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Special Effects House Taps Sun Storage

Rhythm & Hues Studios has installed a StorageTek SL 500 to replace an older system no longer up to massive storage management tasks.

Special effects house Rhythm & Hues Studios has deployed a Solaris digital archive storage system from Sun Microsystems Inc.

The Los Angeles company, which develops computer generated movie images like "Superman Returns" and the upcoming 20th Century Fox release "Night at the Museum" for Hollywood studios, said Thursday it has turned toward Sun after considering several platforms because it was the only hierarchical storage management system that made sense, said Mark Brown, vice president of technology at Rhythm & Hues.

The expandable StorageTek SL 500 with four-tape drives replaces a 60-terabyte ADIC EMass system that could no longer handle the task, Brown said. "We always need more processing power, and always we're always in a crunch for storage," he said. "If you give an animator 2 terabytes of storage, they'll need four, and if you give them four, they'll need eight."

And Rhythm & Hues Studios requires plenty of capacity. Last year the company worked on about nine films. There's a three-tier storage system to help keep things in check.

For quick access to content, there's a front-end system with about 35 terabytes that delivers between 700 megabytes and 800 megabytes of storage to the network. The second tier has about 70 terabytes, mostly tapped for content not immediately being used. The third tier supports long-term archival storage.

Sun's platform allows Rhythm & Hues to move content into storage not being worked on, and that frees up space to keep animators happy, Brown said.

"The new platform is much smaller, sits in about half a rack, and is really quite beautiful," he said. "The EMass had a 10-x-10 footprint."

The host is a Sun Fire V440 with four processors and 16 GB of RAM. Artists can now access files from the 120-terabyte system in about two minutes on average, compared with an hour on the prior system.

"The platform is solution driven," said IDC Research Director Robert Amatruda. "To solve a problem like this, Sun not only used a Solaris platform, but also tape technology from their alliance from StorageTek."

Rhythm & Hues will use the StorageTek SL 500 to archive digital images. It also will let the special effects house repurpose content for numerous platforms. While the robotic storage tape unit provides automatic backup, Brown said artists now have the ability to call up digital images in Apple Computer Inc.'s QuickTime to check scenes.

Brown said Rhythm & Hues, which runs operations basically on Linux, could link together several storage units and effectively upgrade in 2-petabyte increments easily.

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