Storage Casting Call

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2006-07-17 Print this article Print

The 2006 projection of nearly a $20 billion market is on a fast track to the $65 billion neighborhood by 2010, according to analysts.

Storage Casting Call

With that much money at stake, it is no surprise vendors are auditioning for a big storage role. Top-tier companies such as EMC, Hewlett-Packard, Quantum, Dell, Network Appliance, Seagate Technology, Sun Microsystems and Sony all have professional-level hardware and software to handle the task of storing video for ready-to-use, backup and archival functions.

Smaller companies such as Thomson/Grass Valley, ProMax Systems, G-Tech, Pinnacle, MedeaVideo and others also have plenty of customers.

Sun is banking heavily on selling a high volume of professional digital video and digital tape storage, backup, and archiving hardware and software in the next few years. CEO Jonathan Schwartz identified data and video storage as one of the three businesses he expects to lead Sun back into profitability after nearly five years of red ink.

Sun's new Sun Fire X4500 "Thumper" storage system, a NAS (network-attached storage) product package that includes "Galaxy" servers powered by Advanced Micro Devices Opteron chips and StorageTek backup, was announced July 11.

One 19-inch-wide, 7.5-inch-deep Thumper server contains 48 hot-swappable disk drives totaling as much as 24TB of storage.

To go with Thumper, Sun also has developed "Honeycomb," a software package that includes a new data capture process announced in May. StorageTek Titanium archive platforms are also part of the lineup.

Thanks to its $4.1 billion acquisition last year of StorageTek-long established as a digital video storage market leader in both tape and disk drives-Sun inherited some major-league TV and video customers, including The Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC, ESPN and several other networks; HBO and its vast domain; several Public Broadcasting Service stations; and a number of smaller, privately owned video production companies.

Most large video storage companies use servers and software from several vendors in different areas of their data centers. A recent visit to ABC's KGO-TV network affiliate in San Francisco turned up a data center that included no fewer than 10 storage server makes, including Dell, HP, Thomson/Grass Valley, StorageTek, NetApp and EMC's Clariion.

KGO-TV, like most other television or cable stations and networks, dedicates each server to a specific task, such as scheduling, continuity, play-to-air broadcast, ingesting, asset managing, backup and archiving, as well as for regular in-house IT work.

"The biggest problem in coordinating all these babies is the fact that there is no common API for tying them all together in one nice package," said KGO-TV IT Director Dave Graham. "We have to spend way too much time, really, programming these things to work the way we want to use them."

Are HD-DVD and Blue-ray dead formats? Click here to read more.

Why aren't video server manufacturers giving up on their proprietary APIs and working toward standards? It's because they don't have to, Graham said. "Some vendors, especially ones like Thomson/Grass Valley [a privately held, specialized TV station/network server maker] and Pinnacle (now owned by NetApp), know they have high-quality products and haven't made much effort to contribute to standards organizations," he said.

That may be changing, thanks to the influx of new competitors coming into the fold and eyeing their own slice of that coming $65 billion market.

Several high-end video storage customers said handling an ever-increasing flow of data means testing juggling skills. Here's a look at how some managers handle the video onslaught.

Turner Entertainment Networks, Atlanta: Ron Tarasoff, vice president of broadcast technology and engineering, told eWEEK that his company has 25 video or audio feeds it creates and sends to virtually every corner of the globe on a 24/7 basis via GPS. The most well-known Turner network feeds are TNT, TBS, Turner Movie Classics, NBATV and Cartoon Network.

Next Page: "The days of videotape and film are long gone."

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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