How Iveda’s Sentir® Platform Provides a ‘True Cloud’ Experience
The purpose of this whitepaper is to educate current and potential partners, customers, and investors about Iveda’s cloud technology. What is unique about Iveda?
As the public continues to embrace and adopt cloud computing, some traditional NVR (network video recorder), software companies, camera manufacturers, and security integrators have rushed to capitalize on the trend, positioning their solutions as ’Cloud’, but generally do not qualify by the true definition of cloud computing. This pervasive practice – known as ‘cloudwashing’ – renaming existing products if it were Internet based in any manner. This practice makes it difficult for consumers and IT professionals alike to make informed purchasing decisions.
Iveda started its grand vision of providing video surveillance services on a mass scale, by utilizing off-the shelf software and hardware and building a cloud infrastructure hosted at data centers. To test the technology and the monthly recurring revenue model, Iveda amassed customers through direct sales. The customers paid a flat monthly fee for access to cloud video surveillance hosting and real-time remote surveillance services.
Through ongoing research and development efforts, Iveda has evolved into an enabler of cloud video surveillance services, utilizing (Sentir®), its cloud video surveillance and data management platform. Today, Iveda offers Sentir to worldwide telecommunications companies (telcos), carriers, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), data centers, cable companies, and security integrators. These companies in turn bundle the video surveillance service with their other offerings. End users are provided with a license to use Sentir applications on a per device basis through a monthly subscription. Iveda benefits by making it easier to rapidly increase adoption of Sentir while providing partners with a platform that can enhance their service, increase average revenue per user (ARPU), and promote customer loyalty.
What is Cloud Computing?
First, it is important to define cloud computing. Cloud computing is the delivery of on-demand hosted services to end users over the Internet. An example is an application running on a remote server instead ofon a local computer, wherein the user accesses it via the Internet, similar to accessing your bank account online or accessing your customer database from salesforce.com. Resources are shared by many users, which typically pay for a monthly fee for the service.
The security industry, or more so some of the players who have labeled their companies as “cloud video surveillance providers,” have adopted the name ‘cloud’ without fully understanding or adhering to the definition of cloud computing. In the last year or so, ‘cloud’ has become a buzzword, used very loosely – basically any camera accessible via the Internet. Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) is cloud computing at its best – cloud video surveillance services delivered by a service provider to many users. Surveillance cameras that can be accessible via the Internet is not cloud computing.
We will not bore you with the history of cloud computing, but what’s important to note here is that cloud computing is not new. Some date it back to the 1950s, others say the 1960s.
According to an article published in computerweekly.com, the concept of cloud computing was attributed to two American computer scientists named J.C.R. (Joseph Carl Robnett) Licklider and John McCarthy. Licklider’s vision was for everyone in the world to be interconnected, able to access programs from anywhere; McCarthy’s idea was to sell computing similar to how a public utility sold water or electricity). He introduced the concept of time sharing in computing.
Since then, it has evolved with the Internet explosion in the 90s. Regardless, the basic concept of cloud computing remains the same. Salesforce.com, Amazon, and the many institutions that first introduced online banking are considered the early pioneers of cloud applications – even before these applications were touted cloud services.
What’s new, as far as our industry is concerned, is video surveillance in the cloud also known as Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS). Only in the last couple of years or so, has the security technology industry started talking about video surveillance in the cloud.
Characteristics of Cloud Computing
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) identified five essential elements of cloud model as follows:
- Resource pooling – Hardware, software, networking components, and other resources are designed and combined, with different physical and virtual resources. End users share the pooled resources dynamically assigned to them by the cloud service provider based on their needs. Typically, the end user receives services without knowing the location of the resources. This can also be referred to as multi-tenancy architecture, which simply means resources (e.g., hardware, software, bandwidth) are shared by many tenants or users.
- Broad network access – Applications are available, typically over the Internet, utilizing smartphones, tablets, or computers.
- Rapid elasticity – Designed for easy scalability without incurring downtime whenever additional capacity is required proportionate with demand. To the end user, the capabilities for provisioning appear to be unlimited and can be provisioned at any time.
