Catching up with Dr. Thomas Coughlin of Coughlin Associates on the Critical Necessity of Storage

With the Creative Storage Conference 2012 just one month away, I thought it might be interesting to get a glimpse of the person behind the event.

MY: How did you get into the storage space?

Tom: I started in graduate school studying magnetic recording. After university, I worked for several years designing heads and media for magnetic tapes, floppy discs and hard disk drives. After several engineer and management jobs at storage and storage component companies I started my own consulting company in 2000. Since then I have worked on many storage projects from storage devices and components to storage systems and applications. I also write reports and white papers and I started 2 conferences on digital storage and digital content applications: the Storage Visions Conference and the Creative Storage Conference. I have been the chair of the annual Flash Memory Summit for the last 5 years. For several years I have written a comprehensive report on digital storage in professional media and entertainment.

MY: Why is the combination of digital asset management & storage so critical?

Tom: Digital storage is where digital assets are kept and where they must be managed so there is a very tight connection between digital storage and digital asset management

MY: What do see as the biggest challenge(s) with the two areas of DAM & storage?

Tom: There are a few big challenges that I see for professional media and entertainment assets, including: 1) Better methods for creating metadata from stored content – this is what enables DAM to do its job and makes the content discoverable and more useful; 2) Creating standards for effectively managing content, particularly in a heterogonous environment where there may be hardware and software products from many vendors used in one DAM environment; 3) How to manage assets in a collaborative workflow, especially when that content may be processed in multiple locations and at all times; 4) How to cost effectively keep digital assets for the long term when the physical media will decay and equipment and software used to view the assets will go obsolete with time.

MY: As a thought leader and contributor to the community, what are some trends that you are seeing that will be positive impacts on DAM, storage and related technologies?

Tom: Digital storage costs are declining with time (from a $/GB point of view) and this enables content owners to keep more content for longer periods of time. Furthermore this content is increasingly being stored in storage systems that incorporate an expanding hierarchy of storage assets to provide the highest performance and cost effective storage solution for every size facility. Thus smaller facilities may keep all their digital assets on hard disks and maybe some tape whereas larger facilities may keep assets on magnetic disks, tape and/or optical disks. Also the decreasing cost of flash memory and the improvement of flash controller technology is making flash an important component in a high performance storage tier. Furthermore we are seeing more ways to automatically generate metadata during content capture or from the content itself. These metadata generation methods can include location services in digital cameras, speech to text generation, still and moving image recognition and other sophisticated methods of analyzing content for location, context and people.

MY: How do you use DAM in your personal life?

Tom: In a sense, all of us with digital data have a digital asset management system. This may be as simple as the file system in our computer for organizing content and may include a USB direct attached storage device or home NAS storage system to back up our files. In order to bring DAM even closer to reality in most homes, we need effective automated metadata generation software and services that will cost-effectively and simply help consumers to find out who is in our personal content, where it was captured and what the context of that content is.

MY: What do you see “storage” looking like 10 years from now?

Tom: Ten years is a long time in the storage industry. Some folks have compared digital storage development to the generation time of fruit flies. It is likely that in ten years time we might see 100+ TB hard disk drives, 10+ TB flash memory or some other solid state memory devices and perhaps magnetic tapes with 100+ TB storage capacity. Content generated in the course of some movie production will be 100's of PB or higher for 8K x 4K or higher resolution. An Exabyte or more of storage in a storage facility will not be uncommon in a decade. The ever lower cost of storage (in $/GB) will create enormous need for storage for personal and commercial content and will continue to put pressure on bandwidth for moving that content around.

MY: Why is it important for people at all levels to pay attention to storage?

Tom: It is important for all people to pay attention to digital storage because it is our communication channel to the future. The content we create today is digital content and putting that digital content into storage devices, systems and software (DAM) will determine how well we can pass on our dreams, joys, experiences and knowledge about ourselves and the world around us to future generations.

MY: What would you like the DAMCoalition community to know about what you are working on?

Tom: I have been doing a survey of digital storage use in professional media and entertainment with folks from SMPTE for the last few years. I would love to work with folks from the Createasphere community to get their input on this survey as well. I use these results to help refine my models of the media and entertainment storage industry for my reports and consulting work. Also I would invite folks from the DAMCoalition community to consider coming to the 2012 Creative Storage Conference (June 26, 2012, www.creativestorage.org). I am the organizer of both of these conferences.

Support ProVideo Coalition
Shop with Filmtools Logo

Share Our Article