Broadcast storage strategy

The numbers can seem daunting: IDC said that by 2012, the world would generate 2.7 trillion gigabytes of data, up 50 percent from 2011. McKinsey & Co. predicts that the amount of data generated will grow 40 percent each year through 2020. In broadcast, a high percentage of the data produced is digital content, leaving organizations dealing with a faster than normal growth rate compared to many other industries.

As such, media companies are contributing more than their fair share to this rapid pace of data growth. In fact, McKinsey reports one second of HD video consumes more than 2000 times the bytes of a single page of data. The report further states that the average aggregate amount of data stored by a broadcast media company with more than 1000 employees is 1800TB. To put that into perspective, in 2009 the Library of Congress announced that the approximate amount of its collections that are digitized and freely and publicly available on the Internet is about 74TB. That means an average broadcast company stores more than 24 times the amount of data as the Library of Congress.

Rackspace provides another example that visually demonstrates the massive amount of digital data produced, using video content as an example. Assuming that the average video is 4 minutes long and 200MB in size, every day 405 Blu-ray discs are uploaded to YouTube.

As production technology (i.e. frame rates and resolution) continuously gets better and the need for content to be shared across multiple platforms (i.e. websites, social media) increases, broadcast companies are requiring both faster access and more efficient storage infrastructures. In many cases though, data-growth-driven storage needs are hindered, competing with other enterprise-critical expenses. Data is the most critical and valuable asset for this industry, yet many organizations often do not have an optimized, secure storage strategy in place capable of growing with their needs.

Many personnel responsible for making IT decisions in the broadcast and media industry deal with the data deluge by buying increasing amounts of primary storage. While this approach keeps data close at hand, it is excessively expensive and makes it difficult to find specific data — similar to looking for a needle in a haystack. A better solution, proven in enterprises, can be found in an approach called storage tiering, where data is stored in higher-performance, lower-cost storage, or longer-life types of storage over time, based on the current value of the data to the organization. This keeps the data readily available when it is most needed, while cost-effectively and securely storing it for use down the line.

Storage tiering is not a new concept, but it may be new to organizations that are being increasingly challenged by the volume of data they are creating. By learning about tiered storage, and by building data archiving, backup and other data management systems on top of a tiered storage infrastructure, broadcast institutions can reduce content storage costs, quickly transfer large data sets and safeguard valuable data. The tiered approach uses higher-cost storage for business-critical data, lower-cost storage for nearline access, and removable tape, disk or cloud storage for low-access data needs.

The online storage tier is where a company’s active, primary production data resides. High-cost, online storage is usually reserved for data that is most frequently accessed and is of highest importance, yet many companies still use the same online storage technologies for backup. This approach is expensive and susceptible to failure.

The nearline storage tier represents an intermediary between online storage, which enables rapid data access, and offline storage, which is more affordable but requires more time for data access. To reduce storage costs without dramatically reducing speed of data access, companies can replicate data to a nearline data protection device. They also can set policies for types of data that should be stored online or nearline. This tier of data access can provide a copy of data in the event that online data is compromised.

The offline storage tier maintains copies of archived data at a physically remote location. The best data management systems enable multiple ways to do this, including removable media that can be transported to another site. RDX is a good example of a removable media format that delivers cost-efficient backup, recovery and archiving. RDX is a unique type of media that offers all of the advantages of disk-to-disk storage, including high performance and a low failure rate, plus the removability and portability of tape. As removable storage, RDX supports offsite storage for disaster recovery and offers a practical way to seed cloud storage. New secure versions of RDX media also feature encryption and cryptographic erase capabilities.

Broadcast IT managers need a system that will not only provide an onsite copy of data for fast restoration, but also an offsite copy if the disaster causes damage to the primary storage location. As confidence in cloud providers continues to increase, more companies will utilize cloud storage for offsite backup. The main benefits of cloud storage are threefold. First, the cloud provides true disaster recovery and business continuity. It adds critical offsite storage to ensure that a business’ most important asset is accessible in the event of a disaster. Second, cloud providers offer pay-as-you-go options, which enable businesses to account for storage as an operational expense, not a capital expense. Finally, cloud storage is infinitely scalable, and additional capacity can be used when needed. However, it is important to keep in mind that scalability is not just about the size or amount of storage. The speed of access and throughput must also be scalable.

A four-tier, RDX-based storage approach offers scalability and agility as the amount of data being stored increases exponentially. Broadcast companies need to look for appliances that support increased-capacity media cartridges or the easy addition of new appliances or arrays. It can seem daunting for some companies to overhaul their storage infrastructure while adhering to regulatory constrictions and compliance efforts. However, implementing a four-tiered storage strategy is the best approach for cost-effective optimization and data backup, especially in an industry that produces large media files and an above average amount of data.

Rusty Rosenberger is global product management director, Scalable Storage Business, for Imation.