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Special Report: What’s Driving Change in Store?

Thu 10, 12 2020

The Store segment of the BaM Content Chain® covers the storage of content throughout its lifecycle. This can be on-premise or cloud object storage, SAN and NAS – including disk, SSD, optical and data tape, as well as storage management, archive storage, video servers and VTRs.

With an ever-growing amount of content needing to be stored and then rapidly accessed from anywhere, with ever-higher resolutions only increasing the pressure, Store today means much more than the simple repository its name implies. We spoke to 10 IABM member companies to catch up on all the latest developments in this largely unheralded but vital content chain segment.

“Ever increasing content production in higher resolutions (e.g. 4K and 8K), at higher frame rates (e.g. 120Hz) and greater dynamic range (e.g. HDR) means that there is a continuing need for ever more performant storage solutions,” says Paola Hobson, Managing Director, InSync Technology Ltd.

Access vital

The coronavirus pandemic has shone a spotlight on the Store segment of the BaM content Chain®, with access becoming a key issue. “Lack of live drove broadcasters to the archive but many found it difficult to get timely access to content,” says Nick Pearce-Tomenius, Sales and Marketing Director, Object Matrix. “[What’s required is] ease of access to all content from anywhere without manual intervention. This was not possible for many during this troubled period.”

Adrian J Herrera, VP of Marketing at Caringo also identifies access as a key issue. “The primary driver of change for both end-users and vendors this year has been content accessibility. Early this year, the pandemic restricted access to data centre facilities and offices and, as a result, access to content needed to complete projects. Many organizations accelerated their migration to the cloud and many vendors accelerated their product roadmap features that facilitated migration to the cloud.”

Cost matters

“The issue from the end-user perspective will be the cost associated with cloud storage. When you look at cloud computing, you can spin up and then spin down compute resources when they are no longer needed—reducing costs. However, storage or content is more static and tends to compound. As cloud service bills increase, the only way to reduce costs will be to delete data or to keep the majority of content on premise,” Herrera says.

“Cost is never far from the top of concerns and with continued exponential content growth; the storage budget is often stretched to its limit,” says Jeff Braunstein, Director of Product Management, Spectra Logic. “It would be easy to say that cost is the main driver of change in Store, but that answer is too simple. The rising cost of storage in media and entertainment is not merely attributable to increased storage procurement costs. In fact, the cost of storage has consistently dropped over the last number of years. The key part of the issue is suboptimal data management. The rising cost of storage is almost always traceable to the hidden costs associated with the improper retention and management of large amounts of digital content, including backup storage capacities that are often a multiple of actual production data, daunting inventory tasks, complex storage management, shortage of skills and quick data availability requirements. Organizations need a cost-efficient storage lifecycle management tool that brings visibility and analytics to data for proper and intelligent tiering of data relative to its perceived value and access patterns.” Braunstein is not the only correspondent calling for structured handling of data.

Collaboration is key

“In my view, the industry's top priority, even if it's not always clearly defined, hasn't really changed - to me, it’s always been fundamentally about collaboration,” says Alex Timbs, Sr. Business Development Manager for Media and Entertainment at Dell Technologies. “This means different things in our respective businesses but is likely key to almost all the M&E creation, distribution and consumption strategies that have, and will, succeed. It's about quality, quantity, and efficiency, and now more than ever, about the value technology can deliver. In some cases, this means granularity, i.e. the ability to match resources surgically to the business need, in others it’s about consumption models, or flexibility to deal with short, yet very high amplitude waves of infrastructure demand.”

Collaboration is key for Studio Network Solutions too. “The drivers of change in storage are all about workflow,” says Melanie Ciotti, Marketing Manager. “From speed to security, remote connectivity to NLE integrations, innovations in storage stem from the industry’s need to collaborate better, create faster, and work more efficiently.  It’s all driven by workflow. For example, at SNS, we developed Nomad and SNS Cloud VPN to help our users work from home at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Foreseeing their workflow challenges drove us into immediate action toward a solution, and we continue to innovate based on our users’ current and anticipated workflow and storage needs.”

