If you were Avid and were looking to develop a shared storage product to supersede its predecessors, what would you place on the list of “must have” features and design factors?
After hearing some rumours, I was thinking about this late in 2015 and I tried to imagine what the likely product would feature.
There are some obvious things – higher performance to meet the demand for higher resolution workflows, lower cost to meet the ever present need to drive production costs down. But what about new features to increase the capability of the system in complex multi-user workflows?
While you could choose the fastest (most expensive) hard drives housed in a uniquely designed enclosure with the most complex RAID controllers, actually, selecting more modest components which are used in carefully considered ways could enable a manufacturer to meet the goals of improved performance at a lower cost, and still increase the flexibility, performance and collaborative potential of a shared storage product.
Possibly a change of name…
It was of great interest to me then to see what Avid announced at this years’s National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) trade show in Las Vegas USA this April. It quickly became apparent after the presentations given by Avid at their Avid Customer Association event that they would be announcing something of a game changer in their Avid | NEXIS product, and this continued throughout the show to generate volumes of discussion after the products were revealed publicly on the show floor.
The new product takes its name from the concatenation of the words “Next (Generation) Intelligent Storage”. The NEXIS product family is designed to build on the collaborative flexibility for real-time media production first introduced in Avid’s Unity MediaNet product line, the capability of which was improved significantly, both in terms of scalability and performance, with the subsequent introduction of the Avid ISIS product line.
Avid | NEXIS can be seen as a hybrid of the concepts on which each of these previous products is based but realised with new hardware and enhanced software based on a newly developed approach to shared storage called Software Defined Storage or “SDS”.
SDS, along with its sister technologies “Software Defined Networking” and Virtual Computing, is another of those contemporary technology names which can be somewhat baffling. In essence these are technologies that seek to derive optimised performance, cost savings, design agility and faster deployment time by abstracting the technological functionality from the underlying hardware with a series of software “layers”. These software layers are typically deployed on relatively generic and readily available hardware, but in such a way as to enable the performance potential of that hardware to be more fully realised. The result is equipment which is highly optimised for the designed task, which uses power more efficiently than the previous technology, is easier to deploy and manage, and which typically is less expensive to own and operate than previous technologies.
In the case of Software Defined Storage, it could be argued that, to some extent, Avid has been using this approach from the release of its Unity MediaNet product. Certainly in the ISIS product line up we saw a series of software layers and services removing the complexity of managing the actual interaction with the hard drives from the end user and client machine. In both cases this results in a storage system which is highly optimised for media production, which multiple users can work with simultaneously and which is straightforward to setup and manage.
So, where does Avid|NEXIS improve on Avid’s previous generation storage systems? Please see part 2 of this article to continue reading.