Melbourne company creates filesystem, storage appliance for video production industry

A Melboure company has used RAID controllers, JBODs and a new filesystem of its own devising to offer an alternative to the high-end NAS and SANs used in digital video production.

Melbourne company Xenon Systems aims to undercut the likes of Network Appliance with a new file system and storage device aimed at the video production industry.

“After talking to a lot of our customers, one of the common issues we found was that in the film industry they need very high speed performance to work with video in real time,” said Dragan Dimitrovici, Xenon’s Managing Director. Another issue the company has encountered is that different aspects of video production – such as editing, rendering or compositing – cannot comfortably work on the same copy of video. Production houses therefore create new copies of data and move it onto DAS or other storage devices so that different steps of the production process can enjoy swift access to data. Yet the transfers required to make these copies available, Dimitrovici said, are frustratingly slow.

Devices with performance to speed these tasks and remove the need for multiple copies of video - through allowing simultaneous access for staff working on different stages of the production process - are available from high-end storage vendors, but Dimitrovici said most Australian film companies cannot afford their wares.

“There are two or three companies out there that can afford [high-end products] and they are working on Hollywood features,” he told Searchstorage ANZ. “As soon as you go to smaller guys doing TV series, they cannot afford to go to that level.”

SANs cannot fill the void, he added, as “a traditional SAN environment would be a whole farm of servers, all connected to one storage point. You get good speed between the storage and the server, but as soon as the servers talk to each other or connect to clients, the storage uses network file sharing.”

At this point, he said, access to video slows to the point where it becomes impossible for video production to proceed at an acceptable pace.

Xenon systems hopes to fill the gap with its new storage appliances, a hybrid SAN/NAS which places drives in a server chassis and links them with RAID controllers from Adaptec.

The result, Dimitrovici says, is a device that delivers the speed video production houses desire, over garden-variety Ethernet.

“The Adaptec card gave us the fastest performance we have seen of all the RAID controllers,” he said. “We can get better performance out of an eight-port card than we can get out of a fiber to SAS solution.”

Dimitrovici attributes much of that performance to the Intel IOP348 dual core processor present on the Adaptec cards, but nonetheless added that the real world performance of the devices has been closest to the published I/O data he typically sees advertised by vendors.

Another element of the solution is the “catapult” file system and “slingshot” client developed by Xenon subsidiary XDT. The software is said to enable “600 Megabytes per second [transfers] … over 6 Gigabit Ethernet interfaces” in point-to-point connections.

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