Tag Archives: SAN

A Technologist’s Data Storage Primer

By Mike McCarthy

Storage is the concept of keeping all of the files for a particular project or workflow, but they may not all be stored in the same place — different types of data have different requirements and different storage solutions have different strengths and features.

At a fundamental level, most digital data is stored on HDDs or SSDs. HDDs, or hard disk drives, are mechanical devices that store the data on a spinning magnetic surface and move read/write heads over that surface to access the data. They currently max out around 200MB/s and 5ms latency.

SSDs, or solid-state drives, involve no moving parts. SSDs can be built with a number of different architectures and interfaces, but most are based on the same basic Flash memory technology as the CF or SD card in your camera. Some SSDs are SATA drives that use the same interface and form factor as a spinning disk for easy replacement in existing HDD-compatible devices. These devices are limited to SATA’s bandwidth of 600MB/s. Other SSDs use the PCIe interface, either in full-sized PCIe cards or the smaller M.2 form factor. These have much higher potential bandwidths, up to 3000MB/s.

Currently, HDDs are much cheaper for storing large quantities of data but require some level of redundancy for security. SSDs are also capable of failure, but it is a much more rare occurrence. Data recovery for either is very expensive. SSDs are usually cheaper for achieving high bandwidth, unless large capacities are also needed.

RAIDs
Traditionally, hard drives used in professional contexts are grouped together for higher speeds and better data security. These are called RAIDs, which stands for redundant array of independent disks. There are a variety of different approaches to RAID design that are very different from one another.

RAID-0 or striping is technically not redundant, but every file is split across each disk, so each disk only has to retrieve its portion of a requested file. Since these happen in parallel, the result is usually faster than if a single disk had read the entire file, especially for larger files. But if one disk fails, every one of your files will be missing a part of its data, making the remaining partial information pretty useless. The more disks in the array, the higher the chances of one failing, so I rarely see striped arrays composed of more than four disks. It used to be popular to create striped arrays for high-speed access to restorable data, like backed-up source footage, or temp files, but now a single PCIe SSD is far faster, cheaper, smaller and more efficient in most cases.

Sugar

RAID-1 or mirroring is when all of the data is written to more than one drive. This limits the array’s capacity to the size of the smallest source volume, but the data is very secure. There is no speed benefit to writes since each drive must write all of the data, but reads can be distributed across the identical drives with similar performance as RAID-0.

RAID-3, -5 and -6 try to achieve a balance between those benefits for larger arrays with more disks (minimum three). They all require more complicated controllers, so they are more expensive for the same levels of performance. RAID-3 stripes data across all but one drive and then calculates and stores parity (odd/even) data across the data drives and stores it on the last drive. This allows the data from any single failed drive to be restored, based on the parity data. RAID-5 is similar, but the parity volume is alternated depending on the block, allowing the reads to be shared across all disks, not just the “data drives.”

So the capacity of a RAID-3 or RAID-5 array will be the minimum individual disk capacity times the number of disks minus one. RAID-6 is similar but stores two drives worth of parity data, which via some more advanced math than odd/even, allows it to restore the data even if two drives fail at the same time. RAID-6 capacity will be the minimum individual disk capacity times the number of disks minus two, and is usually only used on arrays with many disks. RAID-5 is the most popular option for most media storage arrays, although RAID-6 becomes more popular as the value of the data stored increases and the price of extra drives decreases over time.

Storage Bandwidth
Digital data is stored as a series of ones and zeros, each of which is a bit. One byte is 8 bits, which frequently represents one letter of text, or one pixel of an image (8-bit single channel). Bits are frequently referenced in large quantities to measure data rates, while bytes are usually referenced when measuring stored data. I prefer to use bytes for both purposes, but it is important to know the difference. A Megabit (Mb) is one million bits, while a Megabyte (MB) is one million bytes, or 8 million bits. Similar to metric, Kilo is thousand, Mega is million, Giga is billion, and Tera is trillion. Anything beyond that you can learn as you go.

Networking speeds are measured in bits (Gigabits), but with headers and everything else, it is safer to divide by 10 when converting speed into bytes per second. Estimate 100MB/s for Gigabit, up to 1000MB/s on 10GB, and around 500MB/s for the new N-BaseT standard. Similarly, when transferring files over a 30Mb Internet connection, expect around 3MB/s, then multiple by 60 or 3,600 to get to minutes or hours (180MB/min or 9600MB/hr in this case). So if you have to download a 10GB file on that connection, come back to check on it in an hour.

Magnopus

Because networking standards are measured in bits, and because networking is so important for sharing video files, many video file types are measured in bits as well. An 8Mb H.264 stream is 1MB per second. DNxHD36 is 36Mb/s (or 4.5MB/s when divided by eight), DV and HDV are 25Mb, DVCProHD is 100Mb, etc. Other compression types have variable bit rates depending on the content, but there are still average rates we can make calculations from. Any file’s size divided by its duration will reveal its average data rate. It is important to make sure that your storage has the bandwidth to handle as many streams of video as you need, which will be that average data rate times the number of streams. So 10 streams of DNxHD36 will be 360Mb or 45MB/s.

