The Core of Storage

Dave Harris is Director of Engineering and Technology, ITFC.

ITFC offers a range of content preparation and media management services across brands including ITV, Channel Five, NBC Universal, and major studios. Last year ITFC became part of the Deluxe Entertainment Services Group. The thousands of hours of material delivered by ITFC annually include multi-platform digital workflows, subtitling, audio description, post production, encoding and transcoding, tape legacy services, and data/tape archiving and storage.

With TMD’s Mediaflex application in the midst of our existing infrastructure we were already able to accommodate the tape-based content mainly used by our broadcast clients. We wanted to add a client-facing environment with metadata exchange, additional workflow control, and a lot more long-term storage.

Fortunately, we already had many of the components in place which could make the process simpler, so all we needed to do was integrate some additional pieces of kit and software to give us the flexibility to develop, adapt, and satisfy demand over the next five years or so. TMD has worked with us for many years so we were confident that keeping Mediaflex at the center of the solution was the best option, especially as it’s able to drive third-party hardware and software products in its own right. This would allow us to add flexible, cost-effective storage to the existing system. And so the idea of a digital ‘core’ of services was born.

To successfully integrate this concept, we still had to source other stand-alone equipment to help meet our additional needs. The first key phase of the project was already underway with our investment in Amberfin’s iCR 5000 workstations to give us more ingest capacity and help improve our other digital services such as transcoding and QC.

In addition we purchased access to the Mediaflex API and data dictionary. The second phase was finding a longer-term archive solution, which would be large enough to cater to our storage needs. We chose Quantum’s Scalar i6000, a data-tape library robot, which consists of expandable cabinets with a maximum system capacity of over 7000TB of uncompressed data. For the i6000 to integrate into our existing structure, we needed a hierarchical solution that could bolt onto Mediaflex and control the data-tape library efficiently. For this we implemented Front Porch Digital’s DIVArchive content storage management system.

Both could be easily integrated with Mediaflex’s asset management to provide a seamless environment in which media can be moved as needed between online, nearline, and offline storage. An additional advantage of DIVArchive is that it can be controlled by more than one application, which opens up some clever and flexible options.

The final key component was Active Endpoints’ ActiveVOS software. As a standards-based business process management system for facilitating workflows ActiveVOS was able to sit alongside Mediaflex to permit rapid customization of client-specific workflows – something that would have been uneconomical for TMD to develop. As a result clients could easily initiate workflows on their own within ITFC via web services and customized web interfaces.

A considerable challenge has been getting all the components to work well together. They needed to communicate with each other but as some of the APIs and interfaces weren’t fully developed, it meant we had a lot of customizing to do so that each component could ‘talk’ to the others via the Core.

In the end, this proved to be an advantage because we could adapt in-house to ensure things would work in the way we’d envisaged. As some of the kit and software was new to us, our internal development team had a lot of learning to do to understand the capabilities. But we’re now able to use components in the most efficient way by ensuring everything’s cross connected, making it all more powerful and effective.

Because of the complexity involved in integrating software and systems from three different suppliers, we requested a turnkey solution with TMD managing the whole integration project. From initial discussion to implementation, the tailor-made offering took just over 12 months and now we’re well on the way to being able to be “all things to all people”