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University's new SSDs boost video production speeds by 16X

SSDs allow Brigham Young University-Hawaii's digital media lab to capture 4K-resolution video for playback, editing

May 24, 2011 12:41 PM ET

Computerworld - When Brigham Young University-Hawaii's digital media lab needed to turbo-charge its high-def video processing system, it had two choices: Add a storage area network, or plop a solid-state drive into its Mac Pro tower computer.

It chose the latter, and its drive performance immediately improved by 16 times, which allows the lab to process the 4K video resolution being recorded by its cutting-edge, $25,000 Red One video camera.

While by no means cheap -- the BYU lab spent about $7,000 for each of two WarpDrive SLP-300 PCIe solid-state storage cards it bought from LSI Corp. -- the move was far less expensive than building out the school's SAN.

A SAN upgrade "would cost us $20,000 to $30,000," said Russell Merrill, director of BYU-Hawaii's Instructional Media and Production Department. "Yeah, you might have more storage with a SAN, but you still wouldn't have the speed of a WarpDrive."

Merrill said it would have taken a 20-drive hard disk storage array to have achieved the performance found with the SSDs, which he alternates using in a Mac Pro, which is bootstrapped to run Windows 7, and on the school's Avid video editing station.

LSI's WarpDrive is a PCIe-based flash card, one of a growing number of such products that have recently come to market. Others include Texas Memory Systems' RamSan-70, OCZ's RevoDrive, Marvell's DragonFly, and Fusion-io's IODrive, which offers more than 1 million random read/writes using 4K packet sizes.

Intel and Micron also plan to unveil PCIe-based SSDs this year.

LSI's WarpDrive card, which can deliver up to 240,000 I/Os per second or up to 1.5Gbps throughput, is used by BYU-Hawaii to accelerate production of the school's audio and high-def TV materials.

Using the LSI WarpDrive SSD helped BYU-Hawaii overcome performance issues found with the Serial ATA-based hard drives it had used for HD video production, Merrill said. The hard drives were capable of providing only half the throughput required to deliver a single stream of 2K uncompressed video. "You'd get an error message saying you're out of I/O on the SATA drives," Merrill said.

The performance limitation of the SATA drives also caused audio delays in the school's Avid Pro Tools editing stations, and prevented the use of needed plug-ins and filters.

Using the WarpDrive card in its media lab, BYU-Hawaii has achieved write performance of 511MBps and reads of 488MBps, supporting the delivery of 4K uncompressed HD video, as well as multiple streams of 2K uncompressed HD video.

In addition, the write performance of the WarpDrive card helped enable the lab to consolidate workflows for large-scale CD-quality recording sessions.

Each of the WarpDrives only has 300GB capacity, but that's more than enough to perform the video rendering and audio editing work, Merrill said.



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