BuzzFeed needed a shared storage system to keep up with production schedules for its branded content campaigns. The answer was a Quantum StorNext appliance-based system that combines storage area network (SAN) with network-attached storage (NAS) and preserves flexible options for future growth.
BuzzFeed is the world’s leading tech-powered media company, with a cross-platform news and entertainment network that reaches millions of people globally and constantly changes the way it finds and shares information. It mixes news and entertainment that spreads very quickly across different platforms, especially social media. BuzzFeed’s growth and success are very much the product of a set of very conscious business decisions aimed at keeping the company dynamic, fresh, and relevant while relentlessly using data and sophisticated metrics to shape its future and support its branded partners.
BuzzFeed content is viewed 9B times each month across a variety of platforms including BuzzFeed.com, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram.
VIDEO EMERGES AS KEY DELIVERY ELEMENT FOR BRANDED PARTNER ADS
One of the important production tasks for BuzzFeed is helping its brand partners create compelling video ad content that can be shown across BuzzFeed’s platforms. Branded content is an important element in the BuzzFeed experience, so it is important that it look and feels like the quality content that audience expects from BuzzFeed. To help make that happen, BuzzFeed provides top-tier creative and production services for its brand partners.
As the company was planning to move BuzzFeed studio to a new facility in Los Angeles, they realized that it was time to upgrade the video production system used by the Branded Creative Team to provide more streamlined workflow and easier, faster collaboration. The old workflow system was based largely on individual workstations with local storage, which meant that to collaborate, editors had to move files on removable drives from workstation to workstation. This hindered sharing between members of the creative team, slowed production, and made it difficult to review content in real time with clients.
LOOKING AT ALTERNATIVES FOR SHARED STORAGE
The team knew that they needed a shared storage system to improve workflow, so they evaluated several different approaches and spent nearly two months creating a proof-of-concept test for a NAS-based workflow solution. The experience with that system, including its performance and scalability limitations, led the team to remain open to alternatives. They looked to IMT— a Los Angeles area integrator with extensive experience in helping digital media organizations modernize workflows—for help in selecting the best solution. “IMT suggested that we look at Quantum StorNext, but we were reluctant at first,” explains Dan Munger, Video Technology Manager at BuzzFeed. “We thought of it as being SAN only and complex to set up and manage. Part of what we are committed to doing is getting technology that supports our model—and that means avoiding solutions that require lots of admin time.”
TEST LAB MAKES EVALUATION FAST AND EASY
IMT revealed that StorNext offered more solutions than the BuzzFeed team realized. “We explained that StorNext now supports a NAS interface as well as SAN and that it was based on an appliance approach that was easy to install and support,” says Joe Marchitto, IMT’s Director of Systems Architecture. Even though the option sounded interesting, BuzzFeed did not want to spend another two months evaluating the product. “That was where the IMT Lab came into play,” says Dan. “IMT said we could test the system with our data in their lab and that they could set it up in a day.” The results of the experiment convinced the team that StorNext was the right choice, and they made the decision to move ahead.
STORNEXT ENABLES COLLABORATIVE WORKFLOW
The new BuzzFeed Branded Creative Team solution includes a StorNext Xcellis Workflow Director—an appliance that hosts the StorNext software—288TB of disk storage, 10GbE NAS connections used by some 25 editing workstations, and 16Gb Fibre Channel connections for the high-performance finishing work. The new system holds all the work in progress, provides bandwidth for transcoding, and has the capacity to store finished work, making it easy to reuse existing content for new ads.
IMT and Quantum’s solution instantly improved the way branded content is created and managed. “Quantum StorNext shared storage has dramatically increased our productivity by letting our editors collaborate in real time, so they can focus on creative ideas instead of fighting with technical limitations,” said Richard Klopfenstein, Post Production Technologist. “StorNext gives us the high-performance transfer speeds and playback resilience we need to deliver content to our clients on schedule. By removing any user experience issues, it directly increases our ability to delight our clients. At the end of the day, our users 100% prefer Quantum to the previous workflow.”
ONGOING RELIABILITY AND MANAGEABILITY CRITICAL
The overall reliability of the StorNext environment has been an important bonus for BuzzFeed’s Branded Creative Team, minimizing admin overhead while keeping productivity high and controlling costs. Richard explains, “StorNext’s reliability is a must-have in our 24-hour production cycle. Quantum keeps our systems up for months with minimum maintenance, and that keeps our IT costs low, too.”
A key management benefit is StorNext Connect, an administrative tool that simplifies installation and provides operational data about the storage systems. Its GUI discovers storage and network resources, monitors overall system performance, and provides details on individual components, including health checks and information about latency and loading. Reports are automatically generated and proactively delivered to administrators and the service team to make sure that any issues are discovered and resolved as quickly as possible.
“One key differentiator to BuzzFeed’s branded content success is that they manage their business using real-time performance metrics, and they need to be able to manage their storage system the same way,” says Jason Kranitz, SVP Sales, IMT. “StorNext Connect lets them do that.”
FLEXIBILITY PROTECTS AGAINST FUTURE CHANGES
BuzzFeed, along with its branded content business, has enjoyed significant success because it has evolved in unexpected directions quickly while competitors stagnated. The team expects that the future will bring more surprises, making StorNext’s flexibility especially important. “New technology constantly becomes available in new media, and Quantum provides consistent updates and support to give us flexibility in our workflow,” said Hilary Kempkers, Sr. Manager of Branded Creative Post Production for BuzzFeed. “Clients consistently ask for the above-and-beyond, so flexibility is key!”
StorNext is designed to scale easily to meet a wide range of potential changing demands, including archive options on disk, tape, and the cloud. Dan Mungers says, “investing in Quantum’s StorNext long-term gives our department the scalability to tackle huge projects with confidence, and it provides predictability for our users, and our clients, no matter what the future brings.”