The other issue to account for is IO requests and drive latency. Lots of small requests require not just high total transfer rates, but high IO performance as well. Hard drives can only fulfill around 100 individual requests per second, regardless of how big those requests are. So while a single drive can easily sustain a 45MB/s stream, satisfying 10 different sets of requests may keep it so busy bouncing between the demands that it can’t keep up. You may need a larger array, with a higher number of (potentially) smaller disks to keep up with the IO demands of multiple streams of data. Audio is worse in this regard in that you are dealing with lots of smaller individual files as your track count increases, even though the data rate is relatively low. SSDs are much better at handling larger numbers of individual requests, usually measured in the thousands or tens of thousands per second per drive.

Storage Capacity
Capacity on the other hand is simpler. Megabytes are usually the smallest increments of data that we have to worry about calculating. A media type’s data rate (in MB/sec) times its duration (in seconds) will give you its expected file size. If you are planning to edit a feature film with 100 hours of offline content in DNxHD36, that is 3600×100 seconds, times 4.5MB/s, equaling 1620000MB, 1620GB, or simply about 1.6TB. But you should add some headroom for unexpected needs, and then a 2TB disk is about 1.8TB when formatted, so it will just barely fit. It is probably worth sizing up to at least 3TB if you are planning to store your renders and exports on there as well.

Once you have a storage solution of the required capacity there is still the issue of connecting it to your system. The most expensive options connect through the network to make them easier to share (although more is required for true shared storage), but that isn’t actually the fastest option or the cheapest. A large array can be connected over USB3 or Thunderbolt, or via the SATA or SAS protocol directly to an internal controller.

There are also options for Fibre Channel, which can allow sharing over a SAN, but this is becoming less popular as 10GbE becomes more affordable. Gigabit Ethernet and USB3 won’t be fast enough for high-bandwidth files to playback, but 10GbE, multichannel SAS, Fibre Channel and Thunderbolt can all handle almost anything up to uncompressed 4K.

Direct attached storage will always have the highest bandwidth and lowest latency, as it has the fewest steps between the stored files and the user. Using Thunderbolt or USB adds another controller and hop, Ethernet even more so.

Different Types of Project Data
Now that we know the options for storage, let’s look at the data we anticipate needing to store. First off we will have lots of video footage of source media (either camera original files, transcoded editing dailies, or both). This is usually in the Terabytes, but the data rates vary dramatically — from 1Mb H.264 files to 200Mb ProRes files to 2400Mb Red files. The data rate for the files you are playing back, combined with the number of playback streams you expect to use, will determine the bandwidth you need from your storage system. These files are usually static in that they don’t get edited or written to in any way after creation.

The exceptions would be sidecar files like RMD and XML files, which will require write access to the media volume. If a certain set of files is static, as long as a backup of the source data exists, they don’t need to be backed up on a regular basis and don’t even necessarily need redundancy. Although if the cost of restoring that data would be high, in regards to lost time during that process, some level of redundancy is still recommended.

Another important set of files we will have is our project files, which actually record the “work” we do in our application. They contain instructions for manipulating our media files during playback or export. The files are usually relatively small, and are constantly changing as we use them. That means they need to be backed up on a regular basis. The more frequent the backups, the less work you lose when something goes wrong.

We will also have a variety of exports and intermediate renders over the course of the project. Whether they are flattened exports for upload and review, VFX files or other renders, these are a more dynamic set of files than our original source footage. And they are generated on our systems instead of being imported from somewhere else. These can usually be regenerated from their source projects, if necessary, but the time and effort required usually makes it worth it to invest in protecting or backing them up. In most workflows, these files don’t change once they are created, which makes it easier to back them up if desired.

There will also be a variety of temp files generated by most editing or VFX programs. Some of these files need high-speed access for best application performance, but they rarely need to be protected or backed up because they can be automatically regenerated by the source applications on the fly if needed.

Choosing the Right Storage for Your Needs
Ok, so we have source footage, project files, exports and temp files that we need to find a place for. If you have a system or laptop with a single data volume, the answer is simple: It all goes on the C drive. But we can achieve far better performance if we have the storage infrastructure to break those files up onto different devices. Newer laptops frequently have both a small SSD and a larger hard disk. In that case we would want our source footage on the (larger) HDD, while the project files should go on the (safer) SSD.

Usually your temp file directories should be located on the SSD as well since it is faster, and your exports can go either place, preferably the SSD if they fit. If you have an external drive of source footage connected, you can back all files up there, but you should probably work from projects stored on the local system, playing back media from the external drive.

A professional workstation can have a variety of different storage options available. I have a system with two SSDs and two RAIDs, so I store my OS and software on one SSD, my projects and temp files on the other SSD, my source footage on one RAID and my exports on the other. I also back up my project folder to the exports RAID on a daily basis, since the SSDs have no redundancy.