- Measured service – Cloud systems typically measure resource usage and are charged by the resource they consume (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, number of users).
- On-demand self-service – Typically, an end user can sign up for server time and network storage or add to an existing service within hours if not minutes, most often accomplished online without human interaction.
Common Cloud Computing Models
To further demonstrate what true cloud is, NIST identified the most common models of cloud computing as Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). To reiterate, all these models are delivered by a service provider to many users, sharing the software, platform, or infrastructure. Some service providers can be a combination of two or even all three.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)provides servers, storage, networks, and operating systems, giving SaaS and PaaS providers a physical entity to host their software or platform for delivery to their users. IaaS subscribers do not manage or control the cloud infrastructure, but have control over operating systems, storage, applications, and some networking components.
Amazon Web Services (More than 30% marketshare)
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) is more than software delivered from the cloud. It may include hardware and other tools to develop or customize applications. Again, the key is shared resources. The user only pays for what they need and they do not worry about maintaining the platform.
Google App Engine
- Software as a Service (SaaS) is a software distribution model hosted by a service provider and is typically provided to end-users over the Internet through a subscription.
Microsoft Office Live
- Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) is the newest cloud computing model, specifically for managing and archiving of video footage captured by surveillance cameras onto the cloud. Also referred to as hosted or managed video. Video surveillance refers to monitoring of activities in public areas, businesses, or commercial buildings via analog, or IP based or HD cameras for real time or later review.
Iveda’s Sentir Cloud Video Surveillance Platform
Long before the security industry touted ‘cloud’ or VSaaS and even before we labeled our own services ‘cloud,’ Iveda has been developing cloud-ready video surveillance products and services since our founding days in 2003. Iveda has been adhering to the true meaning of cloud computing. It was difficult to explain the solutions we were offering our customers. We were selling surveillance cameras, but not DVRs. Instead, we hosted and stored video for our customers at our data centers.
The Sentir platform includes surveillance software, cloud management software, servers, storage, and networking protocols.
Sentir is a well-integrated and highly-optimized solution for large scale video surveillance hosting solution. Although we employ the highest industry standards of securing our network and data, Sentir can be used as private video hosting cloud platform for enterprise customers who do not want to put sensitive surveillance data on our public cloud. Sentir can also be deployed to data centers for running large scale video hosting service. It is an all-in-one “cloud video platform” addressing high availability, high performance and scalability.
Iveda became a purely SaaS company, licensing our Sentir platform to telcos, carriers, and other service providers, enabling them to offer VSaaS to their customers. We still maintain our infrastructure to service our legacy VSaaS customers.
Sentir Utilizes Distributed Storage System
Since storage is one of the biggest concerns for video surveillance systems, Sentir comes with a highly-flexible, high-performance and highly-scalable storage system.
The storage system can be configured to replication mode, which replicates files on the fly across storage servers, achieving high availability of files in the storage system. Accessing files is load balanced to multiple storage servers. This allows users to access files on demand as long as one storage server is available.
This on-line replication is an active-active model, where every server is serving requests at the same time, compared to active-passive model where data is backed up to a slave server in the background and only the master server is serving requests. The active-active model is superior because it fully utilizes the computation of all storage servers, achieving better performance.
The scalability of traditional storage systems has limitations. As ones business grows, the storage capacity may prove insufficient and require expansion. In traditional storage systems, performance can be improved by replacing the controller. However, the storage system needs to be shut down to make the replacement. Additionally, the capability of the controller is limited by the performance of its CPU.
With scale-out storage, performance can be increased by simply adding more storage servers to the system. More storage servers in the system yield better performance. Iveda’s distributed, scale-out storage system allows customers to add more capacity without interruption. Every new storage server contributes its computing power as well as adds capacity to the system. In addition, users can increase capacity of each storage server by adding physical disks or JBODs (Just a Bunch Of Disks)
Iveda’s scale-out storage provides flexibility to users. As an example, customers requiring video recording for a longer period of time may need two storage servers for replication and each storage server equipped with multiple disks. This configuration maximizes capacity and performance at a reasonable cost. Customers seeking higher storage performance may need twice as many storage servers to handle requests in parallel.
