Technical Library: Success Stories



Sherpa Technology Guides Chooses Escalade™ for Fast, Cost-Effective Mass Storage Solution for Network Servers Supporting Creative Video Production
Sherpa Technology Guides designs and builds sophisticated networks and production systems used by creative departments at advertising agencies, graphic design houses, and television stations to produce the animated graphics that dance around TV screens introducing products and programs.
While the San Diego-based consulting firm is expert at configuring high-end networks and high-end workstations, it was having a hard time finding servers capable of storing the enormous graphic files containing all the elements of full-motion video.
"We didn't find any servers that met our requirements," says Mike Salomon, Sherpa's president and systems designer. "We needed huge amounts of drive space, because in video and in graphics, the files are very large...particularly if you want high quality, you can't compress it very much."
Discovering Escalade
With these unique requirements for video production and post-production, Salomon contracted with an experienced Linux programmer to develop the software for the server. The hardware designed to his specifications was build by a third-party computer maker.
Seeking to set up a Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) configuration to meet the massive storage requirements, the Linux programmer first tried working with FastTrak controller card from Promise Technology Inc. Then he discovered 3ware's Escalade storage controllers, which are designed specifically for server applications.
"Our programmer was just in love with Escalade because it's made for Linux," Salomon recalls. "It comes with Linux drivers. It's made by Linux people, and he refuses to touch the FastTrak card anymore. FastTrak was originally designed for Windows NT and Linux was kind of an afterthought. Escalade came from the Linux background that we were looking for."
Why Linux Is Important to the Graphics and Video Industry
Salomon asserts that the Linux connection is crucial because in creative areas such as video production, all the exciting development is coming from the rapidly emerging Linux world.
"Linux is where it's at," he says. "It's where we're seeing the most tools, the most drivers as well as very interesting hardware. The fact that it's free, that's a bonus, but the real benefit is that there is a huge amount of open source code that's actively being worked on all the time. You can get modules for all kinds of projects, and that makes it really attractive."
What made 3ware's Escalade controller equally attractive was its ability to link disk drives together to meet the extensive storage needs of creative staffs working with video files in a collaborative network.
Up to 320 Gigabytes of Inexpensive Storage
Using Escalade, Sherpa is able to provide its clients with a Pentium II 450 server running RedHat Linux 6.1 with a storage configuration using six low-cost 40-gigabyte disk drives in a RAID level 0 stripe. This system currently offers 240 gigabytes of storage. Sherpa's next generation server will expand to eight 40-gigabyte drives to provide 320 gigabytes.
"What's unique about our server is that its mirrored on another server," Salomon says. "These six drives are mirrored on six drives on another box. That's why we don't care about RAID 5. If the server goes down Escalade provides the users with a little software switch that lets them go over to another server that mirrors all the same information. They don't have to wait until somebody comes and fixes it for them. Users really like that."
Mirroring Keeps Creative Teams Working
In the fast-paced world of advertising and television production, the ability to keep working after a server crash on the mirrored system without interruption or loss of files can be crucial to a creative team's ultimate success. Salomon credits the RAID 0 configuration based on 3ware's Escalade with providing better reliability than RAID 5.
"If you have RAID 5 you have redundancy in your drive, but that doesn't help you if your hardware fails," he explains. "It doesn't help in a case where the server's motherboard crashes. With our mirrored servers, the users don't even have to worry about backup."
Besides its reliability and dependability, the use of the Escalade solution employing low-cost disk drives makes it an affordable solution for creative teams that traditionally don't have large budgets for computer equipment.
"They need the massive storage capabilities, and we need to keep the cost down," Salomon explains. "The companies just aren't going to be able to afford 320 gigs of SCSI II fast drives. The hardware cost alone would be prohibitive."
SCSI RAID is touted for its reliability but the advertising agencies and television stations are more interested in inexpensive storage capacity with the high-speed data access that video production requires. Having trumped the reliability issue with mirrored drives, Sherpa's implementation of Escalade provides clients with the storage capacity and speed they need at a price they can afford.
"That's our solution for getting around RAID 5 with all its expense and speed limitations," Salomon concludes.
About Escalade
The Escalade products, using 3ware's patented TwinStor™ and DiskSwitch™ technology, are particularly well suited for Linux systems, including web servers where transactional performance is critical. 3ware's award-winning controllers deliver fast read performance, coupled with RAID technology, ensuring high availability for Linux web servers.

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