Data storage or Media storage


Now I am no techie geek, which in this business could be viewed as a disadvantage, but I do know that in all areas of life the design of the storage container is determined to a large extent by the nature of the thing you want to store. For example, chips (or fries) work in a grease proof paper bag just fine but I like my drinks in a cup, can or bottle. Even then the vessel I use is usually decided by what I want to put in to it and how fast or slow I want to take the contents out. The range of different shaped glasses on my shelf has practical as well as aesthetic purpose.
So why should computer storage be any different? And why do some computer storage manufacturers think that you can treat all data the same?
Just take two typical types of data storage: the spinning disk or hard disk; and the tape library. Both these forms of storage were developed primarily for business use where the data consists of small parcels of information that is accessed in, more or less, random order by the user. The amount of data stored or retrieved each time tends to be quite low and so the bandwidth, or size of the aperture for getting the data in or out of the box, can be quite small. However the speed of finding the correct data from the midst of the box has to be quite high. Like a box of miscellaneous buttons – you may only need to take one out at a time but you have to be able to find the right one quickly. This requires some kind of indexing or filing system and limits the number of “hands in the box.”
Importantly, each frame is not accessed randomly, with media the data is contiguous. Each frame-worth of data is followed by another frame-worth of data, and at a steady rate, until the programme is finished. When streaming the media you cannot afford to lose frames, or change the order of them or have uneven streaming rates. Streaming media is the perfect application for a computer because it involves doing the same task 25 times a second until the end. But if the storage used for the media is the wrong size or has the wrong aperture or can’t work quickly enough then problems will ensue.
At Suitcase TV we have developed a range of intelligent storage devices and media management software that optimise both the storage and the processing of the media. MediaStor is not just a storage solution, it is a media management concept. The TeraStor intelligent storage device uses both high-capacity, high-density spinning disk technology as well as quad core processors for maximising the ability for onboard media processing. MediaXchange, the media management software, assumes that you want maximum control of your media without having to know the intricacies of the file management structure that lies under the surface, or of the physical storage devices.
But spinning disk is not the only storage medium available and for some applications, such as disaster recovery or back-up, tape storage is preferred by many. Once again there is a marked difference in how tape storage works for business data and less well for media. For example, if you back up disk storage on to tape a common approach, employed by most suppliers of tape library middleware, is to simply take a periodic snap shot of the data on the disk storage and pack it on to tape in random order. This is a high risk, and very inefficient method of backing-up media.
MediaStor Archivist assumes that you would want to back up all new media on the system as soon as possible and the moment a new piece of media is ingested and appears on disk the Archivist commences building a back-up of that media. The media components (video, multiple audio, subtitles etc.) are all gathered together and written to one tape. But, as one tape may be large enough for multiple programmes, to optimise the use of the tape and minimise the number of times the robot has to move tapes around, the “tape” copy is held as a virtual back-up until such time as the tape can be filled by the contents of back-up. If and when the archive copy of the programme needs to be restored to on-line, all components can be restored from one tape, or at most two.
Clearly cost is a major driver when it comes to selecting the storage platform for any computer system. General IT storage is now severely commoditised and presents a very tempting choice for broadcast and media companies, but buying the cheapest product is not always the most cost effective or efficient strategy for media storage.

Tags: Data storage | Media storage | suitcast tv | iss045 | media asset management | mediastor | terastor | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

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