NAB 2017: OWC’s Larry O’Connor Talks Active and Long-Term Storage and the DEC (Chassis) for the MacBook Pro
Larry O’Connor is Founder and CEO of Other World Computing, Inc. OWC is a leading provider of Solid State Drives, Data Storage Solutions, Memory, and accessories for Mac and PC computers. We interviewed him about digital storage and archiving, his recommendations for solutions for active and long-term storage and OWC’s recently-introduced chassis for the MacBook Pro line of laptops.
Both interviews are linked below. We will follow up shortly with further information about the products that OWC will be showing at the upcoming NAB.
You can listen to Pt. 1 of Larry’s interview by clicking HERE or by clicking on the image below.
Pt. 2 of Larry O’Connor’s interview with USTimes can be heard by clicking HERE, or on the image below.
And find Pt. 2 here (click below
The full transcript of our conversation is below for those of you who prefer to READ.
Larry O’Connor, Founder of OWC, interview with Cirina Catania of USTimes, Pt. 1:
Cirina Catania: Good morning everyone, this is Cirina Catania of US Times. Larry O’Connor’s on the line with me today, he’s the founder and CEO of Otherworld Computing Inc. OWC is one of the leading providers in my world of solid state drives, data storage solutions, memory and accessories for Mac and PC computers. I wanted to ask Larry about digital storage and archiving.
Larry O’Connor: Jupiter is within our scope in terms of basic storage, the archive side would lean towards DLT and I’d even, honestly, lean towards simple hard drive units. It depends upon how your archive … what you’re going for. The biggest challenge with archiving, in my experience, is not so much the archiving itself, there’s all sorts of different means to do it, different solutions that provide it but when you want to access that archive a year, five years, 10 years down the road, having it in a means where and you’re going to be able to get into it, that’s the big thing.
The one thing I’ll say right off the bat is avoiding proprietary storage solutions for those kinds of things because if something goes wrong with the means to access it, that’s where you suddenly have a big challenge. Encryption’s a challenge, accessing things that have been protected. Again, it’s easy if you’re the … for small operations it’s easy, if it’s one person who maintains it, but even there I’d say stay away from … Like if you’re on a Mac platform, SoftRAID is great because you can always fire off a Mac, it’s part of the OS, you don’t even need a driver to get to your data and it’s very open, but it uses a hardware raid solution because … For something bigger, you know you’re in trouble if something goes wrong in that box, finding a solution that’s compatible with the hardware scheme of 10 years from now is going to be very very difficult.
Cirina Catania : Let’s imagine you’re speaking to an enterprise-level facility and they’re generating literally hundreds of terabytes, if not on a daily basis, at least on a regular basis. Most of them are actually into petabytes by now. A lot of us are talking about what our challenges are so I wanted to ask you what you see as the biggest challenge for an enterprise level facility when they’re talking about either … What do you think the biggest challenge is?
Larry O’Connor: Active storage is accessibility in terms of having everybody that needs to have access to have the access they need, the performance they need, as well as the separation between different groups who should have access, what, when, where, how? After that, just straight expandability. A lot of facilities that we’ve talked to, they get into a solution that’s great when they put it in but when it’s time to grow it it’s either exceptionally expensive because they’re into a locked ecosystem or the system doesn’t really have the capability to grow as they grow. That’s a big challenge if you’re invested in something and a year, two years, three years down the road, are in a situation where it’s either very expensive, very difficult to expand it. I guess that kind of ties into archiving because the other aspect, of course, is making sure that you can properly manage what doesn’t need to be on your live, active storage along with having the storage you need for what really does need to be readily accessible.
Cirina Catania : So imagine you’re this executive and everyone’s talking to him or her about possible long-term solutions. Can you talk about what the possibilities are for the different technologies and what you personally might recommend and why?
Larry O’Connor: The two storage options that I certainly would put out there are DLT, because it’s tape and it’s relatively become more standardized today, and the other because it’s fast, it’s easy accessibility are large single hard drives. For me, the biggest concern long term, why I recommend relatively simple solutions for that kind of archival is what you do five years, 10 years, it could even be a couple years down the road, if it’s something more proprietary, accessing … I mean, it’s great if you’ve archived and you’ve stored all that great data, but when you want to get to it down the road, using something that’s proprietary can be very, very challenging.
