In case you missed the news, last November we released Xcellis, our next generation of StorNext-based appliances. With Xcellis, we re-architected the heart of StorNext solutions—metadata control and high-performance storage—with a new converged architecture that stores user data and metadata in a single array. Xcellis offers everything you expect from StorNext: an open system platform, high-performance streaming, extreme scalability, policy-based migration, choice of storage tiers, and an extensive workflow partner ecosystem. But there are three capabilities that are making Xcellis a hot selling product, particularly for our customers in media and entertainment.
It’s no secret that the stakes are high in sports broadcast. As Quantum’s Skip Levens said, there are “no second takes, millions of highly discriminating and knowledgeable customers scrutinizing your every move, and every play has the potential to make history.” There’s a lot of money to be made, but the competition between networks can be as fierce as anything on the road, field, court or diamond. So it’s no surprise that sports production pushes the envelope when it comes to adopting new technology. We’re only halfway through 2015 and we’ve seen some amazing leaps forward this year, in five key areas: Higher Definition Content, Camera Ubiquity, Real-time Data Analysis, In-Stadium Screens, and Live In-Home Experiences.
Video editing has always placed higher demands on storage than any other file-based applications, and with today’s higher resolution formats, streaming video content demands even more performance from storage systems, with 4K raw requiring 1210 MB/sec per stream—7.3 times more throughput than raw HD. In the early days of non-linear editing, this level of performance could only be achieved with direct attached storage (DAS). As technology progressed, we were able to add shared collaboration even with many HD streams. Unfortunately, with the extreme demands of 4K and beyond, many workflows are resorting to DAS again, despite its drawbacks. With DAS, sharing large media files between editors and moving the content through the workflow means copying the files across the network or on reusable media such as individual USB and Thunderbolt-attached hard drives. That’s not only expensive because it duplicates the storage capacity required; it also diminishes user productivity and can break version control protocols. In this blog, we'll look the key differences between major storage technologies and well as general usage recommendations.
If you’ve worked in storage for decades as I have, you’ve heard all the debates about which storage works best for each step in media workflows. But one thing that’s clear is that not every step has the same storage requirements, and that some kind of tiered storage strategy is needed. With every-expanding digital asset libraries, storing it all on high-performance disk isn’t practical or cost-effective. Traditional tiered storage is straightforward: store the most active, most recently used data on fastest, expensive disk storage, and store the less active, older data on slower, less expensive storage, generally tape or lower cost disk arrays. Hierarchical storage management (HSM) software was built to automate the data migration between tiers, and make file system access transparent regardless of where the data is stored. When the primary storage filled to a capacity watermark, for example, 90% of capacity, the HSM system would find the files that were least recently used and move them to the secondary tape tier until the disk storage had sufficient available capacity. This model of tiered storage was built for business data where the focus was containing costs. Disk storage was expensive, tape was cheap, and older business data was rarely relevant except for an occasional audit. The criteria was simply performance vs cost. But media workflows don’t manage business data. Here are the 3 biggest considerations for developing a new approach to workflow storage.
The pressure is real. It’s hard enough to remain efficient in an industry where higher resolutions, new camera formats and a growing range of delivery options are emerging faster than ever before. Add in the complexity of sharing content across distributed teams and archiving content securely, and many traditional workflows fail to stay efficient, at a time when efficiency matters most. Tight project timelines aren’t getting any longer just because your workflow can’t keep up. It’s time for the cloud. Here's how collaboration and archive are heading to the cloud.
There’s never been a bigger rush to transcode and deliver content worldwide to more distribution channels than today. A broad range of new delivery platforms and new audiences can bring new value to legacy content, but only if your workflow supports it. If you’re not ready to release content quickly when a new distribution opportunity arises, re-process it for special features, or even re-use content in a new project, you’re leaving money on the table. And that’s not so easy to explain to your boss or your investors. Unfortunately, most workflows are poorly set up to access, transcode and deliver content created years ago. The good news is that StorNext 5 workflows built with Quantum Lattus have specific capabilities that enable real-time and non-real-time operations to occur efficiently in the same storage infrastructure. Here's how.
