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ProMAX evolves workflow servers

The market segments formerly delineated as ‘storage’ and ‘media asset management’ are converging and competition among vendors coming into the field from both sides of the fence is fierce. The software-defined always-on nature of fast-based production makes the tagging, storage and retrieval of media a business imperative but many organisations large and small lack a holistic management strategy that tracks every piece of content that comes in and goes out of it. In bids to differentiate their various solutions to this problem, storage/MAM vendors are choosing to badge the functionality of their in terminology such as ‘media logistics platform’; ‘smart MAM’; media orchestration.’

Entering the fray after a very busy 2014 is ProMAX Systems. It has evolved its line of shared storage products into what it calls workflow servers, chief among them its flagship Platform 4 series which launched at IBC and shipped a month later.

The new servers include asset management, a built-in transcoding engine, and a newly developed web interface that allows the system to be managed from a single Mac or PC workstation anywhere on the network. The system’s asset management provides the option to ingest with automatic proxy generation, custom metadata, search and preview. The new transcoder can handle multiple jobs in sequence or can handle up to 24 tasks simultaneously with an optional upgrade.

“Unlike other storage systems we consider Platform to be a workflow server increasing the speed and efficiency of content through a production facility,” says David Carter, VP Marketing. “Platform can ingest media onto high performance storage, generate proxies, search and preview and later in the workflow it can render comps for effects, transcode to different formats for delivery , all because it has direct access to onboard storage and can therefore do it much more efficiently than if you had to transfer the media between different systems.”

David Carter: 'I don't see a lot of companies doing what we're doing'

David Carter: 'I don't see a lot of companies doing what we're doing'

Also in September, ProMAX launched a portable version which has just shipped priced around $6000. The Platform Portable is designed as an on-set device that turns whatever storage devices clients may have into a reasonable shared storage system.

“We identified a gap in the market where a lot of smaller-scale workgroups are seeking a more efficient means to store, search, retrieve and share the media they keep on various drives. The Platform Portable is essentially a workflow server but one that allows them to share their own storage.”

It measures 18-inches by 12-inches with a thickness of 2.5 inches and sports a range of storage expansion ports including eight USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, and two eSATA ports standard, with Thunderbolt 2 and FireWire 800 ports available as options.

"You plug in your own drives, which works for so many editors and facilities that already have so many attached storage devices. This won't be quite as fast as a full online rackmount server because we can't guarantee the performance of each groups’ existing drives, but it will be fast enough to do what you need to do in an on-set environment.”

The company is busy integrating technology from Cache-A, the archival systems developer it acquired mid-2014. Cache-A archival systems have historically been a complementary tool set for ProMAX’s Platform shared storage solutions, explains Carter.

“If you take storage, archive and MAM as individual components there is a lot of competition in all those spaces but I don't see a lot of companies doing what we're doing,” he says. “We're creating a connected workflow and incorporating all of those things. One of the challenges faced by of companies when they look to purchase MAM and storage is that these are potentially very complex solutions. Every company wants a smooth workflow with a high degree of consistency but getting the systems to work harmoniously can be a challenge. We take that risk out of the equation.”

The next phase of development promises more automation and intelligence built into the servers he says, “so that we can provide a solution that can manage all aspects of the workflow from ingest to archive.”

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