Tag Archives: Shared Storage

The challenges of creating a shared storage ‘spec’

By James McKenna

The specification — used in a bid, tender, RFQ or simply to provide vendors with a starting point — has been the source of frustration for many a sales engineer. Not because we wish that we could provide all the features that are listed, but because we can’t help but wonder what the author of those specs was thinking.

Creating a spec should be like designing your ideal product on paper and asking a vendor to come as close as they can to that ideal. Unlike most other forms of shopping, you avoid the sales process until the salesperson knows exactly what you want. This is good in some ways, but very limiting in others.

I dislike analogies with the auto industry because cars are personal and subjective, but in this way, you can see the difference in spec versus evaluation and research. Imagine writing down all the things you want in a car and showing up at the dealership looking for a match. You want power, beauty, technology, sports-car handling and room for five?

Your chances of finding the exact car you want are slim, unless you’re willing to compromise or adjust your budget. The same goes for facility shared storage. Many customers get hung up on the details and refuse to prioritize important aspects, like usability and sustainability, and as a result end up looking at quotes that are two to three times their cost expectations for systems that don’t perform the day-to-day work any better (and often perform worse).

There are three ways to design a specification:

Based On Your Workflow
By far, this is the best method and will result in the easiest path to getting what you want. Go ahead and plan for years down the road and challenge the vendors to keep up with your trajectory. Keep it grounded in what you believe is important to your business. This should include data security, usable administration and efficient management. Lay out your needs for backup strategy and how you’d like that to be automated, and be sure to prioritize these requests so the vendor can focus on what’s most important to you.

Be sure to clearly state the applications you’ll be using, what they will be requiring from the storage and how you expect them to work with the storage. The highest priority and true test of a successful shared storage deployment is: Can you work reliably and consistently to generate revenue? These are my favorite types of specs.

Based On Committee
Some facilities are the victim of their own size or budget. When there’s an active presence from the IT department, or the dollar amounts get too high, it’s not just up to the creative folks to select the right product. The committee can include consultants, system administrators, finance and production management, and everyone wants to justify their existence at the table. People with experience in enterprise storage and “big iron” systems will lean on their past knowledge and add terms like “Five-9s uptime,” “No SPOF,” “single namespace,” “multi-path” and “magic quadrant.”

In the enterprise storage world these would be important, but they don’t force vendors to take responsibility for prioritizing the interactions between the creative applications and the storage, and the usability and sustainability of a solution in the long term. The performance necessary to smoothly deliver a 4K program master, on time and on budget, might not even be considered. I see these types of specifications and I know that there will be a rude awakening when the quotes are distributed, usually leading to some modifications of the spec.

Based On A Product
The most limiting way to design a spec is by copying the feature list of a single product to create your requirements. I should mention that I have helped our customers to do this on some occasions, so I’m guilty here. When a customer really knows the market, and wants to avoid being bid an inferior product, this can be justified. However, you have better completed your research beforehand because there may be something out there that could change your opinion, and you don’t want to find out about it after you’re locked into the status quo. If you choose to do this but want to stay on the lookout for another option, simply prioritize the features list by what’s most important to you.

If you really like something about your storage, prioritize that and see if another vendor has something similar. When I respond to these bid specs, I always provide details on our solution and how we can achieve better results than the one that is obviously being requested. Sometimes it works, sometimes not, but at least now they’re educated.

The primary frustration with specifications that miss the mark is the waste of money and time. Enterprise storage features come with enterprise storage complexity and enterprise storage price tags. This requires training or reliance upon the IT staff to manage, or in some cases completely control the network for you. Cost savings in the infrastructure can be repurposed to revenue-generating workstations and artists can be employed instead of full-time techs. There’s a reason that scrappy, grassroots facilities produce faster growth and larger facilities tend to stagnate. They focus on generating content, invest only where needed and scale the storage as the bigger jobs and larger formats arrive.

Stick with a company that makes the process easy and ensures that you’ll never be without a support person that knows your daily grind.


James McKenna is VP of marketing and sales at shared storage company Facilis.

Quantum intros next-gen shared workflow storage product Xcellis

Quantum is offering a next-generation, high-performance, end-to-end shared workflow storage solution, called Xcellis. Consolidating media and metadata management, extending connectivity options for both Fibre Channel and Ethernet clients, and supporting hosted applications, the new system aids productivity in collaborative media environments by integrating the most important components of workflow storage into a single, easy-to-manage, fully scalable hardware solution.

