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Higher TV and movie resolution standards are radically pushing up storage requirements for producing and saving digital media.

For those users in the film, broadcast and music business, there could be a saying that applies to storage: "Anything that is bigger, better and faster is what I need." At least that's the view of Jason Navarro, IT lead at Image Engine Design Inc., a visual effects post-production studio in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Navarro, like others in the digital content business, is looking at the increasing terabytes (and even petabytes) of data generated in the creation, editing, archiving and distribution of digital content. Most of this data needs to be accessed quickly so organizations can meet deadlines imposed by movie premieres and television broadcasts, and as corporate HR and marketing departments increasingly develop multimedia training videos and product promotions.

Digital content requires not only more capacity, but the ability of the storage system to grow as a user's needs expand. And that's just what Navarro required: a system that could scale performance and capacity as Image Engine's work changed so the company could take on television projects in addition to its film visual effects.

"We were using a 3TB NetApp FAS940 [filer from NetApp Inc.], but found it wasn't going to be efficient enough," says Navarro.

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"With the transition to high-definition television [HDTV] from standard definition [SDTV], we needed five to six times the storage if we were going to pursue high-end film and television work."

Image Engine picked up the visual effects work for The Incredible Hulk, which was shot with 2K (2,048 horizontal pixel resolution) cameras and when finished could require more than 5TB of storage capacity. In transitioning from SDTV to HDTV, Navarro installed a system for Image Engine that consists of a render farm comprising 120 servers and a four-node 26TB NetApp FAS3050 running the NetApp Data Ontap GX operating system. As many as 200 clients connect to the NetApp cluster and render farm servers, which work together to perform computation-intensive 3D rendering.

"We were looking for a high-performance, high-availability system and decided that clustered storage was the way to go," says Navarro. "In this business, high availability is essential. If we can't get the work done in time, we'll lose money and miss deadlines."

Navarro stores high-demand applications on Fibre Channel (FC) disk and television files on SATA disk. Finished projects are archived on tape. If Image Engine requires more performance from the system, more controllers can be added; if more capacity is required, more disks can be added.

This was first published in August 2008

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