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Cloudian storage replaces tape at Vox Media

When tape just wasn't cutting it, Vox Media turned to Cloudian object storage to handle the massive influx of rich media its publications were producing.

Needing more flexible and faster long-term storage than tape to deal with rapidly expanding data, Vox Media selected Cloudian storage to complement its Quantum StorNext primary storage.

Vox Media installed Cloudian object storage in early 2018 in its main New York office, with plans to expand it to other U.S. sites for disaster recovery.

Vox Media is a digital media company that runs online publications, including SB Nation, The Verge and Polygon. Its sites cater to an audience of tech, sports and video game enthusiasts. As the digital media landscape evolved, editorial content included more videos, streams and podcasts. With more than 1 PB of data, Vox Media's on-site tape library was not archiving quickly enough to store the growing amount of rich media.

With Vox Media's storage system filling up faster than it could be archived, it was vulnerable to data loss if there was a disaster. Sarah Semlear, director of post-production and technical operations at Vox Media, looked to object storage to patch that hole and discovered Cloudian.

Sarah Semlear, director of post-production and technical operations at Vox MediaSarah Semlear

Semlear first encountered Cloudian at a Sports Video Group event in 2017. Impressed with what she saw at the event, she then spoke with Chesapeake Systems, the company Vox Media uses for IT consultation and implementation. After seeing Cloudian in action and coming up with a proof of concept on how it would integrate with Vox Media's existing SAN and media asset management system, Semlear purchased Cloudian storage.

Semlear looked at other object storage vendors, but said she selected Cloudian storage chiefly because it was the quickest and easiest to roll out. It also worked effectively with Vox's installed infrastructure.

"A lot of the object storage was out of our price range or not completely set up yet," she said. "We had talked to some other vendors that had made a lot of promises, but really hadn't proven anything as far as capabilities go. They were saying, 'Don't worry about it. We'll get it to you eventually.' And we were like, 'But we need it right now.'"

Semlear said she also found Cloudian storage easy to integrate with Vox Media's infrastructure. Vox Media uses Quantum StorNext for its main storage system and Evolphin for its media asset management system, so Semlear needed a system that would play nicely with those products.

The amalgamation of different vendors that we're working with helps us be flexible and helps us adapt to change.
Sarah Semleardirector of post-production and technical operations, Vox Media

"The nice thing about multiple vendors is that when you just have one system running everything, there's less flexibility. The amalgamation of different vendors that we're working with helps us be flexible and helps us adapt to change," she said.

Ever since deploying Cloudian in early 2018, Semlear's been impressed by its performance -- especially relative to tape. Writing to the Cloudian archive and retrieving data from it took far less time than tape. Semlear stressed how important quick turnarounds were in the editorial world. "We live in a short-attention-span time period. Folks want their content right now," she said.

With about 1.3 PB of data archived in a Cloudian storage appliance in Vox Media's New York City office, Semlear plans to take advantage of Cloudian's multisite feature eventually. Her plan is to install instances in the San Francisco and Washington, D.C., offices and have everything synced in an intelligent way. For example, she wants The Verge content to only live on the San Francisco and New York machines, while Vox site content should only be archived in New York and D.C.

As for the old LTO system, Vox Media is still pulling archived data off it, but slowly phasing it out entirely. "We're not writing to tape anymore. We're just writing to the Cloudian archive," Semlear said. In the meantime, she said she's searching for a longer-term cold storage option to which the existing Cloudian storage can push older content.

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