Accelerating Media Workflows with Self-Service Storage Provisioning

Time to market is essential in any industry. In the media and entertainment space, broadcasters must be able to process massive amounts of data to deliver timely content to their audiences across a range of devices. One of the key activities in any broadcast workflow is transcoding, the conversion of large amounts of data to multiple file formats. This creates a spike in data and the need for increased storage capacity and management of short-term storage and has a direct impact on both CAPEX and OPEX.

With a traditional approach, there was often not enough storage capacity in the disks of the nodes in the cluster to rapidly support activities like transcoding and other data-intensive processes like AI. For Swiss Public Television (SRG SSR), IT teams had to manually increase storage capacity of all nodes in the cluster to support short-term uses across a number of different television stations and web properties. This drove increased operating costs to manage and allocate these resources and could potentially slow down the workflow.

This is where SWISS TXT, an SGR SSR subsidiary, has been able to step in and provide a self-service, cloud-native approach to storage, reducing the time to provision from two to three days down to just seconds and cut short-term storage costs by 90%.

Overcoming Short-Term Storage Challenges

In January 2020, SWISS TXT became a subsidiary of, and the multimedia competence center for, SRG SSR. SWISS TXT has served as Switzerland’s navigator in this digital world, helping businesses understand the overwhelming number of new options and requirements they now have. SWISS TXT also helps organizations embrace the digital transformation, not just for their products and services, but as part of their business operating model as well.

One of the challenges with short-term storage is efficient provisioning. With their existing infrastructure, SWISS TXT was limited in how quickly they could deliver storage resources to customers. Provisioning started with the customer creating a ticket and coordinating with SWISS TXT, a process which took two to four hours to complete. It then took another two to three days for the storage to be manually allocated and available for use.

Such delays in provisioning seriously limit flexibility and agility. Customers would have to know their temporary storage needs days in advance. If they calculated the wrong amount, it would take another two to three days to make it right. And for time-sensitive projects, there is also the lost opportunity cost to consider.

Limitations like these made it challenging to analyze and reallocate storage consumption for optimal efficiency, no matter what the application. The inefficiency of provisioning also had a negative impact on how customers ran their operations. Because of the delay involved in submitting storage requests, it was a common occurrence for users to skip snapshotting systems prior to upgrades. The lack of snapshots directly affected overall reliability since a failed upgrade would result in failed operations. So, SWISS TXT developed a Kubernetes PAAS service known internally as “Cargo”.

Although it started as an internal service at SGR SSR, SWISS TXT’s managed Kubernetes PAAS service has expanded and is now available for media companies that need fast access to hosted storage resources across a broad range of applications, including digital media, IoT and Big Data. The SWISS TXT offering features self-service access to high performant PowerScale storage and removes the hassle of lifecycle management as the volume is cleaned up once a workload is completed. These short-term workloads might include transcoding, encoding, captioning and pushing the content elsewhere, like an S3 bucket, or potentially a third-party site like YouTube. With this service, customers can bring in exactly the storage resources they need, when they need them, and only for as long as they need them while removing manual intervention.

Flexibility + Automation = Ease of Use + Cost Savings

To build this new service, SWISS TXT turned to Dell. Dell EMC PowerScale storage with the Container Storage Interface (CSI) plug-in serves as the vital storage piece to the Kubernetes PAAS service. The service takes advantage of an ephemeral storage feature that automates the deletion of data in the volume once a workload is complete. The flexibility of the PowerScale platform allowed SWISS TXT to utilize their existing PowerScale investments to serve as the storage element.

This is the secret behind SWISS TXT’s ability to reduce both cost and provisioning time for services. Using PowerScale container technologies with cloud-native CSI supported by standard APIs, SWISS TXT has been able to automate its storage operations, including provisioning, resizing and creating snapshots.

Rather than taking several days, the service is able to provision storage, sized according to applications, in just seconds. Customers can also analyze and dynamically resize allocations immediately for optimal efficiency. This also eliminates storage barriers to snapshotting. Customers can create and manage their own snapshots, as well as delete them once upgrades have been verified as successful. This level of ease of use has improved reliability since users can now restore from a snapshot if, for some reason, the upgrade fails.

The flexibility of the PowerScale plus CSI solution means broadcast companies like SRG SSR no longer need to worry about how to provision large media files or accommodate other factors like snapshotting that spike short-term storage requirements. And these efficiency, reliability, and ease of use benefits translate into real savings. With Dell EMC PowerScale, SWISS TXT is able to help its customers take full advantage of technologies like AI by automating scaling of storage of resources.

The end result: SWISS TXT has been able to decrease temporary storage costs by 90%. They truly have been able to spend less and deliver more.

Companies like SWISS TXT are enabling their customers to meet the challenges of the digital world through innovations like AI, cloud-native services and automation. The flexibility, transparency, and open-source approach of PowerScale ensures that SWISS TXT can integrate with their existing systems while at the same time deploying services faster. With an agile infrastructure, faster time to deployment, substantially lower CAPEX, and ease of use that drives down OPEX, SWISS TXT will be able to help its customers navigate their digital transformation, continue to keep pace with technology and keep their competitive edge.

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