Why Storage Plays Such a Critical Role in the Success of the NetApp Multimedia Team

By Ed Cho, Principal Multimedia Architect, NetApp IT, and Bart Saunders, Manager Onsite Multimedia Services, NetApp IT

 

Last year was a busy year for NetApp IT AV & Multimedia Services. Within this group, the Multimedia team is responsible for architecting the video production infrastructure as well as capturing, editing, and delivering video content for the entire enterprise. Our charter covers a wide array of activities:

  • Produce an average of 370 live events and 400 studio recordings per year on a wide range of topics, from executive presentations to product launches, corporate alliances, celebrations, community support, and corporate all-hands
  • Manage and edit live video streaming and on-demand recordings from a variety of campus venues, including a 1,200-seat auditorium, a 400-seat theater, a green-screen sound stage, and training rooms, all connected by a fiber-optic network.
  • Consume approximately 30TB of storage per year, which is steadily climbing with the advent of 4K video. An average one-hour studio recording uses four recording feeds—three cameras and one switched program cut which translates to approximately 60 GB of video content.
  • Support six editing workstations.
  • Provide on-demand viewing of more than 800 videos per year. Most of this content is then edited into additional segments.

With just five people involved in video production, we need to be smart and highly efficient in the way we work. Reliable data acquisition and storage is critical to our daily workflow. Even the slightest performance issue can severely impact our ability to capture, edit, and deliver the content of our clients. Any interruption to this high-volume data workflow and our daily operations grind to a halt.

 

Storage Capabilities

Professional video production and delivery require very different storage capabilities. One emphasizes high performance; the other reliability and scalability.  Below, we describe how we use two NetApp storage solutions in our multimedia workflow.

 

NetApp Video Production Workflow

 

Production: E-Series

Our production activities require high-capacity, high-performance storage that can accommodate bandwidth-intensive content and is simple to deploy and manage. We require real-time, multi-stream video access from workstations across multiple campus locations. These workstations must be able to simultaneously access the same content in the post-production environment without retrieval lags, which slow down editing. To cope with such demanding and potentially adverse conditions, we utilize the NetApp E-Series.

 

Installing the E-Series was a huge step forward for our team. We previously used four Sony XDCAM-formatted optical disks to facilitate a one-hour recording. Once the recording was finished, we had to manually transfer the content from each disk into an edit station, which took three to four hours. When the transfer was complete, the content could only be edited at that station. All the content had to be ingested before any production work could start. If the workstation suffered a failure, all content was lost. The process was laborious, unreliable, and not secure.

 

We updated our workflow with the NetApp E-Series hybrid storage system with 180TB of capacity and roughly 2 GBs of video throughput. The E-Series supports high-performance mixed workloads, including bandwidth-intensive video streaming, with ease. It also enables us to capture up to eight broadcast-quality live streams of content and place it directly into E-Series storage. Because of the E-Series’ scalability, we are able to easily expand our ingest capabilities without sacrificing quality.

 

The content is now available to all six edit bays simultaneously within seconds and with no storage delays. Our ingest process is fully automated and integrated, thanks to the Quantum StorNext file system and Primestream FORK Production Suite media asset manager. The E-Series is provisioned using the NetApp SANtricity® operating system, which safeguards the ingest and delivery of data.

 

In addition to improving our team’s workflow and process efficiency, the E-Series delivers other benefits, including:

  • High performance. The E-Series handles the live ingest of videos in a broadcast-quality video format, without any dropped frames, directly into storage. This throughput is critical to the editing process, especially during live feeds.
  • Shared storage workflow. We can edit live-streamed content roughly 30 seconds after a recording starts.
  • Collaborative post-production. We can work simultaneously at different edit stations, dramatically increasing the pace at which the final output can be delivered. We can edit in RAW 4K format without any editing lags.
  • Increased productivity. After adopting E-Series, we eliminated hours of manual tasks in the production workflow. This gave us more time to focus on other value-added activities.
  • Enterprise-grade resiliency. When a hard drive failed under the old system, the content was lost. Now, if we incur a hard drive failure, we can swap out the failed drive and the content remains available via the E-Series.
  • Rock solid operation. While other parts of our video ecosystem have failed, we have not had any issues with the E-series since it was installed four years ago.
  • Easy storage expansion. Storage capacity can be added without requiring any type of special configurations or major design changes.

 

Delivery: FAS & ONTAP

To address video delivery and the video-on-demand (VOD) needs of end-users--including employees, partners, customers, and investors—we have a very different set of storage requirements. In this case, storage must be scalable, flexible, cost-efficient, and reliable. For this, we rely on NetApp FAS hybrid storage and ONTAP® storage management software to quickly and easily distribute content to a growing audience using a wide array of devices, including laptops, cell phones, tablets, and video monitors. Maintaining an agile encoding solution is critical to meeting the demands of these diverse distribution channels.

 

In addition to our own video content, we support the internal groups that want to produce their own video content using the Panopto enterprise video content management solution. Users can record, upload, encode, and post their own videos. We also depend on Panopto to encode and deliver NetApp’s corporate live and on-demand webcasts. To conserve storage space, we automatically compress files so they can be easily streamed to web servers then delivered to desktop computers and mobile devices.

 

We use the NetApp FAS6000 hybrid storage series to store our finished media assets and archive our source files. NetApp FAS enables us to manage our complex workflow, maximize storage efficiency, and automatically adapt to changing workloads. In addition, we leverage NetApp FlexPod®, a converged infrastructure that combines storage, networking, and compute into one architecture. FlexPod serves as a DMZ area for secure access to assets outside our VPN.

 

The combination of FAS, ONTAP, and FlexPod delivers numerous benefits, including:

  • Non-disruptive management. ONTAP enables non-disruptive operations and eliminates planned downtime; we plan to expand this capability to the hybrid cloud in the future.
  • Simple backups. We use ONTAP to automate backup and recovery with Snapshot™ software with no performance impact.
  • Flexible storage. Content can be made available securely to both internal and external audiences.
  • Lower costs. Power, cooling, and floor space as well as operational costs are much lower than that of traditional, large-scale storage.

 

The Future Is Shared Storage

As a company-wide service organization, the Multimedia team has one goal: excellent service for its customers. We rely on a robust and reliable NetApp storage infrastructure to operate our video production and delivery workflows at top efficiency, otherwise we could not keep up with the programming demands of our global enterprise.

 

With the adoption of NetApp products into our workflow, we can devote more energy and resources to creating high-quality content. A diversified foundation of NetApp storage solutions is one way for us to continually adapt to the growing needs of our many stakeholders while managing and protecting NetApp’s critical video assets.

 

The NetApp-on-NetApp blog series features advice from subject matter experts from NetApp IT who share their real-world experiences using NetApp’s industry-leading storage solutions to support business goals. Want to view learn more about the program? Visit www.NetAppIT.com.