StorageDNA made a big announcement today but of course that's only part of the story. The evolution of this product and StorageDNA itself has been an ongoing process, and it's why we talked with Doug Hynes, Sr. Workflow Specialist at StorageDNA.
He breaks down how and why LTO and LTFS solutions have and continue to change while also explaining what kind of options are available to the market. He also talks through some advice for workflow challenges as well as relating some of his own experiences on both sides of a problem.
DAM Coalition: Tell us a little bit about StorageDNA. What is your history in the industry?
Doug Hynes: StorageDNA's history began in 2004, when it created DNA Sync, a solution which met the challenge of keeping collaborative storage “islands” in sync with each other. A file-based media synchronization engine that enables transfers over any distance is important for large post production facilities and other media organizations that have teams of people working on the same content, but are separated geographically. Fast forward to 2010, wherein file-based workflows have become pervasive in the media and entertainment industry. StorageDNA has designed an archive-retrieval solution, DNA Evolution, to help media professionals with the vast amounts of content being generated by these workflows. Built on Linear Tape-Open (LTO) with Linear Tape File System (LTFS) technologies, DNA Evolution is a workflow solution designed to address storage and protection of the massive amounts of content, and how to easily access and manage it now and in the future.
What makes your company and your product special? How do you differentiate yourself from your competition?
What really separates us from other products in the “archive” category is that StorageDNA’s solutions focus on workflows, not just singular tasks. We have undertaken a great amount of effort to develop solutions that help make file-based workflows more efficient, and we achieve this in several ways. First, we have a completely open architecture that lends itself to integration with a variety of products, including cameras, recorders, transcoders, standalone NLE's, and asset management solutions. Next, we provide best-in-class performance by tuning our data movers to best accommodate very large files like video, audio, and graphics. In addition, we configure our solutions to take full advantage of existing high-speed infrastructures, like Fibre Channel, to move content directly from spinning disk to LTO tape, with no stops (caching) along the way. Lastly, we are experts in handling the metadata portion of content, and have incorporated features into our solutions that make finding and managing content on LTO tape a simple, yet very powerful toolset to help speed up workflows in production and post environments.
In your experience, do people know what they're getting into when they choose an LTO LTFS archiving and retrieval system? What sort of problems do you see people running into over and over? What would be the best way they could avoid them?
Today there is a greater awareness of LTO with LTFS technology in the marketplace, and a general understanding of the benefits compared to other methods of storing file-based content. The Discovery Channel’s release of a delivery specification that requires LTFS-formatted LTO tapes, has helped to bring the technology to the forefront in the M&E space. One of the biggest problems we see repeatedly is the offloading of content to other forms of “backup” devices, such as inexpensive external USB drives, which are not designed for long-term storage. The organization then becomes desperate for a solution to move its content off those drives before they begin failing. When in a rush to get the process going, many will select a solution without doing enough research. By assuming all solutions are the same, they may ultimately end up with a solution that barely gets the job done. Take the time to do the research first because it will pay off in the end–all LTO with LTFS solutions are not created equally.
What's the best way for someone to figure out what LTO LTFS archive-retrieval system will be best for them? Or how do they figure out the one they're using isn't ideal?
It’s important to distinguish between the concepts of archive and backup. Many solutions work more like traditional IT backup. On the other hand, DNA Evolution can accommodate traditional backup models, but also provides innovative ways to maximize LTFS and use LTO tape technology for advanced workflows. For example, a timesaving conform from LTO tape workflow. A good archiving strategy requires a bit of advanced white-boarding in order to define the right structure, workflow, naming conventions, and criteria for a solution. We always recommend this and encourage customers to look at a variety of solutions to find one that meets their needs. Through the research process, they will find that a product like DNA Evolution can actually change their approach to an archive strategy.
You're a Workflow Specialist…any general or specific advice you can give for someone looking to improve the file-based workflow in their organization?
Focus on the day-to-day tasks that create bottlenecks or slowdowns in the process, and look for the right solutions to alleviate these issues. In many cases, a quick fix is not the answer, especially for the long-term. Take a little time to get the workflow and issues down on paper, or on a whiteboard, to help identify the solutions. If a product is discovered that can immediately address an issue, get a demo or trial and take the time to be sure it will be money well spent. Look at the big picture, by considering both the creative side of the house, and how other areas within the organization can participate in the process. A solution that is right for many parts of the organization should be high on the list.
LTO with LTFS technology for archiving, retrieval, and management of file-based content as a whole, has and continues to change. What's the biggest change you've experienced, professionally and personally?
LTO with LTFS technology is changing the way our industry looks at archiving, backup, nearline storage, and file-based workflows. In the last year with StorageDNA, I have been able to leverage my past industry experience working for several major M&E manufacturers, and combine it with a fresh way of thinking about solving customers’ challenges. Advances in the LTO infrastructure happen through a predictable roadmap released by the LTO Consortium. This makes StorageDNA’s job to innovate more interesting as we continue to leverage these advances. It’s rewarding to be able to offer new and exciting ways to help customers and impact their file-based workflows using LTO with LTFS solutions.
How do you see StorageDNA as a whole changing? And what sort of developments are in store for your product?
As a global company, we serve different types of M&E customers, each with their own unique workflows and challenges. Our commitment is to be engaged with customers in all of our markets, to ensure that we understand their requirements and deliver solutions that help them to be more productive. This has always been our approach to product development.
Going forward, we will add XSIO Archive Engine Accelerator, the fastest LTO LTFS media archive technology on the market, and Smart Access LTO, which enables LTO tape archives to act like a nearline, direct access storage medium. This allows popular media applications to directly access files on LTO tape, so that users can perform partial restores, transcodes, and remote transfers. The latest version of our DNA Evolution software platform includes a built-in mini-media asset manager with powerful search and browse tools to help users quickly find and restore digital assets. It also includes support for LTFS-based network delivery formats providing easier data exchange to broadcasters. By continuing to innovate, our goal is to make file-based workflows easier and more cost-effective than ever before.
Where can we find out more?