From its high quality video to its excellent cost efficiency and scalability, digital security and surveillance (DSS) is no longer the future. It’s the status quo. Although analog cameras are still available and in use, they’re increasingly being pulled into hybrid DSS systems based on IP technology. What this means for designers and system integrators of DSS systems is that the focus is shifting from needing to convince customers to switch to DSS technology to helping them instead design the most reliable, best-performing systems possible for handling high-definition (HD) video, gigabits per second (Gbps) bandwidth, and petabytes of storage.
This can be a challenge for larger systems, such as ones that must handle up to 1,000 channels of real-time, HD (1080p at 30 frame per second) video processing, as well as video streaming, video tagging, and storage tasks—all while operating reliably 24/7 365 days a year. Meeting such demands requires fast processing and high throughput. In this post, I want to look into how the latest Intel® Xeon® processors based on Intel’s Sandy Bridge microarchitecture help meet these demands and several products that use these processors from Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance member Super Micro Computer, Inc.
Meeting the Bandwidth Demands
DSS solutions for large installations are composed of many different hardware and software components (see Figure 1). In this post, I’m confining myself to one of the hardest working components, the recording server.
Figure 1. Diagram of the components of a large-scale DSS system. (Illustration courtesy of Milestone Systems, a global leader in IP video management software and manufacturer of the Milestone XProtect* line of video management software.)
In large DSS systems, recording servers take the place of the network video recorders used in small installations. These recording servers are designed to handle more video channels, as well as greater video encoding/decoding and server-based (as opposed to edge-based) video analytics workloads. Recording servers handle first-day storage duties and transfers to long-term storage, plus should provide scalability to handle potential growth.
Bandwidth for a 1,000-channel IP camera surveillance system is quite substantial. At 5 megabits per second (Mbps) per stream, 1,000 channels requires approximately 5 Gbps of system throughput from end-to-end—from recording server to storage system. To reduce latency in such systems, the Intel® Xeon® processor E5-2600 product family includes a number of innovative features.
The first is Intel® Integrated I/O (see Figure 2). Where previous processors used a separate I/O controller on the motherboard, these processors merge the I/O controller directly onto the processor die to reduce latency by up to 30 percent over the previous generation Intel® Xeon® processor 5600 series. This enables data movement to and from the processor faster than ever before.
Another I/O improvement is Intel® Data Direct I/O. This technology allows Intel® Ethernet controllers and other adapters to route I/O traffic directly to the processor cache. In a traditional I/O transfer from the network interface, data must first be moved and stored in main memory—only then is it stored in cache for main processing. When processing is complete, the data is sent back to cache, and once again moved to main memory before being transferred out to the network interface. In re-architecting the flow of I/O data in the processor, Intel Data Direct I/O dedicates a portion of cache to I/O. This allows data to be transferred directly to cache from the network interface, bypassing main memory completely to reduce I/O latency. The same is true on the reverse trip when the processed data is transferred directly from the cache to the network interface. This results in significantly improved I/O performance and reduced I/O latency. In addition, it reduces system power by substantially decreasing the number of power-consuming main memory accesses.
A third I/O improvement is support for PCI Express (PCIe) 3.0. This latest industry specification doubles the bandwidth per link to greatly boost I/O throughput. Each processor has 40 PCIe Gen 3.0 lanes (compared with 36 for the previous generation) for up to 80 lanes in a two-socket system.
Figure 2. Throughput enhancements of the Intel® Xeon® processor E5-2600 product family.
To further pump up bandwidth (see Figure 3), the Intel Xeon processor E5 series features:
- Up to 16 cores in a two-socket system
- Intel® Hyper-Threading (HT) Technology for up to 32 threads in a two-socket system
- A ring topology enable all cores to access last level cache simultaneously
- Eight channels of DDR3 1600 MHz in a two-socket system (compared to six channels in the previous generation) for up to 33% greater memory bandwidth
- Up to two Intel® QuickPath Interconnect links between sockets to speed up data transfer between processors and maximize multi-core processor performance.
Figure 3. Dual-socket configurations of Intel® Xeon® processor E5-2600 series-based platforms include a wide variety of enhancements that make them ideal for compute-intensive, high bandwidth video surveillance workloads.