In the fast-paced entertainment industry, the technology for both creating and consuming content can shift sharply and quickly. Making the right technology choices, at the right time, with well-timed implementation can mean the difference in moving your business forward or wasting a lot of time and budget fixing bad decisions, or worse, losing the business. These three market trends have the power to disrupt your workflow, but by making a few key decisions today you can transition smoothly in 2015, plus prepare for what’s to come in the future. In Pt.1 of the series we look at a technology that's going to be on everyone's mind at NAB 2015: 4K.
Like so many mid-sized media facilities, a recent customer I talked with was relying on Apple Xsan for shared storage supported by Apple Xserve RAID. They had nearly a dozen Mac clients and running Final Cut Pro with high-speed SAN access to the shared content, plus another handful of users downloading content on the Xsan through a Mac client acting as a file server. It was a pretty typical setup for an efficient, collaborative media workflow. Unfortunately, they had a pretty typical problem too. Apple built the last of its Xserve servers In January 2011, which means all Xserves are over three years old and closing in on the typical end-of-life for servers. The server alternatives available from Apple don’t offer the redundancy features that reduce downtime, and with the short production cycles and rigid deadlines in the news business that’s a risk they couldn’t take. So like so many others, this customer took the server upgrade as an opportunity to rethink their workflow.
Since they were first introduced over a decade ago, shared storage solutions have been the industry standard for sharing content in media workflows, enabling teams to collaborate more effectively. With shared storage, multiple users can directly access content across a SAN connection at the same speed as direct-attached storage. Shared storage has the power to stream high-resolution content to team members at rates high enough to never drop a single frame. That’s where a fully-featured management platform like StorNext Connect comes in. StorNext Connect allows you to install, manage and monitor all your StorNext shared storage resources—storage, CPU, memory, network—in an intuitive graphical view.
4K technically is just a frame size–4096 pixels×2160 lines for cinema or 3840×2160 for consumer–but to achieve the quality that people expect from 4K, you need more than just a high-resolution image. You also need a frame rate of 24 frames per second or greater, and a compression codec that doesn’t degrade the 4K image quality. The dirty little secret is that it’s really hard to stream 4K content at this rate without dropping frames on a shared storage system, so some workflow storage vendors are reverting back to direct attached storage to support their 4K claims. That means that you’ll need to modify your workflow for 4K to download locally for edit instead of accessing directly from shared storage. Say goodbye to the collaborative environment that’s shortened your production cycles to meet the tight deadlines that drive this competitive industry.
Content production had never been a simple process, but the number of moving parts and scale involved has grown to global proportions. Even a low-budget film might shoot in the rainforest in Costa Rica, edit in Vancouver, add visual effects in Korea, color-correct in Toronto, and finish in Hollywood. At the same time, there’s more pressure to transcode and deliver content worldwide on more platforms that ever before. All of this without the added complexity of making and transmitting duplicate copies between remote teams. That’s where cutting edge storage technologies and workflow automation tools head to the cloud with StorNext in the Cloud. StorNext in the Cloud lets you use the same workflows you use today, but now you and your team can work remotely, sharing content stored on Quantum’s Lattus object storage with all the scalability, flexibility and security you need, automatically managed by StorNext Storage Manager. With a StorNext and Lattus cloud-based workflow there’s no need to integrate your workflow into a cloud that’s not built for media. Instead, you can keep using the tools from the broad ecosystem of StorNext solution partners.
Since we announced our next generation StorNext 5 Appliances three weeks ago, we’ve been getting requests for more background about how we’ve achieved such significant increases in performance, scalability and flexibility. To dive deeper into how we built StorNext 5 from the ground up, I’ve tapped Skip Levens, director of technical marketing, to detail some of its core design features.
Earlier today at IBC in Amsterdam, Quantum announced StorNext 5 Appliances, a new generation for StorNext that delivers dramatic new levels of performance, scalability and flexibility for the industry’s leading file system, tiered storage and archive. Newly engineered from the ground up, StorNext 5 is the result of over two years of development with our team of file system experts—many from the original StorNext team— examining virtually every line of code with the thought: “How can we optimize StorNext for our customers’ modern, evolving workflows?”