If something’s wrong the hardware that you use to, that originally encode the data, especially with a hardware RAID at the box for whatever reason’s no longer functioning correctly or you don’t … Maybe there’s a special license key or something that somebody has to know. Anything that adds a layer that requires either human knowledge or … I would say significant human knowledge or something proprietary hardware-wise to access it, becomes very very challenging to have that data when you need it or when somebody wants it into the future. Things that are open and less proprietary, things that promote accessibility, I think are very important for archival.
That, of course gets into a whole other area which … this is somebody’s IP, these are things that are important to a studio or from a creative background process. This is somebody’s livelihood, a studio’s, a company’s, this is the legacy. The other aspect is if you’re going to encrypt or not encrypt. Again, it’s great to protect stuff but if you can’t access it or 50 years down the road they find it in a vault but the data is completely in a state where unless you’re able to find that person that retired and moved to Florida or whatnot, you’re not going to be able to get into it. It kind of defeats the purpose. Film was easy, you guys put that into a vault … of course, you had the environment and just the age and the lifespan of that kind of … that was a physical aspect. A lot of the things you can store in today last a very long time but there’s no value in what you’ve stored or how you’ve stored that media, that data, if you don’t have the ability to access it.
Cirina Catania : You know, you’re raising a good question that proprietary is very important, I mean, our company had to … We’re reviving a legacy program and we needed to access budgets from like 15 years ago. There were passwords on all of the financial files which 15 years later, who on earth remembers all of that? It became a little bit difficult to retrieve that information. We have to balance security issues with accessibility issues, that’s a really good point.
But let’s go back to the actual technology. I’m sitting here and I’m … obviously, I’m not you, Larry, so I don’t have the knowledge that you have, but I’m thinking about the old spinners, I’m thinking about SSD, LTO, DLT. Of all of those solutions, were you saying you would recommend DLT or what do you think the most reliable…
Larry O’Connor: DLT and spinners. Spinners are actually for all purposes are very reliable and ever more cost effective medium to store upon, as well as DLT. DLT has good lifespan and once you have the base investment done, it’s actually reasonably economical as well. You don’t have the same accessibility that you get with a actual spinning hard drive but in both cases, those have longevity. Solid state drives really should be powered on and should be up … We don’t have enough long-term data on the reliability of flash media that’s been powered down, de-energized for a long period of time. I would not suggest using flash in any way, shape, or form as a long term archival.
Cirina Catania : That’s really interesting, I would’ve thought SSD would be more reliable. I know in the field, in smaller doses it’s amazing because it’s very reliable, you can actually drop the drives and they still work.
Larry O’Connor: Drives that aren’t spinning, when you’re looking at a physical hard drive, they’re pretty robust and pretty tough when they’re not spinning. The problem with a hard drive, if it takes a hit while it’s up at speed, you’re talking 5,400, 7,200 sometimes, even 10 and 15,000 RPM spindle speeds on a hard drive. But in terms of once it’s … A drive that’s not being powered up and shut down all the time, drive that’s in storage is actually pretty If the head is parked. They’re pretty tough vehicles.
When you get to a solid state drive, solid state is absolutely … For the most part, it’s … By comparison, it takes a lot more to cause physical harm to a flash drive. You’ve got to cause physical damage to it, really hit it hard enough to cause something to break inside. It takes a lot more force to cause damage to a typical flash design and they have a lot less weight, there’s a lot of other things going for them, but in terms of long-term storage, it’s just a matter … I’m not talking months versus … I’m talking really years and years and years. At this point, there’s still some questions whether flash media would be reliable in terms of maintaining its charge over a certainly decades long period. Without being powered up throughout that interim. You don’t have to worry about that with a hard drive.
Cirina Catania: Don’t you have to spin them regularly, though? That’s the only thing that worries me about the spinners. If you don’t power them up once in awhile, don’t they … I’ve had a lot of mine die if they sit there for six months and I don’t power them up, you know?
