Author: Joe D’Amato, Senior Field Solutions Architect
In my role as a StudioCloud senior solutions architect at CDW, I work with clients in the media and entertainment industry. Due to the thousands of computers and massive amount of storage that it takes to make just one modern visual effects movie, the media and entertainment industry has become its own brand of high performance computing (HPC). For Dell Technologies World 2020, the focus of my attendance was on technologies that fuel today’s content creation studios, which is what I will be outlining in this blog.
The Beginning of the Data Era
One of the major themes throughout the conference was the idea that 2020 is the beginning of the data era, and that the combination of 5G, artificial intelligence and machine learning is leading to a massive need for computer and storage. Based on what I have seen in the industry, it is clear that 5G will be the network fabric that ties all of this together and that media companies will be increasingly driving content delivery to the edge over the next couple years. To further prove this point, it was highlighted that there was as much data created within the last two years as there was before then. AI will be not only one of the biggest producers of data, but also the biggest consumer of data in the coming years, with its growth being exponential.
Another key theme and topic that carried through many of the sessions is Dell’s announcement of Project Apex, which is Michael Dell’s vision that offerings will be developed as solutions-as-a-service. The intent is to give customers the flexibility of growth of their traditional on-premise solutions with pay-as-you-use or pay-as-you-grow models, or across cloud-based or private cloud-based flexible consumable solutions. This allows businesses to grow quickly without large capital outlays and will be especially evident in the high-growth areas of VMware, computer/render farms and HPC storage.
Dell realizes that the difference between real-time and non-real-time access to data, as well as how much it can inhibit traditional cloud, is causing businesses to build their own cloud locally. This is especially true in post-production for film and television, which is the reason our StudioCloud render farms and storage offerings dovetail so well into Dell’s solutions-as-a-service vision. For three years now, CDW has partnered with Dell for StudioCloud solutions to offer flex-on-demand options, giving studios the ability to expand their storage needs as they grow and allow for burst storage that they can hand back when things slow down. Offering clients the ability to host on premise, inside our private StudioCloud, or with other bespoke options are just some of the ways Dell can deploy storage as an operational expense. It is encouraging to see this approach spread to the entire stack of offerings, from the data centre, right on down to the end-user workstation.
Product Announcements from Dell Technologies World 2020
In addition to Project Apex, the PowerScale family of storage hit loudly on the stage at the event. PowerScale uses the OneFS operating system and is the next generation of the historic Isilon line of scale-out storage. Although Dell is moving the branding of Isilon over to PowerScale, the real power of the offering is in the OneFS operating system. With these new PowerScale form factors, Dell is offering additional flash options to leverage the powerhouse F800 flash storage systems within smaller footprints such as the F200 and F600. Another bonus is that these newer PowerScale models can be added to an existing Isilon cluster, since it is all OneFS!
One of the newer products that comes free with PowerScale is DataIQ. This year Dell offered a number of hands-on presentations that allowed participants to get the feel and sense of how this new versatile tool operates. If you are interested, you can still register and experience these hands-on demos even though the conference has concluded.
DataIQ uses its own algorithms to efficiently scan the storage system, presenting a roadmap to the end-user community so they can find out where all their data is. Post-production film studios can generate a petabyte of unstructured data across many projects in a matter of months, and it can be very easy to lose track of where all the data is. One of the benefits of DataIQ is that it allows you to see your PowerScale storage as well as other vendors’ storage all in one pane of glass, and from there you can use the data mover to move data between your disparate storage systems, into one unified storage ecosystem. Of interest to the visual effects and animation industries: Dell has since released an open source plug-in for DataIQ to work with Autodesk’s Shotgun Software, a wildly popular production management software tool. This plug-in allows producers and managers to see what projects shots’ and artists are generating the most data. I found it especially encouraging that Dell is making DataIQ free to its customers, as well as releasing an open source plug-in.
Dell has been planning for remote work and learning for a while as part of their overall vision, and recent events have simply accelerated the inevitable move of data and services to the edge. Starting with Michael Dell‘s keynote and continuing throughout the conference sessions there was the pervasive role of COVID-19 and the need for all people and households to have access a digital device and connectivity to succeed in a remote world.