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1/28/2013
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Video Surveillance Feeds Big Data

For tasks including security and retail optimization, video increasingly meets data analytics. It's one more pressure on enterprise storage needs.

Big Data's Surprising Uses: From Lady Gaga To CIA
Big Data's Surprising Uses: From Lady Gaga To CIA
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What's behind the big data revolution? A variety of forces, obviously, such as the not-so-surprising fact that most of us are toting one or more data-generating mobile devices these days. But another, lesser-known factor is playing a major role as well: the growing use of video surveillance in consumer, business, and government markets.

In a phone interview with InformationWeek, Russ Kennedy, VP of product strategy and customer solutions for data storage provider Cleversafe, said these two factors are driving the rapid rise in the volume, velocity, and variety of digital information.

"Consumers now have smart devices they carry around, either phones or tablets, which generate a lot of content, including pictures, images, and audio," said Kennedy. Large amounts of data also are being generated by video applications, particularly for surveillance use. "The other thing that's driving the explosion is that more organizations are starting to run analytics on satellite pictures to detect what's changed at a particular location," Kennedy said.

[ Big data has value that's often not reflected in the books. Read more at What's Your Big Data Worth. ]

Cleversafe isn't the only storage provider that sees video surveillance as a big driver of data analytics and storage technologies. EMC, for instance, sees a strong link between video and data analytics -- and not just for security operations, but for retail operations as well.

"Through new features such as real time access, instant event search, and archiving, other departments have visibility to what is going on across retail stores. Operations can uncover theft far more efficiently, marketing can also optimize in-store promotions, and HR can better understand organizational behavior," said Hector Martinez, EMC business development lead for defense, safety, and security, in an interview on EMC's Big Data Blog.

As more organizations adopt big data platforms, the market for new storage technologies could expand rapidly. One reason is that today's solutions won't cut it for many enterprises, said Kennedy.

"Traditional storage is based on a technique that's been around for about 30 years called RAID," he said. "RAID is a way of striping data across individual disk drives, and calculating parity and all those kinds of things, to protect information."

But while RAID has worked well for three decades, it's ill-equipped for big data platforms, Kennedy claimed.

Cleversafe's solution is an alternative approach called dispersed storage, which spreads data across a variety of storage nodes. "It essentially takes data, and instead of striping it across the drives in an individual array, it slices it up into pieces," said Kennedy. "It then spreads those pieces -- we call them slices -- out over a network."

The data slices reside on various storage nodes, and can be distributed across a wide area. "You can have some of your data in Chicago, some in San Francisco, and some in Texas -- you know, spread out over a geographic region," said Kennedy. "You can simultaneously lose part of your network -- disk drives can fail, servers can fail," he added. "Those kinds of things can happen -- and they do on a regular basis, especially with very large scale systems." But with dispersed storage, "your data's still intact," he said.

Established competitors such as EMC and NetApp, as well as a number of startups, have similar storage technologies, but Cleversafe was first to bring the concept to market several years ago, Kennedy said.

And what does he think of the "big data" buzz, which some critics are claiming is more hype than substance?

"I never liked the term 'big data.' I think it's a term that has been overused quite a bit," he said. "But the problems still exist: the need for people to capture all this information from a variety of different sources in different formats, and store, protect, preserve, and analyze it."

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