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The university I work for is renovating our digital media lab and we are looking at implementing some sort of NAS for students working in Final Cut Studio. This will be used for class projects so after each semester the NAS will be erased for the next wave of students. In the past we relied on external hard drives however that was clumsy and there were cases of data loss. We are looking at some devices from drobo, netgear, etc instead of more enterprise level devices.

Has anyone had any experience with a situation like this and have any recommendations? We are not sure where to start looking and was wondering if there were any major performance issues with Final Cut. There will be about 15 computers in the lab that will use the nas.

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Are you doing SD or HD? –  tegbains Jun 28 '10 at 22:48
    
Some of both, although it will be predominantly HD. –  Danr Jun 29 '10 at 12:49

3 Answers 3

You're going to want to, at the very least, test out using Final Cut with a NAS (any NAS!) to make sure the throughput will support your needs. It'll depend not only on the appliance used but also on the network between that appliance and your clients, and what bottlenecks may exist. Also, depending on the number of clients, the NAS itself may be a bottleneck - 10 people doing simultaneously high bandwidth I/O to the same disk is sure to perform poorly.

Some back of the envelope calculations may help you here:

  • What's peak bandwidth/client needed?
  • Given that and one interface's speed (Gb? 10Gb? don't overlook bonding options) you can figure out how many clients each interface can support.
  • Each interface has to have enough disks behind it to support that same amount of I/O.

Now you've got some rough hardware specs to look for: gross network and disk capacities are a start.

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For that many machines I would recommend a fibre channel array rather than NAS - especially if you are going to work on Hi-Def projects. We are using a Fibrenetics array. There is an Apple store in Hollywood that caters to the studio and broadcast facilities in setting up storage and Final Cut systems and is great with working within a budget. They will help you with options for how to set this up. We use them because of their expertise even though we are on the other side of the country. Look up Melrose Mac (www.melrosemac.com) and ask for Sandy!

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If Fibre-Channel makes you cringe from expense, you can get most of the same performance at a fraction of the (component) cost by using SAS. On 7.2K RPM disks I've been able to get 275 MB/s out of mine for largely sequential loads, and considering that Gigabit Ethernet is 125 MB/s that's pretty darned good. Even random writes (those 10 HD streams hitting disk simultaneously) were pretty respectable at around 60 MB/s. Using higher performance drives like 10K or even 15K RPM will get you more random performance. If you can afford Raid1, you won't deal with parity-calc overheads which should pump throughput up even more.

If you have been using external drives for this, I'm presuming you're using either USB (25MB/s) or possibly ESATA (275MB/s). If you've been putting up with USB performance, then a DroboElite/DroboPro or maybe a Drobo FS on GigE should give you plenty of performance. Just be sure to use fast disks, as random I/O will be the thing that will bring everything to its knees.

If you were using ESATA external drives, then you already have a performance expectation that's pretty high. In that case, the Drobo series may not be able to keep up, simply due to network-level resource contention if nothing else. GigE is 125 MB/s and it doesn't take many fast writers to saturate it. In this case it may be a better investment to pick up two or three of them and apportion students to the units as needed as a way to balance the load.

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