Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Rocket Scientist Syndrome

I don't know if rocket scientists are the cleverest people alive, but that's how the metaphor goes.

And so the myth perpetuates - to do anything that requires expertise, requires you to be clever, maybe even a genius. My opinion is that to do something that requires expertise, you JUST need to be qualified. To be qualified I mean you have to have the technical/academic qualifications, backed up by some experience.

Just like I wouldn't have a rocket scientist give me a hair cut, I don't want someone unqualified to set up my network to handle my IP video, including all the firewalls, VLANs and multicasting parameters etc. Is it something that unqualified people try to do? Yes, unfortunately everyday. I have seen IP cameras and an NVR connected by a 4-port Linksys hub. Yes - a hub, not even a 4-port switch. They ran with choppy video for over a year before I climbed behind the dusty racks and asked the obvious question, phrased in an utterly predictable way, which I will leave to your imagination.

Video over IP is not rocket science, but to those that are unqualified it seems like it. And those that most need to harness its power are often the least qualified. Among manufacturers, dealers, system integrators and installers, I have watched only a small minority successfully learn networking. I have seen many more achieve the same end-result by sub-contracting - by bringing someone in to be the specialist. And there are plenty of them. Finally, I have even seen experienced IP video dealers offer expert consulting services to competitive dealers for specific projects - basically the market-place is self-organizing in order to survive.

To an IP-savvy person, its not video, it's data. It's not an IP camera, it's just another device on the network. It's not an NVR it's a server app and it's not an iSCSI disk array, it's nothing more than a SAN. They never look for a red LED on the front of a rack of equipment - they just wait for the SNMP trap to trigger a message to their iPhone. They know little if anything about camera positioning, backlight compensation, framerates and resolutions, AGC, PTZ lag and intelligent video analytics plus hundreds of other issues that make video security experts, experts.

My recommendation to all contemplating entering the domain of Video over IP - don't be afraid of what you don't know, just acknowledge the gap and bring in the expertise. Start looking for network-centric folks to supplement your staff, or start looking for those rare gems in your staff who are capable of learning about networks and send them to them to school. Maybe I've given my answer to how convergence will be achieved - more by the transfer and integration of people of different disciplines rather than by the osmotic transfer of knowledge.

You don't have to be a genius to tackle IP video. But you do have to know what you're doing, or know someone who does.