Combining on-site and cloud storage


Alan Hoggarth TV-Bay Magazine
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by Alan Hoggarth
Issue 102 - June 2015

Technology and profitability have an intimate and often complicated relationship. A new invention may open up the possibility of new forms of business, or greater efficiency in existing businesses. Sometimes the invention may be a response to a clear need necessity being the mother of invention. But on other occasions a technological advance may have good theoretical applications but be economically impractical to implement.

The world we live in today is heavily dependent on mass storage hosted in data centers where almost inconceivable amounts of data are stored and retrieved supporting the transactions that drive global institutions and businesses and shaping the way we all live. This change in the way data is stored lends itself to a lightsout approach based on disks rather than data tapes and the push for greater storage capacity and lower power consumption has driven the development of very highcapacity 8TB archive storage disks costing less than the equivalent in tape.

These developments have driven down the cost of the storage and the data center approach has allowed businesses to transform their operating methods, by devolving their archive storage requirements to a cloudbased model. The advantages of cloud storage have been widely trumpeted, and any business today has to consider the benefits it can offer. Fast, global access to data is much easier with a cloud model, but the advantages dont necessarily apply to all businesses, and media organisations are a case in point. The reason is simple. The requirements of an insurance company or an online retailer making financial transactions for example will be to store a very large number of very small data files. In contrast with this, a media business will typically need to store a smaller number of files, but where each file instead of being a few kilobytes is more likely to be tens or even hundreds of gigabytes truly massive by comparison.

Having said that disk capacity is now in the 8TB range, storing the files is rather less of a problem than uploading and downloading them. This leaves media businesses with a dilemma. Uploading long form content to the cloud is likely to be affordable. Holding the content at rest in the cloud will also be relatively affordable, but the costs typically are much higher when it comes to downloading the content, which is the principal revenue model for most cloud storage providers. A further complication, and cost, is the need for significant network bandwidth if the download is to take place fast enough for operational use, for example in a broadcast schedule. Bandwidth equates to cost, which can make cloud storage less attractive, but in many geographical locations it may simply not be possible to provide sufficient network bandwidth. So the strength of cloud storage is its ability to store large volumes of media files very securely and affordably, but the weakness is the direct and indirect cost and questionable practicality of downloading them for operational use.

Until recently, a media archive would have almost invariably been on an in-house robotic data tape library. ALTO is an alternative to tape, based on fully spun-down high capacity disk storage and, like a tape library, using 2:1 or even 3:1 replication rather than RAID for protection. ALTO also offers the ability to scale to a multi-petabyte enterprise-class solution with ultra-low total lifetime cost of ownership for broadcasters and media companies who need secure and affordable storage. The two replicas generated and managed as standard by ALTO are quite commonly distributed over LAN and WAN networksbetween different sites, different cities or different continents for multi-site archives, often with the third, disaster recovery replica, on the shelf or some other secure location. So what better location for the DR replica than the cloud?

With one local replica on the premises for fast and affordable access, and a second replica in the cloud for protection, we can combine the best of both worlds. The replica in the cloud is never used for operational purposes, avoiding expensive and bandwidth-intensive downloads, but it provides the ultimate security of an off-site copy of last resort that can be used to create a new on-site replica in the event of a media failure, an effective way to increase both the yield and security of the on-premise storage.

This changes the equation for media organisations, allowing them to harness the power of the cloud in a smarter way to deliver tangible business benefits and superior performance. The theoretical advantages of cloud technology now have a practical and financially viable application for long form media storage.


Tags: iss102 | on site | cloud | storage | archive | alto | Alan Hoggarth
Contributing Author Alan Hoggarth

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