Individual Store Solution Case Study Examples
If you are natively editing a short film project shot on Red, then R3Ds can be 300MB/s. That is 1080GB/hour, so five hours of footage will be just over 5TB. It could be stored on a single 6TB external drive, but that won’t give you the bandwidth to play back in real-time (hard drives usually top out around 200MB/s).

Striping your data across two drives in one of those larger external drives would probably provide the needed performance, but with that much data you are unlikely to have a backup elsewhere. So data security becomes more of a concern, leading us toward a RAID-5-based solution. A four-disk array of 2TB drives provides 6TB of usable storage at RAID-5 (4x2TB = 8TB raw capacity, minus 2TB of parity data equals 6TB of usable storage capacity). Using an array of 8 1TB drives would provide higher performance, and 7TB of space before formatting (8x1TB = 8TB raw capacity, minus 1TB of parity, because a single drive failure would only lose 1TB of data in this configuration) but will cost more. (eight-port RAID controller, eight-bay enclosure, and two 1TB drives are usually more expensive than one 2TB drive.)

Larger projects deal with much higher numbers. Another project has 200TB of Red footage that needs to be accessible on a single volume. A 24-bay enclosure with 12TB drives provides 288TB of space, minus two drives worth of data for RAID-6 redundancy (288TB raw-[2x12TB for parity]=264TB usable capacity), which will be more like 240TB of space available in Windows once it is formatted.

Sharing Storage and Files With Others
As Ethernet networking technology has improved, the benefits of expensive SAN (storage area network) solutions over NAS (network attached storage) solutions has diminished. 10Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) transfers over 1GB of data a second and is relatively cheap to implement. NAS has the benefit of a single host system controlling the writes, usually with software included in the OS. This prevents data corruption and also isolates the client devices from the file system allowing PC, Mac and Linux devices to all access the same files. This comes at the cost of slightly increased latency and occasionally lower total bandwidth, but the prices and complexity of installation are far lower.

So now all but the largest facilities and most demanding workflows are being deployed with NAS-based shared storage solutions. This can be as simple as a main editing system with a large direct attached array sharing its media with an assistant station, over a direct 10GbE link, for about $50. This can be scaled up by adding a switch and connecting more users to it, but the more users sharing the data, the greater the impact on the host system, and the lower the overall performance. Over 3-4 users, it becomes prudent to have a dedicated host system for the storage, for both performance and stability. Once you are buying a dedicated system, there are a variety of other functionalities offered by different vendors to improve performance and collaboration.

Bin Locking and Simultaneous Access
The main step to improve collaboration is to implement what is usually referred to as a “bin locking system.” Even with a top-end SAN solution and strict permissions controls there is still the possibility of users overwriting each other’s work, or at the very least branching the project into two versions that can’t easily be reconciled.

If two people are working on the same sequence at the same time, only one of their sets of changes is going to make it to the master copy of the file without some way of combining the changes (and solutions are being developed). But usually the way to avoid that is to break projects down into smaller pieces and make sure that no two people are ever working on the exact same part. This is accomplished by locking the part (or bin) of the project that a user is editing so that no one else may edit it at the same time. This usually requires some level of server functionality because it involves changes that are not always happening at the local machine.

Avid requires specific support for that from the storage host in order for it to enable that feature. Adobe on the other hand has implemented a simpler storage-based solution, which is effective but not infallible, that works on any shared storage device that offers users write access.

A Note on iSCSI
iSCSI arrays offer some interesting possibilities for read-only data, like source footage, as iSCSI gives block-level access for maximum performance and runs on any network without expensive software. The only limit is that only one system can copy new media to the volume, and there must be a secure way to ensure the remaining systems have read-only access. Projects and exports must be stored elsewhere, but those files require much less capacity and bandwidth than source media. I have not had the opportunity to test out this hybrid SAN theory since I don’t have iSCSI appliances to test with.

A Note on Top-End Ethernet Options
40Gb Ethernet products have been available for a while and we are now seeing 25GB and 100Gb Ethernet products as well. 40Gb cards can be gotten quite cheaply, and I was tempted to use them for direct connect, hoping to see 4GB/s to share fast SSDs between systems. But 40Gb Ethernet is actually a trunk of four parallel 10Gb links and each individual connection is limited to 10Gb. It is easy to share the 40Gb of aggregate bandwidth across 10 systems accessing a 40Gb storage host, but very challenging to get more than 10Gb to a single client system. Having extra lanes on the highway doesn’t get you to work any faster if there are no other cars on the road, it only helps when there is lots of competing traffic.

25Gb Ethernet on the other hand will give you access to nearly 3GB/s for single connections, but as that is newer technology, the prices haven’t come down yet ($500 instead of $50 for a 10GbE direct link). 100Gb Ethernet is four 25Gb links trunked together, and subject to the same aggregate limitations as 40Gb.

Main Image: Courtesy of Sugar Studios LA


Mike McCarthy is an online editor/workflow consultant with 10 years of experience on feature films and commercials. He has been involved in pioneering new solutions for tapeless workflows, DSLR filmmaking and multi-screen and surround video experiences. Check out his site.

