Virtualization has been a huge part of the IT industry for almost 20 years. Surprisingly, many in the industry are unfamiliar with the technology, its purpose, or how it relates to the ever-growing IP video surveillance market. Before we take a deeper dive into virtualization and its role in the Security/IP video industry, we first need to understand what it is, and then we can review how it works.
Simply put, virtualization is a computing technology that creates virtual hardware to functionally run software-based system services like applications, file-sharing servers, storage, networks, and much more. When virtual instances of these services and operating systems are created, it enables you to maximize your hardware resources to their full potential.
Virtual machines are created and installed on a piece of software called hypervisors. You may have already heard of some of the more popular hypervisors in the industry such as VMware ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V, or Citrix XenServer. There are two main types of hypervisors: bare metal or hosted. Both allow for the creation of multiple virtual machines on one physical system that is also known as a host. When you have multiple hosts in one environment it is referred to as a Cluster and that provides the ability to group all the host’s computer resources into one giant pool that can be distributed effectively and efficiently. After installation, the hypervisor then allocates resources to these virtual machines so they can run at maximum efficiency. These settings can also be adjusted manually per each virtual machine instance, which can be accomplished without taking the units offline. Having this kind of elastic resource allocation, as well as the ability to run multiple systems on a single physical machine, makes IT operations much more efficient and lowers both Capex and OpEx expenditures, by freeing up rack space, and reducing power consumption along with heating and cooling costs.
With the ever-growing bandwidth requirements of high-resolution cameras, there will always be the demand for the ability to add more resources to a system quickly and efficiently. With the versatility and on-the-fly flexibility that is achievable with the utilization and deployment of virtual machines, the video surveillance market is seeing a greater demand for these types of deployments. Designing a video surveillance system solution with a virtualized environment further enhances the scalability and capabilities for a high availability architecture that otherwise might not be possible with a pre-installed physical server system.
Having the ability to virtualize your client’s physical security environment allows them to consolidate their hardware footprint for Video, Access Control, and other various security platforms and bring them all under one manageable environment. Virtualization also provides the ability to manage and perform maintenance on all your servers by logging into one single hypervisor interface rather than having to log into 10 or 15 different servers.
Virtualizing your IT environment allows both you and your client the ability to capitalize on resource efficiency. In the Video Surveillance industry, most of the time the CPU load on a bare metal appliance is hardly ever utilized to its full potential; whereas the Storage of that same appliance is maxed out almost immediately due to ever-increased retention times. By virtualizing you now have the operational control to decide exactly how much Compute and Storage resource the virtual machine receives from the CPU, RAM, Hard Drive Size, Network Adapters, and Video Cards. Thus, giving the end-user even more power and control over their environment than a bare metal setup scenario doesn’t necessarily allow.
Virtualization does have its downsides, and not all video surveillance projects can benefit from a virtual system installation. Higher initial costs of implementation, bandwidth limitations, possible compatibility issues, and data security, are some of the reasons that could cause customers from going down the path of a virtual environment. With so many factors to consider, the options might seem overwhelming. Educating yourself on the fundamentals of both can be the key to selecting the appropriate option for your project.