Rhythm & Hues

Hollywood's Rhythm & Hues swaps out ADIC for Sun and saves big bucks

October 28, 2006

4 Min Read
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Special effects firm Rhythm & Hues, which develops computer generated images for Hollywood movies, expects to improve its operational efficiency by $200,000 a year after replacing an ADIC tape library with an SL500 device from Sun. (See StorageTek Slings SL500.)

The Los Angeles-based studio, which won an Oscar for its work on Babe, was placing more strain on the 60-Tbyte ADIC EMass system than it could handle, according to Mark Brown, Rhythm & Hues' vice president of technology. "It was getting to the point where it couldn't handle our data throughput," he told Byte & Switch. "It would deadlock on occasions because we were putting so much data through it."

The end result, according to Brown, was that Rhythm & Hues' 500-strong team of digital artists would be left twiddling their thumbs waiting for critical files. "Our digital artists are fairly highly paid, so if they are sitting around waiting for something they need, that's money we're burning," he says.

Speed is the name of the game for Rhythm & Hues. "It took four minutes to pull a nine year old show out of the SL500 tape library," explains the exec, adding that the ADIC library would have taken up to 20 hours to retrieve the same information.

On average, Brown estimates, artists can now access files from the 120-Tbyte SL500 in just two minutes, compared to an hour on the ADIC library, significantly improving operational efficiency. "We will probably save, in the first year, around $150,000 to $200,000," he says, explaining that artists' time will now be much better spent.Previously, ADIC's AMASS software was groaning under the strain, according to Brown. "It was a very good system 10 years ago, it just wasn't built to handle the load we put on it." Unlike EMass, Sun's SAM-FS data management and classification software lets the studio both read and write information at the same time.

There has also been a significant hardware upgrade, according to the exec. The ADIC library used 10-Mbyte/s IBM 3590 drives, compared to 25 Mbyte/s offered by the SL500's LTO 3 drives.

The SL500 was deployed in late August, after a three week testing process. About four months earlier, the studio issued a request For proposal (RFP) to the industry, which prompted responses from three different vendors. (See Top 10 Tips for Managing an RFP and RFP Saves AOL $25M.)

Although Brown was unable to name names, he told Byte & Switch that the unsuccessful bidders lacked the ability to simultaneously read and write data over high bandwidth. "We work 24/7 and a lot of the other products expected us to have these weird quiet times [where we were not reading and writing data]."

The exec refused to reveal how much the Sun system cost, although he confirmed that the studio got a discount. Brown, however, admits that he had some concerns about dealing with Sun, given the recent upheaval in the vendor's storage division. (See Sun Opens Tape Again, Sun Shuts Door on VSM Open, StorageTek Users Voice Support Fears, and Sun Closes on StorageTek .) Those worries were allayed once the library was installed, he says.Rhythm & Hues has also managed to free up a significant amount of space in its data center through the new library. The footprint of the SL500 is only half a rack, compared to the 100 square feet taken up by the ADIC library. "It's monstrous."

But the deployment is still very much under way and the SFX house is in the middle of a six-month data migration to shift data from the ADIC library and offline tapes over to the SL500. The first pieces of data to be moved were crucial "digital dailies" of recent film footage that took a full week and a half to shift from one platform to the other.

The SL500 is the third storage tier within Rhythm & Hues' larger NAS infrastructure, which uses a combination of BlueArc and Isilion systems as its primary and secondary tiers. "We don't have a SAN because our processing is so distributed."

James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Advanced Digital Information Corp. (Nasdaq: ADIC)

  • BlueArc Corp.

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Isilon Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ISLN)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc.

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