HGST, a Western Digital Brand: Collaboration in a Crowded Storage Market

Being the oldest in your line of work is one thing. Being the biggest is another.

Western Digital Corporation, including the HGST brand, happens to be both.

The HGST brand was founded by Hitachi Ltd. in 2003 following a merger of IBM’s and Hitachi’s hard disk drive businesses, with the roots of then-HGST’s hard drive business harkening back to the early 1950s. And today Western Digital’s revenues are approximately $13 billion annually.

A brand under Western Digital, HGST aims to be the first brand media and entertainment (M&E) businesses think of for storage innovation and making the most of data, with a focus on HDDs, SSDs, software and solutions.

Jeff Greenwald, senior director of M&E Market Development for Western Digital, chatted with the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) about the evolving storage needs in the M&E space, the need for industry collaboration, and how the M&E category is actually changing how storage is done for every industry.

MESA: How did Western Digital come about, and what gap in market has the company sought to fill?

Greenwald: With our legacy heritage, we actually invented the disk drive in 1953, and we’re not only the oldest drive storage company, with more innovation and success than anyone else, we’re also the largest storage company in the world, with 2016 revenue at about $13 billion and roughly 73,000 employees. But we don’t strive to be the biggest storage company in the world. Our goal is to be the best.

jeff images 006 (2)-2 We’re an industry pioneer, and have been for 63 years. A significant portion of every dollar spent in the world on storage technology is spent with us.

We help the world harness the power of data, and our storage solutions enable business value for cloud and enterprise customers, covering data in use, in motion, in rest and in archive.

MESA: In what ways does Western Digital’s HGST brand stand out among competitors in the media and entertainment space, and how does it allow M&E companies to better manage and store their assets?

Greenwald: We understand customer needs in the M&E industry. Our technology is integrated into many of the industry’s participants. We not only compete with companies, we partner with companies, and we also source and supply companies.

Sometimes companies come to us for devices. Sometimes companies come to us for platforms and enclosures. Sometimes companies come to us for systems, and sometimes they come to us for software.

There are very few companies in this space who don’t have a collaborative relationship with us.

I wish I could tell you it’s an easy world. It’s not. But it’s an exciting world, and we play a key role in virtually every facet of storage.

MESA: How might smaller, independent filmmakers use the HGST brand’s offerings in different ways compared to the HGST Active Archive object storage systems s for larger M&E companies?

Greenwald: There are three industries that tend to push the technology envelope: oil and gas, life sciences, and media and entertainment.

Media and entertainment, for example, has monster capacity requirements, incredibly low latency needs, a very evolving technology roadmap – one that’s pushed by the complexity of their workflows, and they also have very, very tight financial budgets.

When you combine all of those into an industry, you tend to be an early adopter, and we love end-user targets like that, specifically in companies that have huge ingest and content capture needs, companies that have very tight windows for transcoding, or post production or editing needs. These companies are absolutely unwilling to tolerate unavailability for video streaming or content delivery. That’s why we love media and entertainment, because that’s what we deliver, the performance, capacity, durability and scalability they require.

MESA: How does the HGST Active Archive System for M&E work exactly?

Greenwald: There are five states of data, we don’t care if you’re a broadcaster, a movie producer, a content delivery network or a post-production house. These are the states of data you deal with every single day, and have to figure out how to handle.

• The first state is data in use – data that’s constantly changing in editing, colorizing, being born off of a camera, or data that’s being created off visual effects or animation.
• Second is data in motion. It’s going from one data storage medium to another. It’s coming from a storage camera to another. Or it’s going from a person to a storage infrastructure.
• Third is data at rest. This data is already written or edited — and it could be stored locally or in the cloud.
• The fourth is data in archive for long-term storage but must be easily accessible for future re-use and monetization.
• The fifth is data deleted. Unfortunately some asset managers may delete data to make room for new incoming data. With the right scalable archive solution, you don’t need to get rid of data or duplicate data to free up the main storage system’s capacity.

What we do as a brand is deliver the performance, availability, scalability and cost structure for each of these states of data. We deliver storage solutions uniquely integrated and tested with the workflows that the media and entertainment industry use. That’s what makes us both customized and great for M&E.

Active Archiver Unit MESA: What are some of the HGST brand’s favorite use case examples, where media and entertainment companies made especially good use of the company’s services?

Greenwald: Our use cases vary. Media content archival is a big deal.

Some use our HGST Active Archive System as a private cloud. Some as a hybrid cloud. Using our object storage for media content archival is also a use case that is very prevalent. Another is backup as a service, where you’re effectively not just backing up, but sharing content across the organization. This is primarily a private, internal cloud where you’re backing up not just for file preservation, but you’re also sharing data for monetization and subsequent retrieval and search. A third use case is cloud-burst and file gateway, where HGST object storage is used as a target for media cloud. This saves you money in terms of not having to pay to put money in the cloud. You can essentially tee up your own cloud, and burst to the cloud for compute.

MESA: What’s next for Western Digital? What advances and offerings can we expect from Western Digital in the coming months and years?

Greenwald: Three things: first monstrous scalability and capacity growth. According to the 451 Group, companies are growing capacity between 25% and 200%, and I’m not talking start-ups. Enterprises, studios, broadcasters, and other companies are already at petascale, and are looking at exascale growth within the next 5-10 years. That customer cares about scalability and capacity growth.

Second, we’re looking at cost reduction. We’ve got to deliver dramatic cost savings, and therefore you have to look at different ways of changing the media workflow, and integrating object storage in a way that lowers overall costs.

Third, we’re matching the availability and performance of the application with the technology. I talked about the five states of data, and you could also say that the different states of data need different latency requirements. What you don’t want to do is over-provision performance, and incur needless cost, where it’s not needed. We’re looking at ways of matching latency delivery with the actual application.

That means media analytics, and in order to do that, it means you must understand your data.