Camera Archives

For editing clients with a proper SAN this is the setup I like to use a watch folder on the SAN that sends to tape the camera archives automatically on a timed interval.

This requires

  1. proper SAN
  2. a watch folder setup with Archiware P5 archive
  3. camera archives, created in FCP X from the camera cards

Note: you can also use Adobe Prelude, Shotput or Resolve to create verified copies of camera cards. Use what you trust and works for you. The idea is not to copy by hand and avoid the perils of corrupt files.

Bonus: multiple drives to enable multi-streaming and parallelizing of your data. Why not makes cloned tapes copies and stream lots of data to all four (yes, four !) drives. See the illustration below.

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 10.35.40 AM

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog, but nobody wants to read no stinkin’ reports so let me just sum it all up: Xsan, Munki, Thunderbolt, Archives. Or is that all one word? Thunderbolt Xsan Munki Archives! That’s better.

Here’s an excerpt from the report that no one will read:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 20,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Surprisingly, or not, that opera would be about Xsan. Yes, Apple’s Xsan is still alive, and Apple even added new features with OS X 10.11 El Capitan. I’m still building Xsan shared storage SANs and upgrading old ones to new versions. That was one of the good news stories of 2015 for me.

You can build an Xsan with one or two Mac Minis and add your storage of choice. That used to mean more often than not the fibre channel storage from Promise. A great choice for larger deployments, the x30 Vtraks are solid.

But the real shocker for me in 2015 was stumbling upon the Accusys Thunderbolt SAN RAID, the A16T2-Share. For more than half off the price of a similar fibre channel storage RAID here’s a magical box powered by unicorns that has four (4) Thunderbolt connections. Plug one Thunderbolt cable into that Mac Mini, format the raid, setup Apple’s Xsan, and then plug the other three (3) Thunderbolt cables into iMacs, Mac Pro, MacBook Pros or any Xsan clients. Wow. Awesome.

Suddenly we have a game changer. An affordable SAN storage RAID for real block-level storage. Now more than ever we can afford to have true collaborative workflows for video editors and anyone in the creative. If you need to work together with fast connections to a shared pool then building an Xsan got much more attractive.

Disclaimer: I got a chance to test the Accusys A16T2-Share. And I would be crazy to recommend something without testing it thoroughly. This was used for several weeks by video editors in production. It was much faster than our 4GB fibre channel storage, of course, but it was also faster than our 8GB FC storage. Speed tests showed we got close to 1GB/sec, and even when it was 97% full we got 700MB/sec. Sa-weet.

I look forward to seeing what Accusys bring to NAB in 2016. What new box will they show up with? I hope for more than 4 client ports and faster Thunderbolt 3. Only 82 more sleeps till we all find out.

Apple’s Xsan and Accusys Thunderbolt storage A16T2-Share were big stars of 2015, but what else stood out? The two other bright shiny lights were Archiware’s new P5 Archive app, and Vidispine’s VidiXplore cloud based MAM. More on those in posts to follow. Both of these products have transformed workflows for editors. Stay tuned!

Move over El Capitan, hello Yosemite!

With all this talk about El Capitan, Apple’s as of yet unreleased version 10.11 of OS X, and its wondrous new features in Xsan, I think it might be time to upgrade to last year’s breakthrough version of OS X, Yosemite. Sure, you might be excited by the press releases for the built-in DLC in El Capitan but seriously sane folks stay 1-year behind the bleeding nose upgrades provided by Apple. So if OS X 10.11 is all the rage before its released it must be time to seriously consider upgrading that working Xsan running OS X 10.8 or OS X 10.9.

In my case, I upgraded a working Xsan running on Mac Minis and OS X 10.8.5. Here are some screenshots from the process. As always think worked better than I could have expected, and it is a much easier process that one expects. But stay sharp kids, danger lurks when you wake the dreamer…. Upgrading a SAN is serious business and doing anything like this without proper backups is taking your life in your own hands. In my case, full disk backups on Promise Pegasus RAIDs and full tape backups using Archiware P5.

