Romolo Tavani - stock.adobe.com
Tape – it’s not really designed for workloads that need regular restores, but Paris-based post production studio À La Plage is using linear tape-open (LTO) tape for its rushes and regularl -restored content. Specifically, it uses ADA – now known as Miria – from Atempo, which helps with archive management and migration of large volumes of files.
“What we put on LTO is live media,” says À La Plage CEO Guillaume Bossu. “These are high resolution rushes that we have to find when we have finished our edits, of work that has sections that that we have to re-edit a posteriori and also of masters that we provide to clients at the end of production. For all these reasons it’s essential to be able to extract files from tapes as easily as from hard drives.”
The studio also works on feature films and TV series, which consume around 1TB and 400GB per hour respectively. In some cases, the rushes aren’t video files, but images at a rate of 24 per second.
“When we started in 2016, we couldn’t manage more than two or three films at a time. We only worked with a NAS box, with an LTO-7 reader attached just to back up the contents. But after two years, we experienced huge growth in activity and we increasingly needed tape to store and access data.”
The team at À La Plage arranges every element of its production into a hierarchy of processes to best index the types of content worked on. While this method is efficient when working with hard disk drives (HDDs), it is more trying with tape.
“It was necessary on every occasion to scan the entire contents of a tape cartridge before being able to extract the file required, and that cloud take hours,” says Bossu.
He was looking for an alternative, but only found archiving software that was aimed at offloading network-attached storage (NAS) drives to tape.
“We wanted software that saved the location of all our files in memory, that presented our directory structure as if they were on disk, and to which we could say, ‘Extract that file for me’,” he adds.
By a stroke of luck, Bossu came into contact with backup software maker Atempo in 2018, the ADA product of which ticked all the boxes for À La Plage. “We met. They presented their functionality, and we signed,” says Bossu.
The interesting things in ADA for À La Plage was that it inventoried all it stored and presented it through a file explorer.
“It’s not possible to open files with this interface,” says Bossu. “But, you can see their size, what they contain and what LTO cartridge they are on. That makes it easy to read the data you want to restore and it’s possible to ask it to restore an older version of the file.”
However, ADA really requires quite a muscular deployment to gain its benefits, which means a tape library rather than a single drive.
“The deployment of ADA caused us to review our infrastructure and what we needed to do to support the growth in our activities. For reasons of cost, I opted for an LTO-6 tape library in 2018 from Overland, with cartridges that were of lower capacity than LTO-7. That library comprised a reader and 24 slots for rapid access to cartridges,” says Bossu.
At the time, À La Plage was equipped with three NAS boxes to provide workstation storage over a 10Gbps network. That was updated this year with 100Gbps switches, which is better suited to Ultra-HD video. All machines on the network with data that can be archived have an Atempo Data Mover agent that communicates with ADA software.
“To run ADA, Atempo doesn’t offer a dedicated server,” says Bossu. “So we decided to build one ourselves on an Asus motherboard and network card.”
This machine will be deployed this year, and will run two more tape libraries, this time LTO-8. That amounted to quite an investment for À La Plage, so it took the decision not to take up what Atempo offered as an accompaniment.
“It was very complicated at first to understand how to set ADA and how to use it,” says Bossu. “We took a month between signing and saving our first LTO tape cartridge, then several weeks to understand the subtleties, which were typically around incremental backups and not saving anew files that had not changed since the previous backup.
“The interface is complicated, with a lot of information to comprehend,” adds Bossu, who opted for the advanced interface because it offers more than the standard one. “But in use you feel that their approach is the best because all you need can be found in the most logical place.”
The CEO even talks of a certain ease with the software.
“Once you’ve got to grips with the subtleties of the setup, use is very easy,” says Bossu. “From the interface, I drag and drop files from the NAS to the tape library. Writing to tape isn’t triggered immediately. A job is created that feeds through all day long with our manual write requests and that I launch at the end of the day, after making sure there are enough empty tapes in the library.”
Over time, Bossu will experiment with the challenging areas. He is appreciative of the support from Atempo, which has always been timely.
“For example, when we added the two LTO-8 libraries, we fell victim to some unexplained slowness. I sent an email to technical support, who responded the next day and who called the day after to check all had gone as expected. Their pro-activity is commendable. Other suppliers we work with always need to be nudged.”
Already seduced by the Atempo solution, Bossu is thinking of going beyond simple backup functionality to support business needs at À La Plage.
“For example, we often need to remix a film,” says Bossu. “In that case, our calibration software keeps the names of all the necessary files in memory. Today, we have to consult this list and tell ADA which files to restore. Tomorrow, we want to be able to tell ADA to go and consult the list itself so it knows what files to restore.”
Finally, Bossu hopes to be able to deploy the Data Mover agents to workstations themselves. “We have equipped our Macs with network cards of 25Gbps and 50Gbps to communicate at full speed with the shared storage. But these machines don’t know how to take advantage of all the possible bandwidth when they copy files to the NAS. The Atempo tools work perfectly for that.”
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