Tame The Storage Beast - InformationWeek

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10/24/2003
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Tame The Storage Beast

Isilon cluster is designed to manage large audio and video files

Most existing storage does a fine job with everyday applications and databases. Some storage technology is better for files, while other technology is better for large blocks of data. However, unstructured data, such as large video and audio files, can create problems for network-attached storage and often calls for something out of the ordinary.

Paramount Digital Entertainment, a division of Paramount Pictures, is trying to digitize some classic TV shows from its catalog of 65,000 hours of programming. Currently, the division is digitizing Bosom Buddies, a show featuring a young Tom Hanks. This is the first step in a process that will lead to digitizing as much as 700 hours of programming, including the popular Star Trek. "That one show could require hundreds of gigabytes of space by itself," says David Baron, VP of production and programming at the Paramount digital unit.

Baron is testing a new storage system from Isilon Systems Inc. Although Baron hears lots of pitches from storage vendors, he says Isilon's approach is in line with his own research around rich media content. A single Isilon appliance cluster could store as much as 4.3 terabytes of usable video data. "We could compress multiple shows on Isilon," Baron says, "and we'd still have room for editorial-content metadata." Metadata describes the stored content and makes it easier to find and retrieve.

An entry-level Isilon IQ appliance cluster with three nodes and 2 terabytes of capacity is priced at $49,950. The vendor faces competition from established storage makers such as EMC and Network Appliance, as well as newcomers like Panasas and Spinnaker Networks, which are introducing products for the unstructured-content storage market. "It's a crowded space," says Jamie Gruener, an analyst at the Yankee Group. But Isilon's distributed NAS appliance includes auto-balancing between nodes and can identify which files are used most often. Says Gruener, "Isilon is starting to prove itself among customers."

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