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Virtual Reality Presents New Data Storage Challenges

We must solve one massive challenge with VR currently being overlooked: What to do with the endless, enormous data files being created by VR platforms.

Matt Starr is the Chief Technology Officer of Spectra Logic Corporation. 

Virtual Reality (VR) is buzzworthy, but few have experienced the technology or truly understand its many applications. This is changing as VR goes mainstream. Companies innovating in the VR space are raising funding in droves as the industry as a whole raised a record $3 billion in funding in 2017.

While the excitement is clear for consumers and developers, we’re also seeing increased adoption of VR for commercial and military applications. For example, one company announced a complete geospatial solution that enables telco companies to analyze environments in 3D and 4D, while deploying new networks. The possibilities are endless, but first, we must solve one massive challenge currently being overlooked: What to do with the endless, enormous data files being created by VR platforms.

What Industries Use VR?

The entertainment and aviation industries were the first to use VR, but the technology is proving to be a major asset in real estate, defense, healthcare and education. 

In real estate, for example, VR allows builders to “show” prospective clients their structure in 3D, before construction teams have ever broken ground. In healthcare, VR helps doctors prepare for important surgeries with intricate, real-time simulations. Even the sporting industry is ripe for VR. The technology can transport viewers from their couch to the 18th hole at Augusta National, and let NFL quarterbacks go beyond film study to "play" against their opponent’s 4-3 defense before taking the field. 

These exciting, new applications create a tremendous amount of data that must be stored, protected and preserved for the long-term. Currently, the file sizes for VR are huge, and applications can generate up to one terabyte of data per hour, depending on the camera. A sports organization streaming 60 games per year at three hours per game must be prepared to store more than 180 terabytes.

The reality of storing VR data is preventing some industries from investing in the technology altogether. Organizations need to be smart about storing their VR data, or suffer costs that cut into other development and planning initiatives.

Storing VR Data

Cloud storage isn’t practical for VR because there is a constant need to retrieve, edit and enhance the content. While upfront costs of cloud storage are minimal, the recurring cost of continuing to store data in the cloud becomes expensive as data grows. Recalling data from the cloud is also a costly task, especially for files as large as VR.  The network pipe alone to transfer 1TB per hour would break most companies bank roll.

The key to storing VR data is finding a solution that allows companies to access and tinker with the files, then archive them economically to protect and preserve the data forever. Often, this translates into a two-tier storage system, with network-attached storage (NAS) on the front end, and tape storage on the back. 

This is a cost-effective system that is perfect for VR content.  Tier-one storage, like NAS disk systems, make data easily accessible, ideal for VR content that is active and ready to be edited. Once editing is complete and the content is final, it can be moved to a low-cost second-tier storage medium, like tape. Not only is tape storage inexpensive, it’s also the only storage medium not susceptible to cyber-attack.

A two-tier storage infrastructure will save VR organizations money and time when storing their content. This industry is rapidly growing, but without proper storage to protect and preserve data for the long term, growth will slow. Organizations in the VR space are spending billions on content creation. In order to run successful businesses, they must invest in viable and scalable storage infrastructures that can keep pace as their VR content files increase.

Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating.


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