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September 2014
Issue: March 1, 2012

Review: iQstor XL

By: Brady Betzel

PRODUCT: iQstor XL

WEBSITE: www.iqstor.com

- Affordable Workgroup Storage

- Scalable up to 720TBs

- Works with industry standard SAN software.

In today’s cost cutting post environment, line producers are tightening their budgets tighter than ever before. The large budgets for purchasing post equipment are fleeting; everything needs to be better, faster and cheaper. Oh and by the way it can never fail. As an assistant editor half my time is spent fixing problems with edit systems, editors, assistants, email, you name it we are responsible for fixing it. One thing that I have to rely on is my storage infrastructure. If half my media corrupts, guess who is expected to come in over a weekend or two to fix it? 

In the past I have had success with the Avid Unity, ISIS, and even Apple’s Xserve. If you know the limitations of your storage and abide by those rules, everything can run smoothly. The usual mitigating factor in renting/purchasing decisions at a post facility is usually the cost; prices have been forced to go on a diet. Furthermore, the post ecosphere is leaning toward requiring privateers to have systems of their own, creating a large need for a cost effective at-home-solution. 

Finding a reliable sub-$30,000, fibre-based, and reliable SAN storage solution with large scalability is hard. iQstor has come to the aid of work-at-home editors, post facilities, and even boutique production company environments with the unveiling of the iQ-XL high-performance affordable workgroup storage solution. 

Usually I would say that a review of this type of equipment would be better suited for a post house with multiple editors or a boutique agency with the need for affordable and fast storage. This time, I saw a great opportunity to review a piece of equipment that is becoming commonplace inside of someone’s home.

With the ever-expanding 4K, stereoscopic, DSLR, Red camera, Canon C300, and many other high-storage low cost production solutions, users are more frequently creating their own full resolution workflows inside of their apartments. I have an Avid in my two-bedroom apartment and when I was getting ready to receive the iQ-XL I wondered if it would fit next to the crib, bed and edit bay in our master bedroom. Luckily for me it did and without taking up too much more room. I am now a “post house” built in the city, in less than 1,500 square feet.

WHAT’S INSIDE

The iQ-XL is a 16-bay system high-performance RAID storage system on a small budget. This review concentrated on testing DNX220 MXF media with Avid Media Composer, but the iQ-XL can scale to maintaining a throughput in excess of 4,000MB/s. Capable of 2K and 4K playback within a single enclosure in a single stream. It comes with 8x 8Gb Fibre Channel ports in dual active/active controller configuration and support for 6Gb/s SAS and NL-SAS disk drives. If you are boutique post house, the iQ-XL boasts an eight-person-working environment without missing a beat or dropping a frame. It eliminates dropping frames of video by way of its built in AST read ahead buffering technology. If you are thinking towards the future and can imagine a day where 16TBs won’t cover all your bases, the iQ-XL expands up to 240 drives and 720TBs with expansion chassis. It supports RAID levels 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, on-line RAID expansion, multiple RAID sets. With the dual active controllers, each is given a 64-bit Intel Quad Core CPU as well as 4GB cache per controller. Not to mention that this beauty is capable of multiple stream support when using files like ProRes Quicktimes. While the iQ-XL integrates with industry standard SAN software such as FibreJet, Luster, and StorNext; it comes with SAN manager software. 

THROUGH ITS PACES

Now that we got the technical jargon out of the way I can tell you what this thing does in the real world. As I told the guys at iQstor when asked how I test equipment: I try to break it. I figured that in my world, on a daily basis I use Avid based DNX220 files to online. No problems in either Media Composer or After Effects. Rendering multiple layers to the iQ-XL at DNX-220 worked great.  

Being an assistant editor that usually interfaces with only the upkeep of a storage environment, being sent a full SAN to set up and configure on my own was daunting. To the credit of iQstor, I was able to do it pretty painlessly. Although, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend anyone deploy his or her own SAN without expert advice. The Storage Manager software was not much different from other management software I had used. Within an hour I was able to manage my workspaces, mirror what partitions I needed mirroring, and began working. Being an assistant editor usually means you are responsible for media server maintenance until it breaks, so having an interface that is familiar and somewhat easy to use was key for me to get up and running as quickly as possible with the iQ-XL.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I was able to test the SAN for a little under a week, I wish I could have had it for longer but to iQstor’s credit, they were very busy with these units. If you are thinking of buying an aggressively priced, intelligent, fast, high performance, workgroup storage keep the iQ-XL in mind with its ability to handle multiple streams and support for a single stream of 4K media without hiccups. 

Brady Betzel is an Assistant Editor based in Los Angeles. He can be reached at: bmbetzel@hotmail.com.