Here’s a Secret - It’s Not About the Hardware


not-about-hardware-blog-imageIt’s amazing how much storage you can get for so little these days. As of this writing, a 4TB internal hard drive retails for about $250. So, right now you can buy 100TB raw storage for under $7,000. Pick out a nice drive enclosure with RAID controllers and external connectivity like fibre channel or SAS and voila, you have direct attached storage (DAS).

Now, for your next trick, make that into a SAN.

You may start by attaching that DAS to a re-share server. A simple head unit running on Windows or Linux, or to a lesser extent since the death of the Xserve, OSX. Format the raw device, and add a share to the drive - and there you go, a SAN! (well… NAS) The first thing you’ll notice when you try to use this new NAS is that accessing the share is very inconsistent between OS platforms. Once in a while you can’t find the network resource. Workstations right next to the NAS head may not be able to see it. Are your IPs static? Is the DNS server online? Who’s managing the domain? You’re starting to learn how complex this can be!

So you hire a smart network guy and he fixes those things up. Now, you have several user accounts that need access to the shared drive. Some are admins, some aren’t. You want to split up who sees what by project, so you delve into the permissions of the directory hierarchy. Some users need to see certain folders, or certain levels of folders, some need to see everything with read-only permission, and for some you just want the whole thing wide open. Your network guy comes back after two weeks and says that SMB is causing problems (especially with OS 10.9) and he wants to use NFS, which will require a new operating system on the head unit. You’re learning a lot about network file systems!

You promote the network guy to IT Manager, and he switches the head unit to a new OS that you’ve never seen before. A couple days later it’s ready to go. I see my stuff, they see theirs - Great. Now let’s load some video; play some video; edit some video. Within a few minutes it’s clear this NAS is not as fast as your local drives. Your IT Manager thinks it’s the switch, so you research other switch options. You buy a better switch and enable 9000 MTU frames. You’re learning a lot about packet-based protocols!

Performance is better, but still not great. You promote the IT Manager to CTO, and let him order a head unit with a more powerful processor, and double the drive spindles on the DAS to lower latency. A couple weeks later, things are much better, and as long as everyone isn’t working at the same time, you can output a whole show to tape without dropping frames. Now you’re getting paid, and taking on multi-room projects. You win a major job that wants to use Avid, and another that wants to use FCPX. You clear the room schedule, get on the Avid subscription plan and order up some copies of FCPX from the App store.

A couple days before the jobs start, you fire up the rooms, install software and test things out. After a couple hours of frustration you realize neither of these applications will work with generic network drives. You turn to your CTO, and he shrugs. After an all-nighter researching shareware and plug-ins that claim to make everything work, just to find dozens of forum posts that say they don’t, you decide to task your CTO with finding a way around this at any cost. You find a note on your desk – he quit, and says he’s going back to corporate IT “where things make sense”. 

I won’t go into the gory details about what probably happened next, but let’s just say it’s the worst case scenario: You’re left with an infrastructure that you can’t support, that doesn’t work for what you need, and that ended up costing you a lot more than you thought, maybe even your business. You’ve learned a lot about getting burned by technology.

Turn-key shared storage systems like TerraBlock should be a premium purchase, because soon after deployment it becomes the most critical part of your business. If you didn’t get into this business to be an IT expert, the choice is clear. Simple, reliable, qualified and dedicated to your workflow – TerraBlock.