Hitachi NAS Platform Makes the A List for Highly Successful Visual Effects Studio Requiring Rapid, Secure Data Movement


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Hitachi NAS Platform continues to evolve with us, which is huge because work demand is higher, timelines diminish, and we’re asked to do more in less time. Things are constantly changing and this technology platform is able to handle it every time.

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Hitachi NAS Platform Makes the A List for Highly Successful Visual Effects Studio Requiring Rapid, Secure Data Movement

  1. 1. Hitachi NAS Platform Makes the “A List” for Highly Successful Visual EffectsStudio Requiring Rapid, Secure Data MovementSUCCESSSTORYSoho VFX is responsible for bringing stellar-quality, photo-realistic visual effects to the big screen for some of the mostpopular superheroes and storybook characters. Behind thescenes is a cadre of talented artists and industry-leadingtechnology. A clustered Hitachi NAS Platform 3090 supports thistalent and technology. It supplies 102TB of Tier 1 serial-attachedSCSI (SAS) and 37TB nearline storage to ensure swift andreliable data movement and storage.INDUSTRYCommunications: Media and Entertainment(Visual Effects)SOLUTIONFile and ContentHardwareHitachi NAS Platform 3090 Hitachi NAS Platform continues to evolve with us, which ishuge because work demand is higher, timelines diminish, and we’reasked to do more in less time. Things are constantly changing andthis technology platform is able to handle it every time. Allan MagledFounder and PartnerSoho VFX, Toronto, OntarioSoho VFXFounded in 2002 by Allan Magled, BerjBannayan and Mike Mombourquette,Soho VFX was quietly handling animationassignments for the Sci-Fi Channel televi-sion programs. The company soon landedthe Dr. Seuss full-length animated film,“The Cat in the Hat,” and subsequentlya leading visual effects assignment onMarvel’s “The Fantastic Four.” Then, every-thing changed.As its film credits and the number of artistson staff increased, Soho VFX grew fromfledgling startup into a well-known visualeffects house. The company becameknown for delivering world-class quality,innovation and professionalism. Today,Soho VFX is a full-service media housefor 3-D animation and compositing, andemploys approximately 100 full-time staffto manage its project workloads. The listof credits for its visual effects is long andimpressive. Among the many standoutsare: “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”; “TheChronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witchand the Wardrobe”; “The Twilight Saga:Breaking Dawn - Part 1 and Part 2”; and“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” for 20thCentury Fox. The Studio’s current projectsslated for theatrical release in 2013 and2014 include “47 Ronin”, “Robocop”, “TheSecret Life of Walter Mitty”, and “Jack theGiant Slayer” for Warner Brothers, which isa modern-day fairytale complete with thehero, a giant and a princess.A NAS Hero for Modern-DayData MovementOutstanding business success led SohoVFX to revisit its existing data storageinfrastructure. “When you start a com-pany, there are things you know and somany things you realize you don’t knowuntil you are juggling multiple projectdeadlines. We got really, really busy after
  2. 2. SUCCESS STORYthe Narnia project. Our storage setup wasno longer ideal for how we needed to render,process and store data. We did research, andhad some trial and error, before finding a greatsolution with BlueArc,” says Magled.To support its busy media workflow require-ments, Soho VFX chose a single clustered2-node BlueArc Mercury 110, now calledHitachi NAS Platform 3090. Many companiesin the communications, media and entertain-ment industry have turned to network attachedstorage (NAS) to support the heavy bandwidthrequirements of production data and modern-ize media workflows over networks. Capableof instant connectivity using Ethernet over IP,NAS systems can allow for faster file transfers,retrievals and downloads.The system was originally configured for18TB of storage, which has been expandedover time to handle the growth needs. Atpresent, the NAS system has 102TB ofSAS drives on Tier 1 to manage the mainproduction projects, and 37TB of SATAdrives for nearline storage for offloadingsecondary elements of production.Innovation at the HighestLevels With Hitachi NASPlatformToday, BlueArc systems and technologiesare part of the Hitachi NAS Platform (HNAS)family of products. The HNAS family providesscalable, tiered network storage with FPGA-based hardware-accelerated architectureto meet highest performance and reliabilityrequirements. With very high data throughputand IOPS, simplified network storage man-agement, and built-in intelligence, HNAS helpsfirms achieve lower total cost of ownershipwith improved productivity and efficiency.