The media and entertainment sector has emerged as an enormous market for storage products -- and a growth opportunity for IT channel partners.
Content creators have made a decisive shift from physical media to what industry executives term file-based workflow. The transition has created huge demands for storing large video and audio files. Coughlin Associates, a data storage consulting firm based in Atascadero, Calif., said that the entertainment industry is expected to generate about a 5.8 times increase in its required digital storage capacity between 2013 and 2018. During that time span, entertainment storage revenue is expected to grow 90%, from $6.2 billion to $11.9 billion, according to Coughlin Associates' 2013 Digital Storage for Media and Entertainment Report.
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Companies in the media and entertainment space use digital storage to archive content and house it in post-production facilities, where content is edited. Coughlin Associates estimates that, in 2013, archiving and presentation represented 59% of total storage revenue followed by post-production (20%), content distribution (17%) and content acquisition (4%).
Media and entertainment technology use cases vary, but they all clamor for more capacity.
Nate Cooper, sales manager at vendor ProMAX Systems, based in Santa Ana, Calif., said the media and entertainment market consumes data at a prodigious rate. The company focuses on shared storage devices and workstations for video and media content creators.
"On the media and entertainment side, we eat up more raw data than just about any other market in the world," Cooper said. "The sheer amount of storage that is needed is pretty extraordinary. The single biggest factor is the transition to file-based workflows."
ProMAX in late 2012 rebranded its shared storage line under the Platform banner and is now cultivating channel partners to market it.
Range of solutions
Media and entertainment companies pursue a range of storage solutions. Chris Speer, CEO at New Media Hollywood, based in Hollywood, Calif., said the company sees a predictable storage pattern among its traditional entertainment industry customers. The company focuses on integrating hardware and software for studio, network and postproduction houses.
"In the media and entertainment space it is more of the same: high-speed direct-attached storage [DAS] and shared file systems," Speer said.
Speer pointed to a recent project for the TV side of a major studio that involved a Fibre Channel storage area network chassis from Promise Technology Inc., the Xsan SAN file system for Mac OS X and DAS from Promise Technology. The latter technology will support a workgroup creating promotional content. New Media Hollywood resells Promise Technology's Pegasus 2 DAS product as well as the company's SAN offerings.
In addition to DAS and SAN, gigabit Ethernet and 10 gigabit Ethernet scale-out network-attached storage (NAS) systems have also emerged as an option, according to Speer. But Fibre Channel SANs remain prevalent among customers requiring a more robust file system, he added.
Elaine Kwok, product marketing manager at Promise Technology, noted that different storage technologies may have overlapping roles. For example, DAS and SANs, she said, are ideal for ingesting content such as video and for high-definition editing, while SANs and NAS may be used for rendering.
Flash storage, meanwhile, is starting to make its way into the media and entertainment storage picture. Frank Quinlisk, vice president at Media Supply Inc. of Exton, Pa., is exploring opportunities to introduce flash to such customers as the National Football League. The company partners with Astute Networks Inc., a maker of solid-state storage appliances.
The NFL and its teams place heavy demands on video. The legal department at NFL headquarters, referee reviewers and coaches are just some of the groups that seek access to video.
"It makes for a challenge and it also makes it where you have a lot of these bottlenecks and pressure points," Quinlisk said.
Different members of a football team's coaching staff, for example, may need to access the same asset at the same time, Quinlisk explained. And the coaches aren't watching game video from start to finish -- they review particular plays over and over again. This pattern of usage could benefit from the speed of flash storage.
Audio networks are another possibility for flash adoption. Quinlisk said the networks create streaming content for local radio stations, but some content is more popular than others. Flash technology, he said, can speed up the availability of the more popular content, boosting its accessibility.
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Miharu Gold, channel vice president at Astute, said she is concentrating on the media and entertainment market as one of Astute's verticals. The company began partnering with Media Supply about four months ago. Miharu said the channel has an opportunity with solid-state technology to address the digital media market's scalability and performance needs.
ProMAX, meanwhile, is lining up channel partners for its Platform workgroup server product, which includes archival, asset management and encoding capabilities in addition to shared storage.
The company in December unveiled its reseller program, and several U.S. resellers and integrators have signed on. ProMAX plans to expand the program into international markets as well.
Cooper said ProMAX's channel partners provide localized installation and support services. They also provide systems integration, he said, noting that customer-specific workflows can require massive amounts of integration.
The channel may also find a media and entertainment technology opportunity in software that manages the availability of storage devices and other infrastructure components. Continuity Software, which provides service availability management products as well as other data protection products, has recently started to target the media and entertainment sector.
"This is an emerging market," said Lior Itai, director of channel management at Continuity Software. "I've been in touch with several partners ... and we know there are some very serious deals in the making right now."
Continuity Software's service availability management software scans a customer's IT infrastructure, collects configuration information and identifies misconfigurations that can lead to downtime, according to the company.
ProMAX and its channel partners, Cooper said, are encountering a broadening market for storage solutions that support video and media content. Large post-production workgroups of 50 or more users were once the focal point of media and entertainment storage sales. But Cooper cited the growing importance of smaller workgroups, noting that schools, government agencies, commercial enterprises and even small businesses have built video departments.
The maturation of video technology -- and lower price points for equipment -- has put sophisticated capabilities in the hands of an expanding range of customers.
"Even in the smaller video departments, they still have a need for, quite frankly, very advanced workflow," Cooper said. "Workgroups with four users are doing things that five or six years ago would require a dedicated post-production facility."
"We've seen a trend of growing demand from traditional corporate users," added New Media Hollywood's Speer.
Speer said the marketing and advertising departments of corporations and even Web development teams are among the companies seeking help with managing content. The corporate setting is similar to New Media Hollywood's traditional customers, making the segue straightforward. Corporate content managers, who are often hired from media and entertainment companies, typically use the same tool sets, workflows, hardware and software as they did in their previous roles to get the job done, he noted.
The small, nontraditional workgroups show the greatest growth in the broadening media and entertainment sector.
"The growth part of the market is smaller workgroups, where it's all about sophisticated workflows and short-term ROI," Cooper said. "The high end of the market, facilities with 50 or more users, isn't growing in volume but is requiring a higher level of integration with their IT departments than ever before."
Cooper said the midrange of the market -- call it 10- to 50-user facilities -- is still strong but not growing nearly as quickly as smaller workgroups. He said that situation "is simply due to the fact that you can do so much within a smaller workgroup these days."