Storage Roundtable

Manufacturers weigh in on trends, needs.

By Randi Altman

Storage is the backbone of today’s workflows, from set to post to archive. There are many types of storage offerings from many different companies, so how do you know what’s right for your needs?

In an effort to educate, we gathered questions from users in the field. “If you were sitting across a table from makers of storage, what would you ask?”

The following is a virtual roundtable featuring a diverse set of storage makers answering a variety of questions. We hope it’s helpful. If you have a question that you would like to ask of these companies, feel free to email me directly at randi@postPerspective.com and I will get them answered.

SCALE LOGIC’S BOB HERZAN
What are the top three requests you get from your post clients?
A post client’s primary concern is reliability. They want to be assured that the storage solution they are buying supports all of their applications and will provide the performance each application will need when they need it. The solution needs the ability to interact with MAM or PAM solutions and they need to be able to search and retrieve their assets and to future proof, scale and manage the storage in a tiered infrastructure.

Secondly, the client wants to be able to use their content in a way that makes sense. Assets need to be accessible to the stakeholders of a project, no matter how big or complex the storage ecosystem.

Finally, the client wants to see the options available to develop a long-term archiving process that can assure the long-term preservation of their finished assets. All three of these areas can be very daunting to our customers, and being able to wade through all of the technology options and make the right choices for each business is our specialty.

How should post users decide between SAN, NAS and object storage?
There are a number of factors to consider, including overall bandwidth, individual client bandwidth, project lifespan and overall storage requirements. Because high-speed online storage typically has the highest infrastructure costs, a tiered approach makes the most sense for many facilities, where SAN, NAS, cloud or object storage may all be used at the same time. In this case, the speed with which a user will need access to a project is directly related to the type of storage the project is stored on.

Scale Logic uses a consultative approach with our customers to architect a solution that will fit both their workflow and budget requirements. We look at the time it takes to accomplish a task, what risks, if any, are acceptable, the size of the assets and the obvious, but nonetheless, vital budgetary considerations. One of the best tools in our toolbox is our HyperFS file system, which allows customers the ability to choose any one of four tiers of storage solutions while allowing full scalability to incorporate SAN, NAS, cloud and object storage as they grow.

How many data streams of 4K 10-bit DPX at 24fps can your storage provide?
Above everything else we want to tailor a solution to the needs of the clients. With our consultative approach we take a look not only at the requirements to build the best solution for today, but also  the ability to grow and scale up to the needs of tomorrow. We look at scalability not just from the perspective of having more ability to do things, but in doing the most with what we have. While even our entry level system is capable of doing 10 streams of 4K, it’s equally, if not more, important to make sure that those streams are directed to the people who need them most while allowing other users access at lower resolutions.

GENESIS Unlimited

Our Advanced QoS can learn the I/O patterns/behavior for an application while admins can give those applications a “realtime” or “non-realtime” status. This means “non-realtime” applications auto-throttle down to allow realtime apps the bandwidth. Many popular applications come pre-learned, like Finder, Resolve, Premiere or Flame. In addition, admins can add their own apps.

What do you expect to see as the next trend relating to storage?
Storage always evolves. Whatever is next in post production storage is already in use elsewhere as we are a pretty risk-averse group, for obvious reasons. With that said, the adoption of Unified Storage Platforms and hybrid cloud workflows will be the next big thing for big media producers like post facilities. The need for local online and nearline storage must remain for realtime, resolution-intense processes and data movement between tiers, but the decision-making process and asset management is better served globally by increased shared access and creative input.

The entertainment industry has pushed the limits of storage for over 30 years with no end in sight. In addition, the ability to manage storage tiers and collaborate both on-prem and off will dictate the type of storage solutions our customers will need to invest in. The evolution of storage needs continues to be driven by the consumer: TVs and displays have moved to demanding 4K content from the producers. The increased success of the small professional cameras allows more access to multi-camera shoots. However, as performance and capacity continues to grow for our customers, it brings the complexity down to managing large data farms effectively, efficiently and affordably. That is on the horizon in our future solution designs. Expensive, proprietary hardware will be a thing of the past and open, affordable storage will be the norm, with user-friendly and intuitive software developed to automate, simplify, and monetize our customer assets while maintaining industry compatibility.

SMALL TREE‘S CORKY SEEBER
How do your solutions work with clients’ existing storage? And who is your typical client?
There are many ways to have multiple storage solutions co-exist within the post house, most of these choices are driven by the intended use of the content and the size and budget of the customer. The ability to migrate content from one storage medium to another is key to allowing customers to take full advantage of our shared storage solutions.

Our goal is to provide simple solutions for the small to medium facilities, using Ethernet connectivity from clients to the server to keep costs down and make support of the storage less complicated. Ethernet connectivity also enables the ability to provide access to existing storage pools via Ethernet switches.

What steps have you taken to work with technologies outside of your own?
Today’s storage providers need to actively design their products to allow the post house to maximize the investment in their shared storage choice. Our custom software is open-sourced based, which allows greater flexibility to integrate with a wider range of technologies seamlessly.