“Of course health and safety for productions is bending the curve towards virtual collaborations and remote workflows for everyone,” says Dan Montgomery, CEO of Imagine Products. “One trend we noticed this year is a definite uptick in short-term software leasing. This use model has all but replaced the traditional 'permanent' ownership scenarios.”

Ethernet workflows

For Daryl Heinis, Scale Logic CTO, high performance ethernet-based workflows are top of the list. “Whereas the cost of fiber infrastructure has become prohibitively expensive, we see the cost of 25 and 100Gbit ethernet and NVMe decreasing rapidly. We have applications supporting high performance workflows using ethernet changing how content is edited at high speed. We have AI and other data analytics driving automated workflows, which call for single global namespaces and data movement to cloud. We have remote personnel driving change on how content is edited and accessed in parts of the workflow, where previously it was done on-premise only.”

David Phillips, Principal Architect, M&E Solutions at Cloudian, identifies two drivers of change: “The real drivers are at the opposite ends of the Store spectrum. On the one hand the ultra-performance capabilities that NVMe devices and fabrics are introducing to Tier 0/1, and at the other end, the supremacy of WAN accessible S3 object storage as a scalable repository for all unstructured data.”

Tumbling prices, increasing competition – how do Store vendors differentiate themselves?

Cloudian’s David Phillips thinks that customer service remains the key differentiator: “I think there will always be a strong market for enterprise storage vendors that bring to market the economic advantages of open-source software and commodity hardware, backed by passionately dedicated engineering and customer support teams. There are many product offerings that offer similar capabilities, often at similar price points. Ultimately what makes customers continue to invest in any product offering is a positive customer experience, and that is why we are very proud to have some of the highest customer satisfaction scores in the industry.”

Workflow and collaboration

Customer satisfaction is also important for Studio Network Solutions. “Our 99% support rating and worldwide reputation for reliability helps differentiate us,” says Melanie Ciotti – but there’s more to it as well: “Everything we do is designed to improve the workflow of media professionals, and our customers value that attention to their needs. EVO is the leading high-performance shared storage server purpose-built for creative media teams. While our hardware is powerful and reliable enough to speak for itself, EVO is much more than shared storage. It’s a complete workflow solution with an included suite of software tools that sets us apart in the Store marketplace.”

Workflow and collaboration are at the heart of Caringo’s offer too. “At Caringo, we have been following the distributed workflow and the increasing file size trends for a few years now and have focused on enabling efficient collaboration, file protection and file delivery/distribution all from the storage layer,” says Adrian J Herrera. “We have features like web-based content management that includes the ability to easily search for, tag and share files. We have also added features like partial file restore and file clipping—all processed on the storage layer. This provides our users with a platform that provides intelligent data management as well as object storage.”

Tools of choice

“We’ve always been about openness and the ability for customers to connect to the creative tools of their choice,” says EditShare CTO, Stephen Tallamy. “There are many vendors that will offer non-media specific storage and that’s something that price doesn’t get you.”

Enabling choice of tools is important for Scale Logic too. “Scale Logic has always had an interoperability lab which differentiates our company as a value for long term investments,” says Daryl Heinis. “In this lab, we have 2PB+ of physical storage available, including HDD, SSD & NVMe running all NLEs and most common workflow tools used for ingest, asset management and archive. We constantly test our storage with these NLEs and tools to optimize performance. Not only will our customers feel good about their initial investment: they can also see Scale Logic is there for them for the long-term, as their facility makes changes into the future. Scale Logic is able to finetune value to the workflow. We also differentiate by providing 24/7 enterprise-level support for large companies—instead of calling multiple OEMs about your hardware infrastructures, you can make one call to our team and we take care of everything.”

For Nick Pearce-Tomenius at Object Matrix, it’s not about price but value: “There will always be battles on price from generic IT vendors but the broadcast technology buyer knows better than to look at $ alone; as the saying goes, buy cheap buy twice. Object Matrix has focused on providing the media industry with intelligent and cost-effective solutions that not only bring operational savings but also the ability for producers to access content from anywhere meaning they can do more. Every $1 spent on our product MatrixStore cloud brings at least double that in operational savings and enables our customers to generate more content and thus revenue.”

