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doug nash
NAS for animation...?
on Oct 12, 2013 at 10:06:21 pm

I'm posting this here in the general "storage" thread, because the dedicated "NAS" thread seems little-visited.

I've got a home-studio, running all current Intel Mac Pros. I specialize in 3D animation, and therefore deal with large amounts of data. On average, my finished projects occupy anywhere from 50-gigs to 150-gigs.

Up until now, I have been simply using the internal SATA drives with the Mac Pros, keeping all the assets local to whichever computer is doing the work. I thin backup to an external drive. But that's awkward, at best, and as the years roll on, and the project sizes get larger, it's really a major issue.

So, I'm wondering what might be the best idea for mass storage? It would seem that a big shared drive (RAID?) would be best. But is that right?

Right now, I have three Mac Pros, but I might even add a fourth soon, when they finally release the trash bin.

Also, while I'm moving lots of data back and forth, I don't know if I need the same massive throughput as an editor might? Most of the heavy lifting is done by the processors, when it comes to rendering 3D frames. However, I do need to be able t read all those final frames, quickly enough, to cache them into RAM in AfterEffects - just for instance.

Sorry, if this is the wrong place to post this question.

Thanks.


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Alex Gerulaitis
Re: NAS for animation...?
on Oct 12, 2013 at 11:01:22 pm

[doug nash] "So, I'm wondering what might be the best idea for mass storage? It would seem that a big shared drive (RAID?) would be best. But is that right?"

NAS seems to be the perfect match for your purposes, especially that there don't seem to be any exotic performance requirements such as "three streams of uncompressed 12-bit RGBA 4K to each client".

As always with putting all eggs in one basket, backup becomes even more important with shared / centralized storage vs. individual drives. Ease of management, monitoring, service-ability, support are up there too: if the NAS needs attention (degraded RAID, components that failed or are about to fail, etc.), you'd want to know about it right away, and have the means to fix it.

Among companies making fantastic NAS boxes are Small-Tree and SNS (both active on Cow), I hope they will chip in.

[doug nash] " I don't know if I need the same massive throughput as an editor might"

Decent GbE NAS boxes are pretty close to individual drives in speed, so there should be no surprises. For a little extra $$, you could go even faster with 10GbE connections.

-- Alex Gerulaitis | Systems Engineer | DV411 - Los Angeles, CA


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doug nash
Re: NAS for animation...?
on Oct 12, 2013 at 11:29:03 pm

Thank you so much for the response. Part of the issue, is that I'm rather uneducated when it comes to such things as RAID or NAS. When I try and research such info, it almost immediately goes right over my head - it seems that such topics are really the domain of network experts / IT folk.

A few immediate follow-up questions:

1) Isn't part if the entire value of a RAID, the redundancy? Doesn't that minimize or entirely mitigate the potential critical failure of any one drive in the group?

2) In simple terms, how would I network all three (or four) Mac Pros to the central drive? Would I just use their built-in Ethernet ports, visa-vi a simple Ethernet router with the NAS hooked to that? Or is that way too simple to be true?

3) Besides the brands you already recommended. What about Drobo (or similar) where they seem to really target non-network savvy people like myself. Not that I want this to be a direct product comparison thread, but then again, all options are open for me. Granted, the simplest would seem to be the best for me.

Thanks!


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Alex Gerulaitis
Re: NAS for animation...?
on Oct 12, 2013 at 11:43:15 pm

[doug nash] "1) Isn't part if the entire value of a RAID, the redundancy? Doesn't that minimize or entirely mitigate the potential critical failure of any one drive in the group?"

It does, especially with the so called dual parity RAID schemes that protect the data against failure of two drives, and mitigate certain other issues. RAID6 is the most popular flavor of dual parity RAIDs, and everybody's favorite with few exceptions.

RAID doesn't protect against user error (accidental deletion), catastrophic losses (fire, theft, etc.), certain instances of data corruption, certain other hardware failures. Because the data is centralized, risks of losing all of it are higher than with individual scattered drives.

[doug nash] "2) In simple terms, how would I network all three (or four) Mac Pros to the central drive? Would I just use their built-in Ethernet ports, visa-vi a simple Ethernet router with the NAS hooked to that? Or is that way too simple to be true?"

