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SAN Idiot

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Catama Productions
SAN Idiot
on Aug 23, 2010 at 4:09:16 pm

Hey All,

We run a small boutique house in Maine with 4 or 5 edit systems running FCP. I am trying to get my head around the SAN idea, and how it will save costs over our "Sneaker-net" system that we have now.

Does anyone know a) a good simple guide to putting together a SAN for FCP
or, b) What the simplest Array, Switcher, and Server software would be for us to begin looking at.

We don't have the dough for an IT person, but I assume that is more than often the case with the folks here on Creative Cow. I know people are doing it out there! How are they doing it?

Thanks for your help.

Allen Baldwin
Catama Productions
South Portland, Maine.

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Jeremy Strootman
Re: SAN Idiot
on Aug 23, 2010 at 5:17:33 pm

There are definitely many ways of accomplishing what you want to do here. Furthermore, you want to think about what you are doing today and what you might be doing tomorrow. So, you have already identified that you do not want anything that requires the support of a full time IT employee. With that said, the approach of acquiring 3rd party components and putting together your own SAN is probably not the approach you would like to take. Therefore, you might look in to a turnkey solution that comes packed with all of the components you will need. Turnkey solutions providers make solutions that are easy to manage, reducing the need for IT support. They can also support your entire network infrastructure, in stead of, a component here or a part over there.

Things that should be included in a turnkey SAN solution:
- Connectivity (fibre, ethernet or both)
- Storage
- Software to manage user reads and writes
- Install, Training and Support

And last, I have a customer base of thousands that are successfully using SAN solutions with no IT staff and realize a return on the investment daily. Shoot me a call in you would like to discuss this further.

800-325-1307 ext 220


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Douglas Learner
Re: SAN Idiot
on Aug 23, 2010 at 5:25:58 pm

Allen, if you're coming from 'sneaker-net' you probably want to look at shared storage designed for video production rather than a SAN. Less cost, less complexity and will likely integrate better into your existing infrastructure. What's the difference between SAN and shared storage? SAN, or Storage Area Network, requires sophisticated software to manage a network of data storage devices with the SAN software typically running on the server as well as on each computer that accesses data from the server. Shared storage is a simpler process that lets many users access data stored on a server. In a shared storage system designed for video production you will be able to edit directly over a Gigabit Ethernet network.

Some of the benefits:

- availability of files for editors without having to move external hard drives from Mac to Mac
- editing over the network rather than copying files to local Macs
- centralized files helps promote standard workflow, naming convention, organization, etc.
- centralized data for security and backup

What's a shared storage system look like? Start with a storage array, which is a collection of hard drives in a single enclosure that are designed to work together as one drive. This array is connected to a Mac Pro that will function as a dedicated server. This Mac Pro has a SAS Controller installed in one of its internal slot to manage the array and a multi-port Ethernet adapter installed in another slot to connect to a Gigabit Ethernet network. The ports on this multi-port Ethernet adapter are connected to a Gigabit Switch, which in turn connects to your Mac Pro edit stations with Ethernet cables. File sharing is enabled on the Mac Pro Server, the multi-port Ethernet adapter and Gigabit Switch are configured with a network protocol called Link Aggregation, and another protocol called Jumbo Frames is enabled on the switch and each edit station. All this will then let your editors access video files on the storage array with data transfer speeds of up to 80MB/s or so. That's enough bandwidth to let you edit two streams of ProRes (HQ) at 1080p30 at each edit station.

The specifics of the storage array, the multi-port Ethernet adapter, the switch, and so on will be tailored to your specific editing needs by the vendor you choose. Considerations in designing your system will include the number of edit stations, the amount of storage you want to have available on your network, the format you edit in and how many video streams your editors typically work with at one time. These factors are important in ensuring the system meets your editing needs.

There are a number of companies that provide these types of system. Your best bet is to start with Small Tree Communications, which makes the multi-port Ethernet adapters and sells storage arrays, switches, etc. The folks at MaxxDigital have their own line of storage arrays that use the Small Tree Ethernet Adapters.

Here's my plug. I work for a new storage company called BreadBox that takes a different approach to implementing the above system design. Our storage arrays are purpose-built computers running the ZFS file system, which is highly-regarded for data integrity and management flexibility. We also integrate the multi-port Ethernet adapter into the array rather than requiring a dedicated server. The result is a shared storage video production system that matches the performance of SAS-based systems at a lower cost and with more upgradability.


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Simon Blackledge
Re: SAN Idiot
on Aug 24, 2010 at 11:27:12 am

Do you hav a URL for "BreadBox" Douglas?


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Douglas Learner
Re: SAN Idiot
on Aug 24, 2010 at 4:32:30 pm

Simon, no URL yet. Thanks for asking. I'd be happy to chat offline about what we're doing: douglas macguynetworks com

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Bob Zelin
Re: SAN Idiot
on Aug 24, 2010 at 12:12:54 am

Hi Allen -
here is the bottom line (since you really want to know what it's going to cost, more than if it works or not).

You need a MAC Pro (about $3000) (no, you can't use an old G5)
you need about 5 grand for an 8TB "starter" RAID 5 array
you need about 3 grand for specialty ethernet and install costs.
You need a UPS to prevent power hits.
You need some ethernet cables.

If this sounds good to you, then you can have your 5 users have shared storage. If it sounds insanely expensive to you, then good luck !

Bob Zelin

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Chris Blair
Re: SAN Idiot
on Aug 25, 2010 at 1:16:41 am

And don't forget a backup array for all those files!

You should also look at Apace. We have one of their systems and I can attest that it's a rock-solid piece of equipment that does EXACTLY what they say it will do and their customer service is the best that I've ever gotten in 25 years in this business.

Not to mention their engineering people are as knowledgable about the needs of video production as anyone I've ever seen....and they're BIG proponents of simple configurations that require very little IT knowledge ( have to have some).

I don't work for them nor do I shill for them...I'm just a happy customer that has seen his share of products that don't live up to expectations....but Apace's vStor and other products do everything they say...and they work great with Final Cut. They'll give you the names, phone numbers and email addresses of owners using their system in similar comnfigurations to yours as you can talk with people who are doing what you're tying to do and get real-world feedback. Our eealer was IEEE in California and they were super to work with.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
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