Complex Networks Leaps from Print to Digital with StorNext

Improving Collaboration and Productivity for Digital Content Workflows
Moving to all-digital operations created new storage challenges for Complex Networks—a leader in delivering content for Millennials. The company needed storage that could help editorial teams support growing volumes of digital media, maximize productivity, and meet tight production schedules.

Founded as a print magazine in 2002, Complex rapidly gained a large audience by covering music, fashion, food, personalities, sports—plus other topics associated with youth and hip-hop culture. Within a few years, Complex began investing heavily in its online presence, launching new websites and producing digital media versions of magazine content.

By 2014, the company had become the third most-visited online destination across the United States for adults between 18 and 34. After an acquisition by a Verizon-Hearst joint venture, Complex Networks today is a digital media giant with more than 100 websites, news feeds, and online channels broadcasting an array of award-winning original content.

Reinventing Complex for Digital Operations
Transitioning from print to an all-digital media company required Complex to navigate many changes in content production and distribution. Unfortunately, the company’s early-generation storage and workflow systems were not ready for digital media operations. 

“Producing digital content presents different challenges than print,” says Jermaine Harrell, Manager of Video IT Operations at Complex Networks. “As we produced more content with higher-resolution formats and over a larger variety of platforms, we encountered much greater demands on the workflow side.”

The company’s network-attached storage (NAS) could not keep up with increasing demands for high-resolution video. “Our shared storage system restricted our teams to working at only one-quarter to one-half of the ideal resolution needed,” says Harrell. “As a result, editors were using external hard drives to increase throughput and get higher performance on their workstations—this interrupted workflows and impacted overall efficiency.”

Moving Forward with Quantum
The IT team needed a storage platform designed for high-performance video that could grow with the company and support 4K and higher-resolution content in a shared work environment.

“I had previously read a lot about Quantum StorNext’s interoperability with Xsan, in addition to working with other platforms, and the system’s high performance and effective file sharing capabilities stood out as one of the most useful options,” says Harrell. “The technologies were optimal for our large Mac-based environment and I was impressed with the roster of companies that were already using these systems—some of the biggest names in the media world.”

With help from system integrator Chesapeake Systems, Complex installed a StorNext-based Xcellis workflow storage system along with 500 TB of Quantum QXS-5000 Series RAID arrays.

Facilitating Collaboration with Fast, Direct Access to Content
Instead of five different teams working in isolation to produce content, now all editors have direct, shared access to the same files through StorNext. The new environment gives 16 editors Fibre Channel access for high-performance processing. For lower-performance tasks such as ingest and playback, the environment provides 40 more editors access to the same storage shares over Ethernet.

Enhancing Efficiency and Boosting Productivity
“Working in a single, shared storage environment has allowed for greatly improved efficiency,” says Harrell. “StorNext’s performance allows our editors to directly work on the highest-resolution content in full native 4K.”

The Quantum environment is also opening doors for managing, editing, producing, and distributing content in new ways. “StorNext has provided us with a reliable foundation to build out the appropriate technological infrastructure needed to support the growth of a global brand and media empire,” says Harrell.

Preparing for Future Growth
The Quantum solution has worked so well that Complex is planning another installation in a second office and is looking for ways to use StorNext to expand its archiving capabilities. “Today, we move content to a commercial cloud location for both protection and file retrieval for reuse,” says Harrell. “But we need to be able to handle more data and get to it faster, so we’re looking at adding a Quantum LTO tape archive and integrating that tier through StorNext. It’s great to have that option.”