Preserving video content

Content is everything to broadcasters and their viewing audience. Today's 24/7 global society, where the cameras never turn off and the news never sleeps, generates orders of magnitude more raw content and information than ever before.

This significant increase, combined with the transition to HD and eventually 3-D, results in a giant sea of content that broadcasters must wade through to produce and deliver a compelling broadcast for their audience. Not only is it difficult to manage, but once a project is complete, what is to be done with the mountains of raw and finished content? Either they believe that content is old news and should be tossed, or broadcasters believe history repeats itself and recognize that content is extremely valuable for reuse and repurposing in future projects.

Archiving is often overlooked when considering a workflow strategy. When properly planned and implemented, a strategic data archiving approach provides cost advantages and efficient productivity, and it prepares broadcasters to create valuable content for any scenario.

Consider workflow

Selecting an archiving approach requires an initial examination of the workflow in place and the objectives broadcasters want to achieve. A SAN provides a high-performance infrastructure for file-based workflow. However, a traditional file-based workflow on a SAN infrastructure alone, as we know it today, may fall short of meeting the requirements for the massive influx of content and the growing workflow demands.

Storage islands or silos can quickly affect workflow as broadcasters take advantage of best-of-breed applications on multiple server platforms. Provisioning of storage for each server platform or server farm deployed creates performance, sharing and management challenges as copying and moving of content over the network becomes required to share and edit content. Significant effects to productivity, cost and efficiencies quickly creep into the workflow. Inefficient use of storage capacity by overprovisioning to absorb replica copies of content consumes IT budgets unnecessarily. And as the amount of data and the size of the content continue to increase, SAN-based workflows should also deliver comprehensive solutions for storing and protecting content that extend the value of content by tightly integrating archive capability seamlessly into a digital file-based workflow, as well as protect archived content for the long term.

An alternative approach is deploying a high-performance shared SAN infrastructure so that a single consolidated and virtualized storage pool enables concurrent access into a single copy of active content, alleviating the stress of workflow demands with shared access across all major server platforms and network clients. This optimizes storage capacity and streamlines the workflow by eliminating unnecessary content copy and moves. To maximize investment, the data management infrastructure layer that virtualizes the storage pool should be vendor-agnostic so that broadcasters can leverage existing storage investments, as well as adopt new and innovative storage technologies as their workflow warrants. With a file system in place that facilitates production, an archiving solution that complements workflow objectives can be easily implemented with the right technologies.

Tiering and archiving

Tiering and archiving are critical to keep pace with the growing content so that costs can be kept under control, if not reduced, and performance can be maintained, if not improved. Providing a balanced approach to moving content to the appropriate tier of storage based on the accessibility, performance and cost characteristics of content can ensure that all aspects of the workflow have been considered.

Locally, based on user-defined policies, content can be transparently migrated to lower-cost disks or even physical tape storage for cost savings or data protection, aligning the cost and performance characteristics of broadcasters' content with that of their storage. By tightly integrating an archiving solution into the workflow, broadcasters can automatically and transparently move content to and from the archive, as needed, while maintaining their workflow's access to the content at all times.

This type of “active” or online archive is used by broadcasters such as Retirement Living TV, which leverages tiered archiving by moving content between archiving tiers (online editing, nearline and long-term archiving) based on policy for each part of its workflow file system. This essentially automated system saves broadcasters time and management costs, as well as improves productivity.

Broadcasters may also have considered adding archiving to workflow in the past, but service level agreements (SLAs) or just the unknown of how to deploy such a strategic solution would affect their ability to deploy such a cost-saving solution and still meet business needs. Having dedicated, shared or even clustered data movers to migrate data to and from the archive, as needed, enables broadcasters to meet SLAs, take advantage of cost savings and quickly repurpose content for additional business value while seamlessly integrating an archiving solution into the workflow. Scaling the solution as workflow expands can be done by simply adding data movers so that large data sets of raw or finished content can be moved to and recalled from the archive at the performance level that meets an organization's access requirements without affecting workflow.

Digital file-based workflows are further enhanced with technologies such as partial file retrieval (PFR). PFR enables the workflow to intelligently recall only a segment of a file from the archive based on byte offset or time code. This prevents broadcasters from having to wait or expend additional storage and bandwidth resources to pull back an entire film or large piece of content. For example, rather than pull a complete three-hour documentary from tape, broadcasters can pull only the 15-second clip they want to use. Time code-based PFR also integrates with media asset managers (MAM) to optimize retrieval of archived data and enable confident recall of digital assets from tape storage.

Leveraging lower-cost disk or even tape storage as an archival platform can significantly reduce storage costs, as well as enable broadcasters to reallocate the performance-based storage back to the business. Many broadcasters use disk, tape or a combination of both to address their data protection needs. Because of the massive storage requirements for rich media, tape is more cost-effective and requires less power to operate, so it may be better suited for longer-term archives. Not all solutions support tape, so investigate which solution fits with workflow objectives.


To reduce the amount of content stored, deduplication may provide additional benefits. Although primarily used in backup and recovery solutions, deduplication aids broadcasters that have multiple versions or copies of the same content spread throughout their operations. For example, an organization may store the same video content but with different language tracks. Deduplication looks into files and saves only unique data where applicable or recognizes multiple copies of the same data and saves only one copy.

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Data replication and tape vaulting

Other technologies to consider as part of an archival strategy are data replication and tape vaulting. Replication migrates copies of content to remote locations to protect that content at an offsite location. It also can serve as a data distribution tool, enabling workflow to take advantage of resources globally. This is all based upon the use case and policies that make sense to broadcasters' business and workflow.

Tape vaulting provides the ultimate cost savings and data protection by physically removing a tape from a facility and storing it in a secure, cost-effective location. There is no cheaper media than tape, and the rate of data growth for most organizations today has people looking at creative ways to deploy tape storage in their environment and workflow.

Develop an archive strategy

Identifying an archival strategy that best meets broadcasters' workflow's objectives starts with careful evaluation of workflow demands. Understanding how that workflow will optimally perform as storage needs grow is critical to the performance of an archiving solution. Depending on the objectives, the archiving approach should take into consideration various transparent and policy-based local and remote storage, protection and distribution options. Some archiving considerations include:

  • Agnostic system support
    Leverages servers and storage platforms and preserve choice;
  • Shared storage pool
    Provides concurrent access to content across heterogeneous server platforms;
  • Asset management support
    Offers MAM integration with storage infrastructure;
  • Online archive
    Transparently recalls content from archive;
  • Partial file retrieval
    Intelligently and efficiently recalls content from tape;
  • Offsite protection
    Preserves long-term content; and
  • Offsite distribution
    Shares content with geographically dispersed resources.

At the end of the day, archiving delivers many benefits and should be an integral part of the workflow. As content demands grow, an archive should have the capability to scale, protect and make content available when broadcasters need it.

Chris Duffy is StorNext product marketing manager for Quantum.