Turner Exec Explains Overhaul

Media giant reveals plans for grid-based storage and holographic technology

November 2, 2006

3 Min Read
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Storage Networking World (SNW) -- Media giant Turner Broadcasting System has set its sights on holographic storage, an overhaul of its power system, and a grid-based architecture to cope with the changing demands of the broadcast marketplace.

Speaking during a keynote here today, Clyde Smith, senior vice president of broadcast engineering at Turner, explained that the firm, which encompasses CNN, Turner Classic Movies, and the Cartoon Network, is working hard to stay ahead of the storage curve.

The growing need for high-definition TV and the associated security risks, for example, are pushing Turner Broadcasting in the direction of holographic storage. "We're very worried about this pristine content being released from the library and being stolen," explained Smith. "Creating secure storage that can be written so that it can be read only by certain drives is very important to us."

The media firm has already dabbled with the technology, which uses beams of light to copy and store data on optical disks. Last year Smith completed a pilot with InPhase, using holographic disk to store a promo for TNT, which went out over the TV network during a 30 day period. (See InPhase Demos Density and InPhase Expands Family .) "It worked very, very successfully," said Smith, adding that he is now tracking "a number of manufacturers" in the holographic space.

Optical storage, such as holographic disk, has historically been used by organizations that need a method of preserving information for long periods of time, and its' advocates claim key advantages over traditional storage media. As an archive technology, optical storage has faster access times than tape and is cheaper than magnetic disk. (See Optical WORMs Into Enterprise.)Although still an emerging technology, holographic storage already has been touted as a possible solution for firms' compliance woes, largely by vendors such as InPhase and Aprilis. Smith, at least, feels the holographic storage is a valid option. "It really addresses the issue of getting a lot of capacity and high bandwidth in a trusted, portable, secure media."

Turner Broadcasting is also looking at grid-based storage at its London facility, where content is divided up into 8 Mbyte "slices" and replicated across multiple data servers linked via Gigabit Ethernet. "For us, [grid] is a really important technology -- it gives us the scalable bandwidth that we need."

The exec did not say which vendors are involved in this effort, but he hinted at significant performance improvements. "Spreading the files across the data servers certainly helps us with content delivery -- it certainly speeds up transfer times," he explained, although he did not say by exactly how much.

Turner Broadcasting relies on a five-tier storage architecture with 26 Tbytes of Fibre Channel disk, 4 Tbytes of ATA disk, and a 22 Tbyte DVD archive as the primary, secondary, and tertiary tiers. Below this is an 800 Tbyte StorageTek Powderhorn tape archive and a 400 Tbyte SL 8500 tape library, also from StorageTek.

With all this hardware, power is inevitably a big concern for Smith, and the exec explained that he is reducing the number of hard disk drives within the Turner infrastructure from 656 to 298, as well as introducing lower power compute servers from an unnamed vendor."We're at that stage, where, after Katrina, the cost of electrical infrastructure has gone through the roof."

James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Aprilis Inc.

  • InPhase Technologies

  • Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek)

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