Don’t let your storage become The Walking Dead – how SDS can help

By Eric Carter | | Software-defined Storage

This summer Netflix unveiled its new Binge Scale revealing the types of shows we tend to devour — as in finishing an entire season in one week — versus those we simply savor at an unhurried pace. Turns out we devour thrillers and horror — like The Walking Dead — while we savor shows like political dramas — think House of Cards. Without question we are now in a new “Golden Age of Television.” The quality of content and production of the TV shows we love, like Game of Thrones, now rivals big-budget films. This renaissance is not only altering our TV-watching habits, it’s also having a big impact on the storage industry.

When it comes to digital storage, few vertical markets have grown in demand for performance and capacity like media and entertainment. It’s not hard to see why — in the last few years video resolution and frame rates have increased significantly as the industry aims to deliver audiences an immersive, visually stunning experience. As data storage analyst Tom Coughlin wrote in his annual 2016 report on digital storage in the professional media and entertainment industry, “by the next decade total video captured for a high-end digital production could be hundreds of PB, approaching 1 exabyte.” But it’s not just movie studios driving the demand.

The media and entertainment industry spans a wide range of disciplines including film, print, radio, gaming, and television and consists of a sprawling and complex supply chain. Throughout this ecosystem, ever-growing file sizes now place greater demands on storage infrastructure at every stage.

Until now the industry has largely relied on traditional storage like tape libraries and monolithic arrays — but that’s starting to change. With such an influx of data, it may soon be curtains for old-school storage in media and entertainment. Let’s take a closer look at Tom’s findings regarding the storage scenario in the industry today

  • 4K and 8K Video. The industry is quickly moving to 4K video — there’s even some production work happening at 8K — and 4K video mandates lots of storage. A complete stereoscopic digital movie project at 4K resolution requires several petabytes of storage! Widespread adoption of high-resolution video will increase the demand for storage across all parts of the media and entertainment supply chain. Digital archiving and content conversion & preservation alone is expected to drive more than 290 exabytes of new storage by 2021.
  • Storage Revenue to Soar. Storage revenue in the media and entertainment sector is expected to increase nearly four times to $92.1 billion in 2021 from $24.6 billion in 2015. The projected revenue distribution for 2021 is 41% content distribution; 25% post-production; 20% archiving and preservation; and 14% content acquisition.
  • Tape Revenue to Taper. As the cost of hard drives and solid state drives continues to decrease and capacities increase, tape revenue is expected to decline. In terms of capacity market share, HDD now commands 62.7%; tape has 27%; optical 6.5%; and flash 3.9% for the industry as a whole. By 2021, tape will fall to 18.6%; HDD shipped capacity grows to 69.2%; optical disc capacity falls to 2.3%; and flash capacity percentage will be 9.9 percent.

Because of the mushrooming data growth in media and entertainment, the industry would be well served to adopt software-defined storage (SDS). Why? Three principal attributes make it a perfect match for an industry being disrupted and reimagined by digital: infinite scalability, application diversity, and low cost:

  1. Infinite scalability. To keep pace with industry data dynamics, organizations need a storage system that can grow incrementally and linearly without practical limit. Why is this critical in media and entertainment? As new projects kick off (films, special effects, soundtracks, etc.), SDS allows you to start small and scale up as production progresses. Need more storage? Add additional commodity nodes to the cluster just-in-time. Just as easily, when a project completes, you can scale back or reuse capacity for other projects. This inherent elasticity of SDS fits perfectly with the project-driven nature of media and entertainment. As needs ebb and flow, so can your storage.
  2. Application diversity. The applications that media and entertainment companies use vary widely depending on where they sit in the supply chain. Studios have specialized production applications, special effects shops require specific animation and audio applications, while networks have their own broadcast and archiving applications. Each of these has unique infrastructure and storage requirements. SDS solutions that are agnostic to the type of applications in use give you the flexibility to deliver an optimal storage solution to fit the latest tools — something that traditional storage solutions can’t do. Hedvig, for instance, supports block, object and file storage, and lets you choose a range of features by workload so you can support any app without having to resort to siloed storage deployments. The value proposition of SDS and Hedvig is that you can deploy a cluster with different classes of commodity hardware and meet ongoing dynamic storage needs. Need high performance? Add more flash. Need more capacity than performance? Integrate 10-, 12-, or 20-TB hard drives. Then, set and deliver tiered storage by policy in software to achieve the right performance with the right capacity at the right price.
  3. Low cost. The media and entertainment industry is often at odds with itself when it comes to media storage. It requires high performance to deal with audio and video capture and manipulation but at the same time is extremely cost conscious because projects are often produced on shoestring budgets. SDS lowers storage costs without sacrificing performance and function. Its foundation — taking advantage of low-cost commodity server nodes, hard drives and flash — reduces overall costs as does the simplicity-of-management afforded by leading platforms like Hedvig. Its cost advantage also stems from the ability to support legacy apps along with emerging apps, including those born in the public cloud. Don’t get stuck thinking that SDS is an alternative to the cloud; rather, it’s an enabler of cloud computing. Companies can burst to the cloud for additional compute capacity, embrace the public cloud for long-term storage and data protection, and support other use cases like active archiving. Because SDS is not hardware bound, it can serve as a data management layer that makes your data available wherever you need it:  on premises, in a partner location, in a disaster recovery site, or in a public cloud.

Software-defined storage provides a welcome and needed combination of scalability, dynamic provisioning, and efficiency that the media and entertainment ecosystem needs. As the demand for storage capacity and performance continues to rise, SDS will not only help the entire supply chain keep pace with the quickly evolving demands of their craft, it also stands to ensure we get the new season of The Walking Dead on time, and on budget. Can’t wait for October 23.

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