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Increasing VMS Benefits through Cloud Deployment

by Benchmark

Milestone has launched XProtect on AWS to offer a fully functional and scalable cloud-based VMS deployment. While the benefits of Software-as-a-Services (SaaS) are well understood, what are the specific advantages of an XProtect on AWS deployment?

When considering the benefits of a cloud-hosted service-based VMS provision, there are several benefits, both for the end user and the integrator, which immediately spring to mind. Such an approach allows solutions to be implemented and configured, quickly and easily, in any location, and the required IT resources can be added as required, without the delay of ordering, delivery and installation. Additionally, as needs change, the system can be dynamically scaled whenever required.

Remote or temporary sites can be easily managed, and where necessary cloud services can be combined with on-premises systems, allowing legacy investments to be retained. Adding additional services is simplified, as are upgrades and expansions without a need to replace infrastructure.

Service-based solutions remove the need for long-term contracts or up-front financial commitments. Initial investments are reduced, and on-going costs are predictable via a subscription fee. The user only pays for the processing and storage resources they are using, and expansions to capacity are available in minutes. Some specialised IT tasks are outsourced to the service provider, and the delivery of core IT services are more cost-effective thanks to economies of scale.

While many of these benefits are common to several cloud-based services, it is worth considering some of the specific added value available from XProtect on AWS.

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Adding value

XProtect on AWS is a pre-packaged VMS application which can be implemented from AWS Marketplace using the AWS cloud platform. Leveraging AWS cloud services to allow the deployment of XProtect with full features, it provides immediate access to processing and storage which can be dynamically scaled to meet changing needs. This simplifies planning and allows systems to be expanded as and when required.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform, offering over 175 services from global data centres. With millions of customers—including the largest enterprises and government agencies— AWS is proven to lower costs, enable businesses to become more agile, and allow service providers to innovate faster.

Global availability, reliable infrastructure and advanced services were reasons why Milestone Systems chose to work with AWS.

XProtect is available from AWS Marketplace, an online software store that allows customers to immediately deploy software applications and services. XProtect on AWS Marketplace automates the operating system and VMS installation, launching a pre-configured VMS in just a few clicks.

Two products will be available: XProtect Essential+, Milestone’s free XProtect product which includes a license for up to eight devices, and XProtect VMS BYOL, Milestone’s XProtect solution which offers full feature compatibility with an XProtect on-premise system. This product requires a license which can be activated to run any version of XProtect (Express+, Professional+, Expert or Corporate).

The product is deployed as a single server system but can be manually extended to match customer needs.

XProtect uses AWS’ highly reliable infrastructure to reduce initial investment in hardware and provide unlimited access to IT resources, immediate system scaling and deployment of multi-site systems.

The secure cloud environment uses secure subnets, gateways and security groups to make the solution highly reliable. The cloud technologies make it ideal for organisations with extensive multi-site operations requiring a high level of flexibility and availability.

Accessing the VMS

XProtect on AWS is run on AWS infrastructure and deployed directly from AWS Marketplace. To be able to buy and start using the software and services, you must be an AWS subscriber. Once subscribed, you can quickly deploy XProtect with just a few clicks. XProtect on AWS is identical in terms of features and functions to XProtect deployed on-premise, meaning XProtect on AWS has full feature compatibility. With each new XProtect version released, a new AMI Amazon Machine Image of the same version will be made available in AWS Marketplace.

Milestone customers can reuse existing XProtect licenses when migrating to AWS. Thanks to AWS’ BYOL Bring Your Own License concept, customers with existing XProtect installations can reuse their existing licenses when moving to a complete or partial AWS cloud deployment. Any existing XProtect license can be used to activate XProtect on AWS.

Milestone’s service and support program, Care, applies to XProtect deployments on AWS in the same way as for traditional installations, and is transferable from on-premise to the cloud. This means Care agreements remain valid when a customer migrates to an AWS deployment.

The first XProtect on AWS product will use XProtect 2020 R2, Milestone’s product version released in June 2020. Milestone will add the most recent product version of XProtect to AWS Marketplace on the General Availability date of its on-premise XProtect release.

XProtect on AWS cloud environment is similar to a virtualised environment, so video analytics applications and other third-party partner solutions can be deployed.

The cost of cloud

Deploying a VMS is dependent on traditional size parameters such as number of cameras, retention time, stream resolution, etc., as well as on the end-customer’s usage in terms of video viewing. AWS prices vary from region to region, and the type of payment plan the customer selects. AWS operates list prices as well as negotiated prices for larger accounts.

The cost of running XProtect on an AWS cloud service infrastructure depends on a wide range of factors including the size of an installation, video retention time, usage patterns, use of reserved resources, and selected payment terms, plus possible negotiated conditions. Looking at this cost from a total cost of ownership perspective also depends on which costs are factored into the calculation.

A direct comparison between physical servers and a corresponding cloud-based instance would most likely show a cost advantage to the physical server implementation. However, when adding all additional cost parameters, the outcome becomes much more nuanced. Factors include IT operations, speed of deployment and expansion, power and cooling, physical space for infrastructure, maintenance and repairs, impact and cost of service outages, cost of over-specification to allow for future scalability, logistics, etc..

The native capability of the XProtect VMS software to utilise GPUs for heavy video processing means the AWS computer infrastructure can be optimised, which again saves costs. When deploying XProtect on AWS it is also possible to optimise data egress costs and operator workstation hardware using AWS AppStream.

Milestone will publish an AWS price calculator covering typical AWS services that are used when deploying XProtect on AWS. This calculator will be available in AWS Marketplace as well as in the partner sales tool kit.

Reliability is key

AWS cloud environment is managed and operated by skilled IT professionals, and AWS customers benefit from AWS data centres and a network architected to protect their information, identities and applications. With AWS, customers can improve the ability to meet core security and compliance requirements, such as data locality, protection and confidentiality with comprehensive services and features.

All AWS Services are GDPR ready and AWS is committed to offering services and resources to customers to help them comply with GDPR requirements that may apply to their activities.

Supporting deployment

Milestone will create a training and eLearning program related to the AWS offering, and this will be available to channel partners and end-customers, free of charge. The training modules are designed to build cloud and AWS competence.

The following training courses will be available: Exploring Milestone Cloud Solutions; Communicating AWS values; Designing XProtect on AWS; Deploying XProtect on AWS.

To be able to professionally propose, design, deploy and support XProtect VMS solutions, it is recommended that channel partners study suggested AWS training paths for different personnel categories on the AWS website.

As a part of the introduction of XProtect on AWS, Milestone is developing a set of set of tutorial and educational resources, beyond the normal sales and promotional materials. These include solution white papers, eLearning courses covering cloud concepts and how to sell XProtect on AWS, eLearning courses for AWS cloud design and deployment, guides for AWS cloud deployment, adaptations of XProtect hardening guides, solution sheets and sales briefs.

In addition, channel partners should build their general competence on AWS cloud technology.

Regarding system design, one of the major advantages of running XProtect on AWS is the ability to dynamically scale the compute and storage resources. This means the system design and dimensioning becomes less critical, as the underlying platform can be re-sized when and as needed.

Milestone will provide technical support to system integrators (and end customers when having Care Premium or Care Elite services) on the XProtect VMS on AWS, in the same way as for traditional deployments. AWS maintains the cloud service infrastructure, while the end customer is responsible for maintaining the operating system and XProtect VMS software.

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