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November 6, 2015updated 21 Oct 2016 5:25pm

EMC on tour with U2 – big gigs that generate 100s of Gigabytes

Case Study: Putting a flash array in a flight case and carting it around the world

By Sam

U2 world tours tend to be big. For the current tour the band’s creative team decided on a giant screen running the entire length of the auditorium.

The double sided screen measures 27m by 7m and during the show this displays high definition video and live video streams of the band. And the band even physically go inside the screen and interact with the visuals.

What this means is the 25 manually operated and automatic cameras that film each gig and the pre-shot animation and high definition video consists of and generates hundreds of gigabytes of data. Much of this data is generated new each night.

Live Nation is the world’s largest concert producer and when it was putting the tour together it knew a data storage solution that relied on USB keys wouldn’t be enough.

Chris Ratcliffe, SVP marketing Core Technologies at EMC helped describes the project. "The band wanted to integrate themselves into the digital event. With the screen running the entire length of the arena each show is using 100 gigabytes of data in pre-rendered video."

The archiving of data generated at each show is also a huge storage requirement.

"The specification discussion we had with them showed we would need an array to store visuals to be showed on screen. And then they said they wanted to stream every camera, that’s every show which is between two and three hours long. It’s about a terabyte an hour. They also got into archiving. They wanted to get into mix and match and archiving live data."

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EMC supplied a 25TB VNX e3200 all flash array. It has a small footprint and is relatively low power.

This manages pushing the visuals to the screen. It is the box that the creative team share as visuals can be added sometimes on the day of the show to reflect the city or location of the concert.

"Most evenings there are some bits and pieces literally dropped in on the day," says Ratcliffe. "100% of the content is pushed from the array onto the screen. Other visuals are mixed with live feed and displayed."

After each show all the data is archived to disk from the VNXe3200 to an EMC Data Domain DD2500.

EMC received the requirement from Live Nation. Picked all flash model for its ease of use and robustness and delivered it from its Hopkinton headquarters to Vancouver where the band were rehearsing.

The deal on a done on a standard support contract and says Ratcliffe, despite the box being switched on and off, packed into a flight case and rolled around the world, it hasn’t been called on.

"They got two boxes and a standard enterprise support agreement which is a 4 hour response anywhere in the world. These are off the shelf boxes. We got a standard flight case, stacked and racked, shipped it off to them fired it up and gave them an hours training."

At the end of the tour the question is what to do with all that data.

"We’ll probably drop in some spinning disk and have had some discussions about doing a second archive back to the cloud. Those discussions will happen at the end of the year with the shows video director," sais Ratcliffe.

This being Rock’n’Roll the highly respected video director, one Stefaan Desmedt goes by the name ‘Smasher.’

The plan for this tour was shoot everything. Archive it. And then later decide what and how to and monetise it.
One idea believed to be under consideration is to mix the best performances of different songs into aggregated content for possible online sale.

"We think we’re going to see more and more of this type of business," says Ratcliffe.

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