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Playing a starring storage role by Laurent Fanichet E ven Oscar winners need to update tools to cope with the rapid transition from film to digital, for leading post production studio Framestore that meant choosing StorNext File System and Storage Manager to improve digital workflows and automate data management, resulting in a 30-60 percent saving. Data file growth demands better management Showing up at awards is the easy part for Framestore, whether it is a full-length feature film or a 30-second commercial the hard work is behind the scenes, where the volume of digital files has become an increasing challenge. Andy Howard, head of Framestore’s engineering team focusing on commercials, has seen a sea-change in industry practices over the past two years and knows the impact it has had on the company’s business model. “Everyone had been shooting 35 mm film, and suddenly there was a huge drop off,” Howard says. “From commercials to feature films, people switched to electronic camera formats, so we ended up with tens of thousands of files per project, which required a new shared storage workflow.” “When we had a 20 terabyte high- speed shared SAN we could manage files with few problems,” Howard explains. “But when we had to expand to 130 terabytes, the data became unwieldy and expensive to store so we had to manage it differently. The shift to digital has meant there is more content than ever before because crews are no longer constrained by the high cost of chemically processed film. Howard knew that data tiering could offer an effective solution. Rather than having a staff decide when to move files to cost-effective storage, he automated, choosing StorNext Storage Manager, a robust, policy-based data mover technology to optimize storage. StorNext takes on file sharing and tiering challenge Framestore uses a variety of editing software, including Apple Final Cut, Avid Media Composer and Autodesk Flame and Smoke. This diversity meant that Framestore needed a solution that could cope with changing conditions and applications. Support for high-performance shared access to files running on a variety of platforms (Linux, Mac and Windows) was a key requirement. Howard looked at other systems; Lustre and IBM’s GPFS, but StorNext stood out as the only product capable of adapting to all platforms and programs. Howard was also impressed with strong technical support from Quantum engineers whose production industry knowledge showed what StorNext could do for a company like Framestore. The StorNext File System provided immediate benefits such as shared access to files and rapid processing for smooth workflow. Because collaborative work could now occur without moving huge files between workstations there was less strain on the network and less data migration time. However, despite improvements in digital workflow, Framestore still struggled with managing the growth of digital data files. Benefits  Adding StorNext Storage Manager and a Quantum Scalar i500 tape library to the StorNext digital workflow immediately addressed Framestore’s need to tame the company’s growing data volumes. Storage Manager enables Howard to set up policies that automate movement of data from Tier 1 through to Tier 3 storage, without losing track of the thousands of individual files needed for a particular project. Storage Manager is also saving Framestore time on daily data protection, freeing resources for development work. By automating the protection function, with little human intervention, Storage Manager is yielding 30-60 percent savings in data management time. Howard expects additional benefits from Storage Manager, planning to exploit its robust replication capabilities by building a StorNext SAN in its New York office and replicating files between the two operations automatically. He estimates that 70 percent of the benefit from replication will come from sharing workload seamlessly between the two sites, 30 percent from strengthening disaster recovery capability. Howard predicts more change “Two or three years ago, people tended to work in isolation on projects, but now it is all about collaboration and files being shared by everyone,” he says. “Having the StorNext File System speeds up the workflow greatly, and with Storage Manager we are able to protect all of that data. It’s very clever software that really makes a difference.” 68 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 80 AUGUST 2013