Omneon Who? It’s Your New Storage Provider for Corporate Multimedia

Who is Omneon, Inc., and why should you care? Do not worry if you have not heard of them as I said the same thing to myself when the name was first mentioned to me because if you are not from the video and digital broadcasting industry, it’s unlikely you have heard of them. So, I was interested to hear what its Senior Vice President of Products and Markets, Geoff Stedman, had to say about its product and why Omneon is making a push outside of its traditional storage niche.

In terms of its technology, Stedman explained that Omneon creates a real-time recording and playback storage system for companies that produce and distribute video content for television and the Internet, such as the recently concluded 2008 Summer Olympics. Omneon accomplishes this using a large-scale, high bandwidth, grid-style, clustered storage system that it packages under the product name of MediaGrid Active Storage System.

Omneon chose a clustered storage system because it has some advantages over traditional storage systems. Namely, it provides increased redundancy or fault tolerance by distributing data across multiple nodes in the cluster known as MediaGrid ContentServers that come in 2 and 12TB configurations.

The MediaGrid ContentServers deviate from the traditional use of RAID for providing fault tolerance and instead uses a proprietary algorithm that factors in the amount of free space in the cluster as well as the overall available bandwidth on each ContentServer. The data is then “sliced” and distributed across all the available ContentServers in the cluster. A storage administrator can adjust the size and number of slices based on their knowledge about the data being stored within the cluster.

However Stedman explains that it is usually best to let the system manage this aspect because of how Omneon has implemented their “slicing” technology. Over the years, it has now refined it so that the system can now recover from a drive failure in approximately 20 minutes regardless of the size of the disk drive.

Another benefit of Omneon’s MediaGrid clustered storage system is its I/O scalability. The same factors that provide redundancy and reliability also allow it to meet the I/O intensive demands of video encoding. By distributing the workload across the nodes of the ContentServers in the cluster, it is possible to take advantage of the aggregate I/O of all the disks and CPU processing power contained in each node.

Omneon’s MediaGrid also uses a virtual file system that presents a single, logical view or namespace so any client or node in the cluster can access data stored on any other node in the cluster. This functionality is achieved through the use of Omneon’s ContentDirector which is the heart of Omneon’s MediaGrid system.

The ContentDirector manages all the read and write operations to all of the ContentServers in the cluster. Whenever a client requests a file, the ContentDirector, using a proprietary algorithm, supplies a performance-optimized list to the client of the ContentServers that hold the data. In so doing, the file is delivered directly to the requesting client from a redundant, high-performance node in the cluster.

Yet the million dollar question for corporations is why is Omneon now trying to reach them and not stay in its traditional verticals? What Omneon is finding is that more Fortune 1000 companies are doing their video broadcasting development. The dropping cost of video and storage technology coupled with the increasingly multimedia YouTube type culture in which we live is contributing to companies are looking to expand how they communicate internally and externally using video. These trends coupled with the fact that storage offerings from traditional storage providers such as EMC, HP and IBM are not well suited for the demands of video broadcasting are opening new doors for Omneon’s MediaGrid in corporate America.

The last thing most companies are looking for is a large scale, high bandwidth, clustered storage system. However Omenon is finding that more companies are in the market for storage systems to host their rapidly expanding multimedia requirements. These companies are often not aware that the demands for multimedia are very different than traditional database and file applications – even highly available, high performance applications – and that a new storage system based on a new, more cost-effective architecture is needed to satisfy these needs. This is the hole that Omneon’s MediaGrid Active Storage System is looking to fill.

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