By Darren Giacomini
Security.World Note: We are fortunate to have Darren Giacomini join Security.World as a monthly columnist to share his insights and knowledge on physical security networks and what it takes to deliver the most capable video surveillance network infrastructure. We asked Darren to share with us his background and expertise as a networking system matter expert. We hope you learn as much from Darren as we have.
My journey to becoming BCDVideo’s Director of Networking has given me a unique understanding of the challenges security integrators face when implementing IP video networks. My inimitable perspective, discovered through several key revelations throughout my career, has elevated my understanding of what is possible in real-world surveillance environments.
With over 16-years working with LAN and WAN infrastructure —as well as Microsoft and Linux-based server implementations— I have cultivated an advanced skill set designing and implementing high-availability networks to support convergent technologies in both local and wide area network environments.
Through a series of monthly columns published here on Security.World, my mission is to pass on a bit my networking knowledge and advice. This may include best practices for implementing new network infrastructure —or simply my thoughts on a new emerging technology— but, I hope, it will always be a trusted source for integrators and their customers to learn about proper, modern networking in an ever-changing physical security landscape.
The Naïveté of a My Early Years
My passage into the world of surveillance started in early 2004. After several years in the Information Technology field, I had taken a job with a local college delivering technical certification content and serving on the curriculum advisory board. I enjoyed the diversity of the job – delivering certification content on A+, Network+, Security+, and the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer program.
During my tenure at the college, I was approached by a company in the area that had a particular need. At the time, this company was a major player in the Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) market but was primarily focused on the analog side of the business. Realizing the changing dynamics of the market, they were looking for a consultant to develop and deliver a curriculum with an IT focus.
By late 2004, I began developing a curriculum that would bridge the gap between analog CCTV and the IT world. My intent was to illuminate the path – to show CCTV professionals how to effectively use their existing skill set to transition into a career as an IT professional. Unfortunately, I was incredibly naïve. While my intentions were pure, my approach was ineffective. Still, this experience would later help shape my career.
Vendor Expectations Versus Reality – Epiphany #1
In early 2006, I left my job at the college and accepted a full-time position at Pelco. I spent my first year there overhauling the Endura training courses and continuing the development of internal and external network training. It was at this point, I had my first epiphany.
You can develop the greatest sports car in the world, but place it on a dirt road littered with potholes, it will fail. In turn, you can develop the greatest Video Management System, but if you place it on a poorly designed network infrastructure, it too will fail.
Over the next year, my focus shifted to obtaining expert level certifications from Cisco, Juniper, and HP. During this time, my role at Pelco changed as well. I accepted the position of Senior Network Systems Engineer and eventually Lead Network Architect. As the Lead Network Architect, I began constructing a lab that would serve to establish network baseline assessments.
Network vendor specifications and reality are often very far apart. Specifications are taken in a “perfect world” and the average surveillance environment is far from perfect. In other words, the networking equipment looks great on paper but fails in the real world. I spent the next four years at Pelco in that lab trying to distinguish networking myths from reality. That is when my second epiphany hit.
Limitless Network Technology – Epiphany #2
It was during the summer of 2013 that I was approached by Avaya with respect to 802.1AQ. Better known as Shortest Path Bridging. Avaya was convinced they had built a better mousetrap for surveillance. I reluctantly brought the equipment into the lab with the sole intention of proving them wrong, then moving on.
After all, I had spent years obtaining all these certifications and they all said the same thing – Avaya is wrong. Despite all my efforts, I couldn’t dismiss Avaya or Shortest Path Bridging. Throughout all my years of network testing, everything eventually broke, everything had a failure point. There were clearly defined boundaries and limitations for all network designs and technologies.
The problem was, I couldn’t break this one and I couldn’t find its limitations. After a couple weeks of soul searching it was clear. Avaya really had something and I wanted to be a part of it.
My Path to BCDVideo – Simplified, Optimized Networking
In early fall 2013, I accepted a position as Director of Data Product Management with Avaya. The very same technology I dismissed just a few months earlier was now my primary focus. At Avaya, I helped build a lab that would take networking assessments to the next level. Over the next few years, we would define reference topologies, establish network performance for systems up to 14,000 cameras, and test these topologies across multiple VMS vendors.
The technology was unparalleled and delivered the highest level of performance for video surveillance applications. However, it was still dependent on a level of network expertise that would not scale in the industry.
As a result, a co-worker and I began developing deployment automation for surveillance in early 2014. For the better part of my career, I had been trying to develop training to turn surveillance professionals into networking professionals. The truth is, most surveillance professionals do not want to become networking professionals.
It was time to change the approach.
By the end of 2014, we released the first automated deployment for the Virtual Service Platform line. A single line command that could program and optimize the switch for video surveillance applications without rigorous training.
When 2017 rolled around, the solution was outstanding, but Avaya lacked a team that truly understood the surveillance market. To compensate, an OEM relationship was started with BCDVideo to help leverage their expertise in the market. BCDVideo developed the Titan Networking series using the same Avaya solution at a price point that made it much more competitive in the surveillance market.
During the summer of 2017, shortly after BCDVideo launched the Titan Networking series, I joined BCDVideo as their new Director of Networking. My role encompasses managing our line of networking switches as well as running our professional services program, which includes network assessments, design, deployment, provisioning, and more.
I consider myself very lucky to be surrounded by people who are passionate about what they do and empowered by an organization that puts our customers first. To further support security integrators and end users, I will be contributing a monthly column to Security.World offering insight and analysis on the key role networking plays in physical security.
I look forward to sharing more insights with you soon.