BACKGROUND: Rhythm & Hues is an Academy Award winning film production studio specializing in visual effects for feature films, television commercials, theme park rides, music videos and interactive games. The company's 70,000 square foot facility houses a staff of over 250. This includes live action and animation directors, animators, painters, modelers, producers, programmers, writers, technical and production support.

PLATFORMS: We are an SGI shop with 50-70 OCTANEs running IRIX 6.4, and the remaining 100 machines are a mixture of Indigo2 Extremes and Indigo 2 IMPACTs running IRIX 6.2. All of these machines access the NetApp F760 and the other F600 series appliances we have deployed.

PROBLEM SOLVED: We require tremendous storage capacity to keep nearly 200 machines going at one time. The deluge for us comes at night when all the machines turn into rendering engines for production on the latest movie's special effects we are creating. Before we deployed NetApp filers, we would often come in and find the SGI workstations running at only 80-90 percent of capacity. We went with the F760 because it has a lot more muscle and it has CPU capacity to spare even when the studio is running at 100 percent. Now with NetApp, our operation never shuts down.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The NetApp F760 has incredible raw CPU and disk speed and the Fibre-Channel (FC-AL) disk drives enhance the speed of the NetApp filers. There is no comparison between the old SCSI disk drives and the Fibre Channel disk drives, especially when it comes to speed. NetApp filers accelerate application performance; and they also simplify multi-terabyte storage management into a single interface, which is vital for us, since we are dealing with data intensive applications and nearly 1.5 terabytes of data. The F760 also has four OC-3 ATM connections, which allow us to use the full network bandwidth of the machine.

STRENGTHS: Our operation uses more than 200 SGI workstations, which can be an administrative nightmare. The NetApp F760 eliminates the need for specialized set up and administration, which frees up valuable time and saves us a significant amount in administrative costs. From a manageability standpoint, the layout of the F760 is a dream. Another strength is the scalability of the NetApp filers. We have been using Network Appliance products for four years. We started with a low-end box; and as we have grown, Network Appliance has scaled to meet our demands. Scalability is mission critical for our operation because we are dealing with multi-terabytes of data and our storage needs will continue to grow. We deploy the F760 because it can scale to meet our demands, no matter how great.

WEAKNESSES: The one weakness with the F760 is that we wish it supported Optical Carrier level-12 (OC-12) because of the huge amounts of data we have to move. One OC-12 is better than four OC-3s.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We did try competitive products, but they were excruciatingly slow to start-up and shut down. Network Appliance can boot up in a minute or two while competitive products took ten minutes. Other key selection criteria for us were scalability, reliability, speed and ease of use. The NetApp F760 beat the competition hands down in all of these areas. In addition, Network Appliance's products have RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) built in while the competitive products do not, or don't do it as well.

DELIVERABLES: The NetApp F760 gives us the ability to run the following reports: system configuration information, performance monitoring information and system error conditions (handled via e-mail, fax or pager).

VENDOR SUPPORT: After four years we are old hands at operating NetApp's filers, but we still work closely with NetApp. If there is ever a need for us to call them, we know they will respond quickly and efficiently.

DOCUMENTATION: The manuals are very comprehensive, easy to understand and easy to navigate. As a matter of fact, a few of our junior systems administrators were able to get our newest filer up and running just by using the manuals.

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