Larry O’Connor: I would say we haven’t had that experience, in terms of … You can have problems with power supplies more so. Power supplies, with a long period of non-use, you can end up with issues, but typically drives sitting in storage have pretty good longevity. The other thing about a hard drive, if the data really has value again, managing an archive is also knowing what’s on each of the individual drives or the storage units however you’ve got it organized. Getting into a unit that’s in cold storage, the platters, what’s on those drives, has exceptional longevity, so there’s value there recovering or regaining access to a drive where you’ve got everything documented.
You know what’s there and what’s there to recover is also a very, very high probability where if you end up with a situation where the drive hasn’t had a major catastrophic failure, it’s just it won’t spin anymore because something’s gone wrong with the board. Again, just in terms of at the end of the day, film had to be … You can pull film out of that vault and you can restore it in fact, these other restoration processes are amazing, what they do with film. I’d much rather have a hard drive to recover data from than some of the other mediums.
Cirina Catania : What solutions are you recommending at OWC for enterprise level active storage? Do you have some technology there you’re making available to people?
Larry O’Connor: Sure, we have our Jupiter solution which provides really high accessibility, high … For lack of a better term, partitionability, in terms of being able to have areas for production, able to have areas for post-production. When I say archive, you know, live, completed projects area where … Any number of, whether it’s … It’s network-wide access to storage that has acceleration so that somebody can do … actually ,a team of people can do editing on a project while the output is someplace else and can even be all the way distributed across the internet.
From everywhere from production to the people who are managing and producing who want to see the output as it comes along, all the way out to testing out to the internet where people will be able to watch clips, the Jupiter system can do it and it uses a mix of flash storage along with a lot of memory, processing capabilities and spinning drives provide high capacity and network-wide access at speeds up to about 4.8 gigabytes per second. It’s really really fast storage. A fast solution that provides for an entire enterprise one access point. We use ZFS for the file system so it’s nothing ultra-proprietary, it has great redundancy built into it and it’s something that scales.
When you need more storage you can simply plug additional storage in and it doesn’t … You don’t have to repartition or reallocate, it automatically expands. For lack of a better term, again, the containers that people put their data into. The fun thing is you can give different individuals areas where they have their storage access, you can give teams area of storage access and those … the privileges allow you to put data where you need to put data and access data that you’re allowed to access. Again, all with high speed and great simplicity plus knowing that it’s redundant and it’s available and the sky is the limit for all practical purposes.
For long time archiving, I’m still a big fan of drives, of spinners. Non-hardware raid solutions, software raid solutions are fine as long as you [inaudible 00:24:20] again, documentation of what’s been used is very important. Things that are open that don’t lock you into something proprietary that five years, ten years down the line, could be a challenge to recreate, find, or replicate, should you have a problem with the original hardware or you’ve stored the drives and you don’t have the original device anymore that obviously becomes a real defeating purpose if you want to access the archive, but hard drives, I’m still a big believer in whether it’s for archive or for sharing media because they’re fast, the data structures are … you’re right there, plug, play, go, and then beyond that, the DLT is a really good option.
I mean, placed with the support, DLT, with the infrastructure is there, where they’re ready to accept them as being … and it’s already in use, DLT is a great way to share data. It’s also very good archive medium as the standards are there, but once again, very very important with this, especially DLT, where there is somewhat of a proprietary solution requirement. It is a technology that’s more nichey obviously than a good old hard drive, just need to make sure, I think of all the things that are important for archiving is good documentation accompanying the archiving so you know what’s there to access.
Everybody’s talked about it before, people are going to encrypt their password data, you got to make sure that you’ve got the means to have those passwords somewhere or better yet, this is just my opinion, find a way to have an archive location where the data doesn’t have to be passworded and protected so that it’s … the access to that data, that location, that storage area itself, a physical storage area where you’re putting your cold storage, that’s where the protection is because otherwise this stuff is … The things we protect today, 50 years they’re historical.