To keep up with video encoding and decoding and ensure real-time video display and viewing capabilities, recording server performance is critical. Performance is also important for providing real-time video analytics when tasked with that chore as well.
Transcoding applications requires a tremendous amount of compute performance to deliver real-time viewing from large numbers of cameras. In the past, expensive digital signal processors (DSPs) were the
preferred choice for high-end encoding, but today’s multi-core Intel® architecture processors are providing a compelling alternative by supplying exceptional computing horsepower, along with extensive software flexibility and excellent cost savings. Software encoding also future-proofs the platform, providing greater investment protection. For example, performing encoding and decoding in software makes it easier to support new video formats without requiring any hardware changes.
Intel Xeon processors offer video decoding/encoding flexibility through a software approach, enabling a wide variety of video formats, such as MPEG4 and H.264, to be implemented on a server platform. This enables DSS system designers to choose their preferred formats. What’s more, platforms can be easily upgraded when more advanced codec formats become available in the future.
Supporting up to eight cores per processor and up to 768GB of system memory, the Intel® Xeon® processor E5 product families increase performance by up to 80 percent compared to the previous generation. Some contributors to this performance gain, in addition to the already mentioned Intel HT Technology, include:
- Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0. This feature automatically increases processor and individual core frequencies to take advantage of available power and thermal headroom to give more performance when it’s needed and greater power efficiency. Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 in the Xeon processor E5-2600 product family enables higher turbo speeds than the previous generation. The top Intel Xeon processor 5690 with one active core could only turbo up to 266 MHz. In comparison, the E5-2690 can increase frequency up to 900 MHz on a single active core.
- Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (Intel® AVX). These instructions double the size of the register used to process the instruction to 256 bits. This speeds up image, audio and video processing, enabling twice the amount of work in the same clock cycle as the previous generation.
- Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard–New Instructions (Intel® AES-NI). Incorporating the latest release of Intel AES-NI, the Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 family enables faster, more efficient encryption/decryption performance without increasing overhead. This can be an important performance feature in DSS systems seeking to secure video files.
Example of an Optimized Recording Server Solution
Supermicro provides a wide variety of embedded servers that are application-optimized, cost-effective and ideal for applications such as DSS recording servers and network video recorders (NVRs). Based on the Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 family, these highly dense yet compact server designs provide excellent networking, storage and I/O expansion capabilities. What’s more, Supermicro includes a number of high-efficiency power supply options and thermal design features to save energy, operate at lower decibels, and minimize system power consumption.
The 4U Supermicro 6047R-TXRF is a prime example (see Figure 4). This dual-socket SuperServer* uses the Intel® Xeon® processor E5-2600 family to deliver high throughput for video streams. The server provides real-time recording, processing and mass storage of security footage from a large number of cameras through support for up to 512GB of memory in 16x DIMMs, 5x 3.5” hot-swap SAS2/SATA3 hard drive bays, 3x 5.25” peripheral drive bays (replaceable with an 8x 2.5” hot-swap HDD module—CSE-M28SAB-OEM), SAS2/SATA3 (6Gbps) controller, and integrated RAID capabilities. The included Intel® i350 dual-port Gigabit Ethernet provides excellent connectivity and performance, supporting 10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, and 1000BASE-T RJ45 output. What’s more, with its MBD-X9DRX+-F motherboard with 11x PCIe slots, this SuperServer offers flexible expansion for 10GbE LAN, as well as additional SAS/RAID controllers, while still providing plenty of slots for additional video feeds. With redundant high-efficiency power supplies, advanced cooling options, and hot-swappable 8x HDD module for easy archiving, this system provides high availability for the most demanding, mission critical DSS applications.
Figure 4. Supermicro 11x PCI Slot SuperServer SYS-6047R-TXRF, HDD Expansion Module (CSE-M28SAB-OEM), and included motherboard MBD-X9DRX+-F.
For a look at the wide range of embedded server building block solutions Supermicro offers developers, visit www.supermicro.com/Embedded.
Have some thoughts on what makes the ideal recording server? Please send them my way.
Supermicro is an Affiliate member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. Milestone Systems is a General member of the Alliance.
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance
Associate Editor, Embedded Innovator magazine