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OPINION: Exploding storage needs, solved

When looking for a new storage infrastructure, take six key aspects into consideration including security and speed, advises Matthias Zahn, founder and president, FAST LTA

Today, everything is high definition, 4K and even 8K. Every piece of raw footage must be kept, securely stored, and always accessible. Every channel requires customised edits, formats, versions. This all leads to exploding storage needs.

It is common practice to use a layered (aka tiered) storage structure, trading cost savings for speed, security and availability. In media, tape is still going strong for certain aspects of storage, since it offers a number of benefits that are especially valid in production and broadcast:

However, data on tape has to be copied from and to disk systems in many aspects of media production and playout. Since disk based online and nearline storage is expensive, a lot of effort is put into storing data on different storage systems to optimise cost. The result is a rather complex setup. To manage all this, media asset management systems take control of the data, and detailed workflows must be created to keep data available and secure at low cost.

When looking for a new storage infrastructure, take six key aspects into consideration:

• Tape is cheap. In theory, terabytes of storage fit on a single LTO tape. Tape consumes no energy when stored offline. Tape is easily movable, with everything kept together.

• Scalability – Does it scale out or only scale up? Scale-out storage systems allow for virtually unlimited storage growth. Whenever more space is needed, more storage nodes can be connected, simply enlarging the available space. Traditional scale-up systems only scale to a certain amount. More space requires another system — or the larger version of the storage system from the beginning. This needs to be asked for every tier — online, nearline and offline.

• Security – Is it safe? Losing data is not an option anymore. Surprisingly, most systems still require full mirroring for data protection, doubling cost, maintenance and complexity. Or, an additional backup is recommended (read: required), adding yet another storage layer.

• Speed and Availability –
Does it meet your expectations in terms of speed and availability? Note that speed and availability are two very different aspects. Tape is fast, but that certain clip stored on tape #712 for sure is not available eg. in search and browse applications.

• TCO – How predictable are the costs? Apart from raw incremental storage costs, does the management software require new licenses when your expanding business needs more data storage? Large disk libraries consume lots of energy for operation and cooling. Also, take administration and maintenance into consideration.

• Complexity – Can you handle it? Complexity must not be underestimated as source for problems in configuration, problem solving and data loss. The more different systems, the more SLAs, special crafts and interoperability is needed.

Visit FAST LTA at IBC2015 and experience the new Silent Brick Library for Cold Storage.