People matter

Alex Timbs thinks it all comes down to the people factor. “While Dell Technologies has the best, most comprehensive solutions, our most significant differentiation lies in our relationships.  While technology is always evolving, human nature is not, so it’s businesses that understand this fact and focus on building trust that have enduring relationships. Dell Technologies achieves a true partnership by understanding this universal nature, by hiring and training the right people, and through encouraging behaviours that build trust and integrity.” He also puts listening high on the list:

“When you listen, you learn things you would not if you were instead speaking, or pitching your offer without first understanding the need. This also allows our business to realise when we need to pivot to better align with what our customers need, not what we think they need.”

Relationships and customer focus are central for Spectra Logic too, according to Jeff Braunstein. “Spectra Logic firmly believes that collaboration and partnership are a great source of opportunity and improvement in business. In fact, Spectra’s business development team works closely with customers and ecosystem and channel partners alike to plan, develop and deliver the company’s broad range of digital media storage solutions for media and entertainment. We differentiate our company in the marketplace by keeping that customer focus and delivering solutions that seek to maximize our customer’s return on investment (ROI) by optimizing asset management throughout its lifecycle and providing users with the visibility into their data that they need to make intelligent decisions about storage and asset management.”

While InSync Technology is not a storage vendor, “We add value within storage solutions through video processing at the point of acquisition or the point of content usage,” says Paola Hobson. “For example, a programme maker wanting to use a piece of SD 4:3 archive content in a 1080p project will need deinterlacing, aspect ratio conversion and picture format up-conversion. InSync offers these solutions in both hardware and software so they can be integrated into any storage and archive workflow.”

Monetizing archives

With the growth of VOD, the industry saw a move away from “dead” archives to on-line storage systems that can be easily accessed for content monetization. This trend accelerated during the Covid pandemic as media companies needed to dip into their archives like never before. But are there cost implications, and if so, are they justified? Unsurprisingly, this question elicited a wide range of opinions from our correspondents.

Melanie Ciotti at Studio Network Solutions agrees that the trend has lasting value. “Keeping an easily-accessible archive of media is more useful now than ever before, particularly when new productions are stalled during the pandemic. While it may be a significant infrastructure upgrade to serve VOD audiences, it’s a product of the times. With the amount of content being produced, it’s important for studios to relaunch and sometimes retool previous projects when an opportunity arises. Creative post-production teams need tools to efficiently access their wealth of media and prevent snags in their workflow. With so much content available, media asset management software like ShareBrowser help users query and filter media libraries, saving critical time that can be reallocated to other jobs.”

Intelligent tiers

For Spectra Logic, it’s about structuring storage tiers to reflect business and operational requirements. “Spectra Logic helps users implement a modern storage lifecycle management solution that provides insight, automation and management for the storing, accessing, sharing and preserving of growing asset repositories,” says Jeff Braunstein. “This type of solution is capable of aligning the current value of the assets with the proper storage tier, enabling automatic, recurring transfer of inactive or unmanaged content from the expensive Primary Tier, made up of solid state/enterprise disk and NVMe, to the more affordable Perpetual Tier, consisting of Cloud, object storage, NAS and/or tape. Organizations can configure the Perpetual Tier to be as responsive as their workflows demand – creating copies on NAS and disaster recovery copies on cloud or tape. “Repositories like our BlackPearl Object Storage Disk, with spin-down technology that powers down bands of storage when idle, provide low cost disk that scales in capacity like tape with performance that enables digital assets to be available in seconds. At the same time, users can continue to have familiar access to all assets for as long as required. In this manner, companies are able to leverage the cost benefits of technologies traditionally used for archiving, while balancing speed of access.”

A tiered approach is also favoured by Caringo. “Keeping all assets online was a trend that started years ago but has accelerated due to the pandemic,” says Adrian J Herrera. “If you look at a cost analysis per TB of offline systems like tape and online systems like object storage, then the offline systems will inevitably be cheaper. But, when you factor in the continued ability for monetization through remote workflow enablement and immediate content distribution and delivery, then the conversation moves from a cost discussion to a profit-and-streamlined-operations discussion...it isn’t an “either-or” discussion. There should be a tiered approach to architecting an on-line storage solution that meets an organization’s specific requirements with a cold or offline tier available for cost optimization. At Caringo, we have worked strategically to integrate the ability to move data to different storage tiers in a practical way and made it a standard part of our solution. In many instances, there isn’t a need to add an additional data mover or HSM application.”

