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Movie network cuts to Isilon clustering

MovieLink dropped what it was doing -- evaluating NetApp -- when it heard about Isilon's IQ clustering systems.

As demand for online movies increases, companies like MovieLink, a joint venture of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Studios and Warner Bros., which converts movies into Windows Media and Real Media format for download by online viewers, are seeing their data explode like a set in a Jerry Bruckheimer film.

"We're currently seeing more than 100,000 transactions a month," said Bruce Anderson, MovieLink's senior vice president for engineering and operations. "And during that time file size has increased 80%."

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In other words, while more people are demanding movies, the movies themselves have grown as well, from requiring, on average, 700 kbps of streaming network bandwidth to an average of 1.3 Mbps. Files have ballooned to 500 MB and larger.

So, to understate things, the DAS from Dell Inc. MovieLink had been using to store movies wasn't going to cut it.

Last spring, Anderson said he was evaluating products from Network Appliance, Inc. (NetApp) -- he declined to specify just which products he was looking at -- when a former co-worker e-mailed him about Isilon Systems Inc.'s IQ clustered storage systems.

"We pretty much stopped taking calls when we saw what Isilon was doing," Anderson recalled.

What Isilon was doing was providing a cluster system that configures itself automatically when new storage is added, and scales performance and capacity separately. Each IQ3000 box, according to Anderson, boosts capacity 2.1 usable terabytes without having to spend more money on additional controllers.

It was perfect, he said, for a company that was always adding density to files and therefore expanding capacity needs, but which was limited in performance by the separate network it uses to stream the movies.

"At this point, I have to worry about how to get bandwidth on that network," Anderson said. "I have a ways to go before I'd overload the performance on the Isilon clusters. And it's more cost-effective to add the clusters in a different location and add another network than revamp the whole infrastructure."

By July 28, MovieLink's first IQ3000 system went live. The company now has three IQ3000 clusters, each with three IQ storage boxes, with more to come, Anderson said.

"We're constantly looking for ways to put out the best possible video quality for our customers," he said. "As U.S. broadband capacity increases, we're going to need more storage for the same number of titles and we're going to need it pretty quickly. Isilon's clusters will allow for that expansion."

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