Sydney digital media specialist company Motionlink has spent 16 years carving out a name for its ability to provide the latest, high quality digital deliverables for local and international clients. As technology has advanced the company has moved through DVDs to Bluray and DCP files to Video On Demand and the latest streaming formats.
Keeping pace with the storage and networking demands of the production workflow required to process digital media files has led founder and managing director Grant Salinger to invest in GB Labs Space scalable shared storage systems.
“We used other storage systems including a SAN before adding a GB Labs Space system about four years ago,” said Salinger. “With the Space we just plugged it into the network and then used it as a NAS – you map a drive by the drive name or an IP address and after many years it is still the simplest, most effective way to work.
“The Space has been extremely reliable. We’re always upgrading workstations here and it’s been very simple to connect them to the Space – unlike a SAN, the great thing is that you don’t need IT people on hand all the time to manage it.”
His latest acquisitions complete a recent relocation and infrastructure upgrade designed to accommodate future needs for several years. The physical move into newer, more secure premises and external connection to a 100 Mbps fibre link were followed by a search to expand and improve networked storage.
Leaving SAN Troubles Behind
“Our SAN was a temperamental thing but there hasn’t been technology to replace it until recently. As well all our old RAID systems needed updating just for the safety of our data. I looked at all the available storage solutions before settling on GB Labs Space Bridge, Space LTO archive system and a new Space 96Tb unit.”
The Space Bridge was connected to an existing RAID system refurbished with new drives so the SAN was converted into a NAS, with all the advantages of the Space CORE v3 software. The Space Bridge enabled data sharing between storage units and easy user collaboration without installing any client software or computer adapters. A 40GbE switch was also installed to maximise network operations.
“So we were able to repurpose the existing RAID storage systems which are still very reliable and using the Space Bridge, our storage is now operating as a 96Tb NAS so it just becomes another drive mapped on the network,” explained Salinger.
“The other big advantage is that our storage works with our Space LTO tape archiving system which is fast and centralised on the network. We’ve used other backup systems but none are dedicated exclusively for media whereas the Space was actually designed for the BBC Archives and that is the exact type of use we want it for. The unit we bought has got four LTO drive bays and we’ve only populated it with one but soon we’ll have three drives so we can make AB copies, on-site and off-site copies, and one’s still free to be restoring at the same time.”
Interface Assists Staffing and New Platform Technologies
“We work with eight full-time staff including myself and often one person uses three or four machines to edit, render, or manage a project. Towards the end of each month we might have 20-30 hits on the Space at any one time or we’re hitting it very hard. I have tested the Space with one machine running 12 streams of HD on a Grass Valley Edius system in realtime, with effects, without a drop in frames and that didn’t affect anyone else working on the network.
“It’s fast,” said Salinger. “Most of the time, it’s Windows or the limitations of the device you’re using more than the actual connection speed now. We still do use local RAIDs for compiling but those local RAIDs can’t feed the network fast enough now. That’s quite an impressive statement.”
The Space interface enables any operator in the office to log in to the Space storage from a web browser and manage their processes using the Space internal file manager. The Space has got its own transfer protocol, which has full checks and its own verification built in so it’s not slowing down the network using Windows or Apple transfer tools.
The archiving system enables users to search and locate a file then put it in a network basket to bring the restored file back – Space will detail which LTO tape to load and then do all the work so no one person has to be assigned to manage the archives.
“You don’t need to be a IT genius to work out the simplicity of typing in the search word, setting criteria if you want a file extensions, file size or things like that. This is becoming very important now with all these streaming platforms becoming available as the studios are selling their older back catalogue libraries to supply these new services. Our archive is being hammered as we are retrieving this material for our clients.”
Rewarding Results and Future Proofing
“We’ve been wanting to upgrade but there hasn’t been the combinations I’ve wanted and a reasonable price. It’s still a big outlay for a small company but you get so much more for your money now. To get the infrastructure with the amounts of storage, the speed of storage and connections that we have now, would have cost millions five years ago,” said Salinger.
“And there’s still a Space SSD upgrade path I can add as a buffering system that can virtually double the speed of the RAID. It’s good to know I have that capability but at the moment I haven’t come close to maxing out any of the equipment.
“In theory, with the 40 gig switch and its capabilities I’d say this is the first time in the history of this sort of equipment where we’re getting close to being future-proof. You will never be 100 percent because you don’t know what’s around the corner. But I stretched myself to include the new switch and with the longevity of the equipment we are well prepared going to the future.”
Motionlink was acquired by SilverTrak in 2016 and continues to utilise GB Labs Space solutions as a key producer of Hollywood DVD box sets.