Download the Yosemite installer form the App Store. Install. Download the new Server.app from the App Store. Install. Now upgrade your Xsan. That’s it. You’re done. No surprises, aren’t you happy? Ha ha. I’m kidding. The fun is just getting started.

If you’re actually following along, this isn’t a step by step recipe. Go to Apple’s site and read this Kbase and check out the migration guide.

Restore Xsan

Restore Xsan

Step 1 is to launch the new Server.app, find Xsan Admin. Just kidding, it isn’t there. Enable Xsan, and choose to Restore a previous SAN configuration. That wasn’t hard. High five! Actually, we’re not done yet. Set up OD now. Go!

Step 2. Set up your Xsan controller as an Open Directory (OD) master. Does’t matter if it’s joined to another domain, Xsan keeps itself organized in OD, so you need it.

Set up OD

Set up OD

Step 3. Admire your upgraded SAN, “how lovely the flowers do smell…. life is good.”

XSAN LIST

Xsan list

Step 4. Where did my Xsan admin go? Where do I add clients? Where are my clients? Huh? What? Why did I upgrade a perfectly working SAN to this version? Ha ha.

Take it all in, take a good look at what you’ve done to your Xsan. What? Just so the editors could have the latest version of Final Cut Pro (v.10.2.1) which is only compatible with OS X 10.10.4. I see what you’ve done Apple, very clever indeed. Hmm…

Click on the “Save configuration profile” button and download the profile somewhere. Use this to set up the SAN on your clients. Distribute via Profile Manager or install it manually. Up to you. I haven’t gotten it to work with Munki quite yet. Installing it requires the admin password for the Xsan controller. How convenient.

When you client is configured you’ll see a Profile in System Preferences. Remove it and your client is un-configured. No more Xsan.prefpane to list volumes and mount or unmount them. Nope. That would be too easy. Learn to love “xsanctl”, as in “xsanctl mount Xsan”. Read some xsanctl tips in this Kbase

Step 5. Set up a backup Xsan controller. You have one of those, right? In my case, I had a client which I wanted to promote to be a controller.  But first what to do about its status a client of the Xsan?

backup cannot be client

backup cannot be client

Open Server.app, enable Xsan, join current Xsan as a backup controller and set up a replica OD. Confirm, confirm, confirm. Think about what you’re doing, then do it!

confirm OD replica

confirm

Apple wizards are the best wizards, uh, i mean Setup Assistants. No wizards here…. So, you’ve setup a backup Xsan controller, and OD replica, and now look in Server.app. How amazing is that… wait, what? Where’d my Xsan volumes go? Huh? Where are the controllers? Weird. Very strange. Not comforting at all.

Xsan 4 no SAN list crop 122815

The Xsan window eventually shows the volumes and controllers, bur geez, almost gave me a heart attack. It’s not like I never seen Xsan go bad before. Xsan 1 nightmare still haunt me. They do. Backups. Need more backups. Archiware P5 Backups, do it now!

OK, you’ve survived the uncertainty of Xsan upgrades…. But wait more minute… cat the fsnameservers (no, it’s not the name of a band, it’s a command). Check it out. Holy smokes, batman. Xsan 4 by default will set your metatadata network to the public LAN, something that’d would be laughed at years ago, but they do it now by default. Of course, upgrading our SAN kept out metadata network the same. But strangely the Xsan backup controller is set to use the public for metadata when the primary controller is not. WTF.

Change your metadata network. Read the Kbase, and once again wield xsanctl like a boss.

Affordable Shared Storage: Accusys A16T2-Share Thunderbolt SAN

Accusys A16T2-Share Thunderbolt SAN storage

Accusys A16T2-Share Thunderbolt SAN storage

I’ve mentioned the Accusys A16T2-Share Thunderbolt SAN storage before. I first encountered it at NAB 2015 back in April. It was truly a magical find. A 16-drive RAID unit with 64TB raw storage and ready to be part of your Apple Xsan using Thunderbolt connectors. No Thunderbolt to fibre channel adapters necessary, nor is a fibre channel switch required. Just plugin a Mac Mini as your Xsan controller, and there’s room for 3 other clients to plugin with Thunderbolt. Pretty neat.

