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Ocarina deduplication and Isilon clustered NAS help visual effects studio archive images, cut costs

Zoic Studios archives online images and cut costs with a combo of Isilon clustered NAS and Ocarina data dedupe and compression; would like deeper integration between products.

The visual effects studio that helps produce the TV crime drama CSI: Las Vegas solved its own online archiving budget mystery by deploying Ocarina Networks' ECOsystem data compression and deduplication appliance with Isilon Systems Inc.'s IQ clustered network-attached storage (NAS) systems.

Zoic Studios, which splits operations between Los Angeles and Vancouver, B.C., has 200 TB of capacity on its primary Isilon IQ 1920 clustered NAS nodes, and late last year was looking for a way to keep frequently used images online for its artists so they wouldn't have to duplicate work when a new project started.

Previously, Zoic Studios archived each project to tape using an Overland Storage Inc. NEO 4000 series tape library and BakBone Software Inc.'s NetVault: backup software.

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"We were looking for a way to maximize our storage for backup while keeping assets online throughout a television season to maintain accessibility for our artists," said Saker Klippsten, head of engineering and IT at Zoic Studios. "We didn't want to have to pull it off tape, but we ran into problems trying to figure out how to hold those reusable assets without blowing our budget for storage."

Klippsten said he first heard of Ocarina Networks when an Isilon sales rep he knew left to work with the startup during its stealth period. Klippsten said he and his team put the Ocarina ECOsystem appliance through rigorous testing before installing it in production, but didn't consider other competitors.

Klippsten was most interested in Ocarina's customer file compressors for .tif and .exr files. He actually found standard RAR compression reduced the files more than Ocarina Networks, but Ocarina got the job done faster.

According to Klippsten, Ocarina's custom file compressors for .tif and .exr files, Zoic's chief focus, were less efficient than compressing using standard RAR compression. "RAR yielded 75% compression, and Ocarina was about 68% to 70% compression," he said. "But it took a day longer for RAR to perform the compression on the same data set." Using the Ocarina system also meant files could still be shared. "It complements Isilon, and it's easy to set up and manage – it just sits in the background and runs," he said.

The system has been in place for approximately five months in front of a new 100 TB Isilon NAS cluster made up of slightly slower IQ 12,000 nodes. With Ocarina's compression and data deduplication algorithms, about 40 TB of that is physically used at this point.

"It would be more along the lines of 120 terabytes already if we didn't have Ocarina," Klippsten said. Not needing that extra storage will save an estimated $100,000 this year for the studio.

Integration a sticking point

So far Klippsten said he's happy with the Isilon/Ocarina setup, but he would prefer to run the Ocarina software directly on the Isilon NAS heads.

"The current solution runs [Ocarina] on an independent piece of hardware," he said. "Ocarina has made some modifications to accommodate the Isilon clustered servers [and] take advantage of the speed and performance of having a clustered file server…but it's still a separate piece of hardware that mounts the Isilon via standard network protocols like NFS."

The appliance is working fine, but "it would be nice to see tighter integration, which might mean less rack space, power and cooling, as well as a potential performance increase if Ocarina's software ran natively on Isilon," Klippsten said.

At the time of the April partnership announcement, which included new joint products from Ocarina Networks and several NAS partners, Ocarina's vice president of products Carter George indicated to that Isilon (along with Hewlett-Packard Co. PolyServe) had ported the software directly into its clustered nodes.

Reached this week for comment on Klippsten's case, George said the two vendors did a prototype of a combine product but haven't released anything yet. "There's no software-only version of Ocarina that runs directly on Isilon nodes," he said. "We did do a prototype of that, and we have talked to Isilon about it. It needs a fair amount of work to go from proof-of-concept prototype to a finished production product, and only Isilon could do that work. We'd be happy if they did, but it's up to them."

According to Brad Winnett, Isilon's senior director of business development, any reports in April that the software would be ported directly to the Isilon cluster were premature.

"There's nothing committed to doing a port of the Ocarina software," Winnett said, acknowledging the proof-of-concepts demonstrating Ocarina running with the core of the Isilon OneFS operating system. "It would be great if everything ran on our nodes, but it's not always possible. There has been a good deal of work done to make sure the products run in an integrated fashion."

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