Rethinking storage paradigms in Broadcast Workflows

Simon Haywood, CTO, Media & Entertainment, EMEA, Dell Technologies

Broadcast workflows are becoming increasingly decentralised, with collaboration spanning a region, a country, or the globe. This article looks at the changing face of workflows, the challenges of common storage architectures and why the answer to decentralisation and collaboration might already be sitting in your datacenter.

As we have seen in many industries, media companies and their production teams are breaking free from the physical tethers of their centralized studios and shifting to dispersed teams and collaborative workflows. For example, a news organisation can better serve its audience if its journalists and technical teams can spend more time in the field; and production teams aligned to regional offices can help attract and retain talent.

This shift is being driven by Four things: Removing the dependency on a single location, empowering collaboration amongst dispersed teams, and better utilisation of technologies – and importantly, the improving availability of commoditised network capacity. Removing the obstacles of geographies can enable new talent, improve productivity and accelerate broadcast workflows. But there are some technical challenges that stand in the way of fully breaking free of the tether that exists today.

Many of our customers build their workflows around high performance centralized primary storage, and utilize Scale-Out NAS such-as Dell PowerScale (formerly Isilon). A good Scale-Out NAS will provide the right mix of performance, scale, and flexibility, and can support large teams and the full range of creative activities across the broadcast workflow. These systems revolutionized collaborative workflows at a time when the inefficient and slow copying of media to a local workstation was the norm.

Complementing the high-performance NAS capacity at the edge, we see high-capacity object-based archive systems such as Dell ECS supporting, capture, production and Media Asset Management,  playout and delivery.

At a time when teams were co-located and technology was centralized, file-based Scale-Out NAS systems revolutionized collaborative working and provided the high-performance that creatives demanded. Looking into the future, global collaboration is bringing with it the requirement to access and share media across large geographies and infrastructure spanning into public cloud. Customers are looking for native capability to enable data mobility.

By contrast, object storage is massively scalable, and can enable a global namespace. Some object platforms – for example, Dell ECS – are available as high-performance all-flash. However, whilst cloud-native or so-called “modern applications” work natively with object storage, many creative tools depend upon file-based access. With these strengths and limitations in mind, there needs to be a change in thinking in how we view storage – so you can take advantage of file and object whether on-premises or in the public cloud – to fully support truly distributed workflows.

This new paradigm can be built around the concept of performance edge, distributed core, and protected backup. It places infinitely scalable object storage at the core, high performance file-based storage at the edge, and a protected backup in a separated location.

The distributed core is the single source of truth; high performance file-based storage at the edge is hydrated according to workflow demands; and the separated backup provides defense against cyber attack.

With this new approach, the performance edge storage can be provisioned according to the needs of the environment. It might be a high-capacity all-flash Scale-Out NAS at a regional office, a studio hub, or an outside broadcast vehicle.  At the other extreme it might be a journalist’s laptop in the field.

Dell Technologies provides the products, services, and expertise to plan, build, and deploy this exact model. Dell ECS provides an ideal platform for a persistent, distributed core. Dell PowerScale offers the scalability, performance and simplicity required at the edge. Superna RansomWare Defender delivers proactive and real time protection and Air-Gapped protected backup.

With Dell Technologies APEX, data storage can now be procured and consumed much more flexibly – responding to the requirements of the workflow and dispersed teams. Storage can be deployed on-premises, or at colocation facilities in partnerships with providers like Equinix, or adjacent to popular public cloud vendors. With Dell Technologies, it is possible to achieve a true multi-cloud strategy – giving you flexibility in cost and access to specific applications and services across providers.

Most importantly, Dell Technologies offers deep industry knowledge developed over years of leadership in the industry. We have helped media companies of every size – from small animation studios to large multi-national broadcasters – plan for the future of their workflows.

If you would like to learn about this paradigm shift or other ways we are helping media companies prepare for the future come and visit us at NAB 2022 where you can check out our Solutions for Storytellers. Schedule a meeting today at

Broadcast Beat - Production Industry Resource