How Object Storage Improves Digital Media Workflows

Object storage is a new way of storing, tracking and sharing files. It’s designed to overcome the inherent limitations of file systems and RAID at scale.

Western Digital Jul 06th 2018 A-A+

Media & Entertainment is an industry at the cutting edge of new technologies. But it is also one that is going under a painful digital transition. Higher resolutions, UHD TVs, immersive reality, and interactive content are contributing to massive data challenges.

It’s not just capacity that is a looming threat. Traditional storage systems weren’t designed with the scalability or flexibility that’s needed for new content production and delivery demands. Older technologies like tape or film that have been a staple of content archives struggle with modern workflows. Archives need to come alive and be searchable to quickly repurpose content and deliver new revenue opportunities.

Object Storage for Digital Media Workflows
Object storage is a new way of storing, tracking and sharing files. It’s designed to overcome the inherent limitations of file systems and RAID at scale.

Object storage is ideally suited for large files—such as media clips, images, medical imaging, video surveillance, etc., as well as numerous files (by numerous, I mean billions). It can consolidate massive data into a single system at petabyte scale and at lower costs.

(If you want to dig deeper, Mike McWhorter wrote a great blog explaining what object storage is.)

There are several key elements that differentiate object storage from existing file and block storage solutions and are particularly beneficial for media and entertainment. Here are a few of them that make object storage for digital media workflows ideal.

1. Scale, scale, scale! With new digital filming technologies, traditional storage can fill up with just a few hundred hours of media. Object storage was designed for scale using a flat structure rather than a hierarchical structure (e.g. files inside folders, inside folders). You can have petabytes and beyond under a single namespace, and even scale a single namespace across multiple geographical areas (think of the benefits for international studios!).

2. Metadata is the Future of Media Assets: Another important benefit of object storage is that it stores objects together with metadata. Metadata can be descriptive, it can be tied to applications, or even to special capabilities. For example, you can label assets with tags such as title, scene, subject, camera, actors, locations, etc. Now this data is stored with the file itself (independent of applications), and can be searched in real-time in your archive.

3. Better Preservation: Object storage uses erasure coding for data protection. Unlike RAID that protects disks, erasure coding is an algorithm designed to protect data. It is far more efficient than traditional RAID replication, requiring less raw storage capacity, and delivers faster repairs and extreme data durability.

4. Gain Value from Digital Assets: With the monetization of digital assets and new ways of using content for immersive technologies, media assets can no longer be stored on tape. Companies need a seamless workflow from ingest to archive, with the ability to quickly access data. Object storage is transforming archives – here’s a great example.

5. Data Sovereignty: Undoubtedly, the cloud has changed the IT landscape forever. But there are many reasons why media companies may not want to put their assets in the public cloud. It might be concerns of control for valuable media content, or cost implications of egress and network challenges moving such large data files into the cloud. Object storage provides many of the same the benefits of the public cloud yet with the protection, sovereignty and control of being able to deploy the solution on premises. You can also deploy object storage in a colocation facility or a hybrid configuration using S3 connector.

6. Object Storage is Faster than You Think: Many people associate object storage with cold storage, as that was a popular cloud use case. But object storage can deliver far higher performance levels. Currently we are seeing object storage used for everything from analytics, to HPC, content distribution, IoT and archiving[1]. Object storage can handle advanced data problems that might be impossible or too expensive on NAS.

7. Low Cost: Media & Entertainment are facing a colossal data challenge, and they’ll need to find cost-efficient ways to successful tackle their digital transformation. Object storage systems are designed to be massive at the lowest cost per terabyte, and can be a key enabler for this transformation.

Where Does Object Storage Fit in Digital Media Workflows?
Object Storage shines in transcoding, delivery and archive workloads. It can be used seamlessly with public cloud using S3 connector as well as existing infrastructure using various tools.

To understand how to best implement it in your workflow, it’s best to speak to a specialist. Western Digital and our G-Tech®, HGST, SanDisk® and Tegile™ brands innovate and deliver solutions for every stage of the media workflow. We understand the challenges of the multitude of software, hardware tools, and locations of media data lifecycle. You can reach out to our experts here to learn about how to integrate object storage into your IT infrastructure.

One area that’s enabling companies to adopt these changes is file management. New innovations such as the C4 ID system allow users to uniquely identify all files everywhere, regardless of filename or location. New tools allow files in heterogeneous systems to be managed from a single pane. (I recently wrote about Interoperability and New Workflows in Media & Entertainment).

With the rapid changes in technology, media companies and studios need to need to rethink their data lifecycle and how to store data. The limitations of current technologies are already impacting their ability to scale, collaborate, protect and take advantage of their valuable media assets.