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Accelerating 4K workflows

October 24, 2014

In a session on "LTFS Transforms LTO tape into Nearline Storage: Accelerating 4K Media Workflows," Tridib "TC" Chakravarty, founder of StorageDNA, talked about how LTO tape has emerged as a cost-effective way to store raw, 4K content. With the explosion in file-based content, the market has turned to LTO tape. "The reason is because of cost, density, speed and it's a green technology that lasts for longer than 30 years," he said. "But it's still considered to be slow, since it's a serial access storage medium with long restore time. LTO remains as an offline, archive storage medium, but as content on LTO tape grows, how do you get access to the content?"

LTFS (Linear Tape File System), as developed by IBM, came in as the savior, touted as making "LTO just like a hard drive." "We got really excited and gave them an Emmy because we hoped LTFS would make LTO nearline," said Chakravarty. "That's why we went from disk to tape. This is the best thing that can happen. Then we got an LTFS hard drive and reality set in."

He demonstrated his experiments using LTFS via Mac Finder. "The tape is spinning simply trying to open a file," he said. "QuickTime finally opens. Essentially we realized, yes, LTFS is a file system but not a hard drive. It was a painful moment. If it won't give us direct access to content, what's its benefit?"

Is there a possibility to get direct access to content? Understanding access patterns of media files is not simple; video files have complex layouts and apps jump around within media files. But StorageDNA was stubborn, said Chakravarty, and didn't want to give up. The solution the company found was Direct Access Technology. The advantages are that LTFS requires no restores and only small metadata sections are read and cached. HSM and IT backup restores full files and third-party nearline applications can work directly from LTO, with no additional storage needed for restores.

LTO still has limitations: it's still a single access medium and not meant for shared or highly interactive use. Only one file is accessible at a time and it can't be used for editing. It's also not appropriate for accessing numerous small files. In conclusion, he said, LTFS-formatted LTO tape will house the majority of file-based media content. Direct access technology will enable faster workflows for re-purposing and re-monetizing content and high-speed analytics. It will also help simplify associated storage infrastructures and establish a more cost-effective high-res pipeline.

Tag(s): 4K , LTFS , LTO

Debra Kaufman

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