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Has Storage got too Complex?

Mon 20, 11 2017

Written by IABM CTO Stan Moote

This article originally appeared in the IBC 2016 Daily

Storage for video production used to be simple – you picked the video camera you could afford, and the camera choice often dictated the videotape format you would use. Perhaps this seemed simple however tape operations are definitely time-consuming, expensive and inflexible.

Storage for video production used to be simple - you picked the video camera you could afford, and the camera choice often dictated the videotape format you would use - Has Storage got too Complex? - Stan moote, IABM Click To Tweet

Adding scale

There are many reasons for file-based workflows to have completely taken over media creation and distribution, but the nature of linear videotapes as a storage medium isn’t usually thought of as the primary one. The issue was scale: you could only produce as much as you had edit bays and dedicated VTRs available to you, and adding or upgrading a bay was a time- and capital-intensive proposition.

The first file-based workflows emulated the existing VTR model, with dedicated islands of storage purchased in “number of hours of SD or HD”. Subsequent generations of pure file-based systems realized that network-attached storage could be used for multiple workloads – not just replicating the linear way that productions used to be done. Multiple editors could work collaboratively on the same show, a sequence or a segment – vastly increasing the flexibility and agility of the production process.

Flexibility and control

With collaboration came asset management issues: Who was working on that clip? And with pre-release content came security issues: You shouldn’t be able to see the clips I’m working on from your edit workstation! Finally, as facilities began to implement “follow-the-sun” global collaborative production techniques borrowed from the VFX world, post-production engineers came to realize that their choice of storage determined their workflow, costs and ability to recover from errors.

Video engineers used to think that the enemy was enterprise IT admins who didn’t understand their world and couldn’t deal with low-latency high data throughput streams through their packet-filtered spectacles. And yet storage access via IP networks has become the norm in today’s converged media facility. What has changed?

Adding tiers

Scale-out storage systems are ideal at providing the bandwidth and capacity on-demand as media usage scales in a facility. Scale-out NAS is inherently flexible by virtue of clustered file systems and the ability to add storage nodes to a shared pool as needed. IP networks enable the use of multiple access protocols and these in turn support innovative workflows to meet business needs.

Many of these innovative workflows come from enterprise IT vendors who have implemented intelligent tiering of storage, at varying cost/performance ratios. Other enterprise features like multi-tenancy and unified security models have allowed content creation and distribution companies to utilize the cloud as just another storage tier, with security controls that encourage collaboration in ways that couldn’t be imagined in a brick-and-mortar facility.

Enterprise IT vendors have solved a number of challenges in the content creation and distribution space, giving media customers new capabilities that allow productions to extend to ‘edge’ locations, optimize their core media operations, and leverage hybrid clouds for collaboration as well as archiving and disaster recovery.

Enterprise IT vendors have solved a number of challenges in the content creation and distribution space, giving media customers new capabilities - Has Storage got too Complex? - Stan moote, IABM Click To Tweet

Making IT work for all media

In the back of your mind, you are no doubt still thinking that the Enterprise IT geeks don’t understand how different your media assets are from other industries’ assets. This is where the SMPTE AxF (Archive eXchange Format) standard comes into play. AxF is an encapsulation format for generic file-based content that allows it to be stored, transported and preserved on any type of operating system, file system, storage media or technology. It is used by media entertainment companies that need a long-term solution for storing large volumes of big media files down to a single person who just needs to transfer or store a few files with focus on future accessibility.

Storage is more that just about media files being archived and recalled. Clients need to intake, process and analyze data too. This is done via various protocols like NFS, CIFS and HDFS. Now social media are demanding new techniques that need to be understood by broadcasters and media providers alike.

Embrace the cloud too

Don’t get frightened by trying to decide how cloud storage comes into play. Think of implementing a hybrid (public and private) cloud as just another tier in your workflow, integrated with local production on-premise storage. This gives media organizations the flexibility and simplicity to expand beyond their current capacity and integrate their production pipeline into any cloud-based solution, without getting locked into a single-vendor situation with high egress fees.

Storage is more that just about media files being archived and recalled. Clients need to intake, process and analyze data too - Has Storage got too Complex? - Stan moote, IABM Click To Tweet

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