Xcellis supports online work in process, ingest and delivery, and archive through Quantum’s portfolio of Lattus object storage, LTO tape and Q-Cloud services, all running on the powerful StorNext 5 media workflow platform.

Xcellis integrates realtime and “non-realtime” media production support elements in the same system. At the heart of the new solution, the Xcellis Workflow Director controls shared client access privileges and provides simultaneous client connectivity across all popular network types, including Fibre Channel and IP for SMB, CIFS, NFS and Quantum’s higher performing DLC (Distributed LAN Client) — while also supporting hosted applications. By bringing the functionality of multiple disparate components into a single system that occupies just four rack units of space, the Xcellis Workflow Director simplifies the overall storage architecture and streamlines operation and management.

Xcellis also recognizes that many operations do not require high-speed Fibre Channel and can instead take advantage of low-cost IP NAS connectivity. Xcellis improves productivity by eliminating the need for separate islands of storage and allowing all clients and workflow automation operations such as transcode, QA, and delivery to share storage with complete transparent access to all assets and content regardless of interface type or operating system.

Check out Quantum’s Alex Grossman giving us highlights at SMPTE 2015 below:

Powered by StorNext 5, Xcellis offers:
• Streaming performance needed for ingest, transcoding and delivery, important for today’s high-resolution and HDR-enabled workflows.
• Optimized high-speed Fibre Channel SAN connectivity, along with cost-effective LAN, SMB and NFS sharing options, with IP connectivity for easy deployment and integration into all broadcast and post environments.
• Intelligent, policy-driven file movement across LTO tape (LTO-6 and LTO-7), LTFS, object storage and cloud archive systems for an optimal balance of media access and storage TCO.
• High-speed collaboration across Mac OS X, Windows and Linux.

Users can start with the smallest system offered and scale smoothly to the largest system with no replacement of original hardware investment and no interruption. While nearly doubling the number of files that Quantum workflow storage can handle, Xcellis also enables users to:

• Scale capacity and bandwidth independently to realize the performance characteristics ideal for their operations, tuning performance to the roles of different individuals within the workflow.
• Protect and maximize investment by paying only for what they require, and eliminating disruptive and costly hardware changes as their system grows.
• Independently and economically scaled performance and capacity, now up to 10 billion unmanaged files or 1.4 billion managed files in up to 64 file system volumes.

Xcellis also features StorNext Connect, a full-featured management tool that supports users in configuring, deploying and scaling the entire storage system and clients and also helps them to identify and resolve issues quickly for optimal performance and maximum uptime. Quantum is continually updating StorNext Connect, and Xcellis users will benefit from a newly enhanced customer self-install feature, as well as NAS (IP client) configuration within the StorNext Connect UI.

IBC: EditShare showing XStream shared storage

EditShare, a provider of shared storage and media management solutions, is demonstrating its recently released XStream ST model at IBC2015. XStream ST is EditShare’s entry-level high-performance shared storage solution with integrated Flow Production Asset Management and Ark backup and archiving. Designed to give creative teams performance, collaboration features and fault tolerance at a lower price point, XStream ST includes NLE project sharing, ingest, transcode, remote editorial and back-up and archive tools in a single platform.

The system is designed for easy expandability, which allows facilities to scale their systems as business and production needs grow. Users can connect additional XStream ST storage to their networks and manage all as one integrated system. XStream ST is fault-tolerant with built-in RAID-6 as well as redundant power supplies, fans and OS drives. With no per-seat storage client licenses, users can connect multiple NLEs and creative clients. The system includes Flow Production Media Asset Management and AirFlow for remote editing and “review and approve” workflows. Users can archive projects to disk or LTO for secure backup of assets using Ark (disks and tape library sold separately).

StorNext Pro Foundation provides Xsan capability, integrated shared storage

Quantum is now offering StorNext Pro Foundation, a low-cost, integrated shared storage system designed specifically for smaller workgroups. It is built on StorNext 5 collaboration and workflow software platform, offering the capabilities of Quantum’s StorNext Pro Solutions to a new audience of media pros in post and broadcast.

For those of you who who enjoy, or enjoyed, working with Xsan, StorNext Pro Foundation provides full Xsan compatibility, enabling smaller workgroups — such as ad agencies and corporate video production departments that create significant amounts of video — to refresh or upgrade their Xsan storage environments.

