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Clarifying the Confusion Over Video Storage

MULTIPLE CITIES—There are plenty of ways to store video digitally, and all have a place.

The days of shoving old videotapes into a back closet are long gone. Today, video storage is meant to be an integral part of any digital video production system, be it for a two-person shop or a major government production agency.

For producers who have yet to tackle integrating storage into their day-to-day production chain, the task looks terribly daunting. Should USB solid-state flash media, spinning hard disks or LTO-5 data tape be used to store the video? Should the video be placed online for easy access, or should a mix of online, nearline and archive storage be used to save money?

“Government agencies are struggling with the challenge of reducing operating costs, while deploying systems that can support the massive growth of data,” said Mark Weber, president of NetApp Public Sector in Sunnyvale, Calif., which makes storage and data management solutions. “There are various options, driven by the specific bandwidth and capacity needs of a customer.”

However, there are no easy choices when it comes to video storage, because each solution has its own pros and cons, including the cost of acquisition. On the upside, once a producer determines what is needed there are a range of video-storage products to choose from.

“It’s not so much of a ‘pros and cons’ issue, it’s what’s the right tool [or approach] for the right job,” said Eric DuFosse, Grass Valley’s vice president of product marketing. Based in San Francisco, Grass Valley makes a range of broadcast and video production equipment, systems and storage solutions.

“What you want your video storage to do is what is the determining factor for what approach is taken,” DuFosse said. “The video storage requirements differ between simple production storage [client /server] playout, editing and collaborative content creation.”


Digital video storage is like anything else: The buyer gets what he or she pays for.

Aberdeen’s AberNAS N51LIn the case of video storage, the variable in question is immediacy. Video stored on USB flash memory and spinning hard disks is quick to access over a network, and supports multiple users at the same time.

Video stored on LTO-5 data tapes—typically stored in robotically accessed tape libraries—cost less to manage per gigabyte. Unfortunately, those tapes are linear, which means a user has to play them back to access the video, even in file form. But LTO-5 tapes do hold far more data than flash and disks, and they last longer.


The digital video storage market abounds with storage options, covering a range of budgets, requirements and technology preferences. Vendors’ storage options include:


Aberdeen LLC manufactures an array of storage solutions for video, utilized in surveillance acquisition, content creation, distribution and archiving. “We offer storage servers, direct attached storage, networked attached storage and storage area networks,” said Steven B. Cohen, senior account executive with Aberdeen.

“We recently installed a 96 terabyte NAS in the Sony Digital Motion Picture Center,” Cohen said. “To handle Sony’s 8K and 4K RAW files with on-set and post-production workstations, Aberdeen finetuned its 5U, 96 terabyte AberNAS N51L network attached storage. This Linux-based platform was capable of handling NFS, CIFS, AFP and iSCSI shares from Mac, PC and Linux application servers.”


AVID’s ISIS 5000Avid offers a range of online, nearline and archive storage items through its ISIS product line. Online storage is provided by Avid’s ISIS 5000 and 7000, while nearline storage is provided by the ISIS 2000 (both of which are hard disk-based).

Avid’s Interplay Archive tape-based solution can be purchased as a production workgroup-connected archive system using third-party archive middleware and storage libraries, or as a complete media operations archive hub under media asset management control.



Bitcentral offers a hard disk-based system, specifically the HP D2600 storage array with 3 terabyte SAS drives. Total usable capacity after RAID is 30 terabytes.

“Our Oasis software is an asset management system for video that provides a local archive as well as the ability to remotely contribute to, and retrieve video from, the system with a browser interface,” said Shannon Dwyer, Bitcentral’s director or marketing. “With our Wellspring extension, the combination allows for high-speed network attached storage with automatic data replication to your private onsite or hosted off-site digital vault.”


DDN storage solutions are designed for content-intensive environments, and its “Storage Fusion Architecture” is engineered to support concurrent workflows such as video production.

DDN says it has leveraged its background in video production to assist government agencies with a variety of video applications including surveillance, satellite imagery and full-motion video, allowing those agencies to ingest, process and store video content faster and more efficiently.


FOR-A Corp. of
America’s LTR-100HS
FOR-A Corp. of America has built its video storage systems on LTO-5 tape libraries, “the most cost-effective way to archive,” said Pedro Silvestre, sales director for FOR-A.

Among the products offered by FOR-A include the LTR-100HS, used to archive using the MPEG-2 format and the Sony codec, Silvestre said. The LTR- 120-HS uses the AVC intra as well as the DVCPRO formats to archive the content, he said, adding that the LTS-50 is a storage appliance that can store any file via Ethernet and file transfer protocol.


Front Porch Digital’s
Front Porch Digital focuses on content storage management solutions, plus transferring videotape- based content to digital files.

