Server Snapshots: IBM in the Real World

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Jul 27, 2007

You can't rest on your laurels when your mission is to protect 16,000 pieces of priceless Asian art. To better serve that mission, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco recently incorporated IBM BladeCenter servers as part of a DVD-quality video surveillance system. Asian Art Museum turns to IBM BladeCenter servers to safeguard its priceless collection of 16,000 pieces that span 6,000 years of history.

The blade servers work in conjunction with IP-based software from Datacom Systems in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Ethernet network switches from Blade Network Technologies (BLADE) Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., to help the facility view, monitor and digitally record activity while archiving footage over an IP network.

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"The scalability of IBM BladeCenter will allow us to increase the system's capacity if and when we need to," said Jim Horio, director of Information Technology at the Asian Art Museum.

The mission of the Asian Art Museum is to help a global audience discover the unique material, aesthetic and intellectual achievements of Asian art and culture. Holding more than 16,000 Asian art treasures spanning 6,000 years of history, the museum is one of the largest in the Western world devoted exclusively to Asian art, valued at $4 billion dollars.

According to Horio, approximately half of the objects in the museum's collection were donated by Chicago industrialist Avery Brundage in the 1960s. This served as the impetus for the museum's founding. His contribution includes some of the museum's most celebrated objects — including a gilt bronze Buddha that is the oldest known dated Chinese Buddha in the world.

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"Well-known in the scholarly world, the collection contains rare and exceptional objects which are often referenced in journals and textbooks," Horio said.

Following a five year, $165 million dollar reconstruction project, the museum received a grant to bolster its security system in October 2006. In particular, it investigated ways to supplement its analog camera-to-VCR network.

"Looped tape systems' poor quality resolution meant that incidents were not always caught in time or incriminating evidence may have been erased before law enforcement personnel had the chance to review the tapes," Horio said. "Replacing our 130 cameras with sophisticated video technology could cost upwards of half a million dollars, but DataCom's security networks running on the IBM BladeCenter platform leveraged existing analog sources and network components without adding new equipment."

Recent advances in digital video and IP networks, hardware and software can now provide facial recognition, tracking, abnormal motion detection, and data analytics, Horio said. Integrating video surveillance with data center networking and storage means that information can be recorded, played back, sent out for analysis, and offloaded to storage arrays, tape or other media in order to maintain permanent records.

Replacing all the old gear with the latest video camera technology would cost upward of half a million dollars. As a result, the museum moved away from traditional vendors in this field because they didn't have the expertise in installing and maintaining computer-based systems.

The Asian Art Museum has established a security based on ten Windows servers and two Linux servers running on an IBM i5 iSeries server (Model 9406-520) with 4GB main storage and 987GB of available disk storage, and three dual port 1Gb Ethernet adapters.

In addition, the organization uses one IBM iSeries Model 270, seven IBM X-Series servers (various models), IBM BladeCenter with three blades (HS20) uses for the security video surveillance system and one blade to test VMWare desktop virtualization.

The network uses technology from Cisco Systems, who also supplies a VoIP phone system.

On the application side, the museum uses Lotus Domino/Notes, an Esker Fax Server for Lotus Domino/Notes, Surf Control spam and Web filters, IBM Video Charger for its streaming video server and a variety of other systems for ticketing, membership and fund raising, accounting, art collections management and retail sales.

Running on IBM blades, Datacom's Network Video Servers (NVS) form the central component of the security surveillance networks. Each NVS records and displays high-quality, real-time video with an interface that permits security personnel to access and manage an unlimited number of servers and cameras through local, remote or Web access.

Because the solution compresses images on a 64-bit video capture board, it frees more than 80 percent of BladeCenter system resources for enterprise applications. An unlimited number of cameras can be monitored from a single client system with up to 32 cameras displayed within the graphical user interface. Multiple motion detection features, advanced on-screen and on-image Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) control and configurable recording settings can be managed from the interface.

"DataCom's NVS is powered by combination of advanced 64-bit engineering and DSP hardware compression," Horio said. "State of the art H.264 algorithms can be set to record only on motion, or 24/7, enabling optimized real-time analysis with pre-programmed alerts, multiple motion detection and virtual alarms. Video recording and playback is DVD-quality 30 frames-per-second/ 4CIF format, with full-duplex synchronized audio."

The BladeCenter is also equipped with BLADE's Nortel Layer 2/3 Gigabit Ethernet Switch Modules to provide needed bandwidth, speed and security to pass multiple video feeds into the storage network and to coordinate network interaction from the operators. VM Assist, an IT professional consulting and services company and Avnet, an IBM partner, implemented the Datacom solution at the Asian Art Museum.

"The role the two played was reliability, with the combination of VM Assist's surveillance expertise and Avnet's superior technical and customer support," Horio said. "Install was completed according to our plan in three days."

He said that the dependability of IBM BladeCenter coupled with advanced video management software and in-system networking allows DataCom NVS to bridge the gap between security and IT technology. As a result, this platform gives the organization the capability to easily consolidate existing security resources, and to enhance and simply data management cost effectively.

The museum selected IBM blades as the IT department believed that they provided the best approach to infrastructure integration by maximizing the use of data center space, simplifying the management of servers and networks, and reducing overall server hardware costs. In addition, IBM BladeCenter allows IT to increase the system's capacity if and when it needs to.

"Using your existing IBM BladeCenter, you can implement the industry's leading video surveillance solution with the processing power, bandwidth, security and scalability for current and future needs," Horio said. "BladeCenter offers great flexibility in I/O options integrated into the blade and chassis. The expansion blades and Interconnect Module provide increased number of CPUs, memory, HDDs, expansion cards and switch connections while preserving investment and maximizing server density."

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