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August 2016

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STORAGE FOR VFX 24 POST AUGUST 2016 he storage needs of VFX studios are exploding as file sizes and resolutions seem to grow with every project. Fortunately, manufacturers have been keeping pace with higher-capac- ity disk drives and hybrid systems that include fast SSDs. "But at the end of the day, storage should remain in the background," John- Michael Trojan of Alkemy X reminds us. "You don't want to worry about it, and you want to spend as little time as possi- ble maintaining it day to day. You want a system that's secure, reliable and sort of blind to the work being done." ALKEMY X As a company that does creative content, editorial and finishing in its Philadelphia office — and all that plus VFX in its New York City location — Alkemy X (www. uses a number of storage solutions in its tightly-integrated plant. The company's original SAN solution in Philadelphia, Quantum's StorNext, has proved to be a wise investment. Installed about a decade ago, "it has been abso- lutely solid for us," says Trojan, Alkemy X's manager of technology services. "Every few years we refresh the equipment, adding more storage blocks and new con- trollers. Most recently we added another 40TB block to give us a total of 160TBs of usable storage." Trojan admits that the company has almost "maxed out the system" in its current configuration, but that just means "the next time we add storage we will replace a block with larger drives. With the growing sizes of spinning drives and the increasing speeds of SSD drives, we'll be able to maintain the infrastructure with incremental improvements as needed." Alkemy X employs multiple fiber connec- tions to maintain 4K playback online. The StorNext SAN works in tandem with 96TBs of Avid ISIS shared storage in Philadelphia. "We leverage the storage systems to build the best possible work- flow for a given project," Trojan explains. "We often work directly from the online or source media off the SAN for the duration of a project, but we also have the option to create proxy media for use with our Avid dedicated storage or we can archive the sources and work at finishing quality there as well." An LTO tape library provides daily back up and long-term archival storage. "We're very satisfied with it," says Trojan. "LTO gives us a very secure feeling. The cloud is definitely looming in the industry, but there are upload and download speeds to contend with." Brand new for the VFX group in New York City is Oracle's ZFS storage appli- ance, a hybrid system whose cache-cen- tric architecture features massive DRAM plus Flash, and is powered by a multi- threaded SMP operating system. "When the VFX group moved to New York from Philadelphia, we had Facilis TerraBlock storage, but then our VFX I/O speeds and storage outgrew the system, and we added a 96TB Oracle ZFS late STORAGE FOR VFX: BACKGROUND CHECK STUDIOS ARE FINDING SECURE, RELIABLE & UNNOTICEABLE SOLUTIONS BY CHRISTINE BUNISH T

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