Avere Systems: Making Sense of Unstructured Data

Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Avere Systems exists for a pretty specific reason: Unstructured data is doubling every year, but less than 10% of the files in a data center are active, resulting in organizations spending more money on storage technology and data centers to house it all. The cost of storing this increasing amount of largely inactive data is disproportionate to its utility to an organization.

The explosive growth of unstructured data is driving companies to explore the economies of cloud storage, which is where Avere comes in. Avere allows enterprises to leverage public and private cloud storage resources without having to rewrite existing applications or compromise on performance or availability — giving organizations the ability to put an end to the rising cost and complexity of managing unstructured data.

Avere’s technology helps organizations confront the problem of unstructured data through its modern architectural approach to storage, eliminating the need for overprovisioning storage capacity to achieve performance, overspending on expensive storage media for inactive data and the overbuilding of data centers to house increasing amounts of storage infrastructure.

Jeff Tabor, senior director of product management and marketing for Avere Systems, shared with the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) how his company specifically helps the media and entertainment sector deal with data, the importance of the cloud and data security, and what’s on the horizon for Avere.

MESA: How do Avere’s offerings specifically benefit media and entertainment companies?

Tabor: Avere Systems works with VFX studios to help power and render their special effects — its unique technology is able to speed up visual production processing time by as much as fifty times, something that no other technology can provide. As movie making has become digitally intense, achieving the life-like special effects that audiences demand requires a robust storage and compute infrastructure.

With Avere’s hybrid cloud solution, VFX studios can store data anywhere: on premises or in the cloud, making collaboration easier and minimizing the risk of production delays, which can jeopardize a motion picture’s success.

Movie studios and special effects teams all over the world use Avere. In fact, in 2015, every film nominated for an Oscar in the visual effects category was powered by Avere. Avere’s technology delivers higher visual impact in less time, at a lower cost and with increased flexibility, answering the media and entertainment industry’s need for performant, affordable and scalable storage solutions.

MESA: What are some Avere’s favorite use case examples in the M&E space?

Tabor: Avere’s technology has helped visual effects studios across the globe stay ahead of the technology curve, managing the massive rendering and storage performance requirements of visual effects. Below are a few notable use cases within the media and entertainment industry.

• Moonbot Studios is a smaller animation studio that has received the recognition larger studios command, however, the company did not have the same sized IT budget. The studio uses Avere Virtual FXT Edge filers along with Google Compute Engine as a cloud bursting solution to handle its rendering workload and to remove local infrastructure bottlenecks. With Avere running in cloud, the studio is easily able to move data between Google and Moonbot’s existing on-premise storage arrays. The result of implementing Avere has produced extremely low-latency access to active data and compute processes that run at peak performance – reducing project cycle times from months to a matter of seconds. This allows the studio to optimize its production experience and seamlessly integrate Google Compute Engine into its own infrastructure.

• As a computer graphics animation house, Illumination Mac Guff places heavy demands on its storage arrays. With major features such as the successful Despicable Me, the video rendering workload to produce realistic animated effects were considerable. The studio needed to significantly increase output in order to meet a growing production schedule. So, the company was challenged with improving the performance of its storage network to meet this increased workload. Its solution was Avere’s FXT Edge filers, which not only increased storage throughput to meet the company’s workload and performance challenges, but also provided real-time visual analysis of its complex application and storage environment. The offload of I/O from the disk-based storage array to the FXT Edge filers has also resulted in a cost savings by avoiding frequent upgrades to the storage system.

• This studio’s visual effects have brought to life many hit films including Gravity, Avatar and Harry Potter. They chose Avere’s FXT Edge filer series to manage the massive rendering and storage performance requirements required for production. Essential features Avere brought to Framestore include the ability to identify hot files, improve storage load visibility, identify “rogue renders” that could wreak havoc on the system and accelerate random and sequential read and write access to the system’s backend storage or core filers. The studio is now able to produce double the amount of work in the same amount of time, plus they gained the ability to see everything that is happening within the storage environment through the analytics capability provided by Avere.

MESA: The cloud (both public and private) plays a crucial role in what Avere does. How does the company go about ensuring security, an issue that’s increasingly on the minds of today’s M&E companies?

Tabor: Avere ensures data security, whether the customer stores their data in the public or private cloud, with AES-256 encryption. Avere encryption is compliant with FIPS 140-2, a U.S. federal government computer security standard used by many agencies that deal with sensitive but unclassified (SBU) information. Many highly regulated industries also leverage FIPS encryption standards, including healthcare and financial services.

In addition, Avere encryption supports KMIP, which means encryption keys are stored and managed on the customer premises, which provides the most secure treatment of the keys.

By supporting both public and private object storage, Avere gives its customers the flexibility to move to a cloud deployment model that best suits their security needs. Some customers find the private cloud to be the most secure option since they can deploy the equipment in their facility and use their own security policies and methods. Other customers prefer the public cloud and leveraging the security infrastructure put in place by the cloud service providers.

MESA: Google, Amazon, Intel, Quantum … some of the biggest names out there are among Avere’s technology partners. Can you single out some of these in terms of their importance to Avere’s business?

Tabor: Avere has partnered with the major cloud services providers and vendors of private cloud storage systems to give our customers the flexibility to chose which cloud(s) they want to use.

Avere partnered with Amazon Web Service (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to enable customers to move compute intensive workloads and large data sets to either or both of these cloud services to reap the benefits of its highly scalable and reliable infrastructure. Enabling easy movement of data between NAS storage systems and AWS Simple Storage Solution (S3) and Google Cloud Storage, Avere is able to deliver low latency and high performance for big data processing and storage in the cloud. Avere FXT Edge filers provide the flexibility to deploy and scale compute in AWS Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Google Compute Engine using both on-premises and/or in-cloud storage resources. It is the only solution on the market today that lets companies finally connect the dots between cloud computing and on-premises storage.

Through its partnerships with HGST/Amplidata, IBM/Cleversafe, and SwiftStack, Avere gives customers the flexibility to build private clouds that can provide similar benefits to those of the public cloud, including massive scaling, simple management, and built-in resiliency, but are located on the customer’s premise. Some customers find that despite the added capital expenditure and hardware management of an on-premises solution, private clouds can provide improved security because the customer has complete, end-to-end control of the solution.

MESA: What’s next for Avere Systems, what advances are on the horizon?

Tabor: Avere is continuously advancing both its on-premises and in-cloud solutions.

Early this year, Avere launched a new FXT 5000 series of Edge filers. The FXT 5000 provides double the performance and double the capacity of our previous generation FXT models and occupies one-half of the data center footprint. Numerous companies in M&E have adopted the FXT 5000 for high-performance and more space-efficient rendering.

Support for the Microsoft Azure compute cloud by our virtual FXT (vFXT) product line was another recent announcement for customers looking to deploy Avere technology in the cloud. Some M&E organizations have chosen MS Azure as their preferred cloud and support by the vFXT gives them a scalable file system for running their performance-oriented applications in the cloud.