Hardware-wise - that's it unless you need 10GbE speeds which would require 10GbE cards installed into Mac Pros. You'd also need to configure permissions on the NAS so that client computers could access it - usually a straightforward process.


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doug nash
Re: NAS for animation...?
on Oct 13, 2013 at 12:10:35 am

Thank you, again, for the great follow-up information.

Indeed, the centralized collection of very valuable client work is not entirely the best thing. I guess I need to weigh that against the utterly haphazard "system" I employ now, whereby I have large chunks of disparate data scattered between different drives on different computers. Kind of a mess. My wife always asks why I don't just back things up to the "cloud"...and it's never worth getting into the fact that it just doesn't work that way for terabytes worth of ever-expanding data.

I suppose, one way to manage both the data and the risk, would be to scale back on the actual size of the centralized RAID (assuming I use such) so that it only holds immediate, current work. Then just off-load finished pieces onto other media, and store those off-site.

Not to get this WAY off topic, but what are you thoughts on DLT for just that kind of thing? We used to use those back in the 90's where I worked, but I don't know if those formats have kept up with the increasing size of data, and HD storage?


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Bob Zelin
Re: NAS for animation...?
on Oct 13, 2013 at 12:16:39 am

Doug,
Alex has not asked one very important question. And I only ask this, because you mentioned the Drobo. Exactly how much money are you expecting to spend on all of this. There are tons of products that can accomplish what you want, but unlike the Drobo, NONE of them cost $1500. When you hear names like Small Tree, Studio Network Solutions, and all the others that I will soon start to mention - are you prepared to spend over $10,000 for this setup ?
Remember, when you buy a solution from someone like Alex, or myself, or any other professional vendor, you are spending enough money that we will help you (we are getting paid by you) to make this happen. Perhaps your budget is only $1500, and you think that for $1500, you can set all of this up by yourself.

So it's really important that you give us an idea of what kind of budget you are working with (and please don't say "as little as possible" - because some people say that 40 grand is as little as possible, and other people say 200 bucks).

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.
maxavid@cfl.rr.com


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doug nash
Re: NAS for animation...?
on Oct 13, 2013 at 12:49:49 am

Excellent points, Bob. Thanks for bringing that up.
Indeed, I haven't even fully considered this aspect (that just shows you how removed I am from this subject).

I think my answer on cost threshold will be directly based on just how much of a game-changer the setup ultimately winds up being. So, I need to consider that before commenting on my cost range.


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Bob Zelin
Re: NAS for animation...?
on Oct 13, 2013 at 12:19:04 am

an LTO will hold 1.5 or 2.5 TB depending on what model you purchase, and this will cost several thousand dollars, and is VERY VERY slow - it takes HOURS to fill up a tape. You don't edit or animate off of LTO tapes - it' is used for archive storage in case your drive array breaks. And yes, the cloud is too slow for the access speeds that you want.

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.
maxavid@cfl.rr.com


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doug nash
Re: NAS for animation...?
on Oct 13, 2013 at 12:52:50 am

Thanks, and yes, I fully understand that tape is purely for archival purposes. But that's just it, my current archival methods are horrendous. I know that the tapes (at least in the past) are very robust. So, they're good for longer stretches of time than any client's project will likely ever have value.

I need to look further into this, because I could envision recording tapes, then just putting them in a safe-deposit box, or even at a relatives house. The tapes are so much smaller and lighter, than equivalent 3.5" hard drives.


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Alex Gerulaitis
Re: NAS for animation...?
on Oct 13, 2013 at 2:18:11 am

[doug nash] "I suppose, one way to manage both the data and the risk, would be to scale back on the actual size of the centralized RAID (assuming I use such) so that it only holds immediate, current work. Then just off-load finished pieces onto other media, and store those off-site."

That's exactly how the big boys do it: tiered approach. Back up or replicate the most critical data: source files, projects. Anything that's temporary or that can be re-created w/o too much pain doesn't have to be backed up.