According to Quantum, the underlying StorNext 5 platform ensures that as customers’ workflows evolve, the solution will provide the power to meet their needs for content ingest from multiple sources, collaborative content creation, on-time delivery in any format and content preservation for future monetization.

Current StorNext users can use StorNext Pro Foundation to add smaller workgroups for graphics, rendering and effects.

StorNext Pro Foundation comes in either 48TB or 96TB configurations, which respectively support five and seven simultaneous Xsan/Windows/Linux SAN clients, including two Windows/Linux SAN clients as core system components. 
Either configuration can support up to four file systems (volumes) comprising 100 million files; the 48TB configuration is upgradable to 96TB; users have the option of purchasing a StorNext AEL500 tape archive with either the 48TB or the 96TB configuration.

StorNext Pro Foundation includes one year of Quantum support with 30-minute phone response. StorNext Pro Foundation available now through select resellers.

“StorNext Pro Foundation is a great solution for smaller workgroups,” reports Dave Van Hoy, president of Quantum reseller Advanced Systems Group. “It delivers the power of Quantum’s StorNext 5 software in a complete and Xsan-compatible system designed specifically for small workgroups, providing optimized performance, reliability and service.”

EditShare qualifies Mavericks for its shared storage, asset management, archiving tools

Boston — EditShare is now offering Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) compatibility for all its shared storage, Flow media asset management and Ark archiving and back-up products.

EditShare (http://editshare.com) customers using Mavericks with Avid Media Composer 7.0.3 and 6.5.4.1, Final Cut Pro X 10.1, and Pro Tools 11.1 can connect to EditShare shared storage systems via Thursby’s DAVE 11 SMB client, or via AFP for optimal performance. Media Composer 7.0.3 editors who connect to EditShare shared storage via AFP and 10GB Ethernet will see marked performance improvements even when editing multiple streams of 10-bit uncompressed HD.

EditShare integrates high-performance shared storage solutions (XStream, Energy and Field) with video ingest (Geevs and Flow), media asset management (Flow), and archive and back-up (Ark) tools to offer broadcast and post production professionals a productivity-enhancing, tapeless workflow on a highly scalable infrastructure.

 

Facilis launches TerraBlock 6.0 with advanced user, volume management

Facilis is now shipping TerraBlock 6.0, the latest iteration of its production-proven shared storage solution, which features several improvements designed to augment usability, collaboration and performance – including Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP)/Active Directory synchronization, volume size reduction on the fly, a sleek new customizable Graphical User Interface (GUI), support for Adobe Anywhere for video and more.

TerraBlock 6.0 is available today free of charge to customers holding a current support contract.

TerraBlock is Facilis’ multi-platform, high-capacity shared storage solution that delivers highly collaborative workflows in post and content creation environments. The high-performance solution supports 8/16Gbps Fibre Channel and 1/10Gbps Ethernet through the Facilis Shared File System and is compatible with most all industry-standard creative applications.

PRODUCT HIGHLIGHTS:
– Support for LDAP/Active Directory: Synchronize user groups to TerraBlock and seamlessly manage permissions and user accounts through group access.
– Customizable GUI: An updated interface with enhanced functionality enables flexible layouts and limits on information provided to normal users.
– Volume Reduction: Shrink Multi-user Write and NTFS-formatted Single-user Write volumes to free up space in the pool of storage for volume creation and expansion.
– Support for Adobe Anywhere for video: TerraBlock is now compatible with Adobe Anywhere for video – empowering virtual teams to collaborate efficiently across projects stored on TerraBlock.
– Qualifications for Popular Industry Applications: Including Avid® Media Composer® 7, Avid® Pro Tools 11, Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve 10, Adobe® Creative Cloud and Maxon Cinema 4D R15.
– Mac OS 10.9 Mavericks Support
– Advanced Apple Final Cut Pro X Interoperability: Multi-user Write volumes are qualified as SAN locations for libraries within Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.1.

SyncBlock 2.0, a complementary archiving and backup solution to TerraBlock, is slated to be available in the coming months and will feature improved archive management, tiered storage automation and support for LTO-6.

Saatchi & Saatchi LA, recently upgraded its TerraBlock with V.6.0 software, a new 64-bit operating system and the Facilis Shared File System for Multi-user Write volumes. Editor Jonathan Hensley shared, “It’s no overstatement to say that the improvements in 6.0 have greatly improved our workflow. The update was rock-solid right out of the box, and Facilis was there every step of the way to ensure a smooth transition.”