ILM Goes Looney Tunes

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What do Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety and Road Runner have in common? Their material has been incorporated into an ongoing information lifecycle management (ILM) project at Warner Bros. Entertainment.

This three-tiered architecture uses: Clariion arrays from EMC, with both SATAand Fibre Channel (FC) disks; Sun Fire servers from Sun Microsystems, switches from Brocade, and an ADIC Scalar tape library from Advanced Digital Information Corp. (soon to be acquired by Quantum).

This multi-tiered storage environment has a top tier using FC. The mid tier is SATA, and the bottom tier is robotic tape using LTO2.

“Why have FC drives if SATA drives are cheap and have a higher density?” says Harold Shapiro, a technology architect at Warner Bros.

What’s Up With Your Storage, Doc?

Back in 2004, the studio had 5.7 TB of EMC Symmetrix Fibre Channel-based disk allocated for digital assets. Growth estimates predicted that usage would expand to 12 TB by the end of that year and to more than 18 TB by the end of 2005.

Much of this space was being consumed by one system — the Media Asset Retrieval System (MARS). MARS is a media asset management system using technology by Toronto-based North Plains Systems’ TeleScope Enterprise. This comprised digital marketing, advertising and publicity materials utilized worldwide in TV, home video and movies.

“Usage of expensive FC disk space was increasing exponentially,” says Shapiro. “We looked to ILM to reduce our costs and improve data management.”

To continue growing its FC storage would cost $294,000 per year. That equates to 2.4 cents per MB when configured in RAID 5. As an alternative, Warner Bros. investigated employing ATA disk storage as part of an ILM system, moving data from tier to tier based on usage patterns. The cost worked out to be $86,000 per year.

The company put in place a detailed evaluation process to look at a wide range of solutions. Many were tested and analyzed in Warner’s architecture lab. On the software side, the company looked at IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, EMC Avalon, EMC/Legato DiskXtender, Sun SAM-FS, ADIC StorNext, HP AppStor, CommVault and Veritas NetBackup HSM.

The winning ADIC system enables the company to write to disk and tape at the same time. When a tape is full, Shapiro has a copy taken off site to a remote location. The StorNext file system supports Windows, Solaris and UNIX, he says, and offers him full redundancy.

“StorNext ensures that our digital files are readily accessible,” says Shapiro. “Since the file system is directly connected to shared SAN devices, data movement over the LAN is eliminated.”

The ADIC StorNext Storage Manager is another software component that helps Warner Bros. create policies to enable access to storage media. These policies primarily determine where data will be stored over time — on FC, ATA or tape. After a week, for example, data is moved off FC and onto SATA. The software also automates data protection actions such as replication or vaulting where needed.

“This approach permits data maintenance without having to wait for planned maintenance periods during off-peak hours,” says Shapiro. “It also facilitates better management and utilization of MARS storage.”

The overall system consists of the above mentioned ADIC software, an ADIC Scalar i2000 tape library with 100 slots and 2 LTO tape drives, metadata servers, fabric switches and a disk array.

“The hardware for the system cost $300,000, and it was another $90,000 for the software,” says Shapiro. “When labor and training are factored in, the total cost came to $459,000.”

Array prospects included an EMC Clariion PATA, NetApp NearStore SATA, BlueArc NAS, Nexsan SATA, IBM FAStT SATA and Xiotech 3D Magnitude. The company chose the Clariion CX-700.

Two Sun V440 UltraSPARC III servers store and manage metadata in order to determine which file is stored in which tier. Six Brocade 3900 switches, two Brocade AP7420 routers and two Brocade 12000 core switches interface with the EMC array. The Clariion CX-700 has 3 TB of FC and 27 TB of ATA space. The FC space is reserved for only the highest performance data.

During the switch from expensive FC storage to a tiered structure with a predominance of ATA, users were not informed of the transition. However, Shapiro reports no problems at all.

“We moved the data from FC to ATA and end users didn’t notice the difference,” he says.

I Tawt I Taw a Backup Site

MARS data is growing at 55 GB per day due to new data being added as well as old data being transferred from an older tape robot. After about six months, Shapiro expects growth to drop to about 36 GB per day.

“Next, we have an old stock footage library to ingest,” he says. “We are looking ahead to more disk upgrades so that we never end up with more than 95 percent of our capacity utilized.”

A recent upgrade, for example, boosted capacity to 33 TB. But this will only last till November, when another 6 TB is being added. By September of 2007, Warner Bros. anticipates having over 50 TB in MARS.

Shapiro used this project to improve the processes harnessed by Warner Bros. to manage storage.

“Deming said that if you don’t have a process then you don’t know what you are doing,” he says. “We have adopted ILM processes and this has made it easier to manage our storage.”

One interesting shift in process concerns e-mail storage. Instead of cluttering up servers and disk arrays for years with massive stores of e-mail, the company has implemented a radical policy to ease e-mail management.

“After 90 days in our central storage pool, we automatically delete all Outlook pst files,” says Shapiro. “But we do intend to add e-mail archiving in the future due to the explosive growth of e-mail.”

In addition, the studio is planning to adopt a document management system from Hummingbird Ltd. of Toronto. It is currently undergoing testing.

Further plans include an update to the backup processes for its Oracle and SQL databases. Shapiro notes that maintaining a static copy of the database on FC for failover purposes is much too costly a proposition. As a result, database backups are being stored on ATA. But the current system is probably inadequate should Warner Bros. face a major service interruption. As the existing data center is built on a fault line, it is understandable why Warner Bros. is looking at opening a second site and harnessing replication technology to mirror data.

“Backup and recovery would be challenged by a disaster,” says Shapiro. “We are looking at adding an ILM tier to help with this, as well as a backup site.”

For more storage features, visit Enterprise Storage Forum Special Reports

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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