Defining cloud-native video security

Garrett Helmer, March 17 2022
4 mins
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Two weeks ago we announced the first cloud-native multisensor security camera with embedded analytics in the industry: Ava Quad, which will be available in Q2 of this year. Our customers and channel partners met the announcement with excitement, as it will expand the diverse and growing portfolio of cloud-native security cameras. The announcement also raised a few eyebrows and even some objections from those who claim that “cloud-capable” multisensor surveillance cameras already exist. Today I’m not going to debate whether or not existing multisensor cameras can connect to a “cloud” service, but instead, I will treat the question of what exactly is cloud-native? What does this truly mean in today’s cloud and SaaS-driven technology environment?

What is a cloud video security camera?

First, let’s tackle the easiest qualifier—or disqualifier—based on the following question: does the security camera require any on-premise hardware or software? If the camera itself needs to interact with an on-prem video recorder, management server, or firmware server, it cannot be cloud-native. Additionally, it should be possible to simply plug in the security camera and have it automatically connect to the cloud. There should be no need to connect to the device and configure where it needs to connect to or provide additional information. On top of these, access to the live or recorded video should not require the installation of a dedicated desktop application. In a world where every IT department has an imperative to reduce on-site infrastructure and applications, more and more IT and security professionals seek cloud-native physical security solutions that require no infrastructure or software installation. This is key, but not the whole story.

Passing this first qualifier doesn’t necessarily mean you now have a cloud-native surveillance camera. In every industry, whether it’s voice, video conferencing, enterprise print management, and other enterprise software, we’ve seen time and time again the legacy vendors (ones who traditionally require software to be installed on dedicated on-prem servers) take the exact same software but install it onto a dedicated server. The server—  physical or virtual—is in someone else’s data center infrastructure, and the vendors then rent it back to the customer “as-a-service,” calling it cloud. In the video security industry, a VMS living in a hosted environment does help customers reduce their on-prem infrastructure, but this model is far from being cloud-native. Let’s explore why.

What is cloud video security?

First, a vendor "hosting" servers is not a multi-tenant cloud service. Hosted refers to a dedicated physical or virtual server that needs to be provisioned and configured for software to be installed. Secondly, the "hosted" (i.e., not cloud) server has finite resources in this model. It does not infinitely scale. Once the limit of supported security cameras is reached, more servers need to be installed. Lastly, servers in a hosted environment are not immutable, meaning if the server fails, additional virtual compute resources are not automatically and immediately spun up to ensure availability. At best, you would have to configure a separate failover server, introducing more cost and complexity. What's more, having an on-prem solution running as a virtualized server still requires the same management overheads and compatibility problems as running it locally."

To sum up this second qualifier, a true cloud-native service must be multi-tenant, highly scalable, immutable, with available compute resources in multiple geographic locations. Additionally, it doesn't require the installation of management software, and real-time feature updates are delivered with no effort on the customer's part. All the end-user needs to do is log in via a browser or mobile device to interact with the security camera.

Secure Internet connectivity

This brings us to our third cloud-native qualifier: what type of network is required for both the camera and the users? This one is simple. Internet. That's it. The camera only needs an internet connection to reach its cloud service. The admins and users simply need a browser or mobile app and a plain, 'ole Internet connection. No VPN, no unique network settings. Just the Internet. If your camera requires you to configure the particular network or VPN settings, then it is not cloud-native. If you have to be on a dedicated network or VPN (even if the service is hosted outside your premises) to access the camera, then the service is not cloud-native. In addition, all network connections must be encrypted and initiated from the camera towards the cloud, with no need for incoming ports to be opened in the firewall. Insecure protocols and opening ports have no place in the cloud-native world.

Open cloud security for full flexibility

Note that not all cloud-native solutions are created equal. Before selecting a cloud solution, consider whether the cloud service is open. Does it, by its very nature, provide for interoperability and integrations with other third-party cloud services? I would argue that in today’s open API economy, best-in-breed cloud applications connect and interact with each other through open APIs. This may narrow the choice of which cloud-native solution is the right one, even if qualifiers one to three are met. Customers want choice; they want to choose the applications that best solve their unique challenges, whether this is cloud-based access control, sensors, or even S3 compatible storage for cloud backup.

To sum up: what makes Ava Quad a true cloud video security camera?

So let’s revisit our recent claim of Ava Quad being the first cloud-native multisensor camera in the industry, using the qualifiers above for cloud-native:

1. The infrastructure qualifier:

Does Ava Quad function without the need for any additional on-prem infrastructure, i.e., VMS, gateway or NVR, etc.?

Does Ava Quad automatically connect to the Ava cloud without any need for configuration of how to reach the cloud?

Does Ava Aware avoid the need for installing software to install cameras, view videos, upgrade, and manage the system?

2. The cloud-service qualifier(s):

Does Ava Quad connect to a true multi-tenant (not hosted servers) cloud service, which is immutable, highly scalable, and provides geodiversity and redundancy?

Does Ava Quad connect to a cloud service built on a continuous delivery model? Are new features delivered without the customer or managed service provider needing to update or patch VMS software?

Can admins and end-users access Ava Quad via a browser or mobile app with a simple internet connection (No VPN or dedicated network)?

3. The network qualifier:

Can Ava Quad access its cloud service with a simple internet connection?

Does Ava Quad use encryption for all connections?

Does Ava Quad work without opening incoming firewall ports?

4. The open API differentiator:

Does Ava Quad connect to a service that allows for open API connectivity to other third-party cloud services, such as access control systems, environmental sensors, S3 compatible cloud storage, etc.?


To learn more about the largest portfolio of cloud-native video security cameras with edge analytics on the market and watch the power of Quad, visit us at ISC West at booth #2097, March 22-25, 2022. Register now if you haven't already. 

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