T2 + Back Alley Films Goes Gig-E
How the Agency Brought Ethernet Online Alongside Fibre Channel
A: We’re in the process of slowly weaning ourselves off of Fibre Channel. This was the first step.
Q: Can you describe your set-up?
A: I’ve got roughly six graphics stations. Some of them are running [Autodesk] Maya, and all of them are running [Adobe] CS suite with After Effects, and they’re pushing and pulling a lot of large files back and forth between one another, and also between the graphics suites and our online and offline suites. We have five online suites, give or take – we have four Final Cut suites plus one that comes on and offline. And we have two online suites that also need to access those large files.
A: Fibre Channel is just too expensive for what we were trying to do, and getting everyone on Fibre wasn’t really an option. So we had just our main editing systems on Fibre Channel, and we tried to use our basic Apple server [a Max OS X Leopard server with dual 2.6 GHz quad-core Intel Xeon processors] with some inexpensive third-party storage to swap the files back and forth [to and from the graphics suites]. We found out really quickly that it couldn’t handle the amount of data we were pushing and pulling across the network. We were using internal drives, and that didn’t work. We tried to hook it up to the Fibre Channel, and it didn’t like that, either. We also tried high-speed 800 GB RAID drives, but that didn’t work. We were having lots of problems, and the biggest problem was just the throughput off of a single Ethernet card.
I was in contact with Matt Geier in the sales department at Small Tree, and he told me the best way to do it was to put a multi-port card in the computer so that you can aggregate the ports together, increasing the bandwidth in and out of the system. At his suggestion, we put in a PEG6 six-port Gig-E card and an ATTO SAS card connected to their storage device. Matt also suggested their Edge-corE 28-port Gigabit Ethernet switch. The actual storage is a Small Tree GraniteSTOR ST-RAID DT8 [with eight 2 TB drives]. It has been fantastic. Ten people can push or pull without a problem all day long, and up to five people can do Apple ProRes.
Q: What was installation like?
A: The equipment arrived in a few days, and I worked with one of Small Tree’s tech people to make sure everything was set-up properly. It took 20 minutes, tops. We put it all in, put it online, and we started to see the server come up and started copying back and forth to it. We implemented it fully after we got everyone off our older server.
Q: What’s the next step?
A: Off the back of that SAS card, there are two ports. It’s just begging us to add another one. I’m looking at adding more storage, filling up the other SAS connector, and starting to share up that storage to the other edit suites. As jobs come in, I’ll start moving them over to that storage.
Q: What kind of jobs are running on the Ethernet system versus Fibre Channel?
A: It’s probably getting the most use in large graphics files. We have a render farm tied to this network. We just finished a project a couple of weeks ago that had 2 TB of project files. They were pulling these huge, 8K files because they had a large projection that was using six projectors simultaneously for playback. They pushed it really hard. That was a test. If we can get these files back and forth, without corruption or other problems, it’s just flawless. I see no reason why we can’t move everything over, away from the Fibre Channel and onto the Gigabit Ethernet network. It’s slowly going to happen.
I didn’t even realize it, but our guys were editing on it. One of the producers was cutting Apple ProRes on our general network. That’s how fast that drive is.
Q: What are your capacity needs on both networks?
A: On our Fibre Channel, I believe we’re up to 24 TB, and we’re using that on a daily basis. All said and done, we’re up to 12 TB on the Small Tree. We definitely have to add more storage to the Small Tree system before we make that jump.
Q: But for now, you can just move files back and forth, depending on your needs?
A: We try to keep the raw data that’s coming in and being edited on the Fibre. But we can move portions of a project, or a whole project, from Fibre over to the Gig-E network and do it that way. We can also share up the Fibre network through the server, but we tend not to do that. We’ve been really satisfied with this set-up.
For more information: www.t2.tv