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August 2014
Issue: September 1, 2010

Better Data Storage Options for Post

By: Fadi Albatal
Today’s all-digital motion pictures generate far more data than their predecessors — up to two petabytes of data or more per project. As an industry, the media and entertainment market is managing an astounding number of large data files that is only increasing as production processes become more sophisticated. Without high-performance, massively-scalable file systems, post production shops face latency issues that can negatively impact their ability to deliver content on time and on budget. 

Media and entertainment organizations, particularly those focused on content distribution, must demonstrate the highest reliability to customers who rely on their state-of-the-art formatting, production and quality-control processes. Many of these businesses face a number of critical issues that could be solved by replacing inadequate file systems with technology specifically designed to support complex data demands.

A TYPICAL DILEMMA

There are many media groups who have fully embraced the latest digital technology without simultaneously adopting adequate file systems to manage the massive data created by their post activities.  For any company in this situation, storage dilemmas quickly become apparent. Without implementing adequate systems to hold their state-of-the-art digital data, these otherwise able companies soon begin missing their own performance and cost goals. Their workflow production might remain adequate, but outdated storage configurations will not allow concurrent file sharing, on-time delivery or satisfactory manpower allocation.

The fact is, yesterday’s storage configurations do not allow companies using today’s film technology to scale capacity in the quick, dramatic fashion demanded by their evolving workloads.  Those who try to manage under these circumstance face common problems: uneven capacity distribution, complex storage environments that tax IT staff, and an inability to easily adjust storage to meet specific application requirements. From the ingestion of tape to pre- and post-processing, encoding, quality assurance, titling, encryption and final content delivery and packaging, the lack of adequate storage systems slows delivery and threatens the success of businesses that should be thriving.

FIVE ELEMENTS ESSENTIAL TO SOLVING THE DATA STORAGE PROBLEM

Forward-thinking media companies are seeking out solutions to storage problems before those problems harm the overall business.  In considering storage solutions, there are five elements every entertainment organization should consider:

1 - Your data needs will grow, so plan for that growth now. Seek out a file system with transparent scalability and the power to consolidate disparate resources into a single pool of storage. To ease the burden on your IT staff and eliminate the frustrations of outmoded systems, make sure any technology you evaluate offers an easy-to-manage storage pool that is also capacity-optimized.

2 - Not all storage systems are geared toward the specific needs of the media industry. Make sure to select a solution that is not only high-performance and low latency, but also one that can accommodate the I/O needed for rich media applications involving billions of objects or files.

3 - Keep workflow issues in mind.  You likely have a number of stakeholders who need data access in a near simultaneous timeframe.  Make sure you adopt a technology package with global name space and built-in, network-attached storage for a universal, consolidated file system accessible to all users. Your dedicated metadata servers should support multiple concurrent file systems to facilitate storage consolidation, scalability, and — of course — smooth workflow.

4 - You’re focused on today’s pain points, but don’t forget to look to the future, too. Consider not only your current environment, but also any potential purchases down the road. Any storage system you select should accommodate multiple operating systems so you can share files seamlessly, and it pays to have an open architecture for hardware independence; you don’t want to lose the option of buying the most efficient and cost-effective technology solutions later because the storage system you buy today won’t accommodate them.

5 - Plan out your next moves. As you work toward an IT shop that will better support your data needs, consider what your next steps for improvement might entail. Are data protection and disaster recovery (DR) in your future plans?  How will your selection of a storage system affect your choices for DR later?

HIGHER PRODUCTIVITY, LOWER COSTS

Media production companies are working with state-of-the-art, digital resources in pre- and post production. Such resources certainly warrant storage systems that support their superiority with correspondingly high performance. Rich media storage systems are capable of delivering the secure digital, high definition and file resolution today’s customers require.

In fact, upgraded storage systems that fully support large data set files can have dramatic effects on a business’ content delivery time, workflow and cost. Storage capabilities can be quadrupled in a short period of time, costs can be decreased by up to 50 percent, files can be shared securely and safely across client and server operating system platforms, and performance can be tuned on an application-by-application basis.

Better data storage options signal simplified management of and access to a large number of multiple types of files, and a reduction in operational expenses. They also signal a company’s serious attitude toward embracing digital capabilities and all the requirements of cutting-edge post production functions. Organizations that wish to work in this realm must adopt the supporting technologies that massive data sets require. Inevitably, the entertainment companies that do so will come out ahead in the race to deliver faster, more reliable, higher-quality post production work.

Fadi Albatal is the senior director of product marketing at FalconStor Software. With over 12 years of senior level management in the IT market, Albatal has substantial experience with large scale storage systems.