American Dynamics Virtual Matrix (VMK) solution
Anyone familiar with American Dynamics Virtual Matrix software? It is a solution that virtually eliminates any need of using Video Matrix hardware, including keyboards if necessary. This way there is no need to purchase very expensive Video Matrix hardware (for Casino environment, typical 1,024 or higher switchers are standard) and instead, all its functionality is spread between few workstations. Coupled with redundancy that can exist with hot swappable drives, hot swappable workstations, it makes perfect economical sense to get away from these very expensive matrix switchers, thus increase life expectancy of such systems and yet provide more cost effective maintenance path in the long term.
After playing around with software for some time now, it was obvious that the hardware requirements for this type of solution is not easy to obtain in the market. Quite of few end users were buying the best hardware solutions available from Dell and HP and yet, still having serious video “dragging” effect on using this software. After testing the same hardware from Dell (XPS series) and HP (Blackbird series), it became obvious that none of these solutions from these major computer manufacturers will suffice the results that Virtual Matrix demands.
The pursuit for newer hardware and components became obvious that will allow better performance overall without any “drag” of video view, manipulation of video and operate in higher monitor resolutions. The basic VMK software was designed to operate at monitor resolution of 800x600 and take only one Intellex per monitor and even then with high end video card with dual DVI video outs, take no more than (2) monitors and view only (2) Intellex systems remotely or locally.
The challenge presented itself if someone can come up with hardware that can meet this very steep performance requirements and yet functional solutions as follows:
1.VMK is to operate in an environment with higher resolution monitor, preferably with 1900x1200 specs and provide more real estate on its usable area.
2.Allow (2) Intellex systems to overlay on each monitor (total of 32 camera shots)
3.Basic workstation with dual monitors to operate with (4) Intellex systems. (total of 64 camera shots)
4.Modify video configuration for workstation to operate with 4 monitors and extend number of Intellex systems use to total of (8) (total of 128 camera shots).
5.Modify video configuration for workstation to operate with 8 monitors and extend number of Intellex systems use to total of (16) – (total of 256 camera shots) This is for Casino requirements.
6.Modify video configuration for workstation to operate with 12 monitors and extend number of Intellex system use to total of (24) – (total of 384 camera shots) Again, Casino requirements.
According to few sources in the industry, anything over 2 monitors have not been tested... One source told us that they used single workstation controlling (4) monitors and the systems was keep crashing and they basically gave up. There were and still are rumors that several major customers desire to have systems that can take 4, 8 or up to 12 monitors and yet, nobody was able to deliver. American Dynamics does not have high end computer manufacturing facilities to truly test the full capability of their VMK solution. From what we understand, quite of few of these type of systems were sold mainly to Casinos and with excellent results, but still much more to be desired.
Well, we took this challenge and built few systems ground up using best Intel components available today to prove if it is possible to meet the above requirements. Without pushing Intel Extreme Quad Core solution in the beginning, we easily were able to achieve first four requirements. The system video card was an issue, as the NVIDIA's best did not pan out as we expected and besides with recent Intel and NVIDIA debacle, it made the build of such system more challenging. Instead we went ahead with ATI's latest HD 4870 video cards and that was the ultimate choice... We were able to get (4) monitors displaying total of (8) Intellex screen shot and were able to view total of 128 cameras... It was impressive how it worked and without any hitch.. Some of the screen shots were being share from several AD locations in the East Coast and as well as local LAN connections. No dragging of any sort and excellent performance across the board.
The main challenge started when we pursued fifth and sixth goals.. and realized that computing power was not enough – all four cores were screaming at 100% and with no headroom and the overall performance started lagging.
It was time to bring Intel's absolute best today... - Core 2 Extreme QX9775 Quad Core processors (actually we used two for this application and yes, the cost over $1,500 each) on Intel latest D5400XS motherboard that can take two processors. We stayed with no more than 4GB of RAM and run XP Professional..
Gotcha was the video cards again... and that is when ASUS came to rescue... We required to have (8) DVI outputs and yet only had (2) PCIe slots. ASUS makes excellent video cards that provide (4) DVI outputs each. With this newer video cards and with newer motherboard/processor, the results were stunning.. We actually could not believe that we actually were controlling total of (8) monitors and viewing/controlling (16) Intellex systems and actually looking at total of (256) camera shots... The system was very stable and both processors had more than 30% overhead.. allowing more resources to process at the back end. Of course the major issue became the network bandwidth, which required changes to fiber channel hardware allowing availability of more headroom for such application.
The last system was total heartbreaker at the beginning... Since Intel best of the best has only (2) PCIe slots, we knew that the computing power would be an issue... Well, ASUS came to rescue again... and provided us with one of their high end motherboards that has (3) PCIe slots and each taking quad DVI out video cards, we were able to achieve 12 monitor control system... we had to use slower Intel single quad core processor, newer ASUS motherboard and (3) ASUS ATI version video cards... The rest of the hardware was standard 4GB RAM, XP Professional, etc..
The system performance for option six still functional, but not the same as for fifth option. Overall results were acceptable, but below our expectations... Heck, this is what's available in the market and we can not change the rules or market conditions.. it was a much to be desired to achieve the same performance as option 5, but again, existing technology does not allow it yet...
With all of these above tests, we concluded that we can achieve much better and versatile VMK solution than available in the market. Regardless if Casinos require 12 monitors being controlled by a single workstation, it still will work, but realistically it does not make sense... Each user to operate 384 cameras my be desirable, but not practical. Our conclusion is that any one person operating with 256 cameras itself is already a major challenge. We do not think even now that any casino CCTV video operator actually is given a task to view these many cameras simultaneously... but then again, we may be wrong.
Any comments will be appreciated.