CineD Interview at NAB 2023

Johnnie Behiri is a documentary cameraman/editor/producer/director.

Anthony Bari and Martin Christien fielding questions at the NAB 2023 iodyne booth

CineD’s Johnnie Behiri caught up with iodyne Co-Presidents and Founders Jeff Bonwick and Mike Shapiro at our NAB 2023 booth. Here’s a transcript of their conversation, edited for length and clarity.

CineD: How long ago did you start your company?

Mike Shapiro: We started iodyne in 2018, but we’ve only been selling Pro Data for a little over a year now, so it’s a relatively new product in the market. This is our first time having a booth at NAB, and we’re really excited to see so many new customers come and check out the World’s Fastest Thunderbolt RAID in person.

CineD: Jeff, I understand you and Mike have known each other for 25 years. Unbelievable.

Jeff Bonwick: We started working together at Sun Microsystems, where I developed the ZFS filesystem and Mike co-created DTrace and the ZFS Storage Appliance. We spun out a startup called DSSD focused on making the fastest enterprise flash storage, which was acquired by EMC. We each took some time off after that, but soon found we missed solving problems. Initially we founded iodyne to solve a problem of our own: we wanted high-performance, reliable, encrypted storage we could keep on our desks, and found it just wasn’t available.

CineD: Was Pro Data originally intended for filmmaking? Because you’re not originally from that industry.

MS: That’s correct – we come from a storage background. In thinking about where storage with these advanced features would be most beneficial, very quickly it became obvious that the media and entertainment market was not well served by existing solutions.

“Our job as storage is to get out of the way and let media professionals be creative.”

A very strong theme of our work over our 25 year history is to solve hard problems in a way that’s really easy for our users. Pro Data has advanced storage technologies like encryption, multi-pathing, and RAID-6, but we paired them with a software interface that makes them incredibly easy to use for media professionals on-set. They’ve got creative problems to solve, so in some sense our job as storage is to get out of the way and let them be creative and that’s what Pro Data does. It enables them to get the benefits of reliability, security, and performance without having to be experts in those things. That’s what we think is exciting about Pro Data, especially for this industry.

CineD: Jeff, how would you summarize what Pro Data excels at?

JB: Pro Data provides high reliability through RAID-6, always-on encryption, and the ability to multipath so you can connect multiple computers to collaborate, or multiple connections to one computer to go faster, or the flexibility to do a mix of both.

CineD: When I reviewed your product some of the comments were, “Hey, but I already have a NAS.” What is the main difference between NAS and Pro Data?

MS: The easiest way to think about it is that you really have a spectrum of sharing and performance needs. With NAS systems you can scale out to many users and with very large capacity, but your performance is limited by Ethernet. And small, fast SSDs can’t be shared at all. We’re creating a new category with Pro Data which has huge capacity up to 48TB with 5GB/s performance – multiple times faster than what a NAS system can deliver – but it also has some sharing capability. You can create workgroups of a couple people: a DIT and a couple editors on-set and you can collaborate in real-time. For most of our media entertainment customers working in small teams, our product is really bringing some unique things to the market.

Workflow demo

Tech Talks, new feature demos, and creative workflow solutions were a large part of NAB 2023

CineD: A small team usually means being on a budget, and of course performance comes at a cost. How is price-performance as far as Pro Data is concerned?

JB: Price-performance is really dictated primarily by the price of NAND flash. The actual overhead cost of the chassis, and the Thunderbolt connectivity and so on is not that high, so as the price of NAND comes down, our price can stay competitive with that.

CineD: You just introduced a new framework update for the product. What it’s all about?

MS: First off, Pro Data is not just an SSD: inside is a System on a Chip (SoC) running our proprietary software. For customers who’ve already bought our product, we’re adding new features and making Pro Data able to do new things. In this latest release, we’ve added an instantaneous Secure Erase feature, so if you’re using it as an encrypted shuttle, we can just throw away the encryption keys from our Secure Enclave with a click of a button and then re-use the device for a new project.

We’ve also added Data Scrub to perform background validation of all your assets to ensure that there’s 100% media integrity that complements the checksums from an ingest workflow. Lastly, we’re pre-announcing support later this year for Windows and Linux systems connected to Pro Data in addition to the Mac systems that we support today.

CineD: I like to travel light, and I really want to edit on-the-go. Can I expect in the near future to have the same performance of Pro Data but in a smaller package?

JB: We’ll be looking at bigger and smaller, more expensive and cheaper, and it’s really going to be driven by what our customers in this space tell us they need. Obviously, the ideal storage device would be the size of a credit card with petabytes of capacity. We are constrained by the laws of physics, but those laws do keep changing in ways that are very favorable, especially with the focus on lower power consumption across the entire semiconductor industry.

MS: Media professionals are using Pro Data on-set for ingest, as a secure shuttle, for playback, and for editing. For example, Lola Visual Effects, a terrific VFX company, has transitioned their entire playback environment to use Pro Data, which is capable of playing back ten streams of 8K ProRes 422 at the same time.

We’ve also got incredible security. A major studio just commissioned an independent security audit by Leviathan Security Group to try to break into our encryption to prove that it met very high standards of security they have in their studio. They gave us the highest rating they could – they were not able to break our encryption or password system, so major studios are betting their security architecture on what we put in this product and it’s an important trend for the industry so we’re really excited that we’re doing that at full performance and with ease of use.