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All Things Shared

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Dirt Road vs. the M3

I have a long dirt road up by my house that cuts straight across town. Before kids, I used to tool around in a E36 BMW M3. I normally didn't pay much attention to speed limits, but that dirt road would always slow me down. I took other routes to avoid it, and even with the traffic lights and congestion, I still felt like I was making better time.

This got me thinking. When we were first selling SAN systems 10 years ago, there were a lot of facilities that were still using local storage (DAS). When convincing them to move to network storage there is always that push-back: "If I need drive maintenance today, one room is down. If I have to take the SAN offline, the facility is down". That is true. We try to plan for these events ahead of time, but some things are out of our control. Suffice it to say that there may eventually be some down time.

Then I thought of that dirt road. Of all the streets around the city, that road is never closed for repaving or line painting, or repair of any kind. One guy with a shovel can maintain it. So, the traffic never stops, but it will never be an efficient way to get across town. If you're using DAS with generic NAS for file transfer, you have a dirt road. Very reliable, but incapable of handling increased traffic. If you're a facility owner, you want increased traffic. So, build the superhighway, and deal with the fact that you may have to pull out a detour sign once in a while. Once you see how much work can get done on a high performance network, you'll never go back to that dirt road.

Posted by: James McKenna on Dec 5, 2012 at 6:23:36 amComments (3) SAN, DAS
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Heavy Pretty Pictures

High fashion, strong coffee, and a love of the cinema. These things describe Paris - a place where I recently helped with an install of a Facilis network for a premier cinema lab and 2K/4K color grading facility - Arane.

The heavy lifting was done by two 72TB 24D TerraBlock units, capable of supporting multiple 2K and even 4K 16bit 24fps streams. The grading systems are Assimilate Scratch and Scratch LAB. The Assimilate products have always been highly optimized for SAN performance, and they report the best numbers for attached clients on TerraBlock. Over-cranked 4K will saturate the dual 8Gb pipes at ~1580MB/sec. We got a sustained 36fps 4K (16:9), or a sustained 24fps along with another 16bit HD 444 at 24fps, on each server. The HD 16bit DPX sequence was on a Multi-user Write volume to boot.

I don't want to describe the Arane workflow in detail, because that is the property of the talented engineer designing the environment. Suffice to say there is a combination of fibre channel and Ethernet clients; Multi-user Write and Single-user Write volumes; Windows and Mac workstations; online and nearline/backup data locations. All of this combines for a very slick process, scan to screen. I was just getting used to the coffee when the job was done. I hope to be back for the inevitable network expansion, and to see more pretty pictures.

Posted by: James McKenna on Dec 4, 2012 at 7:55:16 am 4K, Film
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After 10 years of watching the storage wars take it's toll on manufacturers in the media and entertainment space, it amazes me how many options there still are. I would not want to be in my prior position as chief engineer today. If you stay true to the same brand name across multiple workflows and disciplines these days, there better be a darn good reason for it. Adapt and change, or be leapfrogged by the guy down the street without your lease overhead. Facilis is 3rd party to everyone, so we have no choice but to stay ahead of the market, and keep the technology moving.
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