At NAB this year Avid announced a new software defined virtual storage product family, Avid NEXIS. Although billed as new, Avid invented storage virtualisation back in 1999 with their Avid Unity storage product. Unity became a name synonymous with shared workflows and realtime collaboration.
With NEXIS Avid extend this functionality and capability in a more modern way that represents over eighteen years of technological advance across all fronts culminating in this new approach they are taking to shared storage. NEXIS is an somewhat malleable acronym for Next-generation (Intelligent and) Integrated Storage. Avid has also declared it to be the first software defined storage platform for media. You will increasingly see the ‘software defined’ buzzword being bandied about when talking about networking, video, platforms, storage, and services. In essence, the software defined storage idea relates to “an evolving concept for computer data storage software to manage policy-based provisioning, and management of data storage independent of the underlying hardware.” The key bit here is ‘independent of the underlying hardware’ and this is what makes NEXIS potentially so interesting going forward. The current ISIS product family also has a file system that is partly independent of the underlying hardware, but this capability has been significantly enhanced with NEXIS.
No doubt if you have just purchased an ISIS system (or expanded it) you may be rueing that decision. Don’t for a moment think that you have blundered – the new NEXIS family can sit happily alongside your current investment and the two can interoperate delivering what you need for your business as it manages the flow and workloads of media in your company. However when compared to ISIS, NEXIS has some key differences – the ability to mix and match engines to manage bandwidth and throughput; (with ISIS you have to stack them into the same capacity drive size) as well as the option to include SSD acceleration, common spares, mirror plus dual disk protection, and future upgradable redundant media controllers for additional protection. These features and the ability to install half populated chassis as interim building blocks give the product a lot more flexibility. The key aspect of the next generation storage is that is it built on a foundation of production proven technology and product stability. For people administering and working with it, storage needs to be stable, predictable and unsurprising. NEXIS builds on that previous reliability and strong technical pedigree. You can simultaneously connect clients to both Avid ISIS and Avid NEXIS systems in your environment using the Avid NEXIS 6.0 client software. However, ISIS storage engines cannot be physically mixed with Avid NEXIS storage engines in the same system to form one single ‘pool’ of storage. They remain separate, but can be mounted together and used on the same system, a pretty impressive feat of engineering interoperability. One of the key aspects of NEXIS is that its not just for Avid clients. NEXIS welcomes client connections from Edius, Adobe Premier Pro and Apple FCP X. Collaborative shared storage is a key necessity in todays productions large or small, and NEXIS provides that core capability that allows users to work flexibly together.
Furthermore protection can be defined at workspace level. Each Workspace can be configured for Mirror, Dual Single or no protection dependent on its chassis configuration. This is a benefit of Avid NEXIS Software Defined Storage architecture. Another attractive feature of NEXIS is that you can scale up from modest beginnings if you want to grow as your business does, or you can invest in a attractively priced entry level tier that will give you value for the life of your production.
The NEXIS family includes a range of extendable solutions and varied price points that can scale to suit your needs. The system building blocks briefly look like this:
Entry level is the NEXIS Pro: is a 2U professional-class integrated storage engine with a 10 drive media pack. Keen price point and scalable up to four chassis (with 2TB drives only) and 24 active clients.
A Media Pack: is a basic storage building block; A pack of 10 drives with 400MBytes/Sec of performance and 20 TB or 60 TB of storage capacity dependent on size.
Media Packs form the basis of all NEXIS deployments. In 2U engines they are conceptually interchangeable with a chassis. In a 4U chassis you can have one or two Media Packs.
NEXIS E2: Small-footprint integrated storage engine 2U box with a 10 drive media pack of 2TB or 6TB drives. Expandable to 4 chassis without SDA and can support up to 40 clients connected.
NEXIS E4: Medium-density integrated storage engine a 4U chassis with up to 20 drives per chassis (2 x 10 drive media packs) comprising of 2TB or 6TB drives. The chassis can be half populated to start- can scale up to 4x chassis (8 media packs) without an SDA.
NEXUS System Director Appliance: Increases Avid NEXIS scale and redundancy. If you want to go above 4 chassis with either a E2 or a E4 chassis you have to move to a system director appliance which will allow you to scale up to 12 chassis or 24 Media Packs with the advanced licence. Using the SDA also allows your bandwidth and file count to increase. You can have up to 330 active clients in this scenario.
Although not yet shipping but on the roadmap for 2016 is a Redundant Controller—High-availability option for Avid NEXIS systems whereby the connectivity for the chassis units will be made more robust with a dual controller architecture.
In summary its clear to see how Avid have built on their existing storage technology legacy storage to deliver a product family that is innovative robust and scalable. Recognition of this was that NEXIS won TV Technology’s “best of show” at NAB2016 this year. If you have any questions on NEXIS don’t hesitate to contact us for more info.