For Stephen Tallamy, CTO at EditShare, it’s about the right tiers too. “Through the use of proxy editing, it has become very cost effective to use deeper tiers of storage for cloud-based editing. The ability to restore relevant portions of media makes this even more efficient. For on-premise systems, intelligent tiers of storage allow users in one location to promote near-line assets in other locations to local, high performance systems for immediate use.”

Monetizing archives

“Dead archives are still there and we completely see the need for the archive to be monetized, which is best done by being able to search the metadata of your archive, and being able to access your content in a reasonable timeframe,” says Daryl Heinis at Scale Logic. “The most efficient and effective ones deploy MAM and spinning disks with either 100% on-prem or a mix of on-prem and cloud. We help users deal with these increased costs due to our great affordable price point for spinning disk archives, and very high-density rack mount chassis which lower power and cooling requirements and save real estate. Scale Logic has the ability to fit in 1.5PB of storage in an 8U form factor. Scale Logic also offers complete interoperability with multiple MAM partners via our global file system. COVID-19 has impacted a number of users to create an online archive, which removed their direct involvement from a human involvement standpoint. No longer did these companies have someone available to “fetch a tape;” instead, they had to relocate their archives.”

“The scenario of migrating legacy data tapes to an online or ‘active’ archive can end up being a bit of a catch-22,” says David Phillips at Cloudian. “If, in an effort to more effectively monetize archived media assets, the assets are migrated to an expensive NAS tier in order to facilitate search and retrieval, any additional monetization revenue can quickly become offset by the additional infrastructure overhead. At the multi-petabyte level, we strive to keep our cost per gigabyte less than the public cloud. From there it is easy to offer a lower TCO because there are no bandwidth or egress frees. In the current climate, with the production of theatrical and live events severely limited, you see many companies scrambling to scour their archives for content to repurpose, only to run into the reality that they have paltry metadata about the exact content of their assets. The frustrations of looking for ‘needles in the haystack’ has certainly driven many in the industry to accelerate their plans for migration to an object storage-based active archive with enriched metadata and Google-like search.”

Tape v cloud archiving

It's what you can gain from having immediate access to the archive that matters to Object Matrix. “Traditional archive media is indeed cheap to keep on a shelf but you cannot AI a tape, you cannot analyse a tape and you cannot gain instant access to the archive to monetise content on demand,” says Nick Pearce-Tomenius. “The question is less about TCO of a platform but more about the TEB (Total Economic Benefit) that a solution can bring to the organisation. Object Matrix customers like BT TV and Orange in France moved away from LTO technologies in their VOD platforms over a decade ago and have not looked back. They have saved time and effort operationally and all of their archive content is available via APIs integrated into their management systems.”

Tape lives on

Imagine Products has skin in the LTO game, and Dan Montgomery sees tape being relevant long into the future. “While cloud storage for near term use is here to stay, hybrid solutions will continue to combine low cost tapes and network storage alongside cloud options. The key is ultimately being able to index and locate the material regardless of where it resides. The lack of bandwidth access in remote and rural areas, plus cloud ingest and egress costs, will continue to drive mixed storage solutions for the foreseeable future. To this end, affordable indices and proxy sharing options via the cloud will have a place in most workflows. This will add more automation and convenience in content tracking from acquisition through archive, without the overhead of fully storing in a cloud server. People took advantage of the down time earlier this year to get organized and properly archive material. And yes, that meant more LTO tape archiving as a long term, inexpensive asset keeper.”

David Phillips at Cloudian also sees a bright future for tape. “Data tape is going continue to play a crucial role in the future as an inexpensive means of storing the increasing deluge of assets that require long-term retention. Object storage on the other hand offers an unbeatable combination of speed and searchability, especially when utilizing automated metadata enrichment. We are seeing organizations adopt a hybrid approach in order to get the best of both technologies.”

“The future is bright for cloud storage services, but it’s not yet practical for every production house to make the change,” adds Studio Network Solutions’ Melanie Ciotti. “For studios that archive and retrieve media on a daily basis, tape is still king.”

