SVG Sit-Down: Spectra Logic’s ZiaShakeri, Ninesling on Massive TFinity ExaScale System, Rio Olympics Workflows

Spectra Logic made a large splash — both literally and figuratively — at NAB 2016 last month when it unveiled what it says is the largest and most richly featured tape storage system in the world: Spectra TFinity ExaScale Edition. Designed to address the needs of organizations with exponential data growth, TFinity ExaScale enters the market at a lower price point and offers long-term data retention with a 50% reduction in data-center floor space, according to the company.

It is the first tri-media tape library compatible with LTO drives and media, TS1150 tape technology, and Oracle’s StorageTek T10000D, T10000C, T10000B, and T10000A enterprise tape-drive technology — providing the flexibility to integrate LTO or enterprise tape-technology media at the lowest price per gigabyte, according to Spectra Logic. Organizations now have the ability to switch vendors, if needed, and migrate existing data to their technology of choice.

While TFinity ExaScale served as the headline at NAB 2016, Spectra Logic had plenty more news to share. SVG sat down with Spectra Logic SVP Hossein ZiaShakeri and Director of Hardware Engineering Matt Ninesling to discuss TFinity ExaScale’s impact on the sports-production market, new enhancements and integrations for its BlackPearl deep-storage gateway, the NAB Show debut of its ArcticBlue disc-based storage platform, and the announcement that Spectra Logic will once again provide video-archive and disaster-recovery services for NBC Olympics’ production at the Rio Olympics this summer.

Spectra Logic Director of Hardware Engineering Matt Ninesling (left) and SVP Hossein ZiaShakeri

Spectra Logic Director of Hardware Engineering Matt Ninesling (left) and SVP Hossein ZiaShakeri

Can you tell me a bit about TFinity ExaScale?
ExaScale goes up to 44 frames, so, with TS1150 drives, that gets you over an exabyte in a single tape library, which is also about twice as big as any other tape-library manufacturer in the world can scale to. TFinity ExaScale almost cuts the cycle time in half, and it also supports all three media types. It supports LTO, T10K, and TS, which no other tape library in the world can do. That gives customers basically any option they want in our library.

There are also some software improvements that add performance, such as the SlotIQ and MediaIQ, which virtualize the inventory to the point where the robot cycle time is a lot faster because it has to do a lot less actions per cycle. We also can customize the library so it can look any way a customer wants with their own graphics and everything. Part of the robotic change wasn’t just performance; it also significantly increases reliability in terms of both the firmware and the hardware that go into the robot. We have all brushless motors, much bigger bearings, and far more advanced servo systems, so you can actually drive the motors in a very smart way that lets you keep track of them and treat them really well, which makes them last longer.

ZiaShakeri: The fact that we are now even talking about an exabyte is pretty amazing. The content needs have grown so much that we actually are talking in exabyte storage. More cameras and higher-definition content mean that our sports customers are creating a ton of content from every game, and they need to be able to store that. This is where ExaScale comes in.

Ninesling: We can grow with that customer to any size they ever need. So they’re never going to have to worry about “can this storage company handle what I need 10 years from now?”.

ZiaShakeri: Being able to have multiple tape formats in the same library also creates genetic diversity. We have clients beginning to have LTO for security and now want to have their content on two different storage mediums to create genetic diversity. If both mediums are on the same site, we can now do that. Or, with BlackPearl, we can do it on multiple sites. So that’s also future-proofing that plays into this.

Ninesling: We are also seeing customers that want to migrate [to another format], but they don’t necessarily have room. So being able to support T10K and TS or LTO in the same library so they can do the migration within a single robot in terms of space is huge. And there’s no time frame associated with it; they can go the T10K media in the library and recall it as they need to but then move on to another one and expire it over time. There’s no hardcore timeline; they can continue with their operation as that is happening in the background.

How has the market reacted to Spectra Logic’s ArcticBlue disc-based technology since it was launched last fall?
It’s been very positive. The seven-year life is what drives the interest. People love that. We are engaged with several [sports-content owners] for ArcticBlue. They’re looking at this thing because it’s very, very low cost and they can [use it] for a very, very long time. It also streamlines delivery. When you do delivery, you have to be able to do a whole bunch of deliveries simultaneously, which is perfect for ArcticBlue. Also, with ArcticBlue, it gives [users] that option to put that data on all these different platforms: on ArcticBlue, on tape, or both. They can do multiple copies on tape, one on disc. Any of those options are available to them.

Lower-end [operations] with budget constraints also have come to us with some interesting ideas. For example, if you don’t have the budget right now for a full tape library, you can put in a couple hundred terabytes of ArcticBlue and then add your tape library later on. That’s a whole new way of looking at things that we didn’t expect, to be honest, and now we’re beginning to see more and more of that model. You can just go to disc right now and solve the problem and then come back and do your tape library after. That’s a beautiful feature because it gives everybody flexibility to do what they want to do.

What role is Spectra Logic technology playing in NBC Olympics’ production in Rio this summer?
We’ve been involved with NBC, [which has been preparing] since at least October, and we’re very excited about what they will be doing in Rio. They will have two T50e tape libraries in Rio. They also have an [eight-frame Spectra TFinity and T950 tape library with LTO-6 drives and media] back here [at its broadcast center] in Stamford, CT.

We also put our support worldwide on red alert, so NBC has full direct connections and first priority with us. NBC Olympics and NBC Sports is one of our largest customers, so we engaged with them very early on on what they need for Rio, and we trained their people to make sure they know the ins and outs of the libraries. It’s a huge operation, but it’s very tight and efficient. They’ve been working on it since October and will install it, test it, prepare it over the next few months. It’s amazing to be part of it and see what level of effort and equipment it takes to move this whole operation over there and run it and link it back with [Stamford]. It’s fascinating, and we’re very excited about it.

How is Black Pearl integrating with Avid Interplay?
We’ve been working with Avid for a long time. It’s fully integrated, and here we have announced general availability of this new [integration]. So Avid and its sales people and its worldwide network are going to sell the BlackPearl, which opens up a huge market. There are a lot of Interplay production environments that don’t have archives. The traditional model’s been just too expensive with multiple pieces: Avid modules and middleware modules. With Avid, we integrated BlackPearl with Avid Interplay Archive Manager, so that everything is seamless. You’re always in the Interplay, so the user doesn’t see anything different.

Avid lowered the cost of their modules, and we lowered our cost, so we created a bundle solution at a price point that has never been possible. It’s all available through Avid, so you can have an entire plug-and-play archival workflow at a price point that has never been possible until now. In terms of [markets] for this, sports is especially interesting, since it’s very, very cost-sensitive, but also education, houses of worship, and corporate media.

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