Additionally, the actual communication between products from different companies can be a problem. Storage designs that allow the ability to use copper or optical Ethernet and Fibre Channel connectivity provide a wide range of options to ensure all aspects of the workflow can be supported from ingest to archive.

What challenges, if any, do larger drives represent?
Today’s denser drives, while providing more storage space within the same physical footprint, do have some characteristics that need to be factored in when making your storage solution decisions. Larger drives will take longer to configure and rebuild data sets once a failed disk occurs, and in some cases may be slightly slower than less dense disk drives. You may want to consider using different RAID protocols or even using software RAID protection rather than hardware RAID protection to minimize some of the challenges that the new, larger disk drives present.

When do you recommend NAS over SAN deployments?
This is an age-old question as both deployments have advantages. Typically, NAS deployments make more sense for smaller customers as they may require less networking infrastructure. If you can direct connect all of your clients to the storage and save the cost of a switch, why not do that?

SAN deployments make sense for larger customers who have such a large number of clients that making direct connections to the server is impractical or impossible: these require additional software to keep everything straight.

In the past, SAN deployments were viewed as the superior option, mostly due to Fibre Channel being faster than Ethernet. With the wide acceptance of 10GbE, there is a convergence of sorts, and NAS performance is no longer considered a weakness compared to SAN. Performance aside, a SAN deployment makes more sense for very large customers with hundreds of clients and multiple large storage pools that need to support universal access.

QUANTUM‘S JANET LAFLEUR
What are the top three requests that you get from post users?
1) Shared storage with both SAN and NAS access to collaborate more broadly acrossJanet Lafleur groups. For streaming high-resolution content to editorial workstations, there’s nothing that can match the performance of shared SAN storage, but not all production team members need the power of SAN.

For example, animation and editorial workflows often share content. While editorial operations stream content from a SAN connection, a NAS gateway using a higher-speed IP protocol optimized for video (such as our StorNext DLC) can be used for rendering. By working with NAS, producers and other staff who primarily access proxies, images, scripts and other text documents can more easily access this content directly from their desktops. Our Xcellis workflow storage offers NAS access out of the box, so content can be shared over IP and over Fibre Channel SAN.

2) A starting point for smaller shops that scales smoothly. For a small shop with a handful of workstations, it can be hard to find a storage solution that fits into the budget now but doesn’t require a forklift upgrade later when the business grows. That’s one reason we built Xcellis workflow storage with a converged architecture that combines metadata storage and content storage. Xcellis provides a tighter footprint for smaller sites, but still can scale up for hundreds of users and multiple petabytes of content.

3) Simple setup and management of storage. No one wants to spend time deploying, managing and upgrading complex storage infrastructure, especially not post users who just want storage that supports their workflow. That’s why we are continuing to enhance StorNext Connect, which can not only identify problems before they affect users but also reduce the risk of downtime or degraded performance by eliminating error-prone manual tasks. We want our customers to be able to focus on content creation, not on managing storage.

How should post users decide between SAN, NAS and object storage?
Media workflows are complex, with unique requirements at each step. SAN, NAS and object storage all have qualities that make them ideal for specific workflow functions.

SAN: High-resolution, high-image-quality content production requires low-latency, high-performance storage that can stream 4K or greater — plus HDR, HFR content — to multiple workstations without dropping frames. Fibre Channel SANs are the only way to ensure performance for multi-streaming this content.

Object storage: For content libraries that are being actively monetized, object storage delivers the disk-level of performance needed for transcoding and reuse. Object storage also scales beyond the petabyte level, and the self-balancing nature of its erasure code algorithms make replacing aging disks with next-generation ones much simpler and faster than is possible with RAID systems.

Quantum XcellisNAS: High-performance IP-based connections are ideal for enabling render server farms to access content from shared storage. The simplicity of deploying NAS is also recommended for low-bandwidth functions such as review and approval, plus DVD authoring, closed captioning and subtitling.

With an integrated, complete storage infrastructure, such as those built with our StorNext platform, users can work with any or all of these technologies — as well as digital tape and cloud — and target the right storage for the right task.

How many data streams of 4K 10-bit DPX at 24fps can your storage provide?
So much depends on the configuration: how many spindles, how many controllers, etc. At NAB 2016, our StorNext Pro 4K demo system delivered eight to 10 streams of 4K 10-bit DPX with headroom to stream more. The solution included four RAID-6 arrays of 24 drives each with redundant Xcellis Workflow Directors for an 84TB usable capacity in a neat 10U rack.

The StorNext platform allows users to scale performance and capacity independently. The need for more capacity can be addressed with the simple addition of Xcellis storage expansion arrays. The need for more performance can be met with an upgrade of the Xcellis Workflow Director to support more concurrent file systems.

PANASAS‘ DAVID SALLAK
What are the top three storage-related requests/needs that you get from your post clients or potential post clients?
They want native support for Mac, high performance and a system that is easier to grow and manage than SAN.