“DIVArchive is Front Porch Digital’s flagship product,” said Steve Atkinson, the company’s director of business development. “This content storage management system allows multiple users in multiple locations to access a common repository of video assets.”

DIVAdirector, as an add-on module to DIVArchive, provides a low-resolution, browse copy of everything stored in DIVArchive; that enables users to search for, clip, transcode and restore from that browser-based tool, he said.


Grass Valley’s K2Grass Valley offers the K2 storage platform, the open architecture of which enables integration with Grass Valley and third-party applications, according to the company.

Those systems are designed for broadcast and production environments, and they support online, nearline and standalone storage configurations. The K2 uses a QuickTime compatible file system, and its FTP capability supports industry standard file formats such as material eXchange format, general eXchange format, QuickTime, MOV and AVI.


Harris’ NEXIO FaradHarris offers its NEXIO Farad storage system in two configurations—sharing one common platform— for government video applications; they provide online, shared storage needs from 8 terabytes to half a petabyte.

The less expensive version of NEXIO Farad is based on RAID-60 technology for robust data protection and linear bandwidth increases as storage arrays are added, according to Harris. The main configuration of NEXIO Farad offers RAID-601 storage protection to maximize resiliency and system availability in large-scale ingest, editing and playout applications, the company says.


Harmonic’s MediaGridHarmonic offers its MediaGrid digital media storage system, which is designed specifically for video workflows, providing the performance of a storage area network with the simplicity of networkattached storage, the company says.

MediaGrid can be “a great fit” for production environments requiring shared, real-time storage for edit-in-place, collaborative editing, transcoding, video on demand and other over-the-top applications, according to Harmonic.

In addition, MediaGrid is “scale-out storage,” enabling organizations to start with as little as 10 terabytes of usable capacity, and then seamlessly scale to petabytes of capacity and tens of gigabytes per second of throughput, Harmonic says. MediaGrid is built for 24x365 operations, and it is used in many of the world’s most demanding video workflows, the company says.


MobiDEOS’ MobileCamViewerMobiDEOS generally does not make video storage solutions, but they do provide products that transfer surveillance video to video servers, and it latest product, the MobileCamViewer, captures such video and stores it in a “cloud” system for later access.

Local and cloud video storage will work effectively in tandem for video producers, according to Sri L. Palasamudram, the company CEO. “Local storage is ideal for high-def and high fps, while cloud supplements low-def and low fps as a backup,” he said. “Cloud storage also removes the ‘single point of failure’ risk from local storage.”


NetApp’s FASNetApp offers two storage platforms, each designed for a particular use, said Mark Weber, NetApp U.S. Public Sector’s president.

That includes agencies needing to store a large amount of data, images and content but which are not streaming the video. For such agencies, NetApp’s FAS product line uses Clustered Data ONTAP as the operating system is ideal, he said. “If the agency needs a higher throughput capacity, we offer our high-performance E-series platform.”

For agencies involved in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, NetApp offers the NetApp Full Motion Video solution, which handles high-bandwidth video needs, Weber said. The FMV solution “is fast and dense and open,” and “provides government agencies with big bandwidth that scales.”


RUSHWORKS’ Network Attached Storage HardwareRUSHWORKS provides three types of hard diskbased storage, the “onboard,” the “USB data farm” and the “Network Attached Storage” systems, said Rush Beesley, the company’s president.

The RUSHWORKS' onboard storage system provides “very fast data access via direct bus connection, (and the) highest data flow reliability due to non-reliance on external connections/devices,” Beesley said. The USB data farm approach provides “a large amount of expandable, inexpensive data storage/retrieval,” but is not preferred choice for storing critical video, he said.

Meanwhile, RUSHWORKS' NAS storage solution gives users “virtually unlimited storage by adding additional NAS volume, (and) good failover protection, especially when using RAID 6 and redundant power supplies,” Beesley said.


Vizrt’s Viz Media EngineVizrt offers the Viz Media Engine as its media asset management and multiplatform delivery system, integrated with storage solutions from Vizrt’s partners, said Oscar Tengwall, product manager for the company.

The Viz Media Engine “provides uniform access from any desktop to the video stored in the system, regardless of what storage the video is stored on,” Tengwall said. “It is a video storage, production and multiplatform delivery system with file-based ingest and editing capabilities, and has extensive support for archiving as well as multiplatform delivery to websites and mobile platforms.”


Clearly, there are a lot of video storage options to choose from. The good news is that, with careful shopping and interviewing, a user should find a storage solution that meets an organization’s needs and budget.

As for users sticking to videotape in an effort to avoid the inevitable dominance of digital storage, don’t even think of it, according to Beesley.

“Expanding videotape storage just isn’t practical,” he said. “Go immediately to digital storage.”