If it’s something that you want somebody to be able to access, it’s got to be … You definitely want to make sure that there are not barriers that could defeat that accessibility. Stuff that needs to be password protected, it probably belongs someplace else anyway. Financial, things of that nature you talked about before, that’s a different class. That’s something else but the kind that you’re … The legacy that you want another generation to be able to see one day, not just for the monetary side of the equation, just make sure that the documentation is there, however it’s been put away, so that it can be … There is a means to access it and again, I’d say again, using things that are open as opposed to things that depend on proprietary ecosystems is a big help when you get past the present.
In the present, all that stuff is fine because there’s support for it. There won’t be support for 90% of the things that we use today in another decade or two decades, but things that were open standards that weren’t anything special and unique and nichy, those are … The means to access, the means to restore and what not will be there certainly for a very long time to come. That would be where I stand.
Cirina Catania : That is a good point, Larry, thank you so much for talking to us today. Tell us where we can go on the internet to find out more information about you and your company.
Larry O’Connor: I’d invite you to visit OWCDigital.com, where all sorts of great storage and other [inaudible 00:27:31] technology … extending technologies can be learned about. So OWCDigital.com and of course MacSales.com, always happy for folks to visit that site as well.
Cirina Catania : I’m a very frequent visitor. That was Larry O’Connor, Founder and CEO of Otherworld Computing, I’m Cirina Catania of US Times, thank you for listening.
END OF INTERVIEW PT. 1
Interview with Larry O’Connor, Founder of OWC, Part 2
Cirina Catania : This is Cirina Catania of US Times, Larry O’Connor is with me today. He’s the founder and CEO of Otherworld Computing. If you want anything having to do with solid state drives, data storage solutions, memory and accessories for Mac and PC computers, visit MacSales.com. That sounds like an advertisement, doesn’t it? That was not my intention but Larry, I am very excited about what you have. Good morning.
Larry O’Connor: Good morning, Cirina, thanks for that great introduction.
Cirina Catania: I know, I’m sorry, I kind of went off on a tangent there. Just that I really am a frequent visitor of OWC and I appreciate you coming on today because I wanted to ask you about this chassis that I see here that can greatly enhance the user experience with these new MacBook Pros. Tell me about what that is and why you invented them and what they can do for us.
Larry O’Connor: Certainly. Apple makes exceptionally solid hardware. It lasts a long time, it does for the most part what it’s supposed to do, it also is something that we make a pretty significant investment in. The DEC, which is the expansion chassis you speak of, we first came up with about three, four years ago, thought about bringing it out for the original retina models and ultimately looked at it and talked to folks and we still had enough ports on the retinas that gave people what they needed. We could upgrade the solid state drive inside so capacity long term was something that could be addressed without having to bolt on additional capability another way.
But these new 2016 Macs, really, some of the MacBook Pros this past fall, really kind of changed the equation there. In my humble opinion, Apple kind of got ahead of itself. In a couple years, the type C ports may be everything that we need, the cat’s meow for … It’s great to have a single port type to connect anything and everything except for today, you can’t connect anything and everything to it. There are existing workflows with type A USB, we have ThunderBolt 2 ports, we have a need for display ports, we have all sorts of … Heck, we have card readers on the … We have the need to read cards and such on the road. Taking all the ports away to make this machine super thin, you couldn’t have a type A port on the 2016 MacBook pro because of how thin they made it. They went to these type C’s and have created a debacle for folks.
You have good capability for a lot of people into Macs and it’s not so much … I would still wait for the next generation, personally, of the touch bars, I’m not a huge fan for a couple reasons but getting away from all that. If you’re on the road, thinness is nice but if you have to haul a whole bunch of adapters and other components around with you because it doesn’t have built into the base the things you need to do your basic job, then it’s kind of defeated itself. The DEC is a solution that brings back the ports … brings back port capabilities and also adds internal storage that is upgradable, where Apple has pretty much made the … the new machines are effectively appliances with no upgradability or serviceability whatsoever. And a lack of ports, quite frankly.
