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Tiered storage has digital music provider singing new tune

By Shane O'Neill, Senior News Writer

24 Aug 2004 | SearchStorage.com

Everybody loves music -- especially when it's delivered to you as a digital file. No one's feeling the love more these days than Loudeye Corp., a provider of digital media to customers such as Amazon.com, Apple iTunes and Virgin.

The overwhelming demand for music has led the Seattle, Wash.-based company to buy online disk storage, a step toward creating an information life management (ILM) strategy.

Up until recently, Loudeye was able to get by using direct-attached storage (DAS) with EMC Clariion disk and Powderhorn tape libraries from Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) to format, archive and retrieve music as WAV files.

Typically, Loudeye would receive music from a content provider in either analog (tapes, CDs, records) or digital (FTPs, hard drives) format. The company would then extract the uncompressed WAV files and store them on a nearline tape system. When it came time to send the music to a customer, Loudeye would move the files to temporary disk, where they would be compressed and sent on their way.

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But when a WAV file is uncompressed, it can be as much as 50 MB per song, causing a bottleneck when terabytes of uncompressed music files kept piling up in the tape library.

"The bottom line is that we did not have the throughput for compressing the more than 50,000 files per day that we needed., said Joe Baldini, vice president of IT at Loudeye.

Baldini's immediate goal was simple: Get online disk. Despite the price, he found little resistance from upper management. "Everybody knew throughput issues had become a problem. We estimated that we could get 10 times the throughput with online disk, and that ROI justified the purchase," said Baldini.

Loudeye saw online disk as both a throughput increaser and the key part of an ILM plan where digital files could be stored on online disk, nearline tape or offline archival depending on the popularity of the song.

Loudeye developed an RFP report and sent it out to vendors including EMC Corp., IBM Corp., Network Appliance (NetApp), Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), Storage Technolgies Inc. (StorageTek), ADIC and Isilon. "It came down to StorageTek and IBM," said Baldini. "StorageTek gave us a more manageable price, plus they had a large local support staff and we had an existing relationship because of the Powderhorns we owned."

With a vendor in place, Loudeye began migrating its entire archive off tape to an online system using StorageTek's D280 disks. This was no picnic, according to Baldini. They had to track and manage thousands of tapes, replace bad tape cartridges and fix mechanical failures in the robotic library. All while keeping the business running.

Loudeye is now using StorageTek's D280 disk storage system and three StorageTek Powderhorn tape libraries in a tiered storage environment where the most current music files are formatted, stored and immediately accessible on disk. The older, less-popular files are either housed on nearline tape or archived off site.

So did they get 10 times the throughput as planned? "Almost," said Baldini. "So far, we're getting over seven times the throughput." Loudeye has also added more than 200 TB of storage with this tiered storage approach, pushing the company's total storage capacity to almost one petabyte.

It's worth noting that Loudeye's process is not completely automated yet, and therefore not a true ILM solution. Baldini has to perform custom programming to copy, purge and report on data.

Related Topics: Tiered storage, VIEW ALL TOPICS