Because scale-out storage system is flexible, customers do not need to decide how many servers they need to accommodate future data storage requirements. Iveda’s storage system allows on-line expansion; customers can expand storage capacity as needed, minimizing capital expenditures.
Typically, systems administrators add capacity ahead of demand to ensure applications won’t crash. Oftentimes, the excess storage cannot be used by other applications, wasting space.
With thin-provisioning technology, a storage administrator creates logical volume to an application as usual, but the storage system allocates physical capacity to the volume only when it is required. This means administrators can create a huge storage volume for application without actually installing the physical hard drives during initial system set up. For example, a 1 PB (i.e., 1000TB) system may be created, but the actual physical storage system may only be 100 TB. When utilization of the physical storage approaches a predefined threshold (e.g., 90%, 90TB), administrator can dynamically add more hard drives to the system without interrupting the applications.
Server Virtualization Environment
Iveda provides video surveillance solutions to meet various customer needs. Each solution has different infrastructure requirements. The Sentir Rack is designed to fit customized requirements by providing a server virtualization environment. Sentir can be configured to provide both Linux and Windows virtual machines. The virtual machines Sentir provides are highly optimized for Iveda’s video surveillance solutions. Several hardware-assisted virtualization technologies are integrated for acceleration including Intel virtualization technology (Intel VT-x, Intel VT-d) for CPU acceleration and Single-Root I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV) for network interface acceleration.
In addition, Sentir provides well-integrated virtual machine images that can be used to create surveillance-ready virtual machines. With this feature, scaling the video surveillance system is as easy as a few mouse clicks. In the near future, surveillance-ready virtual machines can even be created automatically according to pre-defined rules.
Many IP (Internet Protocol) cameras (IPCAMs) in the market are P2P-based, wherein the user registers the IPCAM to a global name server with the IP address pre-assigned by the manufacturer. Upon registration, the user can directly connect to the IPCAM for live viewing. In other words, a P2P-based IPCAM is a video server by itself and includes management software within the camera that streams video content to users. Some P2P-based IPCAMs are capable of recording video to user-provided public cloud storage services such as Google Drive, Apple iCloud, or Dropbox.
The P2P-based IPCAMs, however, expose users to a massive security risk since IPCAMs need to open an entry port to enable the user to connect. When there are many viewers to the live video at the same time, the bandwidth usage increases and quality decreases. Additionally, since the IPCAM is a small device having limited computing power, the quality drops significantly when handling multiple viewers.
With Iveda’s cloud-based video surveillance system, an IPCAM interacts with cloud servers only and the connection is initiated by the IPCAM, securing the IPCAM’s IP address. With high computing power and high network bandwidth of cloud servers, the system can easily handle multiple viewers. In addition, cloud servers are maintained and monitored by Iveda’s professional IT engineers, providing a highly secured environment. As video content is streamed to and recorded in cloud servers, advanced video analysis such as video enhancement, face detection, and object recognition can be applied.
Why is Peer-to-Peer Not True Cloud and Why Does it Matter
Although ‘cloud’ is a metaphor for the Internet, a camera accessible via the Internet does not make it ‘cloud.’ The term itself connotes one-to-one connection versus the inherent one-to-many nature of cloud computing. Using the Internet, P2P cameras send a live video stream to a computer or smartphone for video access using software installed on the computer or an app downloaded on the smartphone. Cloud-based IPCAMs can send unlimited video streams to the cloud for hosting, recording, and centralized video management. Live and recorded video are delivered to multiple simultaneous users through a Web browser or mobile app.
The distinction may not be important to residential users and small retail operators who may only require one or two cameras to fulfill their needs. However,for customers with multiple locations, enterprise and government customers, the distinction is important. P2P systems do not provide the flexibility and scalability compared to true cloud-based systems.
Because cloud services are typically provisioned from data centers with redundant power, abundance of bandwidth, and scalable physical infrastructure, increased demand due to growth can easily be accommodated. Cloud-based systems also provide centralized video management platform for ease of use, efficiency, and convenience.