When comparing shared storage product choices, what are the advantages of NAS over SAN? Does the easier administration of NAS compared to SAN factor into your choice of storage?
NAS is easier to manage than SAN. Scale-out NAS is easier to grow thPanasasan SAN, and is designed for high availability. If scale-out NAS could be as fast as SAN, then SAN buyers would be very attracted to scale-out NAS.

How many data streams of 4K 10-bit DPX at 24fps can your storage provide?
As many streams as possible. Post users always need more performance for future projects and media formats, so storage should support a lot of streams of ProRes HD or DNxHD and be capable of handling uncompressed DPX formats that come from graphics departments.

What do you expect to see as the next trend relating to storage? The thing that’s going to push storage systems even further?
Large post production facilities need greater scalability, higher performance, easier use, and affordable pricing.

HGST‘s JEFF GREENWALD
What are the top three requests you get from your post clients or potential post clients?
They’re looking for better ways to develop cost efficiencies of their workflows. Secondly, they’re looking for ways to improve the performance of those workflows. Finally, they’re looking for ways to improve and enhance data delivery and availability.

How should post users decide between SAN, NAS and object storage?
There are four criteria that customers must evaluate in order to make trade-offs between the various storage technologies as well as storage tiers. Customers must evaluate the media quantity of data, and they must also evaluate the frequency of acceptability. They must evaluate the latency requirements of data delivery, and, finally they must balance these three evaluations across their financial budgets.

Active ArchiverHow many data streams of 4K 10-bit DPX at 24fps can your storage provide?
In order to calculate quantity of video streams you must balance available bandwidth as well as file sizes and data delivery requirements toward the desired capacity. Also, jitter and data loss continue to shrink available bandwidth for retries and resends.

What do you expect to see as the next trend relating to storage, and what will push storage even further?
There are two trends that will dramatically transform the storage industry. The first is storage analytics, and the second is new and innovative usage of automatic meta-tagging of file data.

New technologies like SMR, optical and DNA-based object storage have not yet proven to be technology disruptors in storage, therefore it is likely that storage technology advancements will be evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary in the next 10 years.

G-TECH‘S MICHAEL WILLIAMS
Who is using your gear in the post world? What types of pros?
Filmmakers, digital imaging technicians, editors, audio technicians and photographers all use our solutions. These are the pros that capture, store, transfer and edit motion pictures, indie films, TV shows, music, photography and more. We offer everything from rugged standalone portable drives to high-performance RAID solutions to high-capacity network storage for editing and collaboration.

You recently entered the world of NAS storage. Can you talk about the types of pros taking advantage of that tech?
Our NAS customers run the gamut from DITs to production coordinators to video editors and beyond. With camera technology advancing so rapidly, they are looking for storage solutions that can fit within the demanding workflows they encounter every day.

With respect to episodic, feature film, commercials or in-house video production storage, needs are rising faster than ever before and many IT staffs are shrinking, so we introduced the G-Rack 12 NAS platform. We are able to use HGST’s new 10TB enterprise-class hard drives to deliver 120TB of raw storage in a 2RU platform, providing the required collaboration and performance.

We have also made sure that our NAS OS on the G-Rack 12 is designed to be easily administered by the DIT, video editor or someone else on the production staff and not necessarily a Linux IT tech.

Production teams need to work smarter — DITs, video editors, DPs and the like can do the video shoot, get the video ingested into a device and get the post team working on it much faster than in days past. We all know that time is money; this is why we entered the NAS market.

Any other new tech on the horizon that might affect how you make storage or a certain technology that might drive your storage in other directions?
The integration of G-Technology — along with SanDisk and HGST — into Western Digital is opening up doors in terms of new technologies. In addition to our current high-capacity, enterprise-class HDD-based offerings, SSD devices are now available to give us the opportunity to expand our offerings to a broader range of solutions.

G-RACK 12This, in addition to new external device interfaces, is paving the way for higher-performance storage solutions. At NAB this year, we demonstrated Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C solutions with higher-performance storage media and network connectivity. We are currently shipping the USB solutions and the technology demos we gave provide a glimpse into future solutions. In addition, we’re always on the lookout for new form factors and technologies that will make our storage solutions faster, more powerful, more reliable and affordable.

What kind of connections do your drives have, and if it’s Thunderbolt 2 or Thunderbolt 3, can they be daisy chained?
When we look at interfaces, as noted above, there’s a USB Type-C for the consumer market as well as Thunderbolt and 10Gb Ethernet for the professional market.

As far as daisy-chaining, yes. Thunderbolt is a very flexible interface, supporting up to six devices in a daisy chain, on a single port. Thunderbolt 3 is a very new interface that is gaining momentum, one that will not only support extremely high data transfer speeds (up to 2.7GB/s) but also supports up to two 4K displays. We should also not forget that there are still more than 200M devices supporting Thunderbolt 1 and 2 connections.

LACIE‘S GASPARD PLANTROU
How do your solutions work with clients existing storage? And who are your typical M&E users?
With M&E workflows, it’s rare that users work with a single machine and storage solution. From capture to edit to final delivery, our customers’ data interacts with multiple machines, storage solutions and users. Many of our storage solutions feature multiple interfaces such as Thunderbolt, USB 3.0 or FireWire so they can be easily integrated into existing workflows and work seamlessly across the entire video production process.

