Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Design a Storage Solution for a Creative Media Firm

One thing, I enjoyed the most in last four years while writing this storage blog, is the interaction with professionals from diverse background discussing wide variety of issues. Time to time, I was approached by readers looking for new opportunities or to fill open positions in their organizations. No, I am not setting the stage for launching a classified service on my blog.

The reader communication that attract me most are the ones where I learn something new or I can extend help to others or introduce two people together. And, such contacts didn't stop despite my absence for past few months.

A product development executive at a creative media firm contacted me a month ago requesting advise on storage solution for his firm. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to communicate regularly after initial contact. In our last conversation, he agreed for me to post his initial email (redact identifying information) on my blog.

Can you advise on a suitable storage solution for him? What questions will you ask to get additional information? What suggestions will you make?
Dear Anil,

I was reading through storage solutions and came across your very informative blog. I am not sure if you can help me on this; we are looking to deploy a SAN solution in our company and since my knowledge on this topic is only building up now I am a bit shaky about going down this path.

Just a quick overview – we are a creative media company with about 40 users and growing fast, our work involves 3D visualization, video production and interactive media development targeting architecture and pharma companies. We are continually fighting a battle with our storage requirements, we have generally been adding a NAS box as we needed more and using the older NAS boxes for admin usage etc. Our main hiccup is storage and to a lesser degree speed. We don’t have any serious application servers, just workstations and render servers in our production pipeline. We are looking at the NS20 Celerra from EMC, but am a bit unsure of this path and it’s applicability in our environment.




  1. JD, a few questions for you:

    How many files are less than 1MB?
    Production files vs. administrative files?
    Do you have a full time IT staff?
    How much time do they have to work on storage administration?
    Does your IT staff rely on vendors for routine storage maintenance?
    How much space do you need today?
    How much growth do you see in 6, 12 & 36 months (give high & low estimates)?

    EMC is a very good company at delivering solutions for business that do not want to manage their own infrastructure. With a good reseller partner you should be able to be totally hands off; but of course this kind of hand holding is not free.

    If you have modest growth estimates then I would recommend that you look at NetApp. If you have high growth estimates and will need to add disk every few months I would take a good look at Isilon.

    If you need some block level storage I would look at Compellant with OnStor for the NAS gateway.

  2. lonerock,

    You asked great questions to understand this firm's needs. I believe the firm is a Dell shop. Lets see what the response we get.


  3. lonerock asked some good questions to further explore the solution for JD - and I have a couple more - what are the applications that are running on this environment, and what are the I/O needs?

    EMC will represent an excellent traditional solution for JD - and I think there is another route he should consider, mentioned by lonerock, Compellent. Depending on the answer to the above questions, JD could deploy 16 750GB SATA drives and have the I/O spread across all of these disks, which should provide adequate performance, and great storage capabilities. If I/O requirements are higher, these 16 drives could be 300GB Fibre Channel disks, and that would "most likely" take care of all of his needs, with the NAS gateway.

    Obviously, we are crafting solutions without all the information, but these "generalities" may help.

  4. A good SAN shared File System would be a good fit here. Have you looked at StorNext? It provides the benefits of NAS without the performance bottlenecks, and integrates tiered storage.

  5. Hi,

    I didn't see an answer to lonerock's questions by here's my input. I would also ask what is your budget as well.

    I work at a research institute where there is alot of 3d visualization going on and a need to share and protect the data between these heavy duty workstations and equipment.

    If I had larger budget I would look at the isilon oneFS solution mentioned before...

    I had a bit smaller budget and went with clustered Dell nx1950 units with 15kSAS disk. Very afforable and great i/o speed. Very easy to manage as well, uses iSCSI so the scaling costs are lower too.
    I came from an more mainstream storage vendor shop and the ns20 solution I was exploring just turned out to be way too expensive.