Video storage leads to hyperconvergence for law enforcement agency

HCI platform combines VDI, long-term storage and video storage arrays

hyperconvergance
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Hyperconvergence wasn’t on Philip Lisk’s mind a decade ago, when the Bergen County Sheriff's Office started using technology from Pivot3 to store data from video surveillance cameras.

“We were trying to store video in an IP world. That’s how we got to know Pivot3,” says Lisk, director of IT at the largest law enforcement agency in New Jersey’s Bergen County, which sits across the Hudson River from New York City. A 12-year veteran of the BCSO, Lisk supervises its networks and serves as the technical consultant to the entire county for video and data security.

Well before the term "hyperconverged infrastructure" was coined, BCSO chose Pivot3 for its converged server and SAN solutions, engineered specifically for storing petabyte-scale video workloads. Yet as the technology matured over the last several years, and BCSO kept up with upgrades, the deployment evolved from a tactical video-centric project into an enterprise HCI platform that’s set to handle many of the agency’s IT workloads going forward, including its virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

For BCSO, video surveillance was the gateway to hyperconvergence, which promises to simplify data center operations by combining compute, storage and networking in a single, software-driven platform.

“We’re getting the best of the video stuff, along with the best of the VDI world, now running in one large array of servers,” he says. “It’s been a very natural progression for us.”

Booming storage demand

Over the past decade, storage requirements have spiked at BCSO, which employs 700 officers and staff members in seven locations, including the Bergen County Justice Center and Bergen County Jail. The sheriff’s office started with 100 cameras to monitor doors inside the jail, and today it operates more than 3,000 cameras installed in the county jail, courthouse and other facilities. More cameras are on the way as the county adds in-car and body cameras for officers. Over time, BCSO has expanded its storage capacity from 1 petabyte to more than 2.5 petabytes.

At the same time, the IT department gained additional end users to support when the county consolidated another administrative unit into the BCSO. Aging and outdated user equipment was the impetus for Lisk and his team to implement VDI to streamline the county’s IT infrastructure and eliminate its siloed data systems.

BCSO evaluated a handful of tech vendors and ultimately chose incumbent Pivot3 – largely for its ability to run multiple workloads on the same hyperconverged system. Running the county’s VDI solution on Pivot3’s HCI appliance clusters allow BCSO to combine VDI, long-term storage, and video storage arrays within a single hyperconverged platform. The ability to buy only what the BCSO needs now, and scale as it grows by adding additional nodes sealed the deal, Lisk says.

Would BCSO have anticipated that the same technology it invested in a decade ago to solve a tactical video-storage challenge would grow into an enterprise-wide platform? “One would think not,” Lisk says. “The old school method and ideology was: We’ve got video storage, that’s over on the left side. We’ve got data and network storage, that’s over on the right side. Two different teams, two different sets of people, and they don’t mix.”

Today BCSO takes more of a strategic approach. “We’ve continually grown using this Pivot3 platform to further our business and strategic goals – and the product has matured and grown to meet those needs.”

Benefits of hyperconvergence

Expanding the Pivot3 platform to other IT workloads has allowed BCSO to streamline IT operations and reduce complexity.

With the hyperconverged infrastructure, BCSO has been able to reduce its server count by 75% while increasing performance. In turn, that yielded a significant reduction in electrical and cooling costs, Lisk says. More efficient shared storage and compute resources have also increased flexibility for the IT team.

“I have a lot of servers -- probably sixty-something servers running video and hyperconverged infrastructure, plus 20 or 25 more coming by the end of the year – and I have one mid-level technician running all of that stuff.” Had BCSO taken a more traditional approach, Lisk estimates he would need another two people to do the same amount of administrative work.

The initial setup costs were less, and ongoing maintenance costs are less, he says. The BCSO also benefits from a simpler disaster recovery process. Looking ahead, BCSO plans to continue rolling out Pivot3’s software across its data center to move it closer to a software-driven model, Lisk says.

BCSO is currently testing Pivot3’s latest Acuity HCI product, which adds policy-based management and automation capabilities to the platform so users can automatically apply resources to high-priority workloads when they’re running multiple applications on a single infrastructure.

For other enterprises that might be considering a move to a hyperconverged infrastructure, Lisk stresses the importance of long-term thinking.

“Do your homework well. Take the extra time to plan, to make sure the decision you make is going to be a wise one that will carry you five to seven years out.”

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