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Digital, networked, CCTV solutions keep Sun Microsystems secure globally

Dedicated Micros : 18 March, 2009  (Application Story)
Digital, networked, CCTV solutions from Dedicated Micros - part of AD Group - including its high performance DV-IP Servers, play a key role in allowing Sun Microsystems, headquartered in Santa Clara, California, to enhance the security of its offices worldwide.
The Digital Video security also realises a return on investment which, to date, has resulted in savings which run into millions of dollars.

Sun Microsystems provides network computing infrastructure solutions that include: computer systems, software, storage, and services. The company's core brands range from the Java technology platform to the Solaris operating system. With 34,440 employees spread across more than 300 offices in over 100 countries worldwide, Sun Microsystems has a massive security challenge. The company needs to make sure employees feel secure, while at the same time protecting valuable assets and limiting liability.

Most security cameras are placed at building entrances and exits, providing a facial view of people as they enter and leave the facility. Video footage is most often reviewed for after-the-fact investigations of personal property thefts, which may occur more than a dozen times a month around the globe.

For more than 15 years, Sun's security organisation relied on analogue CCTV systems using VCRs to capture and store video. The disadvantages of this approach were numerous, starting with the high maintenance and support costs, in addition to the labour required to change tapes, review tapes, and replace broken tapes. When security needed to find a particular event on the videotapes, they often had to review hours of footage to locate the exact time and date.

Steve Kruschke, Sun's Manager of New Security Technologies and Applications, led the effort to find a digital solution in 2005: "We wanted leading edge digital technology to leverage our IP network infrastructure, and we needed a matrix solution to control multiple video servers from centralised regional control rooms," said Kruschke. "Additionally, we were looking for a solution that was not reliant on Windows-based personal computers."

At Sun, all employees use ultra-thin clients called Sun Rays, which have no local operating system to manage and administer. Sun Rays process only keyboard input and screen output, leaving all of the application processing and storage to the server. Employees walk up to a Sun Ray, insert a smart card, and their desktop session appears just as they last left it. Common business applications, like word processing, email, and spreadsheets are web-based and delivered through the FireFox browser. The vast majority of Digital Video surveillance systems, however, are built around the Microsoft Windows platform and require users to install a client software application on the computer that will be used to view and control video. This was unacceptable for Sun.

Sun Microsystems chose to build its new video surveillance system around the Dedicated Micros DV-IP Server, a high-performance network Digital Video Recorder and Server developed to meet the demands of professional surveillance applications.

Available in 8, 12, or 16 camera input models, the DV-IP Server supports advanced MultiMode Recording to dynamically switch resolution, record rate, and compression, in either JPEG or MPEG format, from a wide range of analog or IP cameras. Most importantly for Sun, the DV-IP interface capabilities can be accessed locally and remotely via a web browser.

"Dedicated Micros is one the very few Digital Video surveillance companies that doesn't require the installation of client software on a PC," stated Kruschke. "The DV-IP Server has no problem handling our network-based, Solaris-FireFox architecture."

Working with global distributor and systems integration partner Siemens Security, Sun has deployed approximately 1500 plus channels of video through the DV-IP Servers worldwide to date. Sun also installed multiple DV-IP Codec units. These single channel selectable encoder and decoder combination units are designed to increase the flexibility of surveillance networks.

In encoder mode the DV-IP Codec enables existing and new analog cameras to be added to an IP network, allowing Sun's legacy video surveillance systems to expand and adapt to digital without the cost and trouble of completely replacing and redesigning the installation.

Siemens Security maintains a staff on Sun campuses to handle installation and service, while a global purchasing contract streamlines the process of acquiring the Dedicated Micros equipment at the regional level.

In late 2007, Sun's operations group began looking for ways to bring large-scale Digital Video surveillance to its five regional control centres, located Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America. In the past, analog video was brought into the regional control centres using local A/D switches.

"We wanted to bring live and recorded Digital Video from local offices into the regional centres, and at the same time make the control interface more user friendly for operators," recalled Kruschke. "After gaining approval from our IT department to bring video across network, we decided to make the North American regional control centre in Broomfield, Colorado our first test site."

At the heart of the large-scale video surveillance system is the Pick-a-Point centralised command and control workstation offered by Dedicated Micros and developed by integrator and strategic partner BBV. This digital matrix solution provides an intuitive environment, allowing the display of cameras from a number of monitored sites and delivering control over any servers, DVR's, domes, and cameras in the system, while retaining all important keyboard and joystick functionality. The Pick-a-Point viewing station is a dedicated IP keyboard solution with traditional joystick control, which provides either additional control points on a Pick-a-Point system, or operates standalone to provide composite viewing and control of any Dedicated Micros NetVu Connected Server, DVR or IP camera.

"The unique embedded Pick-a-Point control system is ideal for Sun's computing environment because it is a dedicated standalone hardware based workstation, which eliminates reliability and training issues associated with PC based client software systems," said Kruschke

Several Pick-a-Point features contribute to ease of use. Site maps provide a graphical representation of camera positions, allowing the operator to easily track events from camera to camera throughout the system. Using Pick-a-Point's graphical user interface, operators can simply pick and click cameras from a site's database to view images - without having to know which DVR the camera is linked to. And the unique Pick-a-Point keyboard provides intuitive easy to use camera selection and joystick telemetry control without the need for a PC 'qwerty' keyboard.

Operators at the Broomfield control centre use the Pick-a-Point workstation for three primary activities. Guard tour is conducted around the clock, as live individual camera feeds are brought up together on a composite screen. Several times weekly, the system is used to check cameras remotely and review video quality. Finally, recorded video is reviewed on Pick-a-Point systems on an 'as needed' basis for investigations of personal property theft and other incidents.

Another new application is live monitoring of ongoing events. For example, Sun has about a dozen offices in the area of the southeastern United States that was affected by hurricane Gustav. Using Pick-a-Point and DV-IP Servers, operators in Colorado were able to help manage personnel during the event by checking live video feeds of office locations.

According to Kruschke, Dedicated Micros has provided not only great customer service, but also a willingness to listen to customer requests and use customer input in product development.

"Whenever we've had difficulties, Dedicated Micros has been there to help us work though the issues," said Kruschke. "When we saturated the network bandwidth sending video to the control centre, Dedicated Micros worked side-by-side with us to adjust video resolution and other settings."

Sun Microsystems has achieved a substantial return on its investment from Dedicated Micros' DV-IP Servers. Kruschke estimates that eliminating approximately 400 VCRs and the number of tapes required for 14-day backups saves the company $99,000 per year in maintenance globally. Even more significant is the $1.8 million in global yearly labour costs that Kruschke calculates is saved by Dedicated Micros DV-IP Servers.

Said Pauline Norstrom, Director of Worldwide Marketing at Dedicated Micros: 'The experience of Sun Microsystems in this case demonstrates the positive impact that, specifying and installing, an effective surveillance solution can have for a business. This is especially true in terms of enhanced security and, crucially, through a more efficient use of resources to deliver concrete benefits for their bottomline. The fact that we were able to offer a robust embedded approach to CCTV, which was not reliant on a Windows PC-based platform, was also a key factor in our favour for this ambitious project.'
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