NAB 2017 storage roundup

by Robin Harris on Thursday, 4 May, 2017

Spent two days at the annual National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) confab in Las Vegas. With 4k video everywhere, storage was a hot topic as well. Here’s what caught my eye.

Object storage – often optimized for large files – continues to be a growth area. Scality, Dynamic Data Pool, Object Matrix, HGST, Data IO, OpenIO, and more were out. Typically, object stores offer lower costs than cloud vendors, excellent availability, data integrity, and easy scalability.

AWS, Microsoft, IBM and Google were all touting their cloud services for media producers and distributors. The killer app for cloud storage – at least in media and entertainment – is not storage alone, but collaboration and sharing. It’s common today for creative contributors to come not from Europe and Asia as well as north and south America.

Feature length movies can reach a million gigabytes. Secure sharing is a requirement that cloud vendors are well positioned to optimize.

Thunderbolt storage has gotten a shot in the arm from the adoption of Thunderbolt 3.

Atto was demoing a Thunderbolt controller that achieved over 2700MB/sec throughput to a single storage array.

Accusys was back with their Thunderbolt A12T3 sharable desktop storage. It supports up to 8 nodes for a low-cost shared infrastructure.

Symply hit some potholes on their way to a shared Thunderbolt storage system, but says they’re back on track. One issue: 40Gb/s signal integrity is not easy and, of course, absolutely essential.

Device vendors WD and Seagate were there to tout their system products. Seagate’s acquisitions of array vendor Dot Hill and chassis specialist Xyratex – an IBM spin off – enable them to offer reliable, high density storage and compute platforms. I’ve already mentioned the WD/HGST object storage platform.

Drones
Drones shooting 4k video are also hot. DJI, the market leader – you can pick up former competitor 3DR’s Solo Drone at fire sale prices – introduced a 100 megapixel drone with a Hasselblad camera for the pro market.

The Hasselblad shoots 4k video in addition to producing 230MB RAW image files. Hollywood crane rentals are about to take a hit.

Render acceleration
The problem of producing special effects quickly – whether for media, VR, or AEC – got a lot of attention. Some vendors were showing realtime rendering of special effects.

Silverdraft, for example, has a personal rendering machine and a half-rack video supercomputer. Content producers with Silverdraft and the right software can play with effects in real time, rather than making a change and waiting for a render to see the difference.

VR
Lots of VR demos. But as I pointed out on ZDNet,

While 4k content requires 4x the storage capacity of 2k (1080) content, it is storage bandwidth that will force costly system upgrades.

Dual 4k displays at 90FPS require about 10GB/sec of storage bandwidth. So even if realtime renders are consumerized, the storage bandwidth will be the long pole driving cost.

The StorageMojo take
It’s clear that unlike the moribund 3D push, 4k is a real trend with long term implications for the storage industry. Like what?

4k’s large file sizes will energize the object storage market, as long as it has plenty of bandwidth to go along with low cost capacity.

4K – with 6k and 8k as well – production also stresses portable systems and storage for onsite replication, rough cuts, dailies, and technical checks.

Archives will also have to grow to handle 4k.

Bottom line: 4k will be a bonanza for the storage industry. Add to that the decreasing costs of other production inputs, and its clear that the impact of video on how we produce, share, and consume our stories will only accelerate.

Courteous comments welcome, of course. I’ve done work for WD and HGST.

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