August 11, 2004

Panasas and SpectSoft make a Linux splash at SIGGRAPH

Author: Greg Weinstein

LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- SpectSoft,
creator of open-source Linux high-end digital disk drive recorder (DDR)
software, and Panasas, maker of Linux
cluster file servers, joined forces at the 31st annual SIGGRAPH conference this week to demonstrate high-performance Linux systems for the digital video and effects
industries. This is Panasas's first demonstration of a system for this
application, while SpectSoft, a California-based start-up, announced version
1.2 of their application, RaveHD for Linux, with an enhanced user interface.According to SpectSoftâs VP of engineering, Jason Howard, RaveHD is ideal for digital
dailies. Provided as open source (including all libraries) for licensees only, the system is compatible with Slackware 9.1 and later, Red Hat
6.2 and later, MySQL, Oracle, and is generally highly compatible with most
Linux distributions. It supports HD digital recording and playback in 10 and 12
bits per color per pixel at a full 24 frames per second without compression â
easily over 70 Mbytes per second throughput to disk on industry standard
hardware such as PCI-bus PCs. The product lists for just under $4000 per desktop.

Ramona Howard, president of the family-run SpectSoft, describes the software as
being fully compatible with SD, HD, HD-SDI, and HD-Dual Link SDI interfaces,
supporting high-end film-quality cameras such as the Grass Valley/Thomson
. The RaveHD products
support standard file formats, so that customers may easily write Linux-based
software to access individual frames in the video clips, or access the clip metadata (fields defined by the user) in the SQL
database. The software is in use at companies such as Tippett Studios, used on
the recent Starship Troupers 2, and is being used by LucasFilm on Star Wars III:
Revenge of the Sith.

Panasas, which launched their Linux cluster storage server last November, hopes
to move into the high-performance digital media arena with their announcement at
the show, coupling their server with software such as RaveHD, according to their
director of marketing communications J.P. Gallagher, who said, âItâs uniquely
suited for rendering and post-production,â performing up to 305,000 disk operations per
second on the SPEC benchmark.

According to Gallagher, Panasasâ ActiveScale cluster implements a Raid 0 or 5
solution using a unique architecture, reducing overhead and taking advantage of
multiple Gigabit Ethernet data paths to stripe data across separate âbladesâ and
implement a single ârealmâ (namespace). The system is compatible with NFS or
CIFS, and is distributed as a complete turnkey system plus binary RPM for target
Linux systems, with Red Hat being the most-used platform. Gallagher describes
their ActiveScale system as âcost effective, high performance, scalable, and
easy to manage.â Itâs currently installed at customers in the oil and gas
industry, biotech (such as genome sequencing), and at Los Alamos National Labs,
where it is part of their 200 terabyte top-20 speed âLightningâ supercomputer
cluster. In other words, it's a mature, Linux-compatible system; only the film
industry application is new.

The annual international conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive
Techniques is produced by ACM, the
international professional society on computing, and its SIGGRAPH special interest group â and is
said to be the largest SIG-produced conference in the world. 25,000 professionals and students from six continents are expected to gather for the world-class
technical conference, trade show, emerging technologies exhibition, art show,
and juried animation festival, including the three-day exhibition of products
and services for high-end computer graphics this week. More information is at

Greg Weinstein has been a professional engineer, product manager, and writer
over 15 years, specializing in consumer software, web products, and consumer
electronics. He has previously written two books and numerous articles for for
Computer Graphics, Web Developersâ Journal, PC Register, MSX World, and other
small press. Greg has designed or managed the creation of computer systems,
media and graphics products, and consumer imaging software. A Tennessee native,
he resides in Silicon Valley.

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