IBC 2019 Reflections: Spectra Logic’s Hossein Ziashakeri on the growing importance of smart storage management

At IBC 2019, Spectra Logic continued to expand its product portfolio beyond tape libraries — which it has been primarily known for in the past — unveiling the new StorCycle storage-management software. By leveraging a Perpetual Tier of storage, StorCycle can reduce the overall cost of storing data by up to 70%, while still giving users seamless access to their data, according to Spectra Logic.

Spectra Logic SVP Hossein Ziashakeri

In a discussion in Amsterdam, Spectra Logic SVP Hossein Ziashakeri told SVG that most media organizations store their data on an expensive Primary Tier of storage even though up to 80% of this data is inactive — costing both space and money. StorCycle automatically scans this Primary Tier for inactive files and migrates them to a secure Perpetual Tier (which can include any combination of cloud storage, object storage disk, NAS, and tape) — reducing costs and increasing overall performance.

SVG sat down with Ziashakeri to discuss the new StorCycle system, how the market has reacted to it, and the major trends he’s seeing in the industry today.

Can you explain how StorCycle works and why you believe it will help M&E organisations be more efficient with their storage?

If you look at this specifically from the perspective of the media and entertainment market, there are two types of assets. The first type is assets [that] have a lot of visibility because they are managed by a PAM [production asset management] or MAM [media asset management] or DAM [digital asset management] application. The second type of asset is unmanaged data, which can be sitting in silos of storage in multiple places and nobody knows how big they are, how often they are accessed, who owns them, or other details.

StorCycle is designed to bring visibility and insight to all the assets that are not managed. You can map any number of these [network storage] to StorCycle which it scans the file system. The result of the scans are [you are able to view] file types, file sizes, access, capacity threshold, and so on. All of these results are categorised in a graphical user interface and, based on that information, you can set up migration policies to lower cost perpetual tier of storage. You can automate these scans and migration jobs.

So you can go to tape, to cloud, to object storage — it can go from any source to any target. When you map all these storage, you can assign cost of storage to them. The user inputs what they paid for the [equipment], for support, for the data centre costs, and StorCycle will give them an executive view of all storage and the cost is associated with them. When a migration job is complete, StorCycle shows how much money they saved. You can assign each department to a storage system to see how much each group — marketing, graphics, production — is spending [on storage] or savings.

So how do you ensure the user can find the asset in its original location if the system has moved it to another storage platform?

When you move assets from one source to a destination, we also give you the ability to [tag] a key-value pair as metadata to the job. That way, later on, you can search for those assets based on the above metadata. In addition, when we move [assets] from NAS to NAS, we can leave a symbolic link behind. That way, [users] can still access assets exactly the same way even though it is now located on a different location. Or, if the asset goes to the cloud or to object storage (like BlackPearl), we leave an HTML link behind so [the user] can restore the file. You can move a file, a set of files, or a whole project. And if you want to move a project that has shared assets, then we can exclude such files we can just create a copy of those specific assets.

Also, in a few months, we will also expose our API so you can integrate it with your own applications to automate and integrate StorCycle function to manage your assets.

What has been the market’s reaction been to StorCycle thus far?

There hasn’t been a single company who hasn’t jumped out of their seat when we’ve shared this with them, especially in broadcast, and post-production. According to our numbers, 80 to 90% of [users’] data is dormant and not used. So why don’t you offload those assets to lower-cost storage freeing expensive storage? StorCycle can automate that process.

StorCycle seems to be a pretty significant departure from the tape and NAS products Spectra Logic is primarily known for. Why the shift in strategy?

Between our BlackPearl and RioBroker [data-mover software package], EonBrowser ,StorCycle, and what we have coming in the next six months, we’re truly transforming Spectra Logic. Historically, we’ve been known for our tape libraries, then we launched our NAS, and then our [BlackPearl] object-storage platform. What you are seeing now is a transformation where we can provide a lot of the tools to also intelligently manage your storage. So Spectra is well into a full transformation as a full solution storage provider.

We now have a team of 20-plus solutions architects who sit down with our [customers] and say, ‘What are you trying to do?’ We’re no longer just selling a tape library; we’re trying to [offer solutions] for workflow and workflow automation. And then we can deliver the infrastructure and the plumbing if necessary. So this has been a huge change for Spectra. We strive to be a full solutions provider for intelligent storage. We want to be the curator between the asset management layer and the storage layer.

How are you seeing media organisation change their storage/archive strategies as these technologies evolve?

Traditionally, you used to think of storage as a pyramid model. It was a hierarchical [model] with Flash at the top, and then disk nearline, disk archive, and tape at the bottom. We now view at the world differently. We look at a two tier model where the production tier that is file-based and very active and for editing, rendering, and so on. And, then we see the second tier as a perpetual tier that is all object based, which allows you to have disk, tape, and cloud — all with a unified namespace that can span across many regions globally distributed. It’s all a single portal that allows for fast concurrent access and moves your assets around to the appropriate storage target [most affordable storage medium] based on the need. So that old hierarchical storage [model] is gone and we’re delivering a more modern storage strategy.

We see the world as moving ultimately to flash or NVME (for production tier). Now that you shrink the amount of storage you need for production, you can afford more [advanced] storage technologies. StorCycle, provides the means to offload inactive data on your production storage, allowing it to perform more efficiently. This now allows your budget dollars to go further for you.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

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