Created in 1992 by a consortium of cable companies to preserve an independent editorial voice for Canada’s democratic processes, the Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC) offers a unique window into the Parliament, politics and public affairs in Canada and around the world. CPAC programming is delivered to more than 11 million homes worldwide via 24/7 streaming through itsTV2GOmobile app and the website.
CPAC has been streaming live content for approximately 15 years and can now deliver up to 10 simultaneous live event streams at any given time. We generate about 4 TB of data daily in ingest, editing, filtering and producing new content. CPAC’s producers can access an additional half-petabyte of high-resolution programming in our online data archive.
In overseeing the daily technical operations at CPAC, I, along with a team of technical experts, collaborate with editors and producers across the organization to ensure the delivery of quality content. CPAC archives the finished content in perpetuity; in fact, CPAC is in the process of digitizing historical taped Parliamentary content for inclusion in the archive.
It became clear that moving to a disk-based solution would enable CPAC to keep pace with data growth.
CPAC’s breed of long-form programming requires rendering videos that are hours in length, which can be fairly taxing on its storage system. Historically, CPAC used legacy Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM) software to migrate data to our organization’s robotic tape library. However, over time, the team encountered challenges with this approach. Managing the tape library was an arduous and costly process, especially as the amount of archived content grew exponentially. Moreover, tapes would regularly go offline or become corrupted, which was a big challenge for the small tech team.
When it worked, the library performed well. When it didn’t, it was challenging, especially since we strive to achieve “five-nines”—or 99.999 percent—uptime for our systems. Maintaining the tape library and HSM application became incredibly expensive and labor intensive. The cumbersome process of managing both required up to 15 percent of someone’s time each day. We simply didn’t have the manpower or the time to stay on top of our tape vaulting demands.
As our organization’s 400-tape library edged closer to capacity, we considered a move to a new tape format, which would have necessitated the replacement of all of its tape drives. Not only did this scenario pose a significant capital investment, but the time and process of migrating all the existing content from one tape format to another was daunting.
It became clear that moving to a disk-based solution would enable us to keep pace with data growth without the cost, reliability concerns or administrative burden of tape management.
FILE OR OBJECT-BASED?
Pursuing the disk-based solutions route to address its archiving needs, CPAC assessed both file- and object-based technologies across several criteria, including storage capacity, scalability, ease of use, reliability, flexibility and cost. CPAC was drawn to the ease with which it could expand an active archive using object-based storage as well as the ability to make this storage readily available to its Dalet digital media asset management system, CPAC’s asset manager, through a CIFS interface. We also liked how object storage could be used for disaster protection. With object storage, we could satisfy several business needs with one solution, which made this solution more economical than buying a file-based disk platform.
After narrowing down object storage options, CPAC chose DataDirect Networks (DDN) because of its solutions’ ability to deliver multiple storage tiers and fully integrate with Dalet. The platform was capable of delivering elevated performance while scaling globally to provide CPAC with an active archive that could grow over time; the WOS object storage platform would work seamlessly with the company’s existing DDN storage as well as CPAC’s legacy applications and workflows; and flexible disaster recovery options through local, replicated and globally distributed erasure coding to safeguard data with high durability and availability at multiple locations. Last but not least, even with three years of support, CPAC determined that the cost of the DDN WOS object storage platform was equivalent to what the organization paid in a little over two years of annual support fees on its robotics library and HSM software.
With WOS, CPAC can leverage the same content for both DR and collaboration, by remotely mirroring data and allowing remote teams to access content independent of the primary site via WOS Gateways located at a secondary site. The ability to add DR helped clinch the decision to go with WOS.
CPAC has now been using high-performance storage solutions from DDN for the past five years and has no plans to pursue another direction any time soon. With its end-to-end storage architecture, CPAC is well-positioned to accommodate a wide range of ever-evolving workflow demands for ingesting, storing, distributing and safeguarding on-air, web-based and mobile content.
If we need to retrieve footage of a dignitary on the spot, we now have the confidence to pull all the archive footage without delay.
CPAC also plans to leverage WOS to handle IT backups. It’s great to use one solution for archive, DR and IT backup. Based on the cost savings and decreased administrative overhead, the solution will pay for itself in just over a year.
Eitan Weisz is senior manager of technical operations for the Cable Public Affairs Channel, a Canadian privately-owned, not for profit, bilingual television service based in Ottawa, Ontario.