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How Tiering Inactive Data to the Cloud Helps the Media and Entertainment Industry

Today’s on-demand, visually driven culture is more plugged into the media and entertainment world than ever before. Technological advancements are offering audiences new ways to watch, read, listen to, and enjoy media, but orchestrating how all that happens is becoming an increasingly more challenging act for media and entertainment companies to adapt to.

A media company’s IT infrastructure has sophisticated needs and keeping down costs is always a concern. From the compute required to create powerful visual and audio files to meeting the changing demands customers have for certain media types, there is a lot to juggle. Among all those challenges, one looms larger than the others: finding and affording the storage space to accommodate all of their massive media libraries.

NetApp has been at the forefront for solving the media and entertainment industry challenges. To see just how powerful and effective AFF and SSD-backed storage arrays can be in this vertical, check out this case study on how DreamWorks relies on the high performance of NetApp AFFs. With as many as 300,000 continuous file service operations taking place every second and storage for over five million files all requiring 100% uptime, this performance is key to making the enormous animation projects at DreamWorks successful. Another customer, TV8, uses SSD-backed FAS arrays chiefly for the storage type’s reliability, making sure that their three HD television channels are always available to deliver quality content to their customers 24/7. Storage efficiency is also a concern for TV8, and any other shop in that industry, as the company generates close to 8,500 files on a daily basis.

Now, NetApp has a solution for keeping the massive media libraries lucratively and use the AFF and SSD-backed FAS systems in a much more efficient way than ever before without compromising on performance and reliability: tiering inactive data to the cloud with the new Cloud Tiering service.

Why Media Generates So Much Data

One thing that’s certain in the media and entertainment industry is that if you aren’t putting out fresh, new content, your viewers are going to find it elsewhere. Competition is intense and capturing the attention of viewers can make the difference between a successful operation and one that winds up hanging an out of business sign outside of the studio doors. That intense competition requires intense media turnover, which in turn requires and creates immense amounts of data.

Using Data Fast, Then Putting It on the Shelf

From the concept stage to the final cut, the timeframe that media companies work in is extremely fast. Take, for example, the news stories that are being put together for a cable news program. To put these stories together, production teams will need to have immediate access to video, text, audio, and graphics files that they use to piece together the news item for the screen.

The benefit to keeping this data on-prem in a storage system as capable as an AFF box is clear. That data will immediately be ready as soon as the production team needs to access it, without waiting for any of it to be downloaded over the internet from cloud storage. That story can have all the component pieces put together, and the segment will air on time and throughout the day and, possibly, a few times over the course of the rest of the week.

How is this a pain point for enterprises that use on-prem storage? News happens fast. That story won’t be fresh for long, and all of the video and other data that went into its creation is not going to be touched again. So, any media company that has leaned solely on a traditional on-prem storage system will be at a disadvantage. Now you’re taking up valuable space in a highly-performant and expensive storage system that has a hard limit to its storage capacity.

Streaming data is another storage concern for media companies. Whether they run a subscription service or offer a large amount of their content online for free, users will want instant access to the stories, videos, films, and music that they want to see, when they want to see them. But as demanding as those users can be, there will be lots of content items that aren’t as in demand. Keeping such items stored on-prem using a storage system as versatile as an AFF array isn’t the most efficient use of space.  

What to Do with All That Data?

In each of the cases outlined above, there is one common problem: there is more and more data to store, most of it hardly in use. Using AFF and SSD-backed FAS systems to store cold data such as this is the equivalent of using a Ferrari as a school bus: there isn’t enough room to fit everyone who needs to sit on it, and it’s much more performant and more expensive than it needs to be for that task. It just isn’t an effective solution.

Traditionally, the media and entertainment company facing this dilemma would turn to another solution: buy another storage box (something as slow and dependable as a school bus, in this analogy). But though the prices for such storage systems aren’t as high, they do require additional CAPEX spending. And, in this industry that generates so much data, sooner than later you’ll need to buy another, and that’s before the first box reaches its end of life. Also, should the cold data ever be needed for performant use again, there has to be a mechanism in place to move data easily between the separate boxes. Configuring that mechanism could be a time-consuming task.

Fortunately, NetApp has a new solution: the new Cloud Tiering service for AFF and SSD-backed FAS systems.

Save Space Storing Media Data with Cloud Tiering

Media and entertainment leaders have been turning to NetApp for years to help their studios put together content that has shaped the viewing experience of millions of people around the world. With Cloud Tiering, they now have an option to do that without expanding their on-prem footprint and by switching to an OPEX spending model for long-term data storage without any operational burden or refactoring applications.

Cloud Tiering, by leveraging NetApp’s powerful FabricPool technology, works by automatically identifying data that is considered inactive and then tiering that data to the cloud storing it on inexpensive object storage services such as Amazon S3, Azure Blob, and coming soon Google Cloud Storage and IBM Cloud Object Storage. For the media and entertainment industry, all that excess data that needs to be held onto but won’t be used frequently, if ever, can now be stored in a more cost-effective and usage-optimized capacity tier. Unlike expanding the data center by opening up a new rack, cloud storage is a pay-as-you-go expense that can grow or shrink as needed. Plus, with inactive data offloaded, the capacity of existing on-prem AFF and SSD-backed FAS systems can expand as much as 20X, something that can come in handy during intense production activities for big projects.

Cloud Tiering offers three different policy options: Auto-tiering, Snapshots-only, and coming soon, Entire-Volume tiering.

Auto-tiering: Any inactive data that Cloud Tiering detects is moved to the cloud. As discussed above, this is the perfect option for media use cases such as fast-churning news cycles where data is created and then used little after a week or so.

Snapshots-Only: Snapshot data older than two days (or another user-defined period) will move to the cloud. Media projects have demanding deadlines, so protecting data is essential. This policy lets you do that without taking up important disk space.

Entire-Volume tiering: Entire volumes that aren’t in use are moved to the cloud with this policy. For enormous media industry projects, such as films or animation projects, and when protecting those projects by replicating them to a secondary site, this will come in especially handy.

Cloud Tiering is easy to set up in just a few clicks, and it requires no changes at the application layer to work. Take a look at how easy it is to get started using Amazon S3. Companies that rely on a predominantly Windows-based ecosystem will want to see how Cloud Tiering works on Azure.

Lights, Camera, Action: Try Cloud Tiering Today

From news and movies to streaming networks and multi-site media networks, the media and entertainment industry needs a better way to store data. To get the most out of your performant NetApp storage systems on-prem without expanding your budget, try the new Cloud Tiering service today.

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Oded Berman, Product Evangelist

Product Evangelist