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​CPAC Delivers Live Public Affairs Programming Via 24/7 Streaming and DDN Storage

The Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC) is Canada’s only privately owned, commercial free, bilingual, nonprofit television service. The organization offers a vital window on Parliament, politics and public affairs in Canada delivered by cable, satellite and wireless distributors to more than 11 million homes in Canada and worldwide via 24/7 streaming through its TV2GO mobile app and the organization’s website at www.cpac.ca. CPAC’s insight and analysis take viewers beyond the headlines; up to 80 hours of new content is ingested daily and over 30,000 hours of archived content is available on its website.

According to Eitan Weisz, senior manager of technical operations, CPAC has been streaming live content for approximately 15 years and can now deliver up to 10 simultaneous live event streams at any given time. “CPAC was the one of the first organizations in Canada to stream live content, and we continue to be quite progressive in that area,” he explains. “As a result, we generate about 4TB of data daily in ingest, editing, filtering and producing new content. CPAC’s producers can access an additional half-petabyte of high-resolution programming in our online data archive.”

The Challenge:

In overseeing the daily technical operations at CPAC, Weisz and a team of technical experts collaborate with editors and producers across the organization to ensure the delivery of quality content. All incoming content is reviewed, edited, simultaneously interpreted in English or French (depending on the original language of the content) and then rendered for CPAC’s linear channel, website and mobile app delivery. CPAC archives the finished content in perpetuity; in fact, CPAC is also participating in an effort to digitize historical, taped Parliamentary content for inclusion in the archive.

CPAC’s unique breed of long-form programming requires rendering videos that are hours in length which can be fairly taxing on its storage system. For that reason, the organization has relied on high-performance storage from DataDirect Networks (DDN) for the past five years to support this data-intensive rendering workflow in conjunction with the company’s Dalet Digital Media System. With their current Storage Fusion Architecture (SFA) from DDN, CPAC has easily supported daily production requirements.

Historically, CPAC used legacy Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM) software to migrate data to the organization’s robotic tape library. However, over time, the team encountered some challenges with this approach. Managing the tape library was an arduous and costly process, especially as the amount of archived content grew exponentially. “Maintaining the tape library and HSM application became incredibly expensive and labor intensive,” says Weisz. “The cumbersome process of managing both required up to 15 percent of someone’s time each day.” Moreover, tapes would regularly go offline or become corrupted, which was a big challenge for the small tech team. “We simply didn’t have the manpower or the time to stay on top of our tape vaulting demands, which continued to expand rapidly,” he adds.

As the organization’s 400-tape library edged closer to capacity, the team considered a move to a new tape format which would have necessitated the replacement of all its tape drives. Not only did this scenario pose a significant capital investment, the time and process of migrating all the existing content from one tape format to another was daunting. “It became clear that moving to a disk-based solution would enable us to keep pace with data growth without the cost, reliability concerns or administrative burden of tape management,” according to Weisz

The CPAC workflow

The CPAC workflow

The Solution:

In reviewing disk-based solutions to address its archiving needs, CPAC assessed both file- and object-based technologies across several criteria including storage capacity, scalability, ease of use, reliability, flexibility and cost. Initially, CPAC looked at several file-based systems but was drawn to the ease with which they could expand an active archive using object-based storage as well as the ability to make this storage readily available to its Dalet media asset management system through a CIFS interface.

CPAC also liked how object storage could be used for disaster protection. With object storage, the company could satisfy several business needs with one solution, which made this solution far more economical than buying a file-based disk platform.