It’s not for everyone. There’s a limit to the length of Thunderbolt optical cables. And there’s only 3 clients possible using one last Thunderbolt connection for an Xsan controller. But this could work well for small work groups. The magical 4-seat SAN setup is finally here. Bob Kite, master SAN builder, would be happy.

I’ve just gotten word that this unit is available for sale now, as it was recently certified by both Apple and Intel. I believe the street price is approximately $9900 USD, but don’t quote me on that. Information is still emerging on this new product. I do hope to get my hands on one to do some real world application testing. Including testing resilience to failure (drive removals, raid rebuilds, etc).

If the reliability of the Accusys hardware is good, and backed up with solid support then this could be a great product.
Of course, it kinda goes without saying that all storage, including Shared SAN storage, needs solid backups. My preference where possible is a second tier disk (NAS/SAN/DAS) and tape. My preferred vendor is Archiware which makes the very excellent product P5.
With over 10 years of experience with Xsan and setting up storage systems I have learned to always setup excellent backups. Restoring files when a RAID or SAN fails is crucial. Using an a RAID, such as the Accusys Thunderbolt A16T2-Share, as a SAN would be come with a recommendation from me to all my clients to have a secondary Thunderbolt RAID unit of the same size to sync it daily and to use P5 Backup with LTO 6 tape drives (preferably in a tape library). You never can be too paranoid with a client’s data. That’s what my clients pay me for. To plan for failure. I love setting them with excellent SAN storage, but I must counsel them to build also an excellent backups system. Better safe than sorry.
The price point on this A16T2-Share Thunderbolt RAID is attractive, and when it is released many clients in small shops may very well consider it. At approximately $10K US for 64TB of shared storage with free Xsan 4 it is a pretty sweet deal. Add another $5-10K for a large backup RAID drive, and another $5K for a tape library and $2K for Archiware P5 Backup and the cost adds up. But having an affordable price for the main SAN storage makes this a very real possibility for some clients who have been struggling with editing video on NAS like QNAP, Synology or Drobo.

Xsan 4 in OS X 10.10 (Yosemite)

Apple released Yosemite (OS X 10.10) today.  The big news for me is the built-in version of Xsan is v.4. But don’t get too excited and upgrade your OS without some planning (and backups). If your systems are in production then please leave them as is. Install OS X 10.10 on a test system first. Install a test Xsan and play with that. Don’t test in production. ‘Nough said.

What you need to know is, if you upgrade your Mac to 10.10 then it is officially incompatible with Xsan 3. You can NOT have Xsan 3 (10.9) clients on a 10.10 Xsan, and I don’t think that 10.10 (Xsan 4) clients will work on a Xsan 3 based SAN. There may be a hack to get incompatible versions working together but that’s left to imaginative tinkerers and not useful for production where deadlines are involved.

I’ve done some basic testing with Xsan 4 and it does away with the Xsan Admin app, all setup is done in the Server.app. Also, it depends on Open Directory (and DNS, of course). If there is no OD master set up then it will create one (same with DNS). If you have OD then join your Xsan controllers to it as replicas or else they will create a new OD master on the first Xsan controller and a replica on the second. You were warned.

To configure the clients you export a config profile and install it on the clients, or alternatively you can enrol the Xsan controller in MDM (Profile Manager, for example) and push out the config to the clients.

I have not tested Xsan 4 with StorNext but I expect there is compatibility, as usual.

In Summary:

More testing is needed, but strictly speaking Xsan 4 is not going to work with Xsan 3 and vice versa. If an Xsan 3 (10.9 client) is part of Xsan 4 (10.10) then it may work but commands and configs will not come across (unmount / mount the volume, the volume is destroyed stop looking for it, etc).

And now for some screenshots of the actual setup.

Step 1. Install Server. Turn on Xsan and get ready to rumble.

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 2.02.06 PM

Step 2. Change your name. If you’re using dot-local change it.

