OpenDrives: Building an 8k video editing rig


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4k video is bogging down systems everywhere. So I was surprised to see native 8k video – whose files are 4 times larger than 4k – being edited natively.

They’re no newcomer, having been in shipping for seven years. OpenDrives was founded to provide high performance/cost effective NAS storage to bleeding edge media and entertainment (M&E) companies, which is where most of the team earned their stripes. But their performance and cost is winning them converts in other fields, such gene sequencing, where mountains of data are generated daily.


Their storage systems delivers up to 18GB/sec of bandwidth, enough to support multiple uncompressed 4k streams, or, as I saw, uncompressed 8k video. And they do this at a price that, they say, is up to one-third that of the industry heavyweights.


As the name suggests, they use commodity hardware as much as possible, including Intel Xeon CPUs, HGST NVMe drives, Arista and Mellanox networking, and HP servers. With considerable tuning they are able to fully saturate their hardware internally.

In fact, they find that optimizing the network is key to getting their performance to the workstation user, so they’re working with Intel to integrate 100 Gb/sec into their next gen products. Today they support up to 4 40 Gb/sec links for their external network.


Anyone can buy high-end hardware. OpenDrives’ secret is in their software, starting with their use of the modern OpenZFS file system, which they’ve forked and tuned for performance. They also have a patented cache management system with aggressive pre-fetch to eliminate inter frame delays.

They use standard network protocols – SMB, NFS, NDMP and others – and standard file types, so there’s no data locking.

In addition to high performance, they also offer snapshots, replication, deduplication, mirroring, optional data in-line data compression, even variable block sizes. All included in the product’s price.

The Storage Bits take

Given the single-minded performance focus of OpenDrives, it’s clear that 8k video editing will remain the domain of high-end systems for some years to come. But that’s OK. Even a big budget feature like Gone Girl was shot in 6k, not 8k.

But this points up a larger sea change in storage, from the I/O-focused enterprise systems of 20 years ago, to the bandwidth and performance focused systems of today, driven by the incredible development of digital video over the last decade, and now, increasingly, by Big Data. Data storage is becoming ever more central to modern information infrastructures.

Courteous comments welcome, of course.

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