Know Your Partner's Game Plan

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Security convergence is leading vendors to adopt one of two distinct approaches, depending on their market position. For simplicity's sake, we can call them offense and defense, although it's fair to say both are oriented toward attack in the converged space.

The "defense" label is not pejorative in any sense. Some argue that defense wins championships. Just ask my partner, Sharon, an ardent Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

But as in football, a successful strategy is built around the inherent strengths, talents and culture of the organization. If you are an integrator or reseller, your success will depend on how well you understand how your vendor partners are playing.

Of course, the common elements remain IP networking, open interfaces and converging applications platforms.

Who's on Offense?

Companies playing offense seek strength in numbers through reaching across the supply chain and forging alliances with like-minded parties. The offensive approach generally works to the advantage of smaller companies with more specialized products, but this rule is far from hard and fast.

Milestone Systems is the most adept at the best-of-breed offensive. The strategy contributed to its rapid growth and maintains the company's leadership among suppliers of open video management systems.

In order to make its video functionality that much more valuable in an enterprise, Milestone is willing to connect to any physical security to which a video component can add value. Partners include Risco (building management), VideoIQ (analytics), Briefcam (video search) and Computer Network Ltd. (physical security information management), just to name a few. The relationships are symbiotic. For example, Milestone's XProtect VMS can be managed by Risco's SynopSYS system. Milestone gets the software license, Risco and its sales channel get a broader product scope.

Still, it is important that both the Milestone and Risco sales channels grasp the relationship between the companies and how it can foster sales. Keeping up with the growing number of partnerships is a fair challenge in itself. The effort can be worth it because, at the same time, networking increases one's circle of suppliers. In addition to Milestone, Risco has relationships with Lenel Systems. Lenel Systems has a relationship with TimeSight Systems. TimeSight has a relationship with Intransa. Connect the dots and you can end up with a fairly solid product inventory that can knock down doors.

Salient Systems Gets Pro-Active


That's why smaller, up-and-coming vendors energetically embrace the offense strategy. Last week I visited with Salient Systems, an Austin, Texas-based supplier of VMS systems. The company, which had primarily focused on the Texas K-12 market, is currently in the process of expanding its footprint to reach coast-to-coast. It plans to go from 11 to 23 employees.

Salient's CompleteView system uses open architecture and is available in tiers ranging from small configuration accommodating up to 25 cameras, to enterprise systems that can handle several thousand channels along with Active Directory and LDAP integration and single seat administration.

But talk to Per Hanssen, president and founder of Salient Systems, and he will spend as much time, if not more, talking about Salient's best-of-breed relationships as he will the Salient platform itself.

"We marry the technology with the business model," said Hanssen. Salient's model, of course, is the offense approach--pro-active outreach. In addition to its partnership with Intransa, which supplied storage systems optimized for video surveillance applications, the company last month announced it is integrating with Agent Vi's video analytics.

Page:   1   2  Next  »

Security convergence is leading vendors to adopt one of two distinct approaches, depending on their market position. For simplicity's sake, we can call them offense and defense, although it's fair to say both are oriented toward attack in the converged space.

The "defense" label is not pejorative in any sense. Some argue that defense wins championships. Just ask my partner, Sharon, an ardent Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

But as in football, a successful strategy is built around the inherent strengths, talents and culture of the organization. If you are an integrator or reseller, your success will depend on how well you understand how your vendor partners are playing.

Of course, the common elements remain IP networking, open interfaces and converging applications platforms.

Who's on Offense?

Companies playing offense seek strength in numbers through reaching across the supply chain and forging alliances with like-minded parties. The offensive approach generally works to the advantage of smaller companies with more specialized products, but this rule is far from hard and fast.

Milestone Systems is the most adept at the best-of-breed offensive. The strategy contributed to its rapid growth and maintains the company's leadership among suppliers of open video management systems.

In order to make its video functionality that much more valuable in an enterprise, Milestone is willing to connect to any physical security to which a video component can add value. Partners include Risco (building management), VideoIQ (analytics), Briefcam (video search) and Computer Network Ltd. (physical security information management), just to name a few. The relationships are symbiotic. For example, Milestone's XProtect VMS can be managed by Risco's SynopSYS system. Milestone gets the software license, Risco and its sales channel get a broader product scope.

