April 29, 2018

A report from NAB 2018

The 2018 NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Show edition confirms trends and past conferences audiences with more than 100,000 attendees coming from all around the planet with a total of 1,700 exhibitors including 819 from outside the United States. Among these 244 were first-time exhibitors.

This edition confirms, if needed, that storage, in its various form, has strong footprint within the media and entertainment (M&E) industry with 4K the becoming working norm, 8K around the corner and 16K on the horizon, complex media workflow, live streaming in large resolution, new generation of drones, special effects, VR and cloud-connected operations. This sector is very competitive. This year, machine learning and analytics have made a new iteration within vendors' solutions.

We noticed the absence of Oracle and NetApp, they didn't have a booth but meeting rooms which is not the same indicator of presence for attendees looking for a real booth with product open to the public, illustrating that M&E is not a priority or at least not a segment they address with serious solutions today.

Another big company, HPE, had a pretty small booth but IBM got a significant one.

For Oracle it's a real surprise and a bad news for users, as a reminder the giant software company acquired Front Porch Digital in 2014, one of the market reference in rich media content storage management and finally reduced seriously its M&E footprint. Surfing on that market reality, several companies such Masstech, who acquired SGL last year, StorageDNA, XenData or Atempo have started to develop DIVA archives migration services.

Object storage has a limited visibility as today M&E workflows rely on file storage. We didn't notice significant presence except the S3 marker leader Cloudian, DDN, WDC/HGST and of course Object Matrix who has won the storage category in IABM’s new Broadcast and Media awards. Cisco showed object storage solutions from partners and confirmed that they don't care about any of them as they promoted all of them but rather gaining market share for UCS server series. It reminds me what HPE did with 4 solutions 3 years ago, they just wished to sell their hardware platform with any software. Others vendors were anecdotic.

WDC/HGST confirms that "basic" object storage suffers from competition with the lack of data services, it is perfectly illustrated by the recent agreement with StorReduce and explained difficulties met by several object storage vendors.

Two Ceph based players exhibited as well, SoftIron and Concurrent, owned by Vecima Networks, who develop Ceph appliance respectively named HyperDrive and Aquari.

Building a strong file access and storage solution on object storage layer is really a mission and we don't identify, for several years, any serious product in that space that can compete with players with native and strong file storage products represented by Avere, Dell EMC Isilon, Panasas, Pure Storage, Quantum, Qumulo or Rozo Systems, all present at NAB this year.

In addition to this list, the expo was the opportunity to meet specialized storage vendors like Active Storage, Avid, DDP, EditShare, Facilis, Harmonic, Scale Logic, SNS and Tiger Technology who develop dedicated file storage solutions.

All these file storage players approach the market with different solutions: NAS in both Scale-Up or Scale-Out flavors or with a dedicated approach based on their shared file system, in the past named SAN file system or SAN file sharing system who was renamed due to the emergence and huge presence now of IP/Ethernet storage networks. Some products can expose both access methods NAS or proprietary mode.

Content tiering is also key in that market sector and companies like Komprise and StrongBox Data Solutions illustrated how their data migration approach fit.

We discovered a recent company, Storbyte, as they exhibit for the very first time with a full flash disk array.

Of course, cloud was everywhere and no industry is ignored, AWS, Google and Microsoft had strong presence. AWS has Elastic File System, Storage Gateway and partners solutions, GCP as mentions on their web site "doesn't currently provide a native filer solution as a service, but you can run a filer on Cloud Platform in a variety of ways" like a single node filer via Google Cloud Launcher, GlusterFS or Avere. A recent example is Elastifile who announced its file system ECFS available via the Google Cloud Launcher to provide NFS service. Microsoft signed a partnership with NetApp to provide NFS on Azure named Azure Enterprise NFS Service and acquired Avere early this year.

Battle is on between big cloud providers for on-premises enterprise file storage migration and services to the cloud. Battle is on between alternative cloud storage providers especially Wasabi and Backblaze B2 developing rapidly their ecosystem and providing cloud storage at a very attractive price.

We also saw several booths displaying LTO solutions, of course the LTO consortium booth, but also XenData, StorageDNA, IBM, Qualstar or Spectra Logic, displaying LTFS solutions.

We found some interesting NVMe integrations like the Quantum Xcellis Scale-out NAS configured with NVMe devices and associated software, illustrating a full IP configuration. Moving to all-IP workflows is a reality today simplifying integrations, scalability and flexibility like file-based approach did a few years ago. And finally, we wish to mention that Samsung and Intel, with impressive booths showed interesting products especially NVMe devices.
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