Jermaine Harrell, Manager of Video IT Operations, Complex Networks
Founded in 2002 as a print magazine dedicated to presenting news and trends about popular street culture for young adults, Complex Networks has undergone quite the transformation since those early days. In 2007, we started investing heavily in our online presence, and by 2011, the digital side of the business had grown to include more than 50 websites with more than 25 million unique visitors each month. Fast forward to today; we have consistently updated breaking-news feeds and online channels broadcasting an array of award-winning original content.
GOODBYE PRINT, HELLO DIGITAL
While looking back, it feels like time flew by, but the reality is it took us many years, and blood, sweat, and tears to get where we are today. Throughout the transition from print to digital, we were continually reinventing ourselves both on the human and the technical sides, and that meant navigating a lot of changes in our content production and distribution strategies.
The transition on the publication side was easy; in fact, a lot of the magazine’s editorial team and writers are still with us today, producing content for our digital platforms. As for the technical side of things, in order for us to have grown in the industry we were getting ourselves into, we had to re-evaluate the landscape of our current technology at the time.
Producing digital content presents different challenges than print, and as we produced more content with higher-resolution formats and over a larger variety of platforms, we encountered much greater demands on the workflow side. We installed an earlier-generation NAS system designed for media production to provide our editors with higher throughput and efficient shared storage capabilities. Unfortunately, however, this solution became less effective as production demands increased. The performance was too poor to support work on multiple projects and higher-resolution formats, especially as the content became overwhelmingly video.
Our shared storage system restricted our teams to working at only one-quarter to one-half of the ideal resolution needed. As a result, editors were using external hard drives to increase throughput and get higher performance on their workstations. This interrupted workflows and impacted overall efficiency.
THERE MUST BE A BETTER WAY
It didn’t take us long to realize we needed to find a better solution – a shared storage system designed for high performance video work that could grow with us and support 4K and higher-resolution content in a shared work environment.
I’d been doing a lot of research into storage system alternatives, and I travelled to Las Vegas for the NAB Show to meet with some of the key vendors. I had read about Quantum StorNext’s interoperability with Xsan (Mac OS), in addition to working with other platforms, and the system’s high performance and effective file sharing capabilities stood out as one of the most useful options for our situation. I was also impressed with the roster of companies that were already using these systems – some of the biggest names in the media world.
We decided on a StorNext-based Xcellis® workflow storage system along with 500 TBs of Quantum QXS-5000 Series RAID arrays. The StorNext-based solution provided what we needed in order to overcome the challenges of yesteryear and enter the future of digital video in full force. It gave us a high-performance shared storage environment designed for rich media and other data-intensive workloads and combines the industry’s fastest streaming file system with policy-driven data management that gives our users shared access to common content, which can span multiple storage tiers and locations—including disk, tape, and the cloud.
And the Quantum hybrid storage arrays help us to maximize performance and keep costs low by providing a combination of storage types in a single array, including all HDD, all SSD, or a combination of the two. Also, it’s easy to manage since the software in the array monitors access patterns and automatically moves the most active files to the fastest medium.
With the new system in place, 16 editors have direct Fibre Channel access to the shared storage for high-performance processing, and roughly 40 more have access to the same storage shared over Ethernet using StorNext gateway appliances. LAN access, used for lower-performance tasks such as playback and ingest, provides higher performance than the old system, in part because the new network was specifically designed for media work only – separate from the corporate Ethernet.
LAYING THE FOUNDATION FOR AN EMPIRE
We used to have five different teams working in isolation to produce primary content. Now, each of our editors has direct access to the same files. Working in a single, shared storage environment has allowed for greatly improved efficiency, and the solution’s performance allows our editors to directly work on the highest-resolution content in full native 4K. Best of all, it’s opened the door to integrating a multitude of other services, allowing us to manage, edit, produce, and distribute our content in ways we’d previously only dreamt of. We have achieved our goal – building a reliable foundation on which to build out the appropriate technological infrastructure needed to support the growth of the global brand and media empire we have become.
About the Author
Jermaine Harrell is a seasoned IT professional with more than 15 years of experience creating optimal solutions for information technologies, systems, and operations. Jermaine is currently Manager of Video IT Operations at Complex Networks, where he specializes in digital media solutions within a rapidly growing enterprise environment.