The Creative Storage Conference, held recently in Los Angeles, focused on the growing storage requirements of the media and entertainment (M&E) communities and some of the latest developments in flash, solid state, disc and tape technologies. If there’s a trend to be observed, it’s that increasingly lower costs of storage are encouraging more and higher-resolution content creation, and new creation and delivery technologies are, in turn, driving the need for more and more storage.
According to conference organizer Tom Coughlin of Coughlin Associates, storage demands are rising as visual content makers adopt 48-frame-per-second technology (and some recommend 300 fps), 8k picture quality, and generate ever more 3-D stereoscopic projects. Over 50 percent of content creators surveyed by Coughlin in 2010 reported recording four to 12 hours for every one hour of completed work. By 2016, he predicted, the M&E community would have 62 exabytes of new storage capacity, representing a 1.7-time increase in revenue, from $3.8 billion to $6.4 billion, for storage manufacturers.
The Q&A session at the end of the first session focused on the relative cost and efficiency of storage media. “Hard drives are more efficient” than in the past, noted Pete Schlatter of Hitachi GST. In terms of cost of ownership, tape is “still an order of magnitude less than spinning discs,” noted Tom Inglefield of Oracle. “Tape is more reliable than disc,” he added. As Coughlin had earlier noted, tape and HDDs are roughly at parity in their respective shares of the archival market.
Producer Larry Jordan addressed the storage impact of Apple’s release of Final Cut Pro X. Noting that the pro user base was approximately two million, he pointed to the larger market of high-end amateurs. Their adoption of the software “will drive storage needs through the roof,” he predicted.
Jordan reported that James Cameron’s Avatar required 4 petabytes of storage. In a session on “The Storage Challenges of Video Editing,” Alex Grossman of Active Storage reported on a feature film being shot in 4k stereographic that required 7 petabytes of storage.
Intel’s Komal Pal promoted solid- state drive technology with a case study of a music composition and streaming company. Hard drives gave them inconsistent streaming and glitches, she said. They replaced the HDDs with SSDs and “there were zero dropped notes.” Operations that previously took three to five minutes now complete in less than 20 seconds, she added.
A panel on “Storage for Content Delivery” considered the delivery of content on the user’s time scale. “There is a chasm between data and access,” admitted David Sallak, EMC Isilon. “Creation is vastly outpacing the ability to move it.” But, he observed, “There will always be tape and disc as alternate ways to move it through FedEx.”
On the issue of speed, Patrick Yew, TV Guide, on a later panel noted that tapeless workflows have sped up editing and review. But, he commented, “As you deliver more, faster, they want it faster than that—and all for the same price.” Plus, burning and delivering a DVD for review is no longer fast enough: “Now they don’t want to wait. They want it in a few minutes.” His storage needs have increased because, he reported, “Files stay live longer.”
“There is a role, particularly for LTO tape with LTFS, as a component in content delivery storage,” suggested David Trumbo, Media Technology Market Partners. LTFS file management, introduced last year, allows LTO5 to behave more like a disc, he said, providing faster access to content. Plus, he added, if you have to transfer large amounts of data infrequently, shipping LTO tape might be more effective than transmission.
The “Content Archiving and Asset Management” session also came down generally in favor of tape in order to avoid WORN (Write Once, Read Never). Responding to a question regarding the ideal technology to assure archival access beyond 20 years from now, Janet Lefleur of software company Atempo said, “Choose what you think is best for now but count on having to change it.”
Tom Goldberg, Cache-A, took exception to that argument: “LTO has a roadmap that goes out through eight generations.” LTO drive mechanisms have 28-year lives, he said, although users do have to archive hardware to assure being able to read the tapes. Whether one would still have the software to read the content on the tapes is another issue, he added.
There is a cheap and dirty way to avoid constant migration of archives from one technology to another, or the need to restore in the case of a failure that has worked for many, noted Erik de la Iglesia, GridIron. “All data reliability problems can be solved by keeping three copies and crossing your fingers.”