NAB 2016

SVG@NAB Perspectives: SGL’s Sheppard on New FlashNet Infinity Platform

At NAB 2016, SGL has unveiled FlashNet Infinity, a dashboard toolset with widgets to search, monitor, and analyze archived and restored content and system health, as well as admin tools to define user accessibility. Slated to roll out incrementally over the next 12 months, Infinity is a free upgrade to existing SGL FlashNet users.

Lee Sheppard, director, product management, SGL

Lee Sheppard, director, product management, SGL

In addition to Infinity, SGL’s big news at the show includes a new user interface, support for AXF, support for Sony’s Ci cloud-based service, predefined drives for specific archive roles, partial file restore (powered by Glookast) for the Avid Interplay Web Services plugin, and support for LTO-7.

SVG sat down with SGL Director of Product Management Lee Sheppard at the company’s booth to discuss the upcoming launch of FlashNet Infinity, the adoption rate of LTO-7, and how SGL is embracing the rise of cloud-based workflows.

What is new at the show for SGL this year?
This is probably the best show we’ve had for a long time in terms of cool new technology. The first thing that we are unveiling is a solution called Infinity, which is a brand-new frontend to the product. Until today, our [FlashNet] solution has really been technically driven, and that involved a lot of drive setup. But now we are introducing a web-based dashboard-framed solution called Infinity, which actually sits on top of FlashNet and provides a whole new level of system monitoring, trend analysis, user-based archive, and restore, where the user can go and search on the database, have a quick look at a lo-res proxy and restore part of it. It is entirely web-based, so you can access it from anywhere.

The dashboard features a list of gadgets, and the user can drag those gadgets into a dashboard, save the dashboard, configure it — for an individual or for the organization. There are also preconfigured dashboards, so it’s a mixture of making it easy by preconfiguring [settings] and then being able to modify it and add new ones. This is only version 1, so we’ve got a dozen or so gadgets, and we’ll be expanding those regularly in the future.

Is Infinity targeting operations that don’t have a MAM system of their own?
That’s a great question. Certainly, [for] our premium customers who do have asset-management systems, we figured this wouldn’t be of much interest, but they’ve been very energetic about it and see lots of potential, which is very exciting for us. The premium customers may use more of the system monitoring and the trending-analysis features for some side workflows.

Our expectation is that the small to mid-range [customer], where maybe [the operation] is currently just using watch folders, would drop files into a standard folder and we watch those folders and archive them from there. But they will find great value from this tool. Certainly, they can still drop a file into a watch folder but, within Infinity itself, we have a folder-management gadget that looks very much like Windows Explorer. You can just search around and say, I’ll take those files, archive those other files, and then restore them back to this location. So we don’t call it an asset-management system, but certainly there is content management involved. For that section of the market that doesn’t have a [MAM] system, it may well evolve into a tool. We are showing the product at NAB and will bring it out to the market in the next few months.

Anything else new at the show this year?
We’re also adding support for AXF tape format. FlashNet is very much LTFS-driven, and there’s some great strengths to that tape format, but AXF has been certified by SMPTE, and some of our big competitors are using it. So, by adding support for AXF, if somebody had some existing AXF tapes they wanted to load into FlashNet, we will now receive them in dated mode and be able to archive them, index what’s on them, restore from them. They don’t have to migrate AXF into our standards; we will take AXF natively and store [it]. So it’s a simplified migration.

Since you recently announced support for LTO-7, how has the pace of adoption for the storage standard been thus far?
We are now supporting LTO-7, the latest version of the LTF standards that takes capacity of a tape from 2.7 TB to over 6 TB, as well as double the throughput. I think we’re still waiting for it really to pick up. Obviously, there’s a big investment: you [have] to buy new drives and new tapes and have the process of migrating them. We offer our Migration Service tool to help with that migration. But new customers are also talking about it, so the quotations that we’re giving these days include LTO-7 drives rather than LTO-6. Our expectation is that that’s where the initial take-up will be. We’ve not had anybody yet actually do a migration from LTO-6 to -7.

Tell us a bit about the technology partnerships and integrations you’re highlighting here.
We have also supported Interplay Web Service [IPWS] for a while, and it serves as a much lower cost ability to archive from Avid Interplay and restore back into it. Last year, we began taking advantage of the IPWS web-service plugin, but, this year, we are introducing partial file restore through it. Obviously, when you have large amounts of content, you want to pull a bit back. So this will hopefully add some extra value to that segment of the market.

We are also announcing our integration with the Sony Ci cloud. It’s a very smart, compelling tool for some of the more global players at the top end. The whole concept is that every asset has a global, unique number: whatever passes through their ecosystem, that particular asset always has the same reference metadata around it. And we’re storing that reference ourselves so that anybody who wants to put it into the cloud or pull it down from the cloud can do that knowing that we have that unique identifier and can send stuff to Ci as well. We certainly have a few of our premium customers who are also wanting to get into the space.

Also, going back to Infinity, since it is gadget-based, it is embeddable not only within our dashboards but within our partners’ dashboards as well. So, here at the show, we have Grass Valley Stratus on our stand, and they have our FlashNet queue of jobs embedded within Stratus. The beauty of it is that, [with FlashNet] within the Stratus, our gadget [is] in one of the corners there and [users] right-click, save, restore, and immediately will see that restore job show up in the queue, so they can see how long it is going to take to get to the top. And then, when it’s actually restoring, there’s a little progress bar that shows how far through the process it is, so they can see very clearly what’s in process.

We are now supporting Data Expedition, [whose] product called ExpeDat gives a low-cost alternative to Aspera for guaranteed-delivery transport of assets.

We are announcing that we are officially an Avid Alliance Partner. We’ve been partners with Avid for a long time, but we are now certified as an Alliance Partner.

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