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Cache-A Solves Southeastern University’s NAS and Archiving Puzzle

The college: 
Southeastern University, Florida

How do you kill two birds with one stone? In 2013, Southeastern University, Florida, one of many higher-education facilities around the world to adopt Cache-A archive appliances, did just that, when it installed Power-Cache, with an LTO-6 Library24 expansion chassis. In one fell swoop, Southeastern harnessed the appliance’s network attached storage (NAS) capabilities, to share materials between editorial, and its cavernous archiving to provide longterm asset protection.

SE_FritzscheBased in Lakeland, Florida, Southeastern University is a Christ-centered academic institution, founded in 1935. Its popular Communications Department equips students with hands-on training in order for them to take up successful careers in broadcasting, journalism, public relations, film production and the theatre. 

Starting as freshman, they gain experience using state-of-the-art broadcasting equipment in a newly-overhauled HD facility, with Power-Cache and Library24 LTO-6 systems at the heart of the workflow.

“Students learn every aspect of video and field production, filmmaking and live TV broadcasting – how to handle shooting packages, lighting, editorial, as well as producing and directing,” says Ian Fritzsche, campus engineer at Southeastern University. “Ultimately, they become well-versed in handling a multiplicity of technologies, understanding processes, and leave us fitted with skills to help them step into the workplace. The Cache-A appliances we have here go way beyond just archiving – they play an important role in our overall data workflow too.”

The projects: a variety of syllabus-driven content and other college promotions

During their studies, across a range of broadcasting degrees, Southeastern University students have ready access to a 2,500sq/ft production studio, Panasonic AK-HC3800 HD studio cameras, AJA KiPro recorders, a handsomely-equipped control room with a Ross Carbonite 2 MLE switcher, FCP X editorial and VFX and motion graphics software. Using these facilities, they are charged with delivering broadcast-quality programming, such as the weekly RAW TV (Real & Willing Television) talk show, which is broadcast over national TV networks, and available on-demand via iTunes U. The facilities are also used to produce a range of promotional videos, chapel services, student concerts and shows.

The challenge: keeping media available for editorial and archiving on a budget

SE_edit_BlueTo keep pace with advances in the broadcast industry, and under Fritzsche auspices, Southeastern University undertook a major upgrade of its TV and broadcast learning facilities in 2013. The department originally opened in 1993, was upgraded to digital SD in 2005, and most recently was overhauled to full HD capability. But unlike commercial operations, the university had to plan this evolution on a restricted budget.

“With our upgrade to HD, we realized the data output would multiply considerably, at least sixfold. That’s a whole other level of data that you have to be able to handle and store,” remarks Fritzsche. “We also needed to be able to keep content live and accessible for editorial via shared storage, but did not have the budget for a large, separate SAN, nor the associated hardware and software technologies. Additionally, we needed somewhere to safely store all of the material created in the department. We did not want to keep relying on spinning disks or formats like DVCam videotape for longterm protection.”

The solution: NAS storage & LTO-6 archiving capability of Power-Cache/Library24

Fritzsche says he undertook considerable research into a host of solutions for Southeastern University’s equipment needs – talking to various RAID, SAN, NAS and tape-drive system manufacturers. With the assistance of AV equipment specialist Encore Broadcast Solutions, in Orlando/Winter Springs, Florida, which had won the bid for the studio upgrade, Fritzsche was introduced to Cache-A’s LTO-6 product line, and discovered more than he had perhaps expected.

“During my research, what surprised me about archiving was that most companies did not sell one complete off-the-shelf solution. I realized that I would have pick-and-choose hardware and software from different companies, and quite frankly I didn’t have the time, nor the budget, for that. Then I started looking at Cache-A and got another, but altogether more pleasant surprise – that their products combine RAID0 or RAID5 NAS capability with the latest LTO-6 generation storage, in one simple, expandable package that could grow with us.

SE_racks-1“So I visited the Cache-A guys at NAB 2013, discussed my data workflow with them and looked at how their products would integrate into our particular puzzle. With Cache-A in the workflow I quickly saw how we could keep material for each semester fluid and available to the students, and then archive projects at the end of term – a 12Tb NAS server and 2,500Gb LTO-6 tape archiving all in an affordable turnkey solution, and without the overhead of purchasing and maintaining separate hardware and software.”

Of course, Fritzsche could have considered using cloud services for archiving, but says he discounted them for several reasons. “We realized early-on that the cloud was not right the right option for us. I would rather have the physical-based media here at our fingertips and immediate control, than have it kept by a third-party, whose longer-term trading status you cannot guarantee. We would not want to have to depend on an Internet connection either, when that’s already shared by the entire University of staff, faculty and students. And why pay usage or rental charges when material can reside on an LTO-6 tape for free?”

With the HD upgrade complete, Southeastern’s Power-Cache/Library24 combination is used to ingest ProRes 422 footage directly from the KiPros via GbE, with material then being shared off the internal RAID by as many as ten FCP editors via Gb Ethernet. Students also load and offload material from portable harddrives. When projects are completed in editorial, the final editorial files are re-ingested to the Power-Cache and reside in RAID repository until the end of semester, when all assets then get archived in LTFS to LTO-6 tape. Broadcast professors also use the system to access files and grade student projects.

“We calculated that a semester’s work would amount to around 10Tb in total, so the internal RAID is plenty big enough for our requirements,’” he enthuses, “The beauty of Cache-A is that it comes with an asset manager that remembers every tape, so we can easily find files in the future, and restore them in a matter of moments, from a safe place. With Cache-A’s Library24 for archiving the capacity is theoretically infinite, and it’s great to be in at the start of the LTO-6 life-cycle, as it will be relevant for many, many years ahead.”

SE_control-roomSpeaking of the future, Fritzsche is highly-aware of the rapidly lowering cost of 10Gb infrastructure technologies. “While we’re currently running GbE, Power-Cache also features 10GbE connectivity. So when we do eventually upgrade, 10Gb is already good-to-go, so that’s a huge win.”

There’s even the distinct possibility of Southeastern University generating a return on its investment, as the studio facilities, including LTO-6 archiving, are available for rental during the summer months.

“Overall, Cache-A delivers a well-rounded archive solution that ticked all of my boxes. You’d be hard pressed to find anything as versatile, with so many features and support, from any other manufacturer,” he concludes.

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