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ISIS Offers Mightier Storage System

Avid Technology last week introduced a storage system that it says better meets the needs of broadcasters, networks and post-production facilities seeking to centralize storage. Called Avid Unity ISIS, the system moves well beyond the capacity of Avid's current Unity system. Whereas that holds up to 20 terabytes (TB) of data and can be accessed by up to 60 editing clients, ISIS offers as much as 64 TB of storage and lets 100 editors, reporters and producers work on video at the same time.

Both the storage capacity and the number of simultaneous users are industry firsts.

Facilities look to centralized storage systems to enable all the attached editing clients to share video files, as opposed to having to store the same content multiple times. The systems also allow various departments to use the same material at once.

David Schleifer, Avid Technology VP, broadcast and work groups, says ISIS provides the large bandwidth that centralized storage requires. It lets clients access content via Gigabit Ethernet at 50 megabits per second (Mbps)—enough for high-definition material. (Users can exceed 50 Mbps, but as bandwidth usage grows, fewer clients can be accommodated.) “We believe this will help any operation on a day-in and day-out basis, allowing a facility to build better workflows because the system has more core bandwidth,” says Schleifer.

CBS News will use ISIS as the backbone of its new digital newsroom, which eventually will use Sony XDCAM HD at 50 Mbps. VP of Operations Frank Governale says the system lets CBS expand the amount of data the division can share: “Our intention is to keep high-resolution material on ISIS for about two weeks but have low-resolution material remain on the server indefinitely.”

A challenge for Avid is selling smaller broadcasters on the ISIS concept, too. Quantel, Grass Valley and Omneon, among others, offer competitive systems for smaller newsrooms.

ISIS stands for Infinitely Scalable Intelligent Storage. While “infinitely scalable” seems to contrast the limit on editing clients, Avid executives say ISIS systems can be chained together to share data, allowing the total system to theoretically be infinite. “The system is also inherently load-balancing, so if you add another ISIS system, data is migrated from the first system to the second until both have the same amount,” says Schleifer.

As for “intelligent storage,” that's a new file system that Avid believes makes ISIS much more flexible than other centralized systems. In current storage area networks, much of the burden is placed on a centralized metadata server that communicates with the storage server every time a user accesses a video file.

Handling thousands of commands isn't a problem for storage systems, until the number of users gets too high. “When you have a centralized metadata manager trying to keep up with dozens of clients, the CPUs aren't fast enough to keep up,” says Andy Dale, Avid senior product manager.

ISIS, he points out, gets rid of the bottleneck. The metadata is distributed across 16 “blades,” or circuit boards, each with two dual Pentium processors. By spreading out both the metadata and the storage, the system has a backup of all content available and can continue to operate in case one of the drives fails. Says Dale, “That's more than enough horsepower to bear some of the burden of the file system.”

Pricing begins at $106,995 for 8 TB of storage and up to 14 clients, with $89,995 for each additional 8 TB.