In a typical P2P video surveillance system, there is no service provider housing servers and software to be shared by multiple users – no resource pooling. Each IP camera is hosted from a local computer or smartphone for live viewing. Video may be stored on that local computer or stored remotely using free storage from Amazon or Dropbox.
True Cloud Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS)
In the true definition of cloud computing, it is safe to say that Iveda is one of a handful of video surveillance companies that meets the standards of cloud computing.
There are NVR companies that offer software for cloud video surveillance implementation (e.g., Milestone, Axis AVHS, and Salient), but the software itself is not cloud. Some of our legacy service offerings use both Milestone and Axis AVHS, and are being hosted at our data centers and delivered to our customers from our cloud. Iveda has evolved and now offers our own proprietary cloud platform Sentir.
Iveda’s products, services, and platform pass all the accepted standards of cloud computing. With defined characteristics such as commercial accessibility over the Web, software management from a central location, and “one-to-many” delivery model, the results are no user handling of software upgrades and patches and API availability for integration. End-users can receive feature and function upgrades over the cloud, a new camera is not always required.
End users are provided with a license to use Sentir applications on a per device basis, through a monthly subscription. To add another level of uniqueness and differentiation from other industry solutions, Sentir has an integrated cloud storage management technology with a built in software-defined storage technology that is designed with Big Data in mind.
Iveda’s Cloud Diagram
This diagram depicts Iveda’s Cloud. End users only require cameras, power, and bandwidth to send video to the Iveda Cloud and an Internet-enabled device to access video. All the processing, live and recorded video delivery, and storing video for the end user are all handled in the Iveda’s Cloud.
Consumer-Grade vs Enterprise-Class Cloud Video Surveillance
As far as we know, there is only one other major cloud video hosting company that fits the mold of a true cloud video surveillance service provider. However this provider’s solution caters to residential and small retail operation. Its distribution channel includes big box consumer stores and online shopping portals. The system acts more like a P2P, other than its broadcasting technology, which multiple users that have the URL can access without authentication. While it provides simple video surveillance security for the home, it will not stand the test of even small businesses with multiple locations, even more so large enterprises and government entities. Iveda allows centralized management of cameras in disparate locations on a single dashboard, with one login. Other similar service offerings require the user to switch views or open multiple browser windows.
It is important to note that Iveda is not a competitor to these consumer-grade VSaaS providers; our customers (e.g., telcos, carriers, data centers, ISPs) are, which have the competitive edge since they have loyal subscribers more inclined to buy a new service offering from their trusted service provider.
Iveda’s business model is predicated on achieving quick market penetration by mass distribution through organizations with massive customer base already paying a monthly fee for services. Iveda’s VSaaS offering is a great compliment to the services these companies are providing their customers. Bundling cloud video hosting to their service packages is a natural progression.
The Iveda Difference:
- Over ten years of cloud video surveillance experience
- Proven cloud video surveillance technology currently being used by enterprise and government entities for several years
- Building and managing enterprise-class cloud video infrastructure from the ground up. We design our own cloud video platform architecture for optimal scalability, flexibility, security and high availability
- Robust, scalable, flexible infrastructure design, capable of hosting from one to thousands of cameras
- Employing software-defined storage for big surveillance data. Storage Hypervisor Software to enable commodity hardware to save cost and provide high performance, intelligent storage systems. No vendor lock-in
- Proven technology with customers in North America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, including small businesses, telcos, law enforcement, cities and municipalities, and other government entities
- Applies stringent measures to ensure network security ideal for enterprise, government, and other mission-critical applications. Multiple layers of network redundancy, ICSA certified products, and network access controlled by permission and policy-based ACLs. Certain products integrate AES 256-bit encryption into the connection between the camera and our cloud. Encrypted VPNs may also be used for added network security
- The first and only cloud video surveillance company that has a SAFETY Act Designation by the Department of Homeland Security as a Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology provider
NIST, U.S. Department of Commerce. Special Publication 800-145 – The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing
NIST, U.S. Department of Commerce. Special Publication 800-146 – Cloud Computing Synopsis and Recommendations
Security concerns with IP tunneling, https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc6169