Stephen Tallamy at EditShare sees but a limited future for tape. “Tape archives have purposes for regulatory or financial purposes where access to the content is extremely infrequent. Cloud based archival can be policy driven so that it can serve as a low-cost alternative with faster, cheaper return parameters.”

Nick Pearce-Tomenius at Object Matrix too sees little use for data tape beyond deep archive. He’d choose “Cloud. Local, private or hybrid and but not public in isolation. Use public deep cloud archive as part of a multi-cloud approach, for fire and forget content or the ‘oops.. absolutely everything thing has gone wrong’ strategy. For content you need to frequently access neither LTO nor public cloud archive platforms make sense.”

Spectra Logic’s Jeff Braunstein has a more pragmatic approach: “In today’s media storage workflows there’s no longer a question of whether to use tape or cloud, but where to use tape and where to use cloud. Organizations that require high access to digital assets over time should consider aspects such as the high cost of cloud egress fees and connectivity bandwidth; in such cases, maintaining additional on-premise copies of data is often the best solution. And if talking about large volumes of data, that means tape. With a modern approach to storage lifecycle management, organizations can ensure digital assets are located on the right place at the right time, be it tape or cloud, delivering affordable long-term protection and access to content while helping organizations to become more effective by efficiently using new technologies at what they are best.”

Extracting value

“Archiving to private object storage is the best bet,” says Dell Technologies’ Alex Timbs. “TCO is less than public Cloud, access times are faster, and there is no LTO migration to worry about.  It gives organisations full access to their archives without having to worry about incurring extra fees for a busy time period. Anything on tape is essentially stagnant content, with no ability to abstract value. However, the cost to store it is relatively inexpensive. Depending what tier you are using in the Cloud, the same issues exist. However, if it's sitting on an active tier in the Cloud or on-premise, it does allow you to extract more value, offsetting the extra cost to store the content in an active manner. The other benefit of Cloud is currently there are readily available services you can run against the content that is there. However, we are seeing more customers look to extract this value locally on-premise, with reasons ranging from the cost of data movement to data gravity.”

Is cost hindering cloud adoption?

We have seen the adoption of Cloud focusing on collaborative workflows but is the cost of moving content in and out of the Cloud hindering adoption? Or will on-premise storage continue to be a better economic and/or operational proposition in some applications? This question also provoked a range of opinions.

“Moving data is still a challenging, expensive proposition,” says Dell Technologies’ Alex Timbs. “This is unlikely to significantly change in the near future. In fact, this is an issue that will likely get worse before it gets better as data volumes are increasing much faster than the evolution of new technologies to move that data around. There are two insights that are driving how organisations and workflows adapt to this reality.  First: data only gets moved when value is added by moving it. This requires careful examination of workflow steps and a deep understanding of data sets and their worth. Second, moving applications to be close to data is cheaper/easier/better than going the other way around. An understanding of those points should guide any adoption of any remote collaborative technologies.”

A matter of scale

“The true cost of the cloud depends on utilization; that is, if it costs them money then it will cost you money,” says Caringo’s Adrian J Herrera. “From a business-model perspective, these costs are recurring in perpetuity. What this means is that you will always pay for what is used. With this in mind, you need to understand where the true value of cloud is for you. From a compute perspective, it is usually the ability to enable a burst of infrastructure, processing power or bandwidth in a way that can be scaled down when not needed. The value for storage, however, is a bit different. You rarely scale your storage needs down. What we see more often than not is, from a storage perspective, once you hit the 100 TB+ threshold and you are able to predict your growth needs, it is always more cost effective to keep content on-prem in a way that is still accessible by native-cloud workflows.”

Hybrid strategies

“I think you are going to see the increasing adoption of a hybrid cloud strategy,” says David Phillips at Cloudian. “There is no question that storing large hi-res assets in the public cloud is much more expensive over the long term than storing on-prem, and the cloud pricing trends don’t seem to point to that changing anytime soon. There is also no question that the public cloud is a great place to host proxy-based collaboration workflows, which is why you see so many MAM vendors adopting S3 storage as a primary asset repository. Once the edit is locked and approved, the EDL can link to the hi-res assets living in on-prem S3 storage for final output.”