Our Rugged features Thunderbolt and USB 3.0. That means it’s guaranteed to work with any standard computer or storage scenario on the market. Plus it’s shock, dust and moisture-resistant, allowing it to handle being passed around set or shipped to a client. Lacie 12bigLaCie’s typical M&E users are mid-size post production studios and independent filmmakers and editors looking for RAID solutions.

How many data streams of 4K 10-bit DPX at 24fps can your storage provide?
The new LaCie 12big Thunderbolt 3 pushes up to 2600MB/s and can handle three streams of 4K 10-bit DPX at 24fps (assuming one stream is 864MB/s). In addition, the storage solution features 96TB to edit and hold tons of 4K footage.

What steps have you taken to work with technologies outside of your own?
With video file sizes growing exponentially, it is more important than ever for us to deliver fast, high-capacity solutions. Recent examples of this include bringing the latest technologies from Intel — Thunderbolt 3 — into our line. We work with engineers from our parent company, Seagate, to incorporate the latest enterprise class core technology for speed and reliability. Plus, we always ensure our solutions are certified to work seamlessly on Mac and Windows.

NETAPP‘S JASON DANIELSON
What are the top three requests that you get from post users?Jason Danielson
As a storage vendor, the first three requests we’re likely to get are around application integration, bandwidth and cost. Our storage systems support well over 100 different applications across a variety of workflows (VFX, HD broadcast post, uncompressed 4K finishing) in post houses of all sizes, from boutiques in Paris to behemoths in Hollywood.

Bandwidth is not an issue, but the bandwidth per dollar is always top of mind for post. So working with the post house to design a solution with suitable bandwidth at an acceptable price point is what we spend much of our time doing.

How should post users decide between SAN, NAS and object storage?
The decision to go with SAN versus NAS depends on the facility’s existing connectivity to the workstations. Our E-Series storage arrays support quite a few file systems. For SAN, our systems integrators usually use Quantum StorNext, but we also see Scale Logic’s HyperFS and Tiger Technology’s metaSAN being used.

For NAS, our systems integrators tend to use EditShare XStream EFS and IBM GPFS. While there are rumblings of a transition away from Fibre Channel-based SAN to Ethernet-based NAS, there are complexities and costs associated with tweaking a 10GigE client network.

The object storage question is a bit more nuanced. Object stores have been so heavily promoted by storage vendors that thE5624ere are many misconceptions about their value. For most of the post houses we talk to, object storage isn’t the answer today. While we have one of the most feature-rich and mature object stores out there, even we say that object stores aren’t for everyone. The questions we ask are:

1) Do you have 10 million files or more? 2) Do you store over a petabyte? 3) Do you have a need for long-term retention? 4) Does your infrastructure need to support multisite production?

If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” then you should at least investigate object storage. A high-end boutique with six editors is probably not in this realm. It is true that an object store represents a slightly lower-cost bucket for an active archive (content repository), but it comes at a workflow cost of introducing a second tier to the architecture, which needs to be managed by either archive management or media asset management software. Unless such a software system is already in place, then the cost of adding one will drive up the complexity and cost of the implementation. I don’t mean to sound negative about object stores. I am not. I think object stores will play a major role in active-archive content storage in the future. They are just not a good option for a high-bandwidth production tier today or, possibly, ever.

How many data streams of 4K 10-bit DPX at 24fps can your storage provide?
In order to answer that question, we would ask the post house: “How many streams do you want to play back?” Let’s say we’re talking about 4K (4096×2160), versus the several resolutions that are called 4K). At 4:4:4, that works out to 33MB per frame or 792MB per second. We would typically use flash (SSDs) for 4K playback. Our  2RU 24-SSD storage array, the EF560, can do a little over 9GB per second. That amounts to 11 streams.

But that is only half the answer. This storage array is usually deployed under a parallel file system, which will aggregate the bandwidth of several arrays for shared editing purposes. A larger installation might have eight storage arrays — each with 18 SSDs (to balance bandwidth and cost) — and provide sustained video playback for 70 streams.

What do you expect to see as the next trend relating to storage? What’s going to push storage systems even further?
The introduction of larger, more cost-effective flash drives (SSDs) will have a drastic effect on storage architectures over the next three years. We are now shipping 15TB SSDs. That is a petabyte of extremely fast storage in six rack units. We think the future is flash production tiers in front of object-store active-archive tiers. This will eliminate the need for archive managers and tape libraries in most environments.

HARMONIC‘S ANDY WARMAN
What are the top three requests that you hear from your post clients or potential post clients?andy warman
The most common request is for sustained performance. This is an important aspect since you do not want performance to degrade due to the number of concurrent users, the quantity of content, how full the storage is, or the amount of time the storage has been in service.

