LOS ANGELES, CA—Although the In-terscope Geffen A&M (IGA) label group’s new recording studios have yet to be completed, a new Globalstor Data Corporation ExtremeStor-iTrax T160 server has already been implemented for the centralization of data storage. Initially installed at the Record Plant in Hollywood, where Geffen Records chairman Ron Fair— producer of artists such as Black Eyed Peas, Mary J. Blige and the Pussycat Dolls—had set up a temporary home, the server has now been moved to the label’s current in-house facility in anticipation of the new studios opening in about six months.
Tal Herzberg, Fair’s right-hand man, an engineer and producer in his own right and a renowned Pro Tools guru who has been working with the Digidesign sys-tem since almost day one, explains that the Globalstor solution works very nicely for their particular situation as a Universal Music Group division. "This is a record company; that made us realize that we needed a centralized and remotely accessible library. What we would do is always work on just a bunch of drives —a JBOD— so to recall anything or access any data required us to locate those drives. We felt it would be neat if the bulk of the data were accessible from one central location by multiple users."
In addition to being used for current sessions, the Globalstor system, commissioned last year, is also being set up as an archive for recent projects as well as a backup solution. "From a computer in the control room you can access every active project. If there’s something that we’ve done in the last few years that we’ve digitized into it, and, for instance, I want to use a snare from a certain song, I can mount any drive, search through and locate assets in a very quick fashion."
Herzberg was not convinced that fiber channel was the way to go, and came across information on iNAS, network attached storage using iSCSI, which offers access over IP networks. "If I’m in a different place in the world, or somebody else from a different studio needs to access a drive, we have the ability to assign network allowances to access the server over the Internet," he shares. "The procedure is very, very convenient, because we don’t have to use ftp sites."
Remote access has already come in handy, according to Herzberg. "There was one specific incident where I was on vacation last summer in Maui. Something had to be done quickly, and from my hotel I was able to mount the hard drive that was located thousands of miles away in L.A. on my laptop."
Remote access isn’t the only benefit, either. "Inside the studio, the so-called last 100 feet, you’re able to use the existing infrastructure of the facility in regards to networking, which is just plain old Cat-5 or Cat-6 cable running throughout the building. We didn’t have to put fiber channel cards into the computer and stretch fiber throughout the building. We didn’t have to get an extension chassis for Pro Tools because it just uses the gigabit Ethernet that’s built into the G5 we’re using. I might be running a Pro Tools session in the studio yet the actual storage device might be in a completely different part of the building and quite far away. I think the one cable we were running at the Record Plant was 150 feet long. That’s a really advantageous setup."
There has been no need for RAID control or tape backup, reveals Herzberg, since the server was set up as a mirrored system in order to allow simultaneous access to a couple of users, so data is always in two separate locations. Plus, one of the primary reasons for using a RAID controller, splitting data across drives, is unnecessary. "Using SATA drives al-lowed us the desired performance off a single hard drive. We’ve done experiments with Pro Tools, recording 48 tracks while playing back 48 tracks, and there were no problems. We’ve been getting the same performance as some FireWire drives."
Except, as he points out, "FireWire cables can only be 10 feet, and by running this on the network infrastructure you can place this hundreds of feet away with no performance hiccups. So the box with all the drives spinning can sit in an air-conditioned room, completely eliminating the noise of drives from our work space."
Overall, it’s a paradigm that fits today’s instant-access state of mind, Herzberg believes, "Plus, you gain a great deal of efficiency and confidence in your assets and their location and the ability to bring them back to life from wherever you are, access them, make changes, import and export things, and so forth. Before, you had to find the tapes and bake them, but now everything is data. As long as you follow proper procedures of data protection and backup you benefit tremendously. This is a real hassle eliminator."