Post Magazine

Storage Supplement 2018

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9 STORAGE SOLUTIONS MARCH 2018 STORAGE SOLUTIONS For decades, Fibre Channel has been considered the ultimate solution to achieving reliable high-per- formance in post. Latest technologies open a new realm of possibilities — and accelerate Ethernet performance to comparable rates of Fibre Channel, challenging the expensive topology on many levels. Especially smaller post or production studios can take advantage of benefits of Ethernet connectivity. For over 15 years I have been designing and building countless heterogeneous high-performance media storage environments — and witnessed the field of media storage for post and broadcast going through many changes and innovations. One has been traditional spinning hard disk drives (HDD) be- ing outperformed — and oftentimes replaced — by faster Solid State Drives (SSD). Now the next evolu- tionary step in media storage technologies is in the process, and I'm glad to be in the front row again. The new magic word is Non-Volatile Memory Ex- press (NVMe), the insanely fast flash mem- ory that will again change the way of designing high-performance media workflow environments. This technology, if deployed intelligently, has the potential to boost per- formance in Ethernet en- vironments to process large resolution media files similar to Fibre Channel. I'd like to share some thoughts on this topic. THE TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANTAGE OF NVME First some technical basics and nitty-gritty that's relevant in post: Just like SSDs, NVMe uses memory chips instead of spinning disks. Hence, no slow- downs due to head seeks like you saw with HDDs. Unlike SSDs though that most often utilize the SATA bus interface to connect, NVMe connects through the lightning fast Peripheral Component Intercon- nect Express (PCIe) bus, allowing for a tremendous increase in bandwidth — one NVMe card, equipped with an integrated storage controller and interface, can be as fast as up to 10 SSDs! As solid-state storage with no moving parts, NVMe over PCIe can handle more simultaneous I/O requests than SAS and SATA based SSD/ HDD, pro- viding better bandwidth with close-to-zero latency. With up to 1.2 million IOPS, the new tech is ideal for extreme render-intensive operations. There's a lot more to it, but in essence, NVMe will, over time, replace the legacy bottleneck protocols SATA, SAS (SCSI) which will in return help boost Ether- net and Fibre Channel to lightning speeds. FASTER STORAGE, MORE CAPACITY Everyone in post and broadcast will attest that me- dia storage is a very — if not the most — essential and integral part of media workflows. As the perfect storage set-up always depends on the individual workflow and requirements, certain things are facts: with steadily expanding resolutions, workloads are constantly rising. Simultaneously, time-to-comple- tion continually diminishes — and the only escape seems to lie in adding more capacity and speed to the storage. While NVMe looks as if creating entire storage arrays with incredibly fast flash storage would be the perfect solution, it poses the prob- lem that the client side interface of the array itself becomes the clog. Plus, enterprise NVMe may also not (yet) be a viable option for supplying the whole storage capacity, as it is more expensive than SSDs. ETHERNET WITH FIBRE CHANNEL PERFORMANCE While block-level access in pure SAN/Fibre Channel set-ups may still be the way to go in large, mixed environments, smaller post facilities may benefit from the more cost-efficient Ethernet protocol, dealing with a single NAS/Ethernet topology for the whole storage environment instead of a mix of Ethernet and Fibre Channel. A slick, state-of-the-art NAS server, supporting 100Gbit Ethernet and remote direct memory access (RDMA) and utilizing NVMe flash storage as a transparent cache on the server level, the network can deliver high performance comparable to Fibre Channel. NVMe on the server level also delivers ex- tremely lower CPU consumption, leaving more CPU power for applications. Plus, the most recently used media files would, in case of a power outage for instance, remain in the non-volatile memory (NVMe) cache instead of being lost from any standard RAM. If there is no tolerance for latencies, but a require- ment of exceptionally high parallel stream count in NLE applications, and huge random IO perfor- mance, NVMe on the server level can boost throughput and overall bandwidth in a mere Ethernet environment to Fibre Channel-like speeds. With a close-to-zero overhead of multi-stream concurrency, and no moving parts on the sol- id-state NVMe, allocation and fragmentation issues on the file system become irrelevant on the transparent cache. THE 'NEW ETHERNET' VS. FIBRE CHANNEL BY ANDRÉ KAMPS CEO ELEMENTS GERMANY A.KAMPS@ELEMENTS.TV

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