In sizing up various object storage solutions, CPAC was most impressed with DDN’s ability to seamlessly deliver multiple storage tiers and fully integrate with Dalet, CPAC’s asset manager. This offered a series of great benefits to CPAC:

  1. The platform was capable of delivering elevated performance while scaling globally to provide CPAC with an active archive that could grow over time.
  2. WOS would work seamlessly with the company’s existing DDN high-performance storage as well as CPAC’s legacy applications and workflows. “DDN’s WOS seemed ideally suited for solving our collaboration and distribution challenges,” adds Weisz. “With WOS, we’d be able to create an active archive for storing and sharing hundreds of thousands of hours of content.”
  3. DDN’s ObjectAssure™ offered flexible disaster recovery options through local, replicated and globally distributed erasure coding to safeguard data with very high durability and availability at multiple locations. Last, but certainly not least, CPAC determined that even with three years of support, the cost of the DDN WOS object storage platform was equivalent to what the organization paid in a little over two years of annual support fees on its robotics library and HSM software.

By selecting multiple products from DDN that work together, CPAC got a solution that would be ideal for meeting its most demanding, data-intensive workflows and now also its active archive needs. “With DDN’s SFA12K and WOS, we were able to increase our production and active archive usable capacity to more than 1PB while lowering costs,” Weisz notes. “DDN played a key role in getting our first, file-based SAN off the ground along with integrating storage with our media management system. Now we have a great opportunity to add IT backup and DR for a complete end-to-end architecture fueled by DDN.”

The Benefits:

With its end-to-end storage architecture, CPAC is well-positioned to accommodate a wide range of ever-evolving workflow demands for ingesting, storing, distributing and safeguarding on-air, web-based and mobile content. The team takes advantage of its newly upgraded DDN SFA platform to ingest data from a variety of sources. The majority of the content residing on the SFA12K is edited in the organization’s media management system or other editing platforms, such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro and Avid MediaComposer. All of these editing platforms transfer content in and out of the SFA12K at the same time, which requires a storage infrastructure that is highly performant and reliable with massive scalability.

Once the edits are complete, the final content is returned to the SFA12K for use within Dalet which transfers it to CPAC’s Harmonic media server for on-air transmission. “With DDN’s SFA platform, we benefit from high performance and scalable capacity to address a wide range of media production workflows,” Weisz says. “As our requirements continue to grow, we continue to put our faith in DDN.”

Assuming it isn’t needed again in the near future, once CPAC’s content has aired, CPAC’s media asset manager moves it to DDN’s WOS platform, which then stores, protects and distributes the data as needed. After successfully migrating content off its tape library onto DDN’s WOS platform, CPAC realized immediate benefits. Topping the list is near-zero administration as WOS works in the background retaining data in an active-archive once it’s moved from CPAC’s media management system. “We generally don’t give WOS a thought, which is what we’d hoped for,” says Weisz. “It’s working wonderfully.”

WOS delivers the performance to meet both CPAC’s real-time archiving and media recovery needs. “If we need to retrieve footage of a dignitary on the spot, for example, we now have the confidence to pull all the archive footage without delay,” explains Weisz. “Previously, there was a large degree of uncertainty whenever we had to retrieve content from tape.”

Now, retrieving content from WOS is twice as fast as pulling content from tape because of its disk speed access and improved reliability. “WOS access is instantaneous,” he adds. “In the future, we may be able to render a video right off WOS for a major production boost.”

In addition to leveraging WOS for both production and archive requirements, CPAC is using DDN’s object storage to bolster data protection and disaster recovery. “We especially like having the ability to use WOS to mirror to an off-site location for DR purposes,” Weisz explains. “Having easy access to content from anywhere, anytime by simply synchronizing the data transfer between WOS nodes is a major advantage.”

The organization also plans to leverage WOS to handle IT backups. “It’s great to use one solution for archive, DR and IT backup,” adds Weisz. “Based on the cost savings and decreased administrative overhead, the solution will pay for itself in just over a year.”

CPAC also applauds DDN’s technical support. “DDN’s customer service record speaks volumes,” concludes Weisz. “When we revisit our history with them, including the people we’ve worked with and the solutions we’ve deployed, it’s clear that DDN continues to grow its solutions to meet our evolving needs, which is the ultimate sign of a good partnership.”

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