Outlook: Flash and Object Storage in 2016
Jason Danielson
Issue: December 1, 2015

Outlook: Flash and Object Storage in 2016

As we look forward into 2016, I’m excited about the shift technology is allowing where data is concerned. We see big things happening in two main areas of data storage that will greatly benefit the production and distribution of content: Flash (or SSDs) and Object Storage.

Flash will become the norm

For years, flash was only considered a good option for small cache storage as it was terribly expensive per gigabyte and was typically not recommended for video. The notion was that a few gigabytes of cache wasn’t large enough to hold the video timeline being edited by a small workgroup or even a single editor. Today, the industry has drastically more affordable flash in the form of solid-state disks (SSDs). These SSDs (3.8 terabyte SSDs will be shipping in 2016) are changing the game where video is concerned. Even at a bitrate like ProRes 220, flash can hold 100 hours of content in roughly 12 terabytes, or a little more than four SSDs. This means that for many video edit workgroups, the content ingested and edited during any given week can all be held in flash cache. In visual effects, where hundreds or thousands of render cores need to access many of the same files to render frames in a shot, the same is true. Meanwhile, the long tail of production content can be stored on slower, more cost-effective drives and still be quickly accessible for all production purposes.

We are already seeing customers making this switch. At a large 3D animation and VFX house in Vancouver, editors used to have a large flash device separate from their system — recently they put the flash in a NetApp FAS system and now it’s all managed seamlessly as part of the larger system. We also just completed testing with a major US broadcast network that’s putting 8TBs of SSD flash in a system. This brings new capabilities to systems that couldn’t have done the job two years ago.

Bottom line: Faster, higher capacity and less expensive SSDs will take flash mainstream in 2016.

Object storage will move beyond proof-of-concept

We see object storage tying large multi-site media services and studio operations together to reduce the problems created by multiple media asset management (MAM) deployments. It will also make cloud storage a natural “third tier” for these operations — essentially providing cloud storage on-site and providing storage for billions of files. Because object storage is designed to store content for a long time, it is ideal for studio archive. And larger studios are able to support multi-site collaboration at the storage level using NetApp StorageGRID Webscale, which is capable of managing multi-site repositories. Additionally, object stores use the same interface as Amazon Web Services S3 storage, so users can seamlessly go to the cloud, creating hybrid cloud repositories.

Bottom line: object storage will move into real production in 2016.

So when you boil it all down, these two key storage solutions have the potential to change M&E workflows, reduce costs and increase productivity in 2016.

Jason Danielson heads Product and Solution Marketing for NetApp Media and Entertainment Solutions (www.NetApp.com), which is based in Sunnyvale, CA.