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Bigger Workloads, Bigger Challenges: The Graphics Industry Comes to SIGGRAPH for Solutions

Bill Ribera

VP of WW Sales & Field Operations

Earlier this month the Panasas team trekked to Vancouver, B.C. for the 41st SIGGRAPH conference and exhibition. According to organizers, this year’s gathering hosted more than 14,000 attendees from 75 countries – truly an international event and an unparalleled setting to learn more about the opportunities and challenges that are driving graphics development and video, film and video game production today.

Of the many professionals we spoke with, there was a common thread among all of them: whatever their industry or workflow, everyone had either reached the point at which their storage infrastructure can no longer keep pace with their operations, or they know exactly when they’ll reach that point – and it’s coming soon! Thankfully for us, a good number of the people we talked with were already well aware that scale-out NAS technologies like Panasas ActiveStor can solve their storage bottlenecks now and for the long run.

Why are graphics workflows outpacing the capabilities of many storage systems? As usual, it ultimately comes down to data growth. As leading-edge graphics technologies drive bigger file sizes and data sets, rendering and editing workstations have more processing to do and that means storage carries a bigger burden. Now, even small video rendering projects and modest post-production operations can require 100TB to 200TB of storage capacity to keep up with demand. And the implications of data growth affect different workflows in different ways – all of them with the potential to impact the productivity, quality of work, and ultimately, the success of those who make visual effects and graphics design their business:

  • Lagging Performance: time and again we heard from artists and technologists who’ve reached the tipping point of performance in their workflows. Whether it’s because they’ve added more projects or more producers, they’re seeing multiple simultaneous editing or rendering workflows reveal the hard limits of their storage infrastructure, leaving talented and well compensated professionals to sit and wait while compute resources spool up.
  • Lack of Capacity: What good is a storage solution that can’t store everything the team needs for the projects at hand? We heard from a number of users who complained of inefficiently swapping files from archived storage into active storage and vice versa in order to bring previously rendered files back into the workload to ensure continuity between visual effects, particularly for bigger projects.
  • Siloed Workflows: This was a big issue for some of the post-production studios we spoke with. When storage systems are dedicated to single workflows, such as one system for video rendering and another for editing, the productivity lost in transition between workflows and workstations can be significant, not to mention the ROI penalty of investing in narrowly dedicated, inadequately utilized siloes of infrastructure.
  • Reliability and Availability: The professionals who were most concerned about reliability and availability are the ones who’ve been burned by catastrophic data losses at some point in their careers. These industry veterans know exactly what setback it can be to lose days of hard work to system failures and painfully slow rebuilds – if a rebuild is even an option.

Visitors to our booth at SIGGRAPH agreed that Panasas ActiveStor provides a good solution for the demands of graphics development and production workflows, and as the data sets get bigger, the tools more powerful and the content and formats more sophisticated. With the introduction of ActiveStor 16 and PanFS 6.0 with RAID 6+, Panasas has turned conventional storage reliability on its head with unmatched levels of data protection that actually increase as the system scales out! So the more data you have to protect, the more protection you have. Simple, right?