Iceland media firm opts for ATA-over-Ethernet archive

Icelandic media firm 365 Media opts for 600TB Coraid ATA-over-Ethernet storage system after rejecting iSCSI and DIY open source file storage

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Iceland-based media company 365 Media has opted for ATA-over-Ethernet storage from Coraid for its broadcast programming archive.

It rejected products from storage suppliers EMC (Isilon), HP, IBM and Dell. It also ruled out building its own systems using open source parallel file systems such as Gluster and BTRFS, choosing ATA-over-Ethernet as the least costly option.

365 Media runs 10 television channels, five radio stations and Iceland’s largest newspaper. It adds more than 35 hours of video content to its archive every day.

The storage system is responsible for playing media for broadcast on a near-continuous basis via a Grass Valley K2 Summit transmission server.

365 Media started to look for a new storage system when its existing Omneon archive, based on 2TB cartridges, began to run out of space, the process accelerated with the growth of HD programming. It was offered more capacity from Omneon (now owned by Harmonic) but the cost would have been prohibitively high, said Arni Finnsson, technology manager at 365 Media.

Finnsson said: “Our capacity with Omneon was only a handful of terabytes and annually we need something like 350TB for our broadcast archive.

"We could have scaled up and were offered 100TB of Omnion capacity, but the price tag was too high.

“We also looked at other broadcast-specific storage such as EMC Isilon [clustered NAS] but for the amount of capacity we needed was far too expensive.”

Finnsson’s team also evaluated iSCSI storage products from Dell (EqualLogic) and HP (P4000, formerly LeftHand). Finnsson said: “We were very sceptical about the performance and scalability of these iSCSI products for our needs.”

365 Media also looked at building its own systems in-house, using open-source parallel file systems Gluster or BTRFS. However, it rejected this approach as the cost would have been similar to the Coraid solution but lacked external support.

Finnsson said: “We looked at building a system ourselves using Gluster or BTFS of 100TB versus what Coraid was offering. We would have needed to use Fusion-io PCIe cards with any own-built solution, so when we added it all up it would have been about the same cost.

“And we didn’t want to be the ones entirely responsible for the operation of our storage. We wanted a tried and tested system.”

365 Media also considered adopting Gluster via its supported commercial Red Hat distribution when it was acquired, but rejected this option as, again, costs worked out similar to the Coraid option.

Eventually 365 Media settled on two Coraid SP3000 NAS heads with six Coraid SRX4200 storage units and has amassed 600Tb of capacity, all of which is on 3TB Sata drives.

Flash storage is only present as a few hundred GB of cache in the NAS heads. Sata drives are used to the exclusion of faster HDDs because 365 Media’s storage workload comprises overwhelmingly of sequential reads of broadcast media.

Coraid specialises in ATA-over-Ethernet, which operates similarly to iSCSI, except instead of wrapping SCSI storage commands in TCP packets, it bundles ATA into the lower network layer, Ethernet. Analyst research has found acquisition costs for ATA-over-Ethernet can be as low as half of iSCSI and 20% of fibre channel.

The main objection raised to ATA-over-Ethernet is that it is a one-company protocol. Finnsson said 365 Media had considered this, but was reassured that Coraid had opened up the protocol and that it had become a standard in the Linux community.

365 Media’s ATA-over-Ethernet systems run on a dedicated portion of the LAN that uses 10Gbps Ethernet, with the option of upgrading to 40Gbps in future.

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