In many cases the main NAS like SNS Evo or Small-Tree GraniteStor can be the central storage, while replicated or partially or fully backed up to a much cheaper DAS or some sort of a Drobo-like box.

[doug nash] "what are you thoughts on DLT for just that kind of thing?"

Like Bob said, LTO is the modern equivalent of DLT, and actually not all that slow at around 140MB/s uncompressed - faster than GbE speeds, for that matter. No robust long-term enterprise-class backup happens without tapes so it's a perfect backup solution if there's budget for it.

Tolis Group makes awesome LTO-based backup appliances for Macs.


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Morten Ranmar
Re: NAS for animation...?
on Oct 13, 2013 at 8:23:41 am

Check out this storage solution, that can be expanded with built in LTO tape drive: http://www.promax.com/s-223-promax-platform-studio.aspx

- No Parking Production -

2 x Finalcut Studio3, 2 x Prod. bundle CS6, 2 x MacPro, 2 x ioHD, Ethernet File Server w. X-Raid.... and FCPX on trial


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Bob Zelin
Re: NAS for animation...?
on Oct 13, 2013 at 11:53:56 am

Hi Morton,
Is that what you use at your company?
Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.
maxavid@cfl.rr.com


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Morten Ranmar
Re: NAS for animation...?
on Oct 13, 2013 at 1:46:30 pm

No we use a Macpro server with an old X-Raid, resharing through a SmallTree ethernet server card, using normal AFP protokol - which works well but has limited space. So yes we have considered a dedicated NAS solution, and we have just purchased a SAS connected LTO5 drive, with BRU PE software, that makes large backups so easy to accomplish...

- No Parking Production -

2 x Finalcut Studio3, 2 x Prod. bundle CS6, 2 x MacPro, 2 x ioHD, Ethernet File Server w. X-Raid.... and FCPX on trial


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Bob Zelin
Re: NAS for animation...?
on Oct 13, 2013 at 4:43:42 pm

your solution would be a much better solution for young Doug Nash, who is working out of his house with his wife, trying to make a living. Putting together a simple system that works with AFP is a wiser choice for him than buying the ProMax Platform. What you have done Morton, works well for many people.

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.
maxavid@cfl.rr.com


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Alex Gerulaitis
Re: NAS for animation...?
on Oct 13, 2013 at 5:35:50 pm

[Bob Zelin] "Putting together a simple system that works with AFP is a wiser choice for him"

Second that. One of my clients, who bought several DAS boxes of various sizes, does exactly that for shared storage:

- Mac Pro (or even old xServe) - $1K-3K
- RAID controller $800
- DAS 24-64TB with speeds ~ 600MB-1.2GB/s - $3-8K
- Optional: Small-Tree 10GbE cards, Netgear 10GbE switch ~ $4-5K for three systems

The above DAS shared over AFP via Mac Pro is a fairly robust, expandable, customizable, scalable shared storage solution that can be put together using an older Mac Pro for under $5K total.

Then of course you'd have to muck with it to make it work or hire Bob Zelin for the purpose. :)


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Morten Ranmar
Re: NAS for animation...?
on Oct 13, 2013 at 7:39:12 pm

I can truly comply that an AFP solution, while not as fast as a dedicated NAS Unix based server solution, is very easy to operate and reliable. The reason that we have started looking for an alternative solution is that the quotes we have received for updating our FC-storage have been high.

So now our choice is between a storage solution en par with the Promax Platform Studio, and an EONSTOR Raid system with 12 SATA or SAS disks, and with FC connection to the Mac Server.

Would like some advice if it is worth shelling out the extra costs for SAS disks vs. SATA?

- No Parking Production -

2 x Finalcut Studio3, 2 x Prod. bundle CS6, 2 x MacPro, 2 x ioHD, Ethernet File Server w. X-Raid.... and FCPX on trial


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Bob Zelin
Re: NAS for animation...?
on Oct 13, 2013 at 9:23:03 pm

I've been doing shared storage since April 2008, and I have NEVER uses a SAS drive in any of my installations. I am not saying that they are not better, more reliable, etc. - I just never used them, and I never saw any company that I know use them either.

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.
maxavid@cfl.rr.com


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