Storage Buying Guide: Media and Entertainment

Tuesday Jun 25th 2013 by Drew Robb
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These four storage systems give media and entertainment companies the performance, features and capacity they need.

Next-gen broadcasting will be all about giving the viewer control and making them feel involved in the product. So said Sam Grocott, VP Product Management and Marketing, EMC Isilon, adding, “Audiences want to be more than just spectators. They want to be engaged and control what they consume—and they want it anywhere, anytime, and on any device.”

But providing this type of control means creating storage systems with the flexibility to support everyone from editors in the studio to marketers mining audience demographics to users picking and choosing their streaming content.

Here are four storage systems that aim to fulfill such needs.

EMC Isilon

According to Grocott, the media and entertainment (M&E) industry is one of EMC Isilon’s largest markets, with over 400 broadcasters using Isilon.

The Isilon OneFS allows a single volume of up to 20 PB, with additional scale out being possible via accelerator nodes. Users can increase capacity by adding NL nodes, or they can increase performance and capacity by adding S or X Series nodes. Storage tiering automatically moves files which have not been accessed within a certain period of time to a lower tier.

Isilon works with most media servers, including Harris and Miranda ITX, as well as play out servers, such as Sienna Play to Air, MXFserver and others. For big data analytics purposes, Isilon is certified for the Hadoop Data File System (HDFS), which can be used to help broadcasters aggregate and analyze consumer behavior data.

HP MS 2040 Storage

Britt Terry, worldwide product marketing manager for HP Storage, believes that too many broadcasters are buying their storage based on meeting the needs of one specific type of usage, rather than taking an holistic look at storage.

“Being able to host content on the right platform, at the right price and being able to deliver that content to downstream users while meeting the latency and performance requirements is a tricky balance,” said Terry. “Broadcasting companies need to step back and look at the bigger picture.”

For broadcasters, Terry recommended HP MSA 2040 Storage arrays, which start at an MSRP just over $11,000 for dual controller 8 GB FC configurations. They can use HDs or SSDs, and the MSA 2040 Converged SAN Controller uses a new controller architecture with 4 GB cache per controller and four ports of 8/16 Gb FC. 1GbE or 10GbE iSCSI will be available later this year. The array holds up to 199 Small Form Factor (SFF) or 96 Large Form Factor (LFF) hard drives and offers local snapshot/copy services, as well as remote snapshot. For those choosing SSDs, the array comes with integrated “wear gauge” or SSD “lifecycle monitoring” which alerts users before errors occur.

“Although serving media assets and hosting an analytics engine require specific performance requirements, they are not quite the same workload from a primary storage perspective,” said Terry. “If one array is hosting both types of workloads, that array needs to be able to support both workloads simultaneously.”

NetApp FAS 6200 Series / E-Series

NetApp has two product lines for M&E with prices from $20,000 to $2 million.

The NetApp FAS 6200 Series enterprise storage line is said to be suitable for modern broadcast workflows, transcode farms, active archives and TV anytime/anywhere applications. It runs the Data ONTAP storage operating system, provides both SAN and NAS connectivity, and can scale from a few terabytes to several petabytes.

“The broadcast industry thinks of NetApp storage as expensive per terabyte because we dominate in the IT space where CIOs prefer all the storage efficiencies and ease of management of our Data ONTAP OS and the data management applications available in the FAS line,” said Jason Danielson, media and entertainment solutions, product and solution marketing, NetApp. “These features drive up the price per raw terabyte, but they drive down the cost per effective usable terabyte and the overall cost of ownership.”

NetApp FAS is good for transcode and distribute workflows involving small file random reads and writes, which is important to throughput in this workflow (particularly when adaptive bitstream and Video on Demand formats are the target).

For other media workflows, however, these features are less important, but companies may need the high media bandwidth of the E-Series. The NetApp E-Series is a modular architecture family of storage enclosures with a pair of high-availability, high-bandwidth controllers. For broadcast workflows including sports and news production and collaborative editing, it offers 240 TB of storage and 3 GB/sec application level mixed video read/write per 4U enclosure. Broadcasters can add edit workstations and stream counts into the hundreds before there is any noticeable fall-off of performance. A single storage pool can be scaled up to six enclosures (12 controllers) with up to 18 gigabytes per second of application-level video throughput.

Spectra Logic Spectra T950

The Spectra T950 tape library is designed for online storage, long-term data retention and preservation of broadcast media. A single T950 scales to 10,020 LTO slots (62.6 PB – LTO6 compressed) and has a typical life of seven to ten years compared to the disk subsystem general life expectancy of three to four years. Other advantages include the fact that it fits four times as much storage into the same footprint as a disk-based system and uses far less power. Since the data stored on tape is not part of the networked system, it is protected against the malware, viruses, accidental deletion and crashes that affect disk storage. Prices start at $100,000.

“Organizations often overlook the risk and cost of implementing a disk-only solution,” said Hossein ZiaShakeri, Senior Vice President of Business Development and Alliances at Spectra Logic. “Not only is this an expensive option, disk-only solutions do not provide the protection required in the event of disasters or other unforeseen events.”

The T950 has assisted self-maintenance, which allows spare parts on site; call-home capability; media life cycle management, which proactivity monitors the health of the media; and data integrity verification, the periodic integrity checking of the data on tape media to insure long-term retention and preservation of the data. It works with a variety of content storage management (CSM), hierarchical storage Management (HSM) and data backup applications to give users and media asset management (MAM) applications an interface into their archives so that they can search and retrieve the data they need.

“The most popular implementation or strategy in big data environments is launching an active archive storage model, so that production data, no matter how old or infrequently accessed, can still be retrieved online,” says ZiaShakeri. “A multi-tier storage model of an active archive incorporating both disk and tape allows organizations to store assets based on their point-in-time value and hence reduce the overall cost of storage.”

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