Another aspect related to this is the ability to support high-write and -read bandwidth. Being able to offer equal amounts of read and write bandwidth can be very beneficial for editing and transcode workflows, versus solutions that have high-read bandwidth, but relatively low-write performance. Customers are also looking for good value for money. Generally, we would point to value coming from the aforementioned performance as well as cost-effective expansion.

You guys have a “media-aware” solution for post. Can you explain what that is and why you opted to go this way?
Media-aware storage refers to the ability to store different media types in the most effective manner for the file system. A MediaGrid storage system supports multiple different block sizes, rather than a single block size for all media types. In this way, video assets, graphics and audio and project files can use different block sizes that make reading and writing data more efficient. This type of file I/O “tuning” provides some additional performance gains for media access, meaning that video could use, say, 2MB blocks, graphics and audio 512KB, and projects and other files 128KB. Not only can different block sizes be used by different media types, but they are also configurable so UHD files could, say, use 8MB block sizes.

How many data streams of 4K 10-bit DPX at 24fps can your storage provide?
The storage has no practical storage capacity or bandwidth limit, so we can build a storage system that suits the customer needs. To size a system it becomes a case of balancing the bandwidth and storage capacity by selecting the appropriate number of drives and drive size(s) to match specific needs. The system is built on SAS drives; multiple, fully redundant 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections to client workstations and attached devices and 12 Gigabit redundant SAS interconnects between storage expansion nodes. This means we have high-speed connectivity within the storage as well as out to clients.

Harmonic MediaGrid 4K Content ServerAs needs change, the system can be expanded online with all users maintaining full access. Bandwidth scales in a linear fashion, and because there is a single name space in MediaGrid, the entire storage system can be treated as a single drive, or divided up and granted user level rights to folders within the file system.

Performance is further enhanced by the use of parallel access to data throughout the storage system. The file system provides a map to where all media is stored or is to be stored on disk. Data is strategically placed across the whole storage system to provide the best throughput. Clients simultaneously read and write data through the 10 Gigabit network to all network attached storage nodes rather than data being funneled through a single node or data connection. The result is that performance is the same whether the storage system is 5% or 95% full.

What do you expect to see as the next trend relating to storage? What’s going to push storage systems even further?
The advent of UHD has driven demands on storage further as codecs and therefore data throughput and storage requirements have increased significantly. Faster and more readily accessible storage will continue to grow in importance as delivery platforms continue to expand and expectations for throughput of storage systems continue to grow. We will use whatever performance and storage capacity is available, so offering more of both is inevitable to feed our needs for creativity and storytelling.

JMR’s STEVE KATZ
What are the top three storage-related requests you get from post users?
The most requested is ease of installation and operation. The JMR Share is delivered with euroNAS OS on mirrored SSD boot disks, with enough processing power and memory to Steve Headshot 6.27.16support efficient, high-volume workflows and a perpetual license to support the amount of storage requested, from 20TB minimum to the “unlimited” maximum. It’s intuitive to use and comfortable for anyone familiar with using popular browsers.

Compatibility and interoperability with clients using various hardware, operating systems and applications.

How many data streams of 4K 10-bit DPX at 24fps can your storage provide?
This can all be calculated by usable bandwidth and data transfer rates, which as with any networked storage can be limited by the network itself. For those using a good 10GbE switch, the network limits data rates to 1250MB/s maximum, which can support more than 270 streams of DNxHD 36, but only one stream of 4K 10-bit “film” resolution. Our product can support ~1800MB/s in a single 16-disk appliance, but without a very robust network this can’t be achieved.

When comparing shared storage product choices, what are the advantages of NAS over SAN, for example?
SAN actually has some advantages over NAS, but unless the user has Fibre Channel hardware installed, it might be a very costly option. The real advantage of NAS is that everyone already has an Ethernet network available that may be sufficient for video file server use. If not, it may be upgraded fairly inexpensively.

JMR Share comes standard with both GbE and 10GbE networking capability right out of the box, and has performance that will saturate 10GbE links; high-availability active/active failover is available as well as SAN Cluster (an extra cost option). The SAN Cluster is equipped with specialized SAN software as well as with 8Gb or 16Gb fibre channel host adapters installed, so it’s ready to go.

What do you expect to see as the next trend relating to storage? The thing that’s going to push storage systems even further?
Faster and lower cost, always! Going to higher speed network adapters, 12Gb SAS internal storage and even SSDs or NVMe drives, it seems the sky is the limit — or, actually, the networking is the limit. We already offer SAS SSDs in the Share as an option, and our higher-end dual-processor/dual-controller Share models (a bit higher cost) using NVMe drives can provide internal data transfer speeds exceeding what any network can support (even multiple 40Gb InfiniBand links). We are seeing a bit of a trend toward SSDs now that higher-capacity models at more reasonable cost, with reasonable endurance, are becoming available.

Scale Logic, led by former Rorke employees, holds grand opening

Bloomington, Minnesota — Storage solutions provider Scale Logic Inc. (SLI), whose executive team has been providing storage for media and entertainment for over 25 years, officially launched its new US world headquarters recently in Minnesota.

They celebrated with over 250 guests from around the world, including partners from

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