The DEC is a solution that we return the thickness to about what a 2012 MacBook Pro was but in doing so we’re bringing back the type A ports, we’re bringing back ethernet, we’re bringing back a display port and we’re bringing back internal storage so that in addition to what the factory offerings have, you can add additional, whether it be a spinner or a solid state drive, you get to add additional capacity so you have that on the road. We have some other things, cover sleeves, as we’ve talked, especially ProTools folks, and some video folks in terms of what would really make them happy for an all in one solution that they can take with them that …
It’s interesting, when you talk to the pros and you look at the 2016 MacBook Pro, the MacBook Pro, to the pros, is really an expensive computer built for consumers as opposed to being a true pro system on the basis that when they’re out working, they don’t need a super-slim system. That’s nice, they need a system that has the ports and the connections and the capabilities for them to do their job. They’ve been extremely enthusiastic about the DEC platform as a means to eliminate having to carry a bunch of … even to, certainly, chassis around with them and adapters and everything else so they have one device that as long as they have it with them when they’re at their site, they’re doing everything that they need it to do.
I do hope that Apple listens to the pros because if you look at … It’s interesting, when they started … when people started telling me that an HP or a Dell is everything they need and more and you look at the Macs and … Then they say if not for Apple’s software, they wouldn’t be an Apple user, it’s at this point concerning. Apple’s too much form and not enough function these days, on the pro side. Beautiful equipment that lasts forever but,
Cirina Catania: How much does the chassis weigh? The expansion chassis.
Larry O’Connor: Fully loaded, the expansion chassis adds about 1.4 to 1.5 pounds to the device. So we go from a 4-pound machine to about 5.4, 5 and a half pounds. In A 2012, by comparison, it was about 5.6 pounds on the 15 inch.
Cirina Catania: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, that’s pretty awesome. You know, this is a small thing, but having the chassis actually makes it easier to get through security because you don’t have all of the peripherals crammed into your carryon bag, you just have your laptop with a chassis attached to it. I love it, not having to carry all of those adapters. Soon as I get my new MacBook Pro, I’m going to get the chassis as well.
Larry O’Connor: Awesome.
Cirina Catania: Well, Larry, once again you’ve come up with a solution that’s just so simple I’m sure other companies looked at what you did and said, “Why didn’t we think of that?” Right?
Larry O’Connor: We’ve been working on it and again, people kind of were critical, “Oh, three years.” Well, we’ve been thinking about it for three years and it was only really last, again, when the new machines came out that that need became truly … It went from being, “Yeah, it would be nice,” to a necessity for a lot of folks. We want our cake and to eat it, too, and now we continue to take advantage of Apple hardware that should last a very long time, Apple software which is still tops versus anything on the other side of the fence and they can have all those ports and extra storage and even the ability to swap drives out at will to manage your capacity needs on the road. It’s a solution that honestly I don’t believe should have to exist. We should not have to do something like this but Apple has gone in the direction that Apple’s gone and we’re glad to have a solution that kind of provides for those that are … The true pros that that MacBook Pro, I think Apple thought was aimed at. The only advice I put out there is if you’re going to build a machine for the pros, please talk to the pros.
Cirina Catania: Absolutely.
Larry O’Connor: Again, I can’t say it enough and I talk way too much and I keep on … I ramble on about this but you talk to folks, they look at the HP or these Dell or even these Lenovo laptops that are big and thick and ugly and clunky looking, but their argument is, “They have everything you need so that you go to one place, you got all these ports to plug things into.” They moved to type C as well, you got type C on all these new Windows notebooks but you also still have the type As, you still have video connections, you still got ethernet and network, you still have the things that people need to use every day without having to get 10 different adapters. In a couple years, it’s going to be a different world but we’re in the now and it’s … You can bring the future on as quickly as the future can support it but nonetheless people have workflows that work really well for them. It’s nice to give people stepping stones as opposed to cold turkey force a whole other wave of … Don’t make it harder for somebody who’s already happy to continue to go forward with you.
Cirina Catania: Well, thank you. I know we appreciate that very much as users of the stuff. Where can people go to hear more about, to see more about these DECs?
Larry O’Connor: They can check out a great DEC display that’ll continue to evolve with more and more information as the DEC comes along at OWCDigital.com.
Cirina Catania: Great, so that’s O-W-C-Digital.com and that was Larry O’Connor, Founder and CEO of OWC on the line with me, Cirina Catania of US Times. Thanks, Larry.
Larry O’Connor: You’re welcome, my pleasure.
END OF INTERVIEW PT. 2