Storage for Transcoding and Media Content Delivery

The media world is changing by the day. The power of the internet to deliver video content is dramatically re-shaping market dynamics. What used to be called television is watched on any number of different devices. Traditional broadcasters battle in the same space as telecoms, platform owners, gaming companies and software giants. And, as the barriers to entry fall, new players continue to flock to market.

Despite such massive change, connecting viewers to content—no matter what screen, no matter what platform—remains the ultimate objective of the game. And that’s where Red Bee Media comes in: Red Bee Media exists to apply its creative, technical and strategic expertise to create demand for its clients’ content, and then to ensure that this content is delivered to the widest possible audience.

Of course, creating, modifying, storing, maintaining and delivering vast volumes of digital content, for hundreds of clients across more than 80 countries, requires equally vast layers of specialist information technology infrastructure. Notably, the great range of devices on which people consume content requires each piece of content to be recreated, on demand, in multiple formats. For example, a piece of video originally created in 1080p Full HD format may need to be recreated in a suitable format for viewing on, say, an Apple iPad. The process of turning content created in one format into another format is called transcoding—and it’s something of which Red Bee Media does a lot.

On-demand video transcoding poses numerous challenges for Red Bee Media, challenges it has attempted to solve in several different ways. David Carradice, Red Bee Media’s Technical Manager, takes up the story.

“Originally, for each project in production, we bought separate transcoding ‘node farms’, plus separate storage silos to support the project. These mostly performed transcoding for video on-demand, taking a high-rate video source, and transcoding it into—currently—15 different formats including HD, SD, tablet and mobile. There are other attributes, too, such as interlaced or progressive, all of which add complexity,” he said.



David Carradice explains how and why the FXT Series Edge filers works for them: “How it works is that each Avere node acts as a sort of ‘smoothing’ capacitor, absorbing redundant and repetitive read I/O, as well as smoothing the whiteout of the resulting files. We can operate transcode nodes in parallel, dropping in an Avere node when we need to and knowing exactly what to expect in terms of performance. Linear scaling is a reality and predictable, which makes the solution more compelling. That’s the performance issue sorted, right there.”

“Why it works is that we don’t need to shell out unnecessary license fees for additional SAN connectivity. We have delivered the grail of resolving complex performance issues cost-effectively. We drop in an Avere node and it just works,” he added.

Reporting and management is also enhanced: hot-files, hot-clients and dashboard analytics allow Red Bee Media to actually see what is being worked on, and the I/O demands of each transcoding node. GNS allows standardisation of the configuration on each transcoding nodes and for them simply to be re-pointed at different areas of the namespace for different projects, optimising workflow.

The successful introduction of Avere’s solutions has led Red Bee Media to plan a more fundamental re-architecting of its transcoding environment and workflow, pooling its transcoding nodes into a farm and eliminating per-project allocations (see Figure 2). This will enable the company to extract full, 100% utilisation from its transcoding farm licenses—an important benefit owing to their considerable expense. Avere will enable this with the linear performance scaling and GNS. There is also talk of VMware hosting, bootstorm relief, and other improvements.



“Digital TV processing and hosting, in all its formats, is just about the most demanding commercial environment I can think of for a data storage infrastructure,” concludes Carradice. “The reality is that current technology had failed us, either from a practical point of view or a cost perspective. Then Avere came along with a glimpse of the future, but here, now, and working.”

Customer Challenges

  • Transcoding silos are inefficient & difficult to manage
  • Need better utilization of transcoder nodes & licenses
  • Avoid expensive FC/SAS storage
  • Avoid proprietary “black box” solutions

Avere Benefits

  • GNS provides “any transcoder to any file” access
  • Linear performance scaling
  • Reduced cost (enable use of costeffective & dense SATA)
  • User interface provides rich stats (e.g. hot files & hot clients)

About Red Bee Media

The media world is changing by the day. The power of the internet to deliver video content is dramatically re-shaping market dynamics. What used to be called television is watched on any number of devices. No matter what screen, no matter what platform, Red Bee Media can make those crucial connections. A powerful blend of creative, technical and strategic expertise ensure delivery to the widest possible audience.