When thinking about storage for their media, content creators face continued and increasing pressures of performance, capacity, usability, flexibility and cost. Successful organizations must find a solution that can address all of these today, while also future-proofing for a greater number of harder challenges in the future.
So, let's unpack and explore these requirements one by one, and think about how the implementation of technology can positively or negatively impact the success of a solution.
The applications we use - that underpin our businesses and workflows - continue to evolve over time, and typically make ever-increasing demands on the infrastructure on which they are deployed. Whilst it’s easy to complain that requirements are always increasing, it's not as controversial as it may at first seem. For example, the resolution of the content we create and consume has increased over the years - from Standard Definition, through High Definition, to Ultra High Definition, 4K - and to 8K and beyond. Not only has the resolution of each frame increased, but so too has the color depth of the pixels in each frame, and the number of video frames displayed every second. In that context, it's no surprise that the capability of a workstation, server or storage platform to deliver that increased throughput is of huge importance.
The content creation process is a great place to start thinking about system requirements - where an Artist is interacting with an application on a workstation, which is in turn connected to shared storage. As we've already discussed, the system needs to be able to deliver consistently high throughput. But, the latency matters too - because the creative process will be interrupted if the application is not able to respond in a timely manner to the user's interactions.
We've just described the requirements for a classic on-premises performance editing environment. For those organizations that require it, Dell Technologies continues to support and accelerate these traditional architectures with a portfolio of Precision Workstations, Professional Displays, and All-Flash PowerScale storage. But the challenges and requirements of the typical workflows of today don't stop there - and Dell Technologies is at the forefront of designing and delivering architectures to enable workflows of the future.
Shifting Requirements In The Creative Pipeline
Creatives are no longer content being confined to an edit suite located in the offices of a production house - and are instead both mobile, and geographically dispersed. The high-resolution video formats that demand high throughput and latency requirements, also dictate increased capacity requirements. And, creative teams have an ever-increasing appetite to work collaboratively. Put together, these combined characteristics and demands rule out the traditional architectures of the past, as it's not possible to have a traditional environment that's high performance, high capacity and universally available across dispersed geographies. So, we need to think differently.
Which leads us to three fundamental questions: Where do we need the performance, when do we need the capacity, and, how do we protect the valuable content and intellectual property that creative teams are producing?
We need performance at the point of use. When an Editor is working with a creative application, the content must be available immediately - without excessive latency - and be able to be streamed without interruption. But, we don't necessarily need the full capacity of a system at that point of use. And whilst we almost certainly do want to have a protected copy of the content, we do not want to have it in the same place as our primary copy.
Dell Media Solutions for Performance Edge, Distributed Core And Protected Backup
With this understanding of the needs of creative teams - and of the administrative teams who manage the systems - we see an increased interest in an approach and architecture that we refer to as "Performance Edge, Distributed Core and Protected Backup". Creative teams work at the edge, with only as much high performance and low latency infrastructure as they need. The full content catalogue is maintained in a Distributed Core - which becomes the primary and reference location for all media. Finally, a Protected Backup mitigates against both malicious attack and situational disaster.
In this model Dell PowerScale and OneFS provide best-in-class all-flash high performance storage capabilities. New innovations such as NFSoverRDMA enable increased throughput, lower latency, and a reduced load on the client CPU. Positioned at the edge and sized appropriately to the application, PowerScale will serve creative teams working with the most demanding video content.
Nothing in this approach dictates that there should be only one Edge. In fact, there can be multiple PowerScale clusters at multiple edge locations - each sized with exactly the right performance and capacity for the users, workloads and environments.
At the Core, and serving as the primary repository for all content, is Dell ECS or its evolution: Dell ObjectScale. ECS and ObjectScale are best-in-class object storage platforms - and may be deployed on-premises, in a co-location datacentre, or in the Dell Technologies Storage Cloud – enabling the full potential of a multi-cloud solution.
The simple advantages of this approach are immediately clear. At each edge location, small teams – or individuals - enjoy the extreme performance capabilities of all-flash storage. But, there’s no requirement to accommodate the full media catalogue – meaning capacity requirements for each location can be much more modest, and therefore cost effective.
But the benefits don’t stop there. Because the primary repository for all media content is the distributed core of ECS or Object Scale, the storage at the edge is required to accommodate only as much content as is needed to support work-in-progress. And, whilst the PowerScale at the edge is resilient, the data or media that it stores is always a secondary copy – permitting a much more dynamic approach to data protection and business continuity. Almost all creative workflows are heavily biased towards read operations – and so edge storage devices may be rehydrated from the distributed core on-demand.
Global Data Mobilization
Data mobility between the distributed core and performant edge is a critical part of this architecture. Dell SmartSync is designed to address the growing needs of users and artists requiring access to content outside of the datacentre, by using a powerful transport layer with robust error handling. SmartSync offers file-to-file, file-to-object, and object-to-file.
Artists never stop creating content, and the value of that content rarely goes down. Creative organizations should not be forced to compromise. The distributed core of our architecture is underpinned by ECS and ObjectScale, and so can grow with the requirements of the organisation. Furthermore, Dell Technologies APEX makes it possible to do all of this with a flexible consumption model.
Consumption Models Enabled By APEX
APEX Data Center Utility aligns costs directly to usage, allowing you to maximize scaling flexibility whilst only paying for what you use. It is a highly customizable way to move part, or all, of your data center operations into a pay-per-use model. It is Dell’s market-leading product to fully manage your data, media and operations billed in a simple, single-invoice monthly payment based on your actual usage.
APEX Cloud Services offers a multi-cloud experience that is secure and consistent across your entire IT environment, enabling the use of familiar products, services, and tool sets for your compute and storage. At the same time, it leverages the best of breed features and performance that your workloads require—whether on-premises, in a colocation facility, or in a public cloud.
The APEX Console is a self-serve web portal that unifies operations and enables the cloud experience how and where you need it, making it easy to provision quickly, scale on demand, and pay as you go.
Simon Haywood - CTO, Media & Entertainment, Dell Technologies.
Protecting Your Irreplaceable IP
The value of your content is extremely high, and the impact of loss of data, or loss of access could be catastrophic to your business. The Distributed Core architecture offers effective protection of the content. A robust cyber resiliency strategy involves using all the best-practices to keep data protected: the right level of access controls, immutable copies of data, and the use of anti-virus and anti-malware utilities. Superna Eyeglass Ransomware Defender provides all of these and the protection of last resort - a copy of the data in a Cyber Vault that is isolated from the production environment.
Building on the Performance Edge and Distributed Core, we can add a protected backup – a third copy of the content, replicated from the media in the core, to the Cyber Vault. Once the content is replicated, an air-gap is maintained between the Distributed Core and the protected copy in the vault. Any further incremental replication is done only after ensuring there are no known events that indicate a security breach or data compromise.
The solution outlined in this article is just one way that Dell Technologies is bringing together infrastructure, services and deep industry knowledge to help you plan for the future of your creative workflows.