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How DDP cracked shared storage for audio

Received opinion has always been that shared storage and audio just don’t go together. But after years of messy workarounds, unreliable hardware and poor syncing, Dynamic Drive Pool storage is here, and it’s winning over studios left and right. Here’s why it works so well.

 

Liz Sunter

Creating a reliable shared storage system for audio presents a unique set of challenges. While they may not have the hulking file sizes and huge bandwidth demands that come with video, collaborative audio workflows demand realtime recording and playback, extremely accurate timing, and the ability to find and load very small files very quickly.

Various solutions have been proposed and each have their own shortcomings. Many of the NAS solutions for audio we’ve encountered have had problems with reliability and make big demands on the workstations they’re connected to. Some standard network protocols can be very “chattery” or require more management than is really efficient. Avid’s own storage solutions are optimised for video, meaning you lose out on optimum speed and capacity when handling audio files alone.

 

But then there’s DDP

Dynamic Drive Pool storage has gained traction in recent years by being the only shared storage solution that actually works for audio. But what makes it so effective?

Firstly, it uses iSCSI to transport data, which as our engineer Matt Ward explains, “isn’t so much a networking topology as a hardware interface that’s been adapted for networking, which gives you much better throughput and performance for moving audio files.”

iSCSI has the added advantage of making DDP storage look like a local drive to Pro Tools, so you can record to it and play back from it in realtime, just as if it was local storage. “Often in big post facilities you’ll find flagship Fibre SANs running StorNext, but that’s not supported by Pro Tools – it just doesn’t understand the file system and can’t see the drive.” This means that projects have to be dragged from a SAN to local storage before they can be worked on, which isn’t particularly efficient and definitely doesn’t make collaboration easier – everyone has to work on a separate, local version of a project, making version control a nightmare.

 

Working with video too?

DDP storage has the added advantage that if you’re handling video and audio files, you can partition your storage and format one side for efficient audio file processing, and the other for video, so you get the most efficient performance for your project.

As a slight caveat to this, if you’re an end-to-end Avid facility and are relying on Interplay/Avid Media Central, then you’re going to need to invest in Avid’s own-brand servers and storage – DDP can’t support an Interplay-based workflow. And if your bread and butter work is video, you may want to use your Avid NEXIS storage for audio too, rather than investing in separate storage for a smaller revenue stream.

 

Are there really no alternatives?

Other shared storage solutions are available, and if you’ve invested heavily in those, we can help you optimise them for audio as far as humanly possible. You can also forgo shared storage altogether in favour of a jerry-rigged ‘collaborative’ workflow that involves a lot of hard drives and DropBox, but that raises some backup and security issues. Larger facilities sometimes opt to set up dark Fibre networks of their own, enabling access to high speed shared storage, even if the storage is held off site. We’ve done this for some of our post customers, and have set up our own offices on Fibre so that we can effectively demonstrate the benefits, but currently the setup costs put this beyond the reach of most audio facilities.

DDP, on the other hand, is among the more affordable shared storage solutions to start out with, and can scale up easily as your facility grows. “We can’t imagine what life was like before the DDP,” said Rory de Carteret, and Assistant Mixer at Boom Post. “Having the latest version of any project always stored in the same place, which everyone can access and work directly from, is essential to a fast-paced post workflow. The DDP has been really useful on all projects.

“We’ve worked with the Jigsaw24 team for and enjoy the relationship. Having senior engineers on-hand to help us out of a sticky situation or loan us a unit at a moment’s notice is a great service that we hugely benefit from.”

 

To find out more about transforming your audio storage with DDP, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email audio@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter, or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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