Mar. 01, 2008

Milestone Systems: single or multi-vendor IP video solutions?

  • Eric Fullerton, Corporate Chief Sales and Marketing of Milestone Systems A/SEric Fullerton, Corporate Chief Sales and Marketing of Milestone Systems A/S

Milestone Systems: single or multi-vendor IP video solutions? “When we first looked at putting in a surveillance system for our distribution centre, we wanted the flexibility to do exactly what we needed. We didn’t want a supplier pushing a system on us that only fit their hardware line. As the Security Manager of the company, I brought together all the people from each relevant business area for input on their needs. We took bids from several companies but chose Milestone software that supports a mix of hardware from the leading manufacturers. They understand our vision and that we need a futuresafe solution with the flexibility to change over time,” says Douglas Durden, manager of Safety, Security & Asset Retention at Mallory Alexander International Logistics.

Closed or Open Approach?

For making any decision in life, do you think it is best to have a closed attitude or an open mind to all the possibilities available? Of course you want to have an open mind, to investigate the largest number of options in order to achieve the best outcome. This applies to the selection of systems for your business, too. A debate has been raised over the pros and cons of choosing a closed IP video surveillance system – also called ‘proprietary’ because all of the components are delivered by a single vendor and only work with components from this single vendor – versus an open platform solution that allows the use of multiple vendor products.

It is all about decoupling the software from the hardware, which enables the freedom to choose the best combination of hardware and software to build a solution that truly meets your business needs.

Proprietary Jail

‘Proprietary Jail’ is a term introduced at the Milestone Integration Platform Symposium (MIPS) in early 2007. It is a concept that refers to the consequences for those who choose a single-vendor, or closed system. By staying out of ‘Proprietary Jail’, you get a best-of-breed solution, better Return On Investment (ROI) and future-proof your investments.

Milestone Systems feels this will be increasingly important as the volume of video traffic on the internet increases.

In fact we are predicting that between 2010 and 2015, the volume of video traffic will overtake voice and other data running over the internet. We see IP technology as the driver behind this next cycle for the whole industry, from processors through infrastructure, storage and of course, software.

Keep Up with the Speed of Innovation

The IT industry is approximately 10 years ahead of physical security in terms of technical evolution. In IT computing we have seen single-vendor companies like Apple and Sun fighting the multi-vendor solutions, while Microsoft Windows business management software provides an open platform approach with IBM, HP, Dell, Oracle, Canon, Toshiba, Acer, Adobe, Symantec, and Computer Associates as some of the vendors supplying hardware and software to operate with it.

Microsoft Windows became the de facto standard. This history is well known and has proven that the more the independent companies work together around an open platform, the better the solutions are that get brought to market – ultimately a real advantage for the customers. A single vendor is simply not capable of sustaining the competitive pace and will always offer less compared to the multi-vendor solutions.

Right now in the security industry, the speed of innovation is faster than any single vendor can possibly achieve or fund by themselves. Advances are being developed too rapidly from many sectors and new areas of expertise for one company alone to be able to keep up. This is why new collaborations and partnerships are occurring, as well as the mergers and acquisitions we see taking place.

A System Is as Good as the Worst Component

“You have to have a mixture of products when designing a really good surveillance solution, choosing different models and manufacturers to suit the needs of each situation. Thanks to Milestone’s flexibility we’ve had the luxury of implementing our solutions with a multitude of cameras,” says Steve Daugherty, president of Current Technologies Corporation. Since no single vendor can provide the best end-to-end solution, the most feature-rich solutions can only be multi-vendor open platform systems that can take advantage of more technology offerings.

A best-of-breed solution with top-of-the-line equipment and software is precisely what can deliver the most optimal performance. ‘Proprietary Jail’ therefore refers to such limitations on both functionality and performance. Why risk the inability to add an important new technology in future, if the single vendor you selected cannot or does not go in that direction, or does not go there fast enough for your needs? This can put your security at risk or compromise your company‘s ability to stay competitive with market changes.

It just makes good business sense to choose a flexible multi-vendor solution that leaves your options open to keep improving and getting the best return on your system investments over time.

Flexible Pricing in Multi-vendor Solutions

The flexibility of hardware choice in an open platform solution also allows you to shop around for the best components at the best prices – they are not locked into one vendor’s offerings. People like to mix and match the cameras by brand or model to suit each organisation’s exact needs – both technically and financially. „In a long process, we reviewed many, and thoroughly investigated three solutions,“ says Peter Ducato, assistant VP of Management Information Systems at F&M Bank.

„Milestone was finally selected for several reasons: its open architecture allowed a wide mix of hardware that provided great cost savings. It was the only solution that allowed us to scale the storage high enough to allow 90+ days of archived video. It fit our current needs and will also scale nicely for future expansion.“ In addition, an open platform solution usually gives the flexibility to extend larger installations camera by camera, where single-vendor solutions tied to one line of hardware can require that you extend the system in set packages of 16 cameras, for example.

Ability to Easily Upgrade Separate Components

The video management software in an open platform/ multi-vendor solution acts as the flexible core of the surveillance solution but only makes up 5–10% of the entire system investment. This part is easily upgradeable or replaceable, with all of the rest of the (hardware) elements able to be re-used. If your solution is closed, from a single vendor, you would have to replace all or nothing to upgrade or change, as the components are dependent on each other in order to operate. This is another part of the ‘Proprietary Jail’ we refer to in a single-vendor choice.

A good example of this concept in action is explained by Chris Lee, the director of operations at Global Satcom Technology: “At our Maryland offices, we self-implemented various Sony and Panasonic dome cameras, IR Cameras, and Pan/Tilt cameras through one software product that proved to be very unstable: a lot of data was never captured and the administration and support was very cumbersome. We then upgraded to another software product that was more stable – but the maturity of that interface (and what I believe should be basic features for any IPVS), as well as the ease of use was not as advanced as in the Milestone software we installed thereafter. Besides the reliability and performance the Milestone platform provides, it also offers more configurable options.”

The Question of Standards

There is a lot of talk about the need for standards in the security industry, especially with the convergence of IP technology and integrated systems. For IP video surveillance, this is especially pertinent for multi-vendor solutions. The different types of video compression codex’s (MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.263, H.264 and jpeg2000), while attempting to be standards based, are not: they differ in implementation from each camera manufacturer. This is where open platform IP video management software like Milestone XProtect is important for enabling all of the above to speak to each other in one cohesive system.

The ability to interface with different hardware is exactly why Milestone’s driver development has such a strong focus: it is the key to providing customers the widest choice in video equipment available on the market – over 40 manufacturers and 400 hardware models are supported. Milestone also publishes a very rich API (Application Programming Interface) that uses standard IT coding languages. These enable anyone to integrate the video management software with other devices or systems, like access control, video analytics, Point of Sale, ATMs, or any other data.

Move Past Go for a ‘Get Out of Jail Card’

In summary, why limit yourself to one vendor and be stuck in proprietary jail with their product development decisions and pacing when you can select the best-of-breed options with an open platform solution? The choice is yours to make. Go for it!

Eric Fullerton


Milestone Systems A/S,
Brøndby, Denmark
Tel.: +45 88 300 300
Fax: +45 88 300 301

Stefan Teuber
Milestone Systems DE,
Haag, Germany '
Tel.: +49 8072 44 2173

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