drives. Seemed solid enough. And the movie continued playing after a split-second long blink.

Let us be clear. This is not a professional grade system. if you've got 30 PTZs and 20 megapixel cameras, you still need to build a storage array.

For "bridge" customers- customers who could use IP cameras but don't really want to because of the price and difficulty of administration- this removes one barrier to entry. Remember, I used an example of a customer wanting to save video from 16 cameras for 30 days.

Steve said...

Ari, I'd love to see a test of this box's ability to record (more so than playback). The real-time requirements of sustained writes is the key. Most storage systems can easily handle multiple simultaneous playback sessions, but fall apart after a prolonged period of non-stop write and delete requests.

One final point, the price given for the 16TB model suggests that the 2TB drives are being sold for something around $200/ea. Can you say what make/model the drives are? RAID certified 2TB drives are just now coming to market and the costs from manufacturers such as WD and Seagate are much higher than $200. I'd be concerned that these are desktop drives, not really suitable for RAID or the types of duty cycles we need in video (constant writes).

stu said...

so how is the recording done ?
is this FTP storage or can you run multi recording software on it ?

for just a FTP server I would rather get a 8 sata port motherboard , basic CPU , RAM and a well built power supply and put it in a case with some good fans and then just install FreeNAS - fully controllable through a HTTP GUI , and if you really need more than GigE add another network card.

John Honovich said...

Hi Stu,

Building your own is always an option. For security installers who don't know or what to learn how to build it themselves, buying a commercial product is probably the best choice.

The recording software is typically run on a server. The cameras stream to the recording software/server and the server connects either directly to this unit or via iSCI.

stu said...

thanks John.

I have been using IP cameras with Imagia SoC's and at the moment it is necessary to run a windows machine with the recording software.

The Imagia firmware already runs an FTP client , but this is only used during motion detection and will save MPEG4 video or JPEGs , but I am trying to talk them into adding regular FTP recording to it where you can also specify clip length ( I think 30 mins is good ) , storage space to use or time frame before overwriting.

This I think can be a great cost saver as many smaller installations just do not monitor so then you only need to add a NAS to the network , which is much cheaper than a full PC + windows.

I have also tried the Qnap NAS solution but I think they are overpriced for what they provide.

stu said...

just to add clarification , when I mention NAS for a small setup I mean a USD 50 device such as these and then add a hard drive to suit

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say "thank you" to Ari for that hilarious Mac users comment. It made my day :D