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Scripps Networks is a media company that covers home, food and lifestyle. Its brands include HGTV, Food Network, DIY Network, the Fine Living Network and Great American Country (GAC), as well as Scripps Networks Digital, which is comprised of more than a dozen lifestyle Web sites.

The company recently implemented IBRIX Fusion, a software-based file serving system for scale-out network-attached storage, to help store, manage and process graphics, video and still imagery in multiple file formats of varying sizes. (See Figure 1.)

Assessing storage architectures

Traditional NAS, where the server and storage are coupled together into an appliance, not only is prone to bottlenecks at very high I/O rates, but also is difficult to manage as more appliances are added. Scale-out NAS differs from traditional NAS by allowing data access to be delivered through as many file servers as needed to achieve the required aggregate performance and capacity scaling.

Because Scripps Networks' storage requirements are expected to grow to petabyte levels, having a scale-out NAS infrastructure as a cornerstone of its media asset management initiative will allow the company to address new market opportunities more quickly.

In assessing solutions, Scripps Networks' near-term requirements were simple. It needed an architecture that could support growing storage volumes without sacrificing performance. But it had a longer shopping list that included:

  • multivendor storage support;
  • intelligence;
  • manageability; and
  • support for varied file sizes and types.

The solution

The IBRIX file serving software is installed on Sun Fire 4200 servers, while management software resides on a Sun Fire 4100 system. These dual core/dual CPU systems use the Opteron 64-bit processor and run the Red Hat operating system. Scripps Networks also runs native clients on Linux and Windows boxes for greater throughput and connectivity.

The company uses 3PAR's S400 product with approximately 100TB of formatted storage. Within the SAN, it uses Brocade 5000 switches connected at 4Gb/s. Outside of the SAN, the company has built out a 10GB network backbone for its house LAN. Scripps is in the process of shifting its media processing applications, such as transcoding, to sit directly on the 10GB backbone and connect to the scalable file serving solution at high speed. With an increasing number of SD and HD files, the company needs all the speed it can get.

The chosen solution is software-based and hardware-agnostic. Scripps Networks can pair it with any combination of servers and storage. Typically the solution is installed on one node in a cluster of servers, where it pulls together the file systems and storage capacity of each server into a single namespace or centrally-managed pool.

For extra performance, the solution can be installed on additional nodes, which share the I/O and workload balance tasks, and online capacity additions are quick and transparent. Plus, the media company can independently scale for bandwidth or storage capacity simply by adding more servers to increase performance or more disks to increase storage volume.

Application access to the scale-out NAS is closely tied to the service-oriented architecture. The company has created a single namespace for its video, still images, graphics and production-related content, and it controls file access via Web services that implement business processes. For instance, ingest, search and distribution all access scalable file serving as part of the workflow.

Results

Scripps Networks hasn't yet measured scale-out NAS in terms of strict ROI, but it has measured the extent to which the system supports the needs of its media asset management initiative. Scalable file serving has met these needs — particularly speed and scalability. Other ROI indicators to date include:

  • the elimination of point solutions;
  • reduced maintenance;
  • a vendor-neutral environment; and
  • a highly available, centralized archive for all enterprise content.

In addition, to save costs, the company is moving to hierarchical storage management using data tiering. Data tiering works by setting guidelines and automatically moving infrequently accessed data to slower, cost-effective storage while storing only high-demand data on faster, higher performing storage. This capability supports the company's ongoing effort to optimize storage resources and improve overall storage efficiency. It also enables higher bit rates for both standard and HD content.

Chuck Hurst is vice president of systems development at Scripps Networks.