If you work in the industry of Video Production, you may find yourself putting up with a lot of inconveniences that you aren’t even aware of. Do any of the following apply to you?
- Data for a project is kept on a FireWire drive that you move from one editing station to another, depending on who is working on the data, or where you are in the workflow. This tends to cause contention for the storage, and a lot of time wasted setting things up.
- You often experience dropped frames in your editing sessions. You are vaguely aware that it is somehow related to how slow your storage system is, but you have no idea what to do about it.
- You don’t need much in the way of data protection, since all your raw data is preserved somewhere else, but every now and then a drive fails, causing you to lose a fair amount of work. If you have never experienced a drive failure, maybe you are keenly aware of just how much work would be lost if you did lose a drive.
How much more efficient and productive would your business be if you could have all your storage in one place, accessible from any of your workstations, at any time? And how beneficial would it be to have that storage protected from the failure of a disk drive? And how about speed? What if that storage was so fast, you never had to deal with dropped frames in your editing sessions?
You are likely aware of the fact that SAN storage systems can deliver these answers to your storage problems, but what exactly does it take? How do you do this?
As it turns out, it is actually easier than it seems. Below, I am going to describe the exact components that you need to implement a high performance storage system for multi-station video editing environments. Specifically, I will describe a solution that takes advantage of the Apple Mac Pro editing stations that may already be part of your environment.
The key element of this configuration is the Xsan file system and the concept of a distributed file system. The Xsan file system allows access to the files in a file system from multiple workstation clients at the same time. In addition, it allows you to consolidate multiple pools of storage into a single, integrated unit.
Because Xsan is a block based file system, it can be matched with high performance storage components to deliver data to multiple editing stations in a streaming fashion without dropped frames. When combined with Dot Hill Systems 3730 Storage Arrays, the Xsan file system can deliver more than 1000 MB/s to the Apple Mac Pro Workstations used for video editing. In video terms, that is more than 5 uncompressed High Definition video streams being rendered at the same time.
The key to constructing a high performance video editing studio is in the selection of components, the proper network configuration, and the proper storage configuration. The following section overviews the recommended equipment, along with a basic description of connectivity.
The Video Post Production Configuration
The recommended configuration for Video Post Production environments utilizes the following components:
|Metadata Server||It is absolutely necessary to have at least one metadata server in the Xsan environment. If the budget is really tight, then one of the Xsan client systems can serve in this role. If redundancy and high availability is a concern, then two metadata servers should be deployed. The Apple Mac Pro Workstation can be easily deployed as a Metadata Server.|
|Workstations||The Workstations play the role of the video editing workstation. A video post-production environment will have one or more of these workstations deployed, all working from the same storage pool. The Apple Mac Pro Workstation is commonly used for video editing workstations.|
|Xsan||The Xsan distributed file system allows access to video files from any workstation. The software must be installed and licensed on each metadata server and each client workstation.|
|Fibre Channel HBA||The selection of a Fibre Channel interface in the Apple workstations will have a significant impact on performance and efficiency. The ATTO Celerity FC-8xEN 8Gbit Fibre Channel HBA is the only supported HBA that provides 8Gbit speeds on its ports. In addition, this HBA offers an MPIO driver that implements the ALUA specification. This means that the driver will be able to distinguish between paths that are preferred, and paths that are not.|
|FC Switching||The infrastructure of the storage network requires the deployment of at least one Fibre Channel switch. In order to realize the benefit of the 8Gbit interfaces, the switch should also be rated at 8Gbit. A completely redundant solution will deploy two switches, so that the failure of one switch will not disrupt access to the storage. If a single switch is deployed, then it is recommended that the switch be configured into two zones (two virtual switches) to facilitate simple management of the paths to storage. A popular switch for this configuration is the QLogic 5800 switch.|
|Storage Array||The DH 3730 is the RAID array storage subsystem for the solution. It features dual, active-active RAID controllers with four 8Gbit Fibre Channel interfaces. The base configuration supports up to 12 SAS or SATA disk drives. A base configuration filled with 2TB SATA disks will provide 24TB of raw storage. The configuration can be expanded to include more drives by adding DH 3130 JBODs via SAS interconnects.|
|Connections||All of these components are connected with fiber optic cables. In the terminology of cables and connectors, the type you will need are LC-LC. You can purchase these cables in a variety of lengths. These cables will connect directly into the ports provided by the ATTO HBA, the DH 3730 storage system, and the Fibre Channel Switch. In figure 1 below, each orange line represents one Fibre Channel fiber optic cable. IMPORTANT NOTE: These cables plug into a module called a “transceiver” on the port. Most components already provide all the transceivers pre-installed on all the ports. However, some Fibre Channel switches do not. You may have to purchase transceivers separately for some of the ports on the switch you purchase, along with separate licenses to use those ports.|
This configuration utilizes generic SAN infrastructure connectivity between the Dot Hill AssuredSAN RAID storage array and the Apple Mac Pro workstations. This configuration is used in most storage networks to provide optimum use of bandwidth while maintaining redundant connectivity to storage. An example of this configuration is shown in Figure 1.
Where are the Tips & Tricks?
Of course, no solution is complete without some understanding of Best Practices or “tips & tricks”. For Video Production businesses taking the plunge into SAN for their editing workstations, I recommend further reading at our website, http://www.dothill.com/dothill-solutions/post-production/. There, you will find a whitepaper on Best Practices for Apple implementations. These guidelines should get you past most of the gotcha’s you might experience in implementing this solution.
The Dot Hill AssuredSAN storage array is an ideal storage solution in Apple computing environments, specifically the Video Post Production Editing market. The AssuredSAN has been demonstrated to work seamlessly with Apple Workstations, ATTO HBA’s, and the Apple Xsan distributed file system. In addition to the inherent benefits of SAN based storage, the AssuredSAN storage array delivers:
- High Performance – 8Gbit FC speeds
- Reliability – redundant components and paths
- High Availability – Clustered controllers with failover technology
- Flexibility – a variety of drive options and configurations
This solution offers distributed access to storage, a necessary element of a shared editing environment. Coupled with the ATTO Celerity FC HBA, the solution utilizes 8Gbit Fibre Channel speeds, path optimization and load balancing to deliver tremendous throughput for intensive streaming and rendering applications.
Article Contributed By: Matt Alsip, Technical Marketing Manager and Professional Skeptic, Dot Hill