Still, it is important that both the Milestone and Risco sales channels grasp the relationship between the companies and how it can foster sales. Keeping up with the growing number of partnerships is a fair challenge in itself. The effort can be worth it because, at the same time, networking increases one's circle of suppliers. In addition to Milestone, Risco has relationships with Lenel Systems. Lenel Systems has a relationship with TimeSight Systems. TimeSight has a relationship with Intransa. Connect the dots and you can end up with a fairly solid product inventory that can knock down doors.

Salient Systems Gets Pro-Active


That's why smaller, up-and-coming vendors energetically embrace the offense strategy. Last week I visited with Salient Systems, an Austin, Texas-based supplier of VMS systems. The company, which had primarily focused on the Texas K-12 market, is currently in the process of expanding its footprint to reach coast-to-coast. It plans to go from 11 to 23 employees.

Salient's CompleteView system uses open architecture and is available in tiers ranging from small configuration accommodating up to 25 cameras, to enterprise systems that can handle several thousand channels along with Active Directory and LDAP integration and single seat administration.

But talk to Per Hanssen, president and founder of Salient Systems, and he will spend as much time, if not more, talking about Salient's best-of-breed relationships as he will the Salient platform itself.

"We marry the technology with the business model," said Hanssen. Salient's model, of course, is the offense approach--pro-active outreach. In addition to its partnership with Intransa, which supplied storage systems optimized for video surveillance applications, the company last month announced it is integrating with Agent Vi's video analytics.

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In this environment, systems integrators can be equally pro-active. Ingersoll-Rand Security Technologies tapped Salient Systems (and by extention its storage and analytics partners) for the VMS component of its network-centric Unified Solution, a best-of-breed, open systems, converged security package. Other vendors include Axis Communications for cameras and Open Options for access systems.

Who's On Defense?

The defense strategy is being pursued by older companies with broader product lines, a sizable customer base and well-established sales networks. These vendors, which include Pelco, Cisco Systems and Johnson Controls, hope to leverage all three components as security platforms shift from analog silos to open, IP-based systems.

The best example so far is the Pelco-Cisco tie-up. For the past two years, both Cisco and Pelco have been looking to exploit IP migration in security, albeit from different directions. At first, Pelco's parent, Schneider Electric, was on a course toward integrating Pelco's cameras and VMS systems with its access control systems. In 2007, Cisco began an aggressive push into video security. Both efforts seemed to have fizzled by early 2009. Then at ASIS, the two companies made something of a splash with their partnership announcement. In essence, Cisco will tie its network expertise to Pelco's security systems. Together, they can tap Cisco's enormous installed base of enterprises, as well as its influence among IT decisionmakers.

Similarly, Johnson Controls sees its push into security as a natural expansion of its building management business, where it ranks among the global leaders. Bosch Security Systems, a long-time soup-to-nuts security systems vendor, is also proving successful with this approach.

What integrators must do


Integrators and resellers should be attuned to the way vendor partners are approaching the IP transition. Of the two groups, integrators whose vendor partners are playing "defense" may face a bigger adjustment, as projects may involve more research and take more time to spec out. Best-of-breed integrators have already started down this road

Integrators should look to their vendors for training and assistance. The companies playing offense have been doing this for some years now. They continue to keep their channel educated and up-to-date. There's no reason to expect anything less.

How do integrators get a line on vendor thinking? Here are some questions to ask:

* Are your vendors playing offense or defense? Do they seek to be part of a series of best-of-breed partnerships or do they seek to use their sizable market presence to transition customers to IP while retaining account control? There's no right or wrong approach. But it's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to do both at the same time. Be wary of those who claim they can.
* What, if any, new hardware or software will you be expected or required to carry?
* The challenge of best-of-breed strategy is that it tends to commoditize products. How will vendors help you communicate ROI and value?
* What certification will you require? What training will you get on integration of best-of-breed systems? How much will this cost?
* If your vendors have a sizeable legacy footprint, at what pace will they be moving from proprietary systems to open systems? Ask for timetables. Ask how long they intend to support their older products.
* Will your vendors be expanding their channel to include IT integrators and VARs? How will that competition affect you?

Finally, whether it's offense or defense, your vendor partners should know their path out of proprietary to IP. Those who seem to be struggling with the convergence trend are beginning to pay a price (think GE Security). Others have been using the slowdown in IP camera sales as an excuse to stall. That tactic appears to have a limited shelf life, as even bearish critics like John Honovich are re-assessing earlier predictions. If your vendor can't articulate a convergence strategy, it may be time to rethink your relationship.

Question for comment:

If you are an integrator or reseller, what do you want to know most about IP and convergence from your vendors? Are you getting what you need?


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