Security, cost-efficiency and the sheer volume of content are becoming increasingly critical as customers adopt more varied storage patterns, writes David Davies.

InSight interface

Iron Mountain: InSight interface

It is difficult to make generalisations about broadcasters’ use of storage at the present time, split as it so frequently between on-premise, public cloud and hybrid-type solutions. But what is clearly universal is the increasingly crucial nature of investment choices as the parameters of content creation continue to shift.

Founded in 1951, Iron Mountain Entertainment Services (IMES) is a leading provider of storage and information management services. Denis Leconte, IMES’ vice-president technology, observes: “Today’s broadcast customers are very sophisticated in their storage decisions, largely due to the breadth of options. You can have tape-based storage, disk-based storage, SSD-based storage, and cloud-storage – all available in a multitude of configurations and costs.

“Storage requirements in the media and entertainment industry tend to be very high but with a lot of requirements” Denis Leconte, IMES

IMES Denis Leconte headshot

Denis Leconte

“At the same time, storage requirements in the M&E industry tend to be very high in terms of overall volume, but with a lot of requirements [dependent upon] what it gets used for. Therefore, broadcast customers will tend to make full use of the options available to them to implement the highest performance, most cost-effective solutions for their needs.”

Several of the core purchasing factors have become more important relatively recently and are neatly summarised by EditShare co-founder/chief strategy officer Andy Liebman: “Firstly, due to the high value of content and the tremendous losses that can occur if content gets out through unauthorised channels, any new storage system must offer extreme levels of security and accountability – meaning multi-factor authentication, single sign-on, and real-time auditing to deter would-be hackers.

Andy Liebman EditShare

Andy Liebman

“Secondly, somewhat complicating this first requirement, content must be accessible to workers and collaborators from anywhere on the planet. Remote workflows and remote access are just becoming table stakes, so you need wide access but extreme security at the same time.”

With so much content to manage, it makes sense that broadcasters are often seeking different storage tiers that are “cost-and-performance-optimised for each task, with the ability to move between tiers on demand. Finally, broadcasters are looking to have on-premise and cloud storage tied seamlessly together in hybrid architectures – if not today, then some-time in the future.”

It’s not ‘one size fits all’ anymore
Indeed, there is an overwhelming impression that broadcasters are obliged to undertake increasingly exacting research before investing in storage solutions. GB Labs offers a wide range of storage products, including scalable media solution Space, and CEO/CTO Dominic Harland observes that “the various tiers of storage are more important than ever. It’s definitely not ‘one size fits all’ anymore. [When speaking to potential customers] it can be the case that they don’t understand the workflows of the different tiers, or what they actually require from their storage [in the long-term].”

It’s hardly advantageous to ease of specification that the demands being placed upon storage are continuing to grow as higher-resolution production becomes more ubiquitous. 

“4K and HDR have seriously upped the ante for the storage and network bandwidth required to ingest and edit original content,” says Liebman.

“With camera-original 4K content potentially exceeding 2GB/sec, and routinely hitting 300-400 MB/sec per stream, the ability of a storage system to support dozens or hundreds of read and write streams in parallel at these very high data rates is paramount.”

This pressure will only intensify with “8K and 16K adoption around the corner”, meaning the amount of data “needing to be stored is expanding exponentially – so any broadcaster purchasing storage must be sure the system can expand in capacity and performance to meet future needs.”

Ryan Nicometo - SVP, Product and Marketing, Vecima Networks

Ryan Nicometo

Accordingly, there is a widespread emphasis by vendors on – as Vecima SVP product and marketing Ryan Nicometo puts it – working “closely with customers to build the best solution, with storage components placed where they are most effective – both on- and -off premise.”

By doing so it can be possible to enhance quality of service and minimise ongoing operational costs – the two issues routinely “keeping potential cloud-based operators up at night,” he says.

Vecima’s MediaScaleXStorage

Vecima: MediaScaleXStorage

Vecima’s own latest launch is the MediaScaleX//Storage software-defined, scale-out storage solution for broadcast and digital video storage workflows. Nicometo explains: “The solution consolidates complex storage silos for editing, central storage, and streaming workflows, with internal tiering for cost-effective online, nearline and archive storage.

“The latest 4.0 release expands on the solution’s easy to manage and monitor user interface and offers over 2x faster performance for video workflows. With highly optimised solutions for content, three different data nodes based on the latest commodity storage technology, including NVMe flash, are available today.”

‘Everyone is concerned about IP leaks’
Cloudian’s vice-president, global system engineering, Neil Stobart, isn’t alone in identifying the appeal of hybrid storage solutions in providing assurances regarding content security. “Everyone is concerned about intellectual property leaks due to outside attackers or internal misconfiguration,” he says. “Cloudian bridges the gap between public cloud and on-premise, providing the flexibility of using public cloud storage technologies such as the S3 API but with an on-premise, S3-based solution design that enables content to be guarded with customers’ standard security protocols. 

“Everyone is concerned about intellectual property leaks due to outside attackers or internal misconfiguration.” Neil Stobart, Cloudian

Neil Stobart, Vice President, Global System Engineering, Cloudian

Neil Stobart

With this in mind, Cloudian chose IBC2019 to highlight its new HyperStore Xtreme solution, which offers content owners and creators “the scalability and flexibility of the largest public clouds but within their own facilities, preserving full content control and security.

Ideal for organisations with capacity needs of multiple petabytes to an exabyte, HyperStore Xtreme addresses the challenges of managing growing video content volumes, providing ready access to that content whenever and wherever needed, and unlocking its full value through AI and other analytics applications.”

EditShare can “already provide broadcasters with a fully-functioning collaborative cloud production environment complete with MAM, automated QC and scalable, secure, high-performance shared storage that can support 4K and 8K workflows at uncompressed data rates.”

But Liebman acknowledges the current limitations of cloud-based infrastructures for “long-form video editing and audio mixing”, and suggests that “roadblocks to doing everything in the cloud mean that many production entities are resisting moving tasks such as archiving to the cloud because it doesn’t make sense to be there until you can do the editing and mixing there too.”

The company’s own latest development is the next-generation file system and management console, EFS 2020, which was premiered at IBC 2019 ahead of expected availability in Q4. Describing the new release as EditShare’s “most secure and most performant storage platform ever”, EFS 2020 features re-engineered file system drivers for Windows, Mac, and Linux. EditShare also unveiled its new storage API, allowing customers to manage and monitor an entire multi-tiered, multi-petabyte EFS system through external applications.

Tipping point ahead?
From film studios and broadcasters to artist archives and academic institutions, IMES is well-placed to assess the present and probable future of M&E storage. It’s an industry, says Leconte, that “has had a long and very successful reliance on on-prem storage solutions (or in-facility, on-prem if they outsourced) and has been incorporating cloud technologies and storage gradually over the past few years. I believe we are now at the point where the industry is getting some solid data on what cloud storage can bring, where it is best used (or not used), and how much it costs.”

Hence over the next few years “we can expect to see cloud storage and also especially hybrid solutions become a more prevalent part of the storage landscape in the M&E market – [although] adoption will depend on applicability. Cloud storage works well, if priced right, for data that is largely at rest, but can be more challenging to use for more active data – although cloud computing solutions may help to tip the balance there too.”