“From the very beginning, BlueArc was reallygood to us. We were a small company andthe folks there genuinely seemed to careabout meeting our needs. We transitioned toHitachi Data Systems with the same quality ofsupport and reliability,” Magled says.Soho VFX is also managing server virtu-alization via a 3-server VMware vSphereimplementation and several VMware EXSServers, approximately 25 server instancesin total. Currently, the majority of theseserver instances are run off the NFS backend provided by the HNAS cluster. HitachiNAS Platform 3090 delivers best-in-classperformance and scalability, a centrallymanaged storage pool, and increasedutilization and productivity. Using NFS in avSphere environment can simplify manage-ment, especially as the number of virtualmachines distributed across multiple ESXhosts grows. From an IT perspective, Hitachi has given us rock-solid,high-end NAS performance that is managed and monitoredthrough an easy-to-use Web interface and backed by whatI consider the best support in the industry. Todd SmithHead of Information TechnologySoho VFX, Toronto, OntarioThese images were created by Soho VFX for the movie, “Jack the Giant Slayer”, released by Warner Brothers, 2013.
  3. 3. 3“From an IT perspective, BlueArc has givenus rock-solid, high-end NAS performancethat is managed and monitored throughan easy-to-use Web interface. It has trans-formed what was once a dedicated positionin the company into a manageable task foran IT employee, even at scale,” adds ToddSmith, head of information technology atSoho VFX.Fast, Reliable Data MovementFrom a data management concern, SohoVFX no longer worries about taking on toomany projects. “It’s not about how manyprojects we’re doing, it’s more about howmuch work we do on each film project, andthe complexity of that work. For example,with ‘Jack the Giant Slayer,’ we are doing amassive amount of visual effects work. Tobe successful at this level, we have to beable to move the data around. Data mustbe readily available constantly, throughoutthe making of the film. We need to have itstored in a central location where everyonecan securely and instantly access it. As wetake on more work, we’re always storingmore, adding more. As movies becomebigger, the layers get larger. We have moreframes, more elements, and it truly comesdown to effectively moving and storing thedata assets,” explains Magled.Soho VFX is considering another HNAS inthe near future for a collocation site to handlebackups. Smith mentions that he expectsto take advantage of BlueArc JetMirror soft-ware for high-speed replication of productiondata and fast failover in the event of disaster.Because the BlueArc file system is objectbased, all file system structures, metadataand user data are stored as related objects.BlueArc JetMirror uses native replication ofthese object blocks to efficiently speed thereplication process, rather than having togather the separate objects associated witha file before transfer.“Hitachi NAS Platform continues to evolvewith us, which is huge because workdemand is higher, timelines diminish, andwe’re asked to do more in less time. Thingsare constantly changing and this technologyplatform is able to handle it every time,”Magled finishes.Innovation is the engine of change,and information is its fuel. Innovateintelligently to lead your market, growyour company, and change the world.Manage your information withHitachi Data Look AheadLooking to keep innovating at the highestlevels in the industry, Soho VFX is consid-ering how to also evolve internally. Magledanticipates that industry expectations andcompetition will continue to climb. He andthe rest of the Soho VFX team are confidentthat HNAS will meet new challenges, too.
  4. 4. Corporate Headquarters2845 Lafayette StreetSanta Clara, CA 96050-2639 USAwww.HDS.comRegional Contact InformationAmericas: +1 408 970 1000 or info@hds.comEurope, Middle East and Africa: +44 (0) 1753 618000 or info.emea@hds.comAsia Pacific: +852 3189 7900 or© Hitachi Data Systems Corporation 2013. All rights reserved. HITACHI is a trademark or registered trademark of Hitachi, Ltd. Innovate With Information is a trademark or registeredtrademark of Hitachi Data Systems Corporation. All other trademarks, service marks, and company names are properties of their respective owners.Notice: This document is for informational purposes only, and does not set forth any warranty, expressed or implied, concerning any equipment or service offered or to be offered byHitachi Data Systems Corporation.SS-429-A DG February 2013