1) Video Is Becoming More IT-Centric. The creative groups are no longer on an island on their own. The IT department wants to bless their solutions so they know they can manage them. My background is IT and I've been doing this since 1980, so I know what IT guys like, and they don't like proprietary, Linux-based solutions. They like solutions they can support. They can integrate into existing Windows infrastructures, but they don't like to get into high-maintenance, proprietary systems where the vendor has them over a barrel. Are openness and interoperability important? Absolutely. But openness can be interpreted multiple ways. We like things that are supported on a large-enough scale that we know we’re not in danger of one little company going out of business or jacking maintenance prices so high that we can't afford to run my own systems. When IT gets involved, those are their hot-button issues. And the ProMax Platform lives on Windows Server, which gives us a little bit of an advantage in that regard.
2) Users Want and Need to Repurpose Existing Storage. Everybody in this industry already has plenty of storage. It might not meet their current needs, but there's plenty of existing equipment out there. So what do I do with all this old stuff I have? Well, shared storage isn't new. Most companies that need it already have it. But they're coming around to the idea of a second cycle. They may not have fully depreciated their original system yet — they spent $32,000 on an 8 TB system, and they don't want to just dump it. They'd rather figure out a way to repurpose it and keep it alive. The point is that buyers are being frugal with their investments. Perhaps they can take that existing storage and move it to a tier-2 methodology, letting it be a nearline to their online system, or perhaps a secondary backup. But something they still use. When they bring the new stuff in, they don't have to throw the old stuff out if they can use it in a secondary capacity. That's a trend that resonates with people.
3) Not All Content Is OK in the Cloud. Since the Sony hack, cloud storage and offsite backups are at the forefront of a conversation about what we put in the cloud. What can we put there, from a security perspective? The issues aren't new. It comes down to whether an individual company has content that's so sensitive they're not interested in taking the risk. If that's the case, they have to look at non-cloud options. If they don't especially care if someone gets hold of their content — some companies really aren't so sensitive about it — it may be a question mark. But what continues to get proven in the market is that no system is unhackable. Sony gets hacked. Target gets hacked. They're all vulnerable. So when we start offloading storage to the cloud, we have to ask whether we're willing to put our assets out there for someone to take. From what I know about the companies that are really paranoid about this, they put media in their shared-storage environment and then unplug it from the Internet. That's the most secure method you've got.
4) NAS Is No Longer a Dirty Word. A couple of years ago, everybody thought NAS was unusable compared to SAN technology. Now there is a blending of technologies and NAS is no longer thought of as a second-class citizen. The bad reputation for NAS started when someone went out and bought a NAS and tried to hook up their video workflow to it. Out of the box, those kinds of products aren't designed to do what SANs are designed to do, so they got a bad rap. Generic NAS still won't work for video. But that doesn't mean NAS is bad, just that those implementations are bad. You need a specialized implementation that takes the needs of media creators into account. For example, the Avid ISIS is a NAS. It's not a block-level device, so that means it's a NAS. Is the ISIS a good, well-respected system? Of course it is. And now the two technologies are blending to the point that, whether you're looking at Facilis, Studio Network Solutions, or other NAS options, the core companies in this industry have flipped over to a method of operation where it could be SAN, or it could be NAS, and at the end of the day, who cares?
5) 4K Is a Reality. 4K puts a great deal of pressure on storage environments. How do we manage with 4K in terms of 10GigE-plus speed? Are we going to transcode down into smaller, more highly compressed items or run with the camera's raw settings? When you think about storage trends, there are some other considerations, too. What is a 4K workflow that shared-storage systems can support? We're not yet at a place where we can just go camera raw, or uncompressed 4k, and have everyone working happily. The numbers are just too crazy. For example, in that workflow how do you edit in 4K? Do you transcode into something else? Do you work on a proxy and then conform? Do you use ProRes or DNxHR? So that's the question this year: how do you manage 4K on your shared-storage system? I haven't found one client yet that could afford not to have that conversation.
Jess Hartmann is the CEO of ProMax.
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