Change-dot-local-name-Xsan4

Step 3. Set up valid DNS

Setup-DNS-if-you-dont-have-none

Step 4. Set up a new SAN

Set-up-new-SAN

Step 5. Choose a SAN name

Choose-SAN-Name

Step 6. Configure Users and Groups (OD)

Config-users-groups

Step 7. Choose your organization name

OD-name

Step 8. Create the Xsan volume

Add-Xsan-volume2

Step 9. Add LUNs to your storage

Edit-storage-pool-add-LUNs

Step 10. Save a configuration profile

Save-mobile-config

Step 11. Deploy config to clients

Use MDM or manually deliver the file to your clients.

Stay tuned.

Automatic Archive in Archiware P5

Let’s say you work in the media and entertainment industry, perhaps in Post production, and maybe, just maybe, you shoot a lot of digital film (R3D, Arri RAW, XDCAM, etc), and just maybe you have a SAN. And maybe you’re lucky and you set up a nice backup system using Archiware P5, for example. What about archive? What about finished projects, what do you do about that? Even more importantly, what do you do about the camera archives? That’s the digital film footage that comes in and gets copied to the SAN before creative work begins… it seems like important stuff. Very important to backup, and even better, to archive! How can we set up an automatic archive in Archiware P5?

DEFINITION: What is the difference between backup and archive? In the media and entertainment industry I would define backup as a continuous data protection of live data on a production volume, while archive is a copy of a finished project or original media that will be removed from the production volume and must kept safe for future retrieval. Backups will roll over (a new full backup every week, or month) and if that is all we had, then footage or projects that are done and gone off the SAN would be then lost. Archive separates out the finished projects or source material as needing an independent safekeeping. P5 Archive also has the option of creating a mini-MAM type database of proxy files that can be easily viewed in a web browser for quick identification of files to be restored.

So, how do we set up an automatic archive in Archiware P5? We want it to be automatic so we don’t have to think about it, since manually archiving like backups can be forgotten. If we set up a watch folder on the SAN then we just have to instruct everyone to drop their camera masters and other source files into the folder when they copy to the SAN and P5 will automatically archive them to an incremental tape archive. Wow. That’s awesome.

Tips and Tricks: If you edit with Final Cut Pro X then I recommend using it to make Camera Archives (a verified copy of the footage from the original card or drive) then placing this in the watch folder. If you’re using Adobe’s Premiere workflow, then Prelude can make a verified copy as well, but not in the same way exactly. This will be the subject of another post. Stay tuned.

What does an automatic archive look like?

P5 Archive watch folder

P5 Archive watch folder

Requirements:

  1. Pool (designated tapes, or a disk, for archive)
  2. Index (could be the archive default index, or a unique new index)
  3. Plan (an archive plan specifies the pool and index used as well as the what and how)

P5 Archive General Setup Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 1.46.50 PM

Tips and Tricks: If you’re generating QT previews then you’ll want to move your index off of the default, or else you might fill up your system hard drive with movie files and then your backup server won’t boot. No, I never done this. OK, trust me it will happen 🙂

Tips and Tricks: Make sure to set up a backup job of the Archive index. This is a safety measure. The archive index is not saved to the tape in the same way backup jobs information. You need to create a backup job specifically to save your archive index. But you’re already running a backup job to backup your Archiware main index, right? Uh huh, thought so.

Tips and Tricks: When creating the archive pool set it at 512KB media block size for faster archiving of big video files.

Archive Index:

Use the advanced options to create a new Archive Index, select its location and optionally create new additional fields to help searching for archived projects.

P5 Archive Db config Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 1.45.53 PM

Archive options:

Incremental or full? QT previews, yes or no? For an automatic archiving set up I suggest incremental archive and no QT previews. Using previews is up to you (and your disk space available), so plan accordingly.

P5 Archive Options Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 1.46.59 PM

P5 Archive Preview Gen Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 1.47.02 PM

If you have any questions or need help setting this up please do not hesitate to contact me. In the meantime, I’ll work on a nice PDF doc to summarize the setup. Download a demo of Archiware P5 and give it a whirl. You’ll see that it’s super easy to create an automatic archive location on your SAN and your editors will thank you when you can restore their files that they need (when they need it!).