Flash Storage: Are the Performance Gains Worth It?

Posted by
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text][mk_dropcaps style=”simple-style”]Y[/mk_dropcaps]ou feel the need for speed. Your post-production studio has numerous team members working on high-resolution video content. Whether they’re editing, animating, applying visual effects, matching colors, or making other contributions to projects, they need powerful workstations and high-performance storage that can keep up with these demanding tasks. Because they’re under tremendous pressure to meet tight deadlines, your team members can’t afford performance lags that can slow processes and ultimately jeopardize completion dates.

Deploying flash-based, solid-state drives (SSDs) in your primary storage system is a tempting solution. After all, you know that flash drives can deliver strong performance—that’s their main claim to fame. They should be able to handle data-intensive work with large files easily, so it might seem like an obvious choice to get a little flashy.

But there are a few things to consider. First, flash drives are expensive. Even though they’ve been available for several years now, flash drives can still cost considerably more than traditional hard disk drives (HDDs).

Second, flash drives often provide less capacity than HDDs. As you move into 4K and higher resolutions, or explore virtual reality (VR) and 360-degree video, you’ll need more capacity to support growing volumes of large files. Scaling flash arrays will be costly.

Are flash drives worth the added costs? Maybe—but maybe not.

Before you get too hooked on flash, figure out what you really need. Then draw from extensive testing on flash and HDDs, so you can make an informed, data-driven decision about balancing performance, capacity, and cost.

[mk_fancy_title tag_name=”h2″ style=”true” color=”#393836″ size=”14″ font_weight=”inhert” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”18″ font_family=”none” align=”left”]What do you really need?[/mk_fancy_title]

You know your team requires robust performance, but what does that truly mean? Start to define your performance requirements by answering three questions:

  • What video formats will you use? The resolution, bit depth, and frame rate for your video will determine the data rate you need to support. For example, the data rate for 10-bit RGB 4K video at 60 fps is much higher than for Apple ProRes HD at 30 fps.
  • How many simultaneous streams do you need to support? Assembling a complex VR or 360-degree video with footage from more than 40 cameras might benefit from flash drives, while editing two-camera interviews can easily use more economical HDDs.
  • Do your team members use uncompressed media? Most editors work with compressed video, but colorists and compositors might prefer uncompressed video to improve the accuracy of their work. For uncompressed video, flash drives might not offer a sufficient performance improvement to justify the higher expenditure.

Next, you’ll need to factor in capacity. Working on feature-length films requires much greater capacity than producing 30-second ads. The video formats you choose to support will also determine the amount of capacity you need. Working in ProRes 422 HQ in 4K, for example, will require more than three times the capacity of ProRes 422 HQ in HD.

Even though flash drive capacity is growing, standard HDDs can still generally provide greater capacity at a lower cost. So before you invest in that new flash array, be sure to contemplate how much capacity you need now —and how much you anticipate needing in the future as you move to higher-resolution formats.

[mk_fancy_title tag_name=”h2″ style=”true” color=”#393836″ size=”14″ font_weight=”inhert” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”18″ font_family=”none” align=”left”]Draw from comprehensive testing[/mk_fancy_title]

Breaking down your performance requirements, estimating your capacity needs, and, of course, assessing your available budget are all critical first steps for making your decision about flash. But, you still face a fairly complex equation. For example, what if your team doesn’t need to support 4K video or uncompressed media, but does require strong multi-stream performance and scalable capacity? And how does the calculation change if you start to work with 4K or add more simultaneous streams?

Quantum has conducted extensive testing with real-world workloads that can help with your decision-making process. As part of a project to create storage reference architectures for 4K video, a Quantum team examined performance, capacity, and cost for flash-based SSDs, 3.5-inch large form factor (LFF) HDDs, and 2.5-inch small form factor (SFF) HDDs.

The results showed that flash is not always the right choice. Here are just a few findings:

Stream counts: While flash storage does well at supporting extremely high stream counts (more than 28 simultaneous streams), 2.5-inch HDDs can deliver sufficient performance for high stream counts at a significantly lower cost and with much greater capacity.

Data rates: The video formats you support—and the data rates they generate—aren’t the only factors that determine whether flash drives or HDDs are the best choice. In general, the higher the data rate, the fewer streams you can support regardless of whether you’re using flash drives or HDDs.

Uncompressed content: Flash drives don’t substantially improve the number of stream counts that you can support for uncompressed content. HDDs are probably the right choice if you’re working with uncompressed video.

Capacity: When you need high capacity while controlling costs, HDDs are the way to go.

So, when is flash the right choice for the cost? When you have to support high frame rates and extremely high stream counts, but don’t require a ton of capacity. If you want greater capacity—and don’t need quite as many simultaneous compressed streams—an SFF HDD might be a better, more economical choice.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][mk_image src=”http://blog.quantum.com/wp-content/uploads/Perf-cost-capacity-chart.jpg” image_size=”full” align=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Define your precise requirements with Quantum

These guidelines should help get you moving in the right direction. But, we recognize that you may still need assistance designing a solution that meets your precise requirements. That’s why we’ll work with you to find the optimal balance of performance, capacity, and cost for your organization. We can assess your workflows, share the detailed results of our extensive comparative testing, and help you determine how much flash is right for you.

Ready to figure out how flashy you should be? Contact your Quantum representative or visit www.stornext.com/solutions/post-production.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.