Studio Network Solutions is a system design/facilitator company specializing in networking systems for the audio and video production industries. The main focus of SNS is on Fibre Channel technology, which offers data transfers over wire or fiber-optic cables at rates in the gigabit/second range — fast enough to handle even the most demanding production chores.
SNS made a major splash at this year's NAB convention, where it unveiled A/V SAN PRO, a Storage Area Networking (SAN) solution for the audio, broadcast and video post communities. A/V SAN PRO offers both scalability and large storage capacity, but what really turned heads was its seamless integration with Digidesign Pro Tools MixPlus systems and simultaneous access by multiple users, followed by the development of rock-solid device drivers and software interfaces supporting Mac and NT workstations and even Tascam machines. Partnering with leading-edge companies — such as ATTO Technology, JNI, JMR/Fortra, Vixel and Seagate — SNS can create systems from the best available suppliers, without having to reinvent the wheel or depend too much on esoteric, proprietary components. For example, in the storage department, SNS exclusively uses Seagate drives. “They're the best drives available and the only drives that have passed our interrupt tests,” says SNS chief systems designer Gary Holladay.
At AES, SNS will debut its next generation of cross-platform (PC and/or Mac), multi-user networking products. Partnering with Lucent and Vixel, SNS has developed A/V NET, a wide-area Fibre Channel system that allows users to network within a 250-mile radius, securely mounting and utilizing hard disks in remote locations in real time with performance superior to that of SCSI. The physical interface is essentially an A/V SAN PRO on a Lucent backbone. “This is a dedicated point-to-point private network — it's not the Internet and it's as secure as a bank transaction,” Holladay explains.
In addition to file-sharing, the SNS network provides numerous other solutions, such as off-site backup, storage, maintenance and archiving services. Performance is also an issue. Aside from the obvious connectivity benefits, A/V NET delivers the performance required to take full advantage of applications like Pro Tools and Avid, without having to deal with SCSI's inherent throughput issues.
SNS will demonstrate A/V NET on the AES show floor by interconnecting DAWs from different manufacturers, connecting various locations around the exhibit hall to a central SAN at the SNS booth via of fiber-optic cable. “People have been needing something like A/V NET for a while,” Holladay adds. “It's not like this is brand-new technology — the difference today is that we now have the bandwidth and the speed of Fibre Channel. It's certainly fast enough to work on files in real time. You can mount the hard drive from up to 250 miles away, and you can record 64 tracks of 24-bit/48kHz on one drive in a Pro Tools system. With Nuendo, we've been getting even better results — with up to 120 tracks of playback from one drive. Also, A/V NET can be a RAID solution if redundancy is necessary, but for most of the audio and video applications we deal with, the technology and throughput of our networks are faster than workstation users need.
“The 250-mile figure is a physical limitation,” Holladay admits. “Fibre Channel is theoretically capable of carrying data to longer distances, but I believe the 250-mile limitation is a function of the Lucent hardware. However, we are constantly looking at ways of extending this, and eventually we'll hit the 800- and 2,000-mile marks.”
SNS has designed several products that cater to the ever-changing audio industry. The first is a single-rackspace Fibre Channel storage enclosure offering the same performance as A/V SAN PRO, but at a lower price and intended for users who need better performance than SCSI but don't necessarily need a network. Priced a few hundred dollars more than an SCSI system, the newly released A/V SAN can record and playback 64 tracks of 24-bit/48kHz on one drive. Exact pricing for the 4-drive-capable unit — shortloaded with two 72GB drives (144 GB total), host bus adapter, cables and two empty bays for future expansion — would list around $5,999.
Holladay is optimistic about the new unit. “Once people get this single-rackspace product, it will spell the end of SCSI-based solutions. And with FireWire backup systems — which everybody is moving toward — there won't be a need for SCSI at all.”
Studio Network Solutions, 1919 Innerbelt Business Center Dr., St. Louis, MO 63114; 314/423-4787; fax 314/423-4867; www.studionetworksolutions.com.