Video storage starts sheriff’s office on road to software-defined data center

What started as a video storage solution for the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office expanded to virtual desktop infrastructure and will soon include hyperconverged infrastructure.

The growing use of video by law enforcement gets plenty of media attention, but there’s more to it than capturing the actions of officers or recording incidents from jail or courthouse cameras. There’s also the question of how to store all that data. For the Bergen County, N.J., Sheriff’s Office, the answer lies in a virtual environment.

The office originally tapped Pivot3 for its large-data storage needs, and this year it began implementing a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). In the fall, the office will upgrade even further by implementing a hyperconverged infrastructure.

Until recently, the sheriff’s office was using standard desktop deployments such as Microsoft System Centers and configuration management tools.

“It was a lot more involved and a lot more labor -- physical labor -- to ensure that all the computers were doing what they needed to do,” said Philip Lisk, the office’s director of information technology. “The reporting is a little slower…. updates and upgrades to everything were more time consuming. It took longer to prepare a new deployment, it took longer to test a new deployment, it took longer to ensure that a new deployment was out. And if we ever had to roll back, it was a major event trying to roll back to a previous version.”

Now, “new deployments are going out in minutes, and if there was an issue of rolling something back, it was a matter of minutes,” Lisk said. “We have literally saved hundreds of hours of man-hours by going to a VDI deployment.”

But this is only the initial implementation. The hyperconverged infrastructure is coming soon and will combine the virtual desktop environment with the large-scale video storage.

“They’ll be sitting all together, basically, on one large server -- sharing resources, sharing data space, sharing RAM, sharing CPU utilization. All those things will be comingled between them,” Lisk said. The combination of high data availability and processing power means “end users never know any difference about what’s happening in the background,” he said.

In the virtual environment, the risk of security-related downtime is also decreased because the virtual machines are distributed across the Pivot3 array. That means that if one server fails, the VM can run on the remaining servers. “You can also lose a complete appliance and never lose data, an array or a VM.”

A water leak in the server room that took out an appliance justified the new system, he added. The ruined server was removed from the array and replaced two days later without any disruption to end users.

Hyperconvergence will help further simplify management in addition to increasing storage capacity. Lisk and his team can add capacity by making changes to the storage settings without having to buy more space or reconfigure devices. “Having everything on the same server makes everything much faster,” he added.

For sheriff’s office users, it’s pretty much business as usual, but when they first moved from traditional desktop to virtual desktop, they were amazed at how much faster things were running, according to Lisk. “They were very happy with how things just popped onto their desktop. They had never had that happen,” he said.

Besides the technological advantages the office has gained with Pivot3' solution, it’s also seeing its costs decrease. For instance, electricity and cooling needs have gone down, as have management costs. Lisk said he expects a return on investment of 330 percent in the first year. Contributing to that are $22,000 in savings in the upfront solution investment, compared to refreshing desktops, and $1,538 in desktop support costs per user.

“Add in the additional savings for a converged infrastructure, and I expect to gain even more in the management and support savings areas,” he added.

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