EditShare also sees the cloud as the ultimate destination, but for now keeping hi-res media on-prem is the answer. “It’s beneficial to work in the most efficient codecs in the cloud when the need to egress is required in order to minimize costs,” says Stephen Tallamy. “However, there are very efficient proxy based workflows that allow you to keep your original materials on-premise but provide access to editors around the globe - this allows collaboration without incurring the costs to take your final product to the customer. Ultimately, we are heading to a future where the content arrives in the cloud and doesn’t egress until it’s being delivered to a consumer. In the meantime, hybrid workflows that allow the high resolution and proxy forms of media to sit in different storage locations allows creatives to build a flexible workflow at the right price point.”

Object Matrix’s Nick Pearce-Tomenius sees cost as the key issue, and points to a hybrid future. “Public cloud storage companies make their money on data services and customers retrieving the content they own. Some might call that the ultimate in ransomware. Not me though. The immediate future for some will be cloud first if their business models can support the cost and performance profile those platforms bring. Others are looking at a hybrid approach utilizing the power of on-prem workflows with the elasticity and data services that public cloud brings. We are also seeing a surge in interest in private cloud storage or managed services like MatrixStore Cloud that offer the same level of commercials as the public cloud providers but with no egress fees, predictable long terms financials and the ability to access all content from anywhere without penalties.”

Spectra Logic also envisages a hybrid outlook. “For the foreseeable future, hybrid storage solutions will enable organizations to reduce data storage costs while optimizing data protection by storing some data in the cloud and some using on-premise disk and tape solutions,” says Jeff Braunstein. “When implemented with a modern approach to storage lifecycle management, hybrid cloud solutions effectively deliver affordable long-term protection and access for data by ensuring data is located in the right place at the right time throughout its lifecycle. With modern storage lifecycle management in place, users can reap the benefits of cloud and on-premise storage technologies, balancing cost and access and adapting to changing workflow needs as technology evolves.”

Storage Network Solutions agrees. “Who says it has to be one or the other? We have many users that enjoy a hybrid on-prem and cloud storage workflow,” says Melanie Ciotti. “The problem with cloud-only storage workflows is that it isn’t built for the massive footage transfers common in creative media. It isn’t ready for the collaboration and speed that media workflows demand. Cloud storage can be an integrated part of a user’s shared storage workflow—serving an important role in backup and replication, file sharing with clients, etc.—but I believe on-premise shared storage will continue to offer a better solution to the media production community for the foreseeable future.

“The cost of collaborative workflows in the cloud is hindering adoption and will continue to do so,” says Daryl Heinis at Scale Logic. “In-and-out fees are the main concern, and tracking the costs is also an issue. To effectively contain these two main concerns, companies must adopt a proxy workflow or a complete 100% cloud solution that aims to limit the back-and-forth of data movement. Scale Logic continues to look at the value of all our solutions—including our Remote Access Portal (RAP) economical shared storage and archive solutions—to continue to pay for themselves within three years’ time and, in some cases, a lot sooner. Investment and ROI continually plays into our product development. No longer does shared storage have to be in the same building as you.”

How is cloud changing store workflows?

For Object Matrix, the answer is simple. “The cloud, be that local, hybrid or private, is enabling content to be liberated in many ways from single workflow silos or ‘content jails’ as some call them. If content is in a shared cloud storage bucket and available on the network via APIs or standard protocols then more can be done with it by internal or external teams,” says Nick Pearce-Tomenius.

Caringo’s Adrian J Herrera agrees. “The cloud, or specifically the ability to support cloud-based workflows, is becoming a checkbox item for storage workflows. What this often means from the storage perspective is support for cloud APIs and interfaces like Azure or the de facto standard Amazon S3 API.”

No way back

“Cloud-based workflows have introduced production teams to the experience of ‘accessing all our assets from anywhere’ and once they get a taste of that, it is difficult to get them to go back to legacy workflows based on LAN shared storage,” Cloudian’s David Phillips adds. “I think the other big change is using object storage clouds to extend the capacity of Tier 1 SAN and NAS volumes and thereby “right-size” storage allocations according to performance and capacity needs.”

