Sports Asset Management: Storage Systems Require Eye on the Future

A major media organization or sports league can never truly have enough space to archive its rapidly growing amounts of assets. Full game files typically approach three to four hours in length and can take up as many as 150 to 200 gigabytes apiece. In addition, the practicality and affordability of hard drives and spinning disks are an issue. So media managers often need to look elsewhere for help in an age starving for more and more content.

SVG's Sports Asset Management event featured a panel on "Tiered Storage" and "The Cloud." From left to right: Tom McGowan, VP of Business Development at IMT; Brian Schwarzentruber, Director of Cloud Computing at Nirvanix; Tab Butler, Director of Media Management at MLB Network; and Chris Whitmayer, Director of Broadcast, Production, & New Media Technology at NASCAR Media Group.

At SVG’s Sports Asset Management event in Charlotte this week, one panel focused on media asset management workflows from end to end by describing the current strategies used by some of the top content creators. The overarching opinion was that implementing a new storage system requires anticipating future needs.

“We’re not going to ask you to build anything without starting from the migration strategy,” said Tom McGowan, VP of business development at IMT. “As you build something, you need to know how you are going to migrate [it] later in life.”

"It’s really designing the system that makes it really challenging because you have to think many years from now." - Tom McGowan, IMT, VP of Business Development

Two primarily methods of media storage discussed were “tiered storage” and “the cloud.” These cost-effective approaches allow users to prioritize their stored content while also adding increased accessibility and reliable disaster recovery. The key issue that each client must ask themselves, however, is what assets belong where.

“Do you want to put everything you use on it?” asked Tab Butler, director of media management at MLB Network. “Do you want to put your high quality assets on it? Do you want to put your proxy assets on it? Those high quality assets, in our case at MLB Network, total up to sometimes 2,500 hours of content per week being ingested. Do I really want to put all of that content on really expensive spinning disk? I know my CFO is not going to be happy with me when I go in and say ‘I need another $10 million worth of spinning disk.’ I’m going to have to go with another approach and that’s where tiers come into play.”

Tiered storage is a system of assigning applications to different types of storage media based on application requirements. Factors considered in the allocation of storage type include the level of protection needed, performance requirements, and speed of recovery.

"When we designed our system (in 2008), we said LTO-4; that’s going to be the lowest cost point...and I can guarantee you that if we didn’t have that kind of storage that was cheap, deep, and easy to manage, we’d be out of budget very quickly." - Tab Butler, MLB Network, Director of Media Management

Cloud computing uses multiple server computers via a digital network, as though they were one computer. It offers clients an infinite amount of potential space and doesn’t require them to purchase chunks of storage space in bulk.

“You no longer have to go out and buy 200 terabytes and then start filling it up,” said Brian Schwartzentruber, director of cloud architecture at Nirvanix. “With the cloud, you can start filling it up by the gigabyte. You only get charged, as a service, for what you use.”

The cloud comes in three forms: public, private, and hybrid. The public cloud is a multi-tenant system that is utilized by unrelated tenants; the private used by related tenants. The hybrid cloud uses a combination of public and private storage clouds. These are more often used for archiving and backup functions, allowing local data to be replicated to a public cloud. This makes it much easier to share cloud-based files with people who need to use the media around the world. For example, Major League Baseball uses a combination of a private and hybrid cloud to share reviewable plays in umpire training.

It’s the convenience of sharing the media from a centralized location online, as well as the elasticity of space that makes the cloud so appealing to large media organizations.

“There’s probably going to come a time where you’ve said ‘gee, I could really use another 100 terabytes of storage tomorrow for this project, but I can’t just go out and buy 100 terabytes of storage today and implement it,’” said McGowan. “That’s when you go to the cloud environment.”

Click here for SVG’s comprehensive coverage of the Sports Asset Management Forum.

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