Future Proofing Media Workflows through Software-Defined Storage

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

David Colantuoni, senior director of product management, Avid

In 2015, 708 films were released in US and Canada, a 19% increase since 2006, and 409 original English-language scripted primetime shows were released, a 94% increase since 2009. In addition, countless hours of content were produced for game shows, news, reality shows, sports, talk shows, commercials and corporate videos. All of these productions present a huge volume of media assets that have to be saved to storage that’s easily accessible by production teams around the globe.

There is an ever-expanding proliferation of professionally produced content for an expanding buffet of consumption devices. According to Frost & Sullivan, the media and entertainment storage market stood at $2 billion in 2012, and tripled to a whopping $6 billion in 2015. Post-production alone accounted for between 15 and 20% of the total market—and grew more than 100% from 2012 in dollar terms.

Growing pains

Production teams are now more dispersed than ever and real-time collaboration among workgroups working on high-resolution video requires an agile storage foundation that fosters a secure, adaptable and reliable workflow. Achieving all of this on the fly with no user interruption has typically been an expensive challenge to overcome. The good news is that storage paradigms are constantly evolving as the market changes.

In typical post-production ecosystems, one component critically needed at every juncture is storage. But video workflows are frequently disparate, and storage purchasing decisions and deployments are typically tactical and scattered.

Though massive amounts of storage disks are being deployed, these storage systems lack interoperability and are not conducive to flexibly scale on the fly as production requirements change. The ability to add or remove high-availability storage options has become critical to optimize the cost of production and keep pace with changing consumption demands.

Software-defined storage for media provides the agility and intelligence to overcome these challenges, positioning media companies to optimize workflows and increase efficiency.

Software for agility and simplicity

Frost & Sullivan states the media and entertainment data storage market grew from 5335 petabytes in 2012 to a staggering 27,500 petabytes in 2015. However, this is predominantly generic on-premises storage that isn’t optimized for the rigor required for typical media and entertainment workflows. New storage deployments are used as tactical point solutions to meet an immediate need instead of being geared for scalability or interoperability—the two biggest demands of tomorrow’s video workflows.

Physical storage requires resources to manage it and make it accessible to production teams. Managing storage via software running on industry-standard hardware is the fundamental value proposition of software-defined storage. The numerous benefits of software-defined storage include:

Flexibility: A single high-end production environment can require scaling from terabytes to petabytes, giving the smallest teams or largest media enterprises on-demand access to a shared pool of configurable storage resources that can be quickly provisioned and repurposed to accelerate online and nearline production.

Software-defined storage can tailor and tune each workspace’s capacity, performance, and drive protection to the project and client. Added to that, capacity, bandwidth, and redundancy can be upgraded without any hassle or downtime, as internal needs grow. Through the built-in intelligence one can start with a single storage engine, or mix and match multiple engines, to create a configuration that not only meets the needs of today, but also helps futureproof workflows.

Adaptability: Evolving project and team priorities derive from unpredictable external demands, such as production popularity and schedule changes. The agility provided through software-defined storage changes dynamically, giving critical projects and high-priority teams maximum performance while scaling back lower-priority workflows. When projects or business needs change, such software-based intelligent media storage adapts on the fly without impacting production. It enables expanding or contracting the workflow to new platform applications and services, offering a real-time scalable set of definable/resizable workspaces to media production workflows.

Simplicity: Software-defined storage enables convenient management of the system through a Web interface or APIs, giving management, technical leads, and creative teams extremely high visibility, control and a simple way to manage their workflows. Intuitive software tools enable easy bandwidth reallocation, storage capacity upgrades, and dynamic workspace resizing without any downtime or impact to teams. Ideally, an intelligent media storage solution needs to integrate with existing applications and services via a simple, intuitive interface that enables reconfiguring and reallocating resources while performing monitoring and analysis —a key capability of the software-defined storage value proposition.

Usability: Software-based intelligent media storage enables real-time collaboration, giving teams the ability to accelerate production by connecting with hundreds of other content contributors simultaneously. An ideal software-defined storage solution should work with all top media creation applications.

Reliability: Software-defined storage should allow a choice of media protection schemes (dual disk, single disk, mirror), engine protection, and controller redundancy and network redundancy, giving teams a fail-safe, solid protection scheme that can cover for drive failures. The underlying hardware must also provide redundant power, cooling, network interfaces and protection for any active component. Ideally, software-defined storage would also allow high availability to be a configuration option to allow addition of redundant components to a previously installed system. This is a huge benefit for media companies because if a small “pilot” grows to become the next “big thing,” the system can be made high availability after the initial install.

Security: Software-defined storage also needs to protect media assets, giving teams control over read, read/write, or no access to workspaces via user and group permissions. It should ensure only those authorized to access content are able to do so and allow choosing the optimal data protection for each workspace. And security is not just about protecting media assets via access. It’s also about peace of mind.

Affordability: Software-defined storage is also an intelligent media storage solution because it’s a smart choice from an economic impact perspective. It yields cost savings, giving teams the ability to mix and match components to meet not only their needs, but also budget requirements now and in the future.

Software-defined storage should be an economical, modular solution, enabling the integration of all storage resources together into one virtualizable pool.

Virtualizing storage enables lower operational costs by eliminating the complexity and cost of managing multiple, disparate storage systems, while reducing labor-intensive operations.

For content creators, software-based intelligent media storage solutions provide the flexibility and usability needed to find assets and meet deadlines. It empowers people involved in the production process to get the access and performance needed to collaborate in real time and meet any production challenge. For technical professionals, this type of intelligent media storage provides the reliability and security needed to ensure production keeps moving.

For business leaders, it provides the adaptability, simplicity, and affordability needed for business growth.

To learn more about software-defined storage, visit http://www.avid.com/products/avid-nexis.

About David Colantuoni

Senior Director of Product Management, Avid

As senior director of product management at Avid, David is responsible for product vision, strategy and business management for Avid's industry leading products including Media Composer, Pro Tools, Sibelius and shared storage. Before joining Avid in 2008, David was director of product development at Boris FX. He has a B.S. degree in Mass Communications from Emerson College.

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