EditShare’s Stephen Tallamy welcomes the speed and responsiveness of cloud workflows. “Full systems can be set up at a very rapid pace. This immediate access to unlimited storage capacity reduces the overhead of trying to plan your storage capacity up-front. If you need more storage, you can have it within minutes. If you need more throughput for different codecs or more editors, again you can scale out to meet this need, then contract when finished.”

“Cloud will eventually change Store workflows for everyone but as of today, it is not an economically viable option for the average user, as transcoding fees can get prohibitively expensive,” says Daryl Heinis at Scale Logic. “If facilities are looking to use the cloud just because accessing content is impossible during the pandemic lockdown, Scale Logic offers a Remote Access Portal that can allow remote edit clients to access on-prem storage content very securely over HTTPS. RAP will then seamlessly sync the edited content back to the on-prem storage.”

Jeff Braunstein of Spectra Logic again emphasises the importance of the right content on the right storage: “Cloud has become a ubiquitous part of many media storage workflows, but leveraging it to its fullest value requires a modern approach to storage lifecycle management that brings users the visibility and insight into storage they need to better manage digital assets by enabling intelligent tiering and migration, while maintaining transparent search and seamless access to migrated assets.”

Melanie Ciotti at Storage Network Solutions has seen cloud workflows blossom during lockdown. “We’re seeing many users opt to backup project files, exported media, and more to cloud storage. This has been an incredibly useful workflow for many creators working from home who don’t have remote access to their on-prem storage server. By automating the file transfer and backup process with Slingshot (EVO’s built-in automations GUI and API), teams can spend less time manually transferring their media to cloud storage, and more time creating and editing it. Of course, there are many teams that still need remote access to their on-prem storage. Our newest service, SNS Cloud VPN, gives users a secure connection to their EVO shared storage from wherever they need to be.”

Final word in this section goes to Alex Timbs at Dell Technologies, who has some searching questions to ask – and thinks anyone thinking of moving to the cloud should answer for themselves. “While most M&E businesses need to embrace cloud on some level for aspects of their pipeline, I don't think the value proposition has changed that much in an M&E context in the last ten years; it's just more accessible, has a richer ecosystem, and is more competitive than it was. Customers still need to ensure they answer the ‘Why’ before committing to a strategy.

“The cloud has immense value, but it isn't the answer to everything, particularly  in media workflows. I raise this, as I have seen so many businesses fail to ask and answer the ‘Why’ in relation to their cloud strategy, resulting in overwhelming complexity, slower pipelines and bill shock. When I refer to answering the ‘Why’, I mean customers need to answer a few fundamental questions, some examples I might want to answer for myself are below:

  • The Cloud isn't cheaper for sustained activity in almost every use case, but it's excellent for peaks, so where will you use it in your workflow to best take advantage of this?
  • Cloud often increases complexity, particularly in hybrid workflows, so do I have enough subject matter experts and clarity of outcomes?
  • You need to get a lot more prescriptive with your data, a) because every GB per minute costs you, and b) because you need to ensure its where the compute, user or process is. So you need to know where your data is currently, and where does it need to be throughout your workflow?
  • How will you manage cost controls and who will approve them?
  • How do you intend to migrate your technical debt (if you have any), and have you factored that into your budget?
  • Can your intended workflow be containerised, and will it be more efficient in doing so?
  • Will you have the resources you expect when you need them? As an example, some large media customers may find they need to use all access zones in order to secure enough resource at the right price, and need to move data and /or cache across them, with massive associated financial and time costs due to data movement.
  • Beyond being able to address short-term resource demands, how will Cloud improve speed, number of iterations, or reduce costs?
  • In most businesses, innovation comes from testing a new idea or questioning the status quo. This generally requires a little risk-taking to prove out. When using cloud resources, every tested idea comes at a cost, so the risk is that innovation is stemmed, due to cost aversion.”

What's coming next in content storage technology and workflows?

We asked our correspondents what they are working on right now to further enhance storage technology and workflows over the coming months and years.

“For content storage specifically, we will continue to increase the functionality of what can be done on the storage layer. We already have functionality like partial file restore, video clipping, file sharing and file searching built into the storage layer,” Caringo’s Adrian J Herrera reveals.

