Is choosing a company to interview out of a sea of exhibitors a science or art? I asked myself this while spending several hours walking the SIGGRAPH 2010 floor in Los Angeles this week. Although I spoke with many of the exhibitors, there are very few that really captured my interest or left me feeling compelled to find out more.
BlueArc is one of those few that piqued my interest. There are two main reasons for this; first they announced the closing of $20 million new funding, which enough to get anyone interested, and secondly, they announced signing 13 new customers in the media and entertainment industry.
The new funding was led by Investor Growth Capital (IGC), the wholly owned venture capital arm of Stockholm-based Investor AB, known for investments in high-quality, growth-oriented companies in information technology and healthcare industries. The round was also supported by 16 existing investors who see continued value in BlueArc’s business objectives and vision for the storage industry. IGC sees a significant growth opportunity, momentum, and growth that has outpaced its market.
BlueArc’s momentum and growth in the media industry is due to several factors, according to company executives who described what they see in the market and the closing of 13 new customers worldwide. Many of these companies are responsible for the post-production work on some of the now famous blockbuster movies. Among the new customers that have recently installed BlueArc platforms are: The Whitehouse of Chicago; Digital Post Ltd of Auckland, New Zealand; Goldtooth Creative Agency of Vancouver, British Columbia; Turner Studios of Atlanta; Just for Laughs of Montreal, Quebec; and Mercury Filmworks of Ottawa, Ontario.
The entertainment industry deals with increasingly heavy network and storage bandwidth, and artists are frequently working with large data sets. Add to that tight deadlines, and performance and reliability become mandatory. BlueArc designs its storage solutions around delivery of high data throughput and IOPS while reducing TCO and ease of growth.
In the Media and Entertainment market, BlueArc serves: active archive, pre-production, post-production, and encoding and transcoding required for the distribution and delivery stage. This is a data and storage driven industry segment. Movies are now coming to market in 2D and 3D formats. This alone increases the amount of data to be manipulated by an order of magnitude.
In addition to the sheer magnitude, the data needs to available on-demand 24×7. Missed production schedules add up to lost revenue in the box office. Similarly, the data quality is critical so reliability of the storage infrastructure is mandatory. Bottom line here is saving money at this stage of the product game by buying lower performance and lower reliability can end up in millions of dollars lost box office revenue because the movie is late and quality of the graphics are under par.
BlueArc’s approach to reducing overall storage costs without sacrificing performance; quality or reliability is through a modular tiered storage solution. This allows the mix of high-performance tier-0, “active” file disk drives, with lower cost tier-1, “archival” disk drives. This unique modular approach provides an effective solution that satisfies both the performance requirements and archival storage needs without ripping out the infrastructure as needs grow.
Data throughput is measured in IOPS, Input/Output Operations Per Second, and being able to sustain IOPS in the 160+K range is big advantage. However, there is another challenge here and that is the data is access in a random fashion, non-sequential, which stresses need for high bandwidth.
Media and entertainment is a data driven business with movie datasets growing exponentially. Peter Jackson’s 2005 movie King Kong used about 100 Terabytes of storage. Contrast this with last years block buster, James Cameron’s Avatar, which reportedly require 1.3 Pedabytes, 10x in 4 to 5years.
The final piece of the puzzle is delivering the data or finished movie or ad for distribution. It is no longer a 2D video for cinema or TV ad. The data needs to delivered is a broader variety of formats, 2D, TV, 3D, iPhone, Blue Ray, streaming and more. This adds complexity, increased time, and stressing the storage, as it is needed now.
This week, so far, BlueArc has scored a win with financing, cash is still king, and announced media industry momentum. However, there is still one more twist to this tale. BlueArc’s success in this industry is due not only to having the right product at the right time but they have also established a partner ecosystem with many leading software vendors in the media and entertainment space to provide customers with a seamless and integrated solution for compositing, rendering, transcoding, editing and other applications in the media workflow. Atempo, is one example for preserving and protecting digital information, and Digital Rapids another, for transcoding solutions.