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Delivering high-quality content within tight deadlines is part of the daily fare for digital media companies. The pressure applied to production by ever-higher video resolution is another matter though. As productions embrace 4K formats alongside HD and beyond, it drives the need for increased throughput and capacity. The existing HD-based technical infrastructure often starts to reach its limits. Dealing with the growing demand for media storage and the associated management challenge can overwhelm production teams, who would rather focus on creative content but must now contend with overcoming storage issues.
So what options do production teams have? The most common solution to the problem has been adding additional storage systems. This process accelerated in 2009 during the transition from Standard Definition (SD) to High Definition (HD), quadrupling the storage requirements of most creative workflows. The results are what one would expect – a production chain with disconnected islands of multiple storage solutions on separate networks. In such an environment, editing efficiencies collided against performance requirements and storage scale limitations, causing a noticeable impact on the ability to grow the business well before user limits were reached. The results remain with us today: lengthy and inefficient production workflows that act as bottlenecks to creativity, and an increased management effort that distracts from the real tasks at hand – all this due to poorly scaling storage design.
The next approach taken by creative facilities to solve this challenge has been deploying a shared-access storage platform so creative teams can collaborate on the same elements. The challenge has been finding a technology that would grow easily over time as the business takes on bigger projects and more creative work. As it turns out, most shared-access storage falls short when supporting larger business integration goals. The choices in the market vary from proprietary and powerful, to somewhat open, and most are based on legacy concepts of throughput that are scale-up, not scale-out. Video processing in a 4K world using scale-up storage brings costly side effects to the business such as end-of-life platforms that offer no easy transition to next-generation storage platforms.
Enterprise organizations have taken a different approach; leveraging shared-resource technologies based on commodity components, modular scale and powerful software development architectures in order to handle specialized business tasks with greater efficiency. Scale-out Network-attached Storage (NAS) has been the enterprise storage solution of choice, as it allows an organization to deploy storage that simultaneously affords greater access by adding support for more bandwidth, more capacity, and more parallelism as it grows.
Media organizations have taken note over the years and are realizing the advantages of scale-out NAS as an enterprise technology that has caught up to – and even passed – traditional Storage Area Network (SAN) architectures when it comes to handling large amounts of unstructured data with high aggregate performance, and adding capacity on the fly without creating disconnected islands of storage. Ethernet has come of age due to standardized industry development efforts, and creative markets are fully on board with the desire to embrace lower-cost commodity networking and infrastructure and get out of higher-cost SAN topologies that require NAS gateways in order to integrate with the rest of the business.
Can scale-out NAS support 4K production requirements? “Absolutely yes” is what many facilities are discovering. Efficient post-production depends on reliable technology to take on the most complex and challenging tasks – including 4K productions. Consistent high data throughput, high storage capacity, seamless scalability, and the instant availability of production data are imperative to keep workflows on track. Having a storage system that is easy to deploy, scale and manage can make a huge difference.
Opportunities to optimize the production pipeline should be leveraged. How much time would you save if you could bring in, edit and output video in only high resolution? What if you had all editing bays unified on a single, easily managed network under a single global namespace that could be backed up using enterprise techniques? How about editors being able to work on multiple platforms and multiple software clients on the same storage solution, at the same speeds across the entire network? The right scale-out NAS solution can do all of this – and interconnect with the rest of the business – using affordable enterprise-grade Ethernet.
David Sallak is Vice President of Industry Marketing at Panasas, Inc.