The Ascent of Storage: Evolving Workflow Digital Storage

Posted By Tom Coughlin on May 14, 2010 03:22 pm | Permalink

Working with higher resolution and stereoscopic content places increasing demands on digital storage systems supporting today’s media and entertainment workflows.  This article will explore products, applications and projections for storage system trends gleaned from interviews, booth visits and presentations at the 2010 NAB show.  We will start out reviewing digital storage information for content capture, discuss content ingest and then look at editing and other post-production activities and end with speculation of the future of workflow digital storage.

Getting the right stuff

Content capture in video cameras use a wide variety of storage media.  At the NAB show Maxell was showing the newly announced iVDR HDD-based storage cartridges for content capture and field editing.  These iVDR storage cartridges were shown offering up to 500 GB per cartridge.  Maxell as well as other companies such as Fujifilm and Panasonic were showing rugged solid state storage modules for digital cameras such as the Panasonic P2 and Sony SxS camera.  These flash modules are not cheap with 64 GB P2 modules running as high as $1,800 each.  For this reason camera operators tend to reuse these cartridges, putting the contents into hard disk drives.  Lifetimes of 2-3 years of active use are reported with P2 cartridges.

Focus enhancements was showing its latest generation of direct to edit recorders including solid state as well as hard drive versions.  These devices are made to fit comfortably attached to video cameras to capture content and easily edit it in the field.

Cutting it down to size

The technical requirements for post production work drives data rates, stream quality and storage capacities as higher resolution stereoscopic work becomes more widespread.  Companies such as LSI and Atto were showing storage adapters supporting the latest generation of 6 Gbps SATA and SAS to support storage systems with hard disk drives and also solid state drives.

EditShare was showing a particularly comprehensive workflow storage and content management solution at the 2010 NAB show.  They announced that they were incorporating elements of recent acquisitions into their latest product line updates.  These initiatives included making the Lightworks NLE software into an open source program, an integrated Geevs 5.0 release for acquisition and playout for broadcasters and a production asset management solution called Flow 2.0.  All of these products work with EditShare storage and archiving solutions.  Editshare is offering some solid state drive options with these storage systems offering the fast playout capability of NAND flash to their hard disk drive based systems.

Facilis is another company targeting digital storage for post production environments.  Version 2.0 of its Shared File System utilizing its Terrablock SAN storage systems.  These systems take advantage of file-based camera acquisition by allowing real-time playback of any resolution streaming or sequential file format. From 35Mbit Sony EXCam to 4K RED ONE, allowing high performance access and facility wide content sharing and collaboration.  TerraBlock SANs provide a choice of high performance or fully collaborative sharing through software attribute.

DataDirect Networks XStreamScaler storage solutions include automated tiered asset management allowing high value production content to be stored on fast SAS drives while archive data is kept on SATA HDDs.  The company also showed it’s Web Object Scalar (WOS) cloud storage system for global content distribution.

Lots of boxes—lots of bytes!

Many companies at the 2010 NAB show were showing storage single and multiple drive boxes as well as rack mounted enclosures.  All of these boxes include hard disk drives but many of the companies are also claiming solid state storage options.  Many of these companies are focusing on storage to meet the demands of the modern media workflow.  Some of the companies producing storage enclosures include LSI and AIC producing storage enclosures, often under other companies brand names.  Other companies producing enclosures (and complete storage systems as well) include Aberdeen, BrightDrive, CalDigit, Chenbro, DataDirect Networks, dotHill, Dulce Systems, EMC, Facilis, GraniteStor, IBM, iStoragePro, JMR, KaleidoNet, LaCie, MassTech, NetApp, Promise, Rorke Data, San Systems, Sonnet, Stardom and Tiger Technology.

Another approach, offered by Falconstor, is a scaled out HyperFS file system which can use any storage hardware to offer a single name space and centralized repository.  The system supports up to 144 PB supporting up to 16 concurrent streams and a separate metadata server.

Companies showing single and multiple drive external storage products included G-Tech (part of Hitachi Global Storage Technology), LaCie and Western Digital.

Following the evolutionary chain

What sort of storage devices and systems will be required for future generations of content.  8K movie production is becoming more commonplace and resolutions of 16K and even higher are contemplated.  NHK from Japan has been making steady progress on their Super Hi-Vision TV that would display 33 megapixel video with 22:1 multichannel sound.  The storage and bandwidth requirements for handling such content will be staggering. 

Clustered and grid based switched storage systems with very fast interfaces now used in high performance computing will probably find their way into future video production.  Managing and tiering this content will be very challenging.   Perhaps new tools such as automated metadata generation will help video producers create new ways to index and use the enormous content libraries that will result.

Future video production will require larger capacity storage devices and system and networking and interface technologies to support them.  There will be plenty of room for additional innovation and more interesting storage innovations to discover at future NAB shows.