Rain’s Top-End Storage

Indian media group High Ground Enterprise Ltd (HGEL), founded by Karan Arora, has expanded its global film empire with a new postproduction investment. Working with a group of private US financers, Arora injected £10 million into building a new, high-end post facility in London’s media capital, Soho.

Rain: House of Post Production, housed in a 4,500 sq foot office, has been designed as a boutique post production house focusing on low- to medium-end feature films, TV broadcast, short-form broadcast, and corporate work. It is managed by New York and London-based Director of Rain, Mike Bhatt, who is also the Vice President of Global Operations with HGEL.

I was brought in as Chief Engineer, tasked with building an IT infrastructure that could support the talented postproduction team. I had been working in broadcast IT for a decade and felt I had a good idea of what we needed: the post production industry generates huge amounts of data on a daily basis and any associated IT infrastructure needs to be able to support its transportation and storage.

The building in Soho’s Golden Square had been gutted and then rebuilt from scratch, replete with dedicated edit suites and studios. The Rain investors only wanted the best and gave us carte blanche to equip the site with what was required. This level of flexibility combined with the industry connections we already had, meant we were confident we could quickly provide an appropriate environment.

Once the internal building work was complete, we began to source solutions for the network and storage backbone. We knew that the most important aspects of the solution would be the levels of technical support on offer, the cost of the solution and its adaptability and scalability.

Experience suggests that those who don’t check upgrade paths before purchasing tend to get hit with large bills similar to the original price of implementation when they want to up-scale their environment.

We brought specialist reseller AV8ER on board to handle the implementation. AV8ER introduced us to valueadded distributor Zycko, who helped us select the best total storage and network solution.

We considered storage solutions from five different vendors but decided to move forward with Huawei Symantec’s N8300 model with 50TB usable storage from the Huawei Symantec Oceanspace N8000 series, combined with 10GbE switches from Force10.

The networ kattached storage Oceanspace N8000 series offers five nines availability and can provide up to 15 petabytes of capacity. It also benefits from Dynamic Storage Tiering (DST) that reduces ongoing expenditure by appropriately migrating data to FC, SAS, SATA, or SSD storage depending on access frequency.

The deal was agreed at the beginning of September and work commenced immediately. Zycko provided logistical support and technical guidance on the network implementation that we designed with AV8ER and the team at Zycko. The Huawei Symantec engineers were on hand to support the storage implementation.

Once the decision had been made we needed to push forward as quickly as possible. Zycko ensured the order to delivery time was less than three weeks. Huawei Symantec worked on site with my team to ensure that any operational issues were dealt with quickly and efficiently.

We went live with the implementation on October 1, 2011. The NAS unit was immediately required to interface with several different operating systems including Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. Force10 configured the switches to address the OS challenge and the NAS was soon supporting 3D design and engineering software from Autodesk, Avid’s DS and Media Composer and Apple’s Final Cut Pro amongst other high-end production tools.

The equipment is state-ofthe-art and the fastest you can buy, at around 50 percent of the cost of its closest equivalent competitor. The N8300’s adaptability means it can be engineered to suit our bespoke environment and the upgrade path is really very good.

I’ve got a lot of experience in this industry and the success of this deal was largely due to the best-in-class service Huawei Symantec has delivered before. When you combine the specialist network design on-offer from Zycko with a manufacturer that boasts the fastest NAS in the world, with proven levels of support and a highly competitive price, it’s hard to resist.

I’ve been in situations before where the manufacturer expects you to spend as much on the upgrade as you did on the original implementation. Huawei Symantec’s scalability comes in at around 10 percent of the cost of the original purchase.

We know upgrades are inevitable. The trick is in initially purchasing a well-supported storage infrastructure and making sure your solution has been designed to seamlessly enable additional performance on demand and capacity on demand as our requirements grow.

The best-in-class IT infrastructure meant we were able to attract established talent in the form of graders and editors straight away. They know their high level work can be easily supported and catered for which makes the new boutique post production shop a very desirable place to work.

We have already secured a combination of audio, advert, documentary and VFX work from prominent clients, including the Discovery Channel, the BBC and ITV. The bigger broadcasters recognise and appreciate the talent and capability a production house like Rain can deliver, which has meant a mixture of both short and long form high-end work is already landing on our desks.

Karan Arora, his team at High Ground Enterprise and the US investors are now planning on opening further offices in Cardiff and MediaCityUK in Salford, Manchester. We’re confident we can quickly replicate the success of the Soho house with the backing of the teams at AV8ER, Zycko and Huawei Symantec.

Nick Wood is Chief Engineer at Rain: House of Post Production.