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Panasas has been engaging with the media and entertainment market in recent years, studying workflows and partnering with companies to better understand their needs. Their ActiveStor scalable NAS is designed for data-intensive jobs, including those in post, visual effects, virtual reality and AI.

We reached out to Panasas’ David Sallak to find out more about the company and its offerings.

What type or types of storage do you offer for the M&E world?
I love a good back story, and I think ours is a great one. Panasas has been a leader in HPC for more than a decade. As more HPC capabilities are desired by M&E content producers, we are the best ones to bring it there. Panasas makes ActiveStor, a performance scale-out NAS for technical workflows with many clients needing parallel access to shared media datasets in a namespace. Our typical customer has 20 or more clients, performing a range of creative tasks, and needs more than 100TB to start working with all the media and data they use in production. Typical use cases include renderfarms, media production and conversion, and active archives.

David Sallak What are some of the biggest data storage infrastructure challenges M&E companies face today?
We find that media companies need greater flexibility from their storage as workflow requirements grow over time. It’s fairly easy these days to deploy capacity from a variety of storage makers for current needs. However, it’s difficult to change and expand that storage when more work comes in. At the same time, that work gets more complex as more creatives are added to get it done.

That’s where scalable storage makes a difference in handling facility growth. In addition, availability becomes even more important since more users are working together than before. Whenever there’s a storage outage at a growing facility, the impact is greater since more users cannot get work done. It’s quite common that a facility doesn’t realize how important this is until a significant outage occurs and staff is sent home since nobody can get access to their data. We’ve made it our mission at Panasas to protect and make available all the data that our users create as they grow.

What are the key areas where storage can improve M&E workflows?
Collaboration among artists has been proven to get more work done faster and more efficiently. Nearly all media production facilities realize this, yet most organizations struggle with the responsibility to make good choices when it comes to the right storage infrastructure to accomplish it. This is one area where quality and performance matter more than ever, and an investment in shared-access storage means productivity is not restricted but enhanced. Data is not duplicated as it is shared, because all the data is in one well-protected, fast namespace. As more capacity is needed, it can be added easily and without interruption. Having client workstations close to the shared storage is critical to meeting performance expectations from artists and creators.

How do your offerings support post jobs that require the coordination of workflows among multiple production artists?
Panasas has created ActivStor, a product that combines the best of two worlds – ease of expansion and management of NAS, with the responsiveness of SAN. ActiveStor supports post jobs well by making the applications very responsive to the media files. Our customers tell us that their edit applications feel snappier, allowing editors to make creative decisions without holding back their ideas due to the traditional sluggishness that they’ve experienced on other shared-work storage products. We’re told that facilities using ActiveStor have happy editors, because they’re free to create and collaborate without restrictions on how they create.

How do your offerings handle data-intensive jobs like VFX, VR and AI?
Compute-intensive workloads like this are where ActiveStor does incredibly well; we designed it to handle workloads similar to these high-performance computing environments. Our proven experience with large aggregate compute scenarios means that as more of these complex needs emerge, there’s already a storage platform built perfectly for it. History has a way of repeating itself. In the case of VFX, VR and AI, history has shown that aggregate computing farms handle this work better, and that’s where Panasas excels.

What are the key factors that users should consider when trying to decide between on-premise or cloud storage?
Keeping compute close to storage is key to meeting the performance requirements commonly found in post production, visual effects and format conversion where responsiveness is critical. Cloud has proven to be very beneficial in non-realtime scenarios where data is staged for later access, or for situations where lots of compute can be accessed for non-realtime processing of data that is transported back to the local users after the cloud process is completed. Several facilities combine the use of local storage with cloud because that’s an ideal setup for performance that’s balanced with the greater cost-efficiency of data-at-rest in the cloud, as well as scheduling a burst compute job beyond the need of locally-available compute and storage. The choice should not be considered either/or, but should be viewed as the best of both.

How are you making sure your products are scalable so that a production facility can grow either their storage or bandwidth needs (or both)?
Panasas has introduced a new architecture with ActiveStor where we can scale metadata independent of bandwidth and capacity for the first time. This provides greater flexibility for scaling-out storage at the point of need. If new media asset management tools cause greater metadata traffic overhead on shared-access storage, ActiveStor can scale out to support this need without adding excess capacity and undue cost. In addition, if more bandwidth and capacity is needed by the same number of users, ActiveStor can be scaled without adding the cost of compute for metadata.

Visit Panasas at NAB — Booth SL12108


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