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Police Prepare for Data Deluge

Video ingest and archive solution

The video surveillance workflow, from video ingest through data management and archival, to the offsite/onsite vault.

What is a government agency and how does it serve its constituents/customers?

Police departments today are generating an increasing amount of digital video files, all of which have to be stored and archived. Some of that video will need to be found, analyzed and prepared in a way such that it can be used to prosecute criminals.

For the most part, large police departments across North America create a staggering amount of video every day, including the data from surveillance cameras, police car video and even body-worn cameras. All that video needs to be saved in a system that makes it convenient to ingest the files, analyze them and recall them for later use.

Although surveillance cameras have been around for decades, digital cameras that make easy-to-save and analyze files are relatively recent, as are dashcams in police cars. Of course, body cameras are quite new, with virtually none in use as recently as two years ago. Today, body cameras are increasingly in use at police departments large and small.

With all this video/audio data pouring in from car and body cameras, there are some initiatives to create workflow that simplifies video ingest, archiving, analysis and recall. In one case, a large North American law enforcement agency installed a digital video management system to address these exact needs.

In concert with other agencies and the citizens of the city they protect, this agency strives to preserve the quality of life in the community by maintaining the city as a safe place to live, work, and visit. For the purposes of this article, the police department in question has requested anonymity, but it is a real police agency of considerable size.


Faced with managing content for a new body-camera program, this law enforcement agency braced for a massive influx of new surveillance video. When its IT department learned about a new program for body-worn video cameras that would start with 50 cameras and then grow to more than 1,500, officials realized its current storage system wouldn’t be able to keep up. The new cameras generated 2.3 gigabytes of data per hour, or 18.4 gigabytes per shift, meaning the IT team would need to build a new solution to handle the almost one petabyte of video content the department would soon be managing.

The race was on to configure the necessary system to absorb this tsunami of data. Of course, in addition to handling the data in a way that was not overly complex, there was the constant municipal need to manage costs over a lifespan that would seem long for a commercial operation.

The agency had been using Quantum LTO tape libraries for more than a decade, so it upgraded this part of the system to include a Quantum Scalar i6000 library to support expanded uses. By partitioning the library into two virtual libraries, it could support multiple applications. One virtual library serves as a target for the department’s backups, and second virtual library in the same chassis is used as a video archive.

Looking for a video archive solution, the police department talked to companies and integrators that were accustomed to handling large amounts of media data, eventually selecting Quantum StorNext. It automatically moves data between different storage tiers, including tape, to provide high archive capacity at a manageable cost. StorNext’s policies also can automatically create multiple copies of files to provide protection.

Installation and integration of the systems were uneventful, with the system coming online within the expected time schedule.


Quantum StorNext5 series data management systems.

In the new architecture, all body-camera video/audio data is ingested directly into a StorNext-managed environment, landing on a high-performance disk. The data is retained there for 30 days, and in the background StorNext automatically creates two copies of the files on tape.

One is held in the Scalar tape library as an active archive, directly available to any users needing to view the videos. The second copy is moved off-site for longer-term retention and disaster recovery protection.

The StorNext archive management system allows users to view any of the files directly through a single, file-system interface, whether the files are stored on disk or tape—no need for IT support. Using tiered storage means that the department will be able to manage nearly a petabyte of data with only 240 TB of live disk space.

StorNext’s ability to use a small amount of disk while maintaining a balance of the data on tape was just what was needed to keep the project’s costs under control. Its protection and long-term retention capabilities are also very important to the department.

The new system—which was half the cost of a disk-only approach—further optimizes this police service’s resources because the library also provides backup for its other records.

Surveillance data is unusual in many senses. It is a critical asset that must be kept under direct control—for decades in some cases. The data also must be protected but most of it will never be looked at again.

For all these reasons, it does not make sense to keep surveillance data on live disk. StorNext enables the law enforcement agency to use its existing resource—its existing tape library—to store data at a cost that was much lower than any disk-only solution.

The new system also gives the IT team another important feature: flexibility in the selection of other vendors. Although recording technology will change, it is important to avoid being locked into one vendor. StorNext provides a file-system interface, so it will work with many different camera systems and digital file formats.

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