The need for massive quantities of computer storage space for 'rich' media is expanding at an unprecedented pace, according to Media Storage World 2007. Whether utilised for local, shared or mass (also known as clustered) storage, as measured in terra bytes, it is expanding at such a pace that it is almost impossible to keep track of its growth.
The infamous Moore's Law aside, the simple decrease of prices (although certainly in play) and doubling of capacity alone is not what is driving the boom.
Rather, the switch from analogue and tape-based media to digital, even HD server-based devices and file-based media is what is fuelling the growth in this sector. Where end-users previously stockpiled shelves full of cassettes and tape reels, they are now replacing that approach with huge archives stored as electronic files either in hard drives, in disc form or sometimes, on data tapes.
However, instead of playout occurring via robotic tape access and re-play, or via the rolling of tape machines, today's programmes, spots or other materials reside as files, generally within banks of servers or within storage devices such as external hard drives or RAID arrays.
Despite the plunging prices for storage, often lower than US $500 per TB, the most common storage drive capacity is seen as 500 GB, not as often in TB size. But that size drive is often part of a stack or array of drives in a range of five, eight or ten high stacking.
The survey, which was conducted by DIS Consulting Corporation amongst broadcasters and TV professionals worldwide, gathered 574 responses from over 50 countries.
The report forecast storage capacities and considered the quantity of devices in use. Nearly 400,000 separate individuals and sites-specific venues were estimated to be using rich media storage of one kind or another within the community of broadcasters and other professionals we studied.
Among them, sites included those of broadcasters and cable casters, production and post-production sites and in institutional settings such as corporate, educational, medical, governmental and religious facilities.
In all, it is estimated in the Media Storage World 2007 report that, already, well over 775,000 TB of storage exists among video professionals worldwide. How many hours or days of storage that represents is somewhat murkier as encoding and bandwidth settings vary so widely among the respondents who are storing their file based rich media.
That said, there were very few respondents reporting that media was being stored at totally uncompressed rates, as that level is so very demanding of storage space. Instead, they tended to report one of many different levels of compression, related in part to the original quality of the recorded material they were storing.
All of that said, storage habits for rich media are continuing to morph as customers respond to the onslaught of massive amounts of rich media, and digitising of older analogue materials into hard drives, making for huge storage requirements. The former habit of keeping outtakes for long periods in tape form has been supplanted by a similar policy of keeping redundant copies (even hard drives need copies!) of outtakes and 'raw footage' as files.
As these files proliferate, they are creating an awesome mountain of data to store, comb through and access. And that is creating an almost insatiable demand for more storage space.
Douglas I. Sheer is CEO of DIS Consulting Corporation in New York and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.