Cloudian’s David Phillips maps out ambitious plans: “Our initial product focus from our founding in 2011 was on delivering scale-out distributed storage clusters, accessed via the S3 API. In the past couple of years, we have really focused on security, as you can’t offer storage to governmental agencies much less media enterprises without very rigorous tech stack auditing and security certification. This also led to the introduction of our S3 Object Lock feature for ransomware protection. Now, with the increasing commoditization of NVMe technologies, we are seeing a demand for not just higher performance storage but high-performance storage that is API-addressable and can scale out to serve enormous data sets. To address this demand, Cloudian recently introduced flash-optimized object storage software that also provides 3X better price/performance than competitive offerings. In a nutshell, our aim is to offer highly-scalable storage that is performant, secure, and accessible everywhere.”

“At EditShare we are planning on more and more 3rd party/partner integrations to allow for better customization of the larger ecosystems,” says Stephen Tallamy. “We recognize that storage is just one piece of the puzzle and that by providing open APIs customers can buy only the software they need in order to unlock their creative resources. On-premise, across multiple locations, and in the cloud - media needs to be available intelligently and leverage AI to maximize its use.”

InSync’s Paola Hobson is looking to ensure that its customers can readily access every piece of content. “It's clear that broadcasters and media companies need to have well-stocked archives to be ready for any situation where production of new material gets interrupted (e.g. as we have seen recently with the covid-19 pandemic).  Archive content also helps fill schedules so helps cut costs. It's important for content owners to be confident that they can re-use their stored assets, so frame rate and format conversion solutions, such as those offered by InSync Technology, will continue to be critical tools in monetisation of content.  When 8K production in HDR becomes the norm and content producers are already experimenting with the next new trend, content owners will continue to happily use their conversion tools (from InSync Technology of course!), confident that they can monetise their material long into the future.”

Daryl Heinis at Scale Logic: “One of our main aims is to integrate seamlessly and natively to S3 compliant cloud. We are also actively progressing client and server-side performance with RoCE RDMA technologies, as our clients request zippier metadata performance and higher top end throughput. Single global file systems above 20GB/sec are also on the roadmap, as well as actively researching and planning into 200 and 400Gb ethernet.” 

“Most organizations are now generating and utilizing content in both in multiple clouds and at multiple on-premise locations,” says Spectra Logic’s Jeff Braunstein. “These organizations are also moving content between these cloud and on-premise locations. Data management solutions must account for these hybrid workflows. Spectra Logic continues to focus on tighter integration and management of content in these locations.”

“It’s no secret that many studios are eyeing further implementation of remote workflows into their business,” says Studio Network Solutions’ Melanie Ciotti. “In 2020, we’ve addressed this need for remote connectivity to on-prem storage and file portability with our proxy workflow and SNS VPN solutions. In 2021, we will continue to optimize the remote workflow solutions our customers rely on to keep creating from anywhere.

“Outside of remote workflows, we’re updating our EVO GUI with a brand-new EVO OS v.7, bringing new features to our MAM system with ShareBrowser v.6.0.1, and keeping our engineers and product specialists busy with exciting new ideas in development. SNS has doubled down on what we already knew: the media production industry is not homogeneous. We’re committed to creating a storage environment that’s as flexible as the industry we serve, giving content creators the choice to make their projects in a way that works best for them,” Ciotti concludes.

For Dell Technologies, it’s “Highly performant, small footprint ‘edge’ storage with optimised data orchestration built-in.  Companies are centralising IT and archive resources, but for the foreseeable future, there is still demand for fast storage in multiple locations near to where talent is working.  This precisely aligns with the PowerScale roadmap and Dell Technologies vision,” Alex Timbs concludes.

Final word goes to Nick Pearce-Tomenius at Object Matrix. “It’s all well and good categorising storage as “on prem” or “cloud”, but in the end, these are layers of abstraction that interest IT nerds and not the users of those systems. The users just want their data available quickly and securely wherever they happen to be working from. So from a content storage technology perspective it’s about providing data for people where they want it and when they want it. Object Matrix is uniquely positioned in the media industry to provide on-prem through to cloud solutions for content storage and is building upon that technology base to provide a true cloud storage - one that spans all paradigms of storage in a secure and manageable freeway.”

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