Remember Sochi

posted in: Acceleration

Gigabits per second (Gbps). That is a unit you hear thrown around when talking about our file transfer technology. We brought 2Gbps transfers to NBC this year for the Winter Olympics. Uploads and downloads. Watching the data flow through our system while in Stamford, it got me thinking about the scope of it all.

Now, to understand why NBC would need this sort of bandwidth, you need to understand just how much data can be generated at a simple sporting event, never mind the entire Winter Games. When you watch an event, every camera angle represents roughly 1 Gbps of data or more if they were using the HDTV RGB 4:4:4 format.

So a 2 hour event with a modest 3 camera angles can generate roughly 3 terabytes of uncompressed HD video. Keep in mind there are boatloads of peripherals as well, such as lo-res proxies, edits, metadata… the list goes on. For now let’s just focus on what a single event can generate from 3 cameras alone.

A terabyte is quite a lot of data. It is such a large amount that it loses meaning without a frame of reference, so let’s move this to something that you can relate to. Your computer. Your computer right now that you are using to read this blog can upload data on a cable modem anywhere from 128 Kbps to 728Kbps. Again more somewhat meaningless numbers, but here is where it gets interesting: if you wanted to upload a single sporting event at the winter games it would take you anywhere from 51 to 291 days at those rates. Days. That is not a typo.

Sochi had 98 such events. So if you wanted to upload all footage from the Olympics using a typical connection, you are looking at anywhere from 13 to 78 years. Again, not a typo. Scary isn’t it?

Now I am not trying to imply we moved every last bit of data. There was much editing before it hit our servers. Not everything needed to come across, either. That is not my point at all; the point I am trying to make is if push came to shove, our software could have handled every last bit of uncompressed HD footage. The number I get in my calculator here is 12.25, that is better than the 13 years and miles better than the 78. Oh, and the thing I should mention is my “12.25” is in days, not years.

Our technology could transfer the footage of the Olympics before the events finished, and that’s why we brought 2Gbps transfers to the Olympics this year.

This is all hypothetical of course. We did not handle that much data. We can take a peek, however, at an average day for FileCatalyst and really see what we did handle.

Sampling from a 24 hour period from Saturday Feb 8th 4 P.M. to Sunday Feb 9th 4 P.M. we had 123,982 transfers moving just over 3.5 terabytes of data. On your home computer you are looking at 60-340 days to transfer an average day at the Olympics. You might experience difficulty getting the files across.

Now you might be wondering why I keep picking on your home connection, on how the Olympics would have failed because your poor cable modem could not handle this sort of data. I mean, we had powerful machines and we had an amazing 2Gbps connection to Sochi, so the odds are stacked so far in our favour it really seems a bit unseemly to be bragging how fast our transfers were compared to yours.

But the reason it was relevant and probably the most interesting thing about this article is the fact that the raw connection speed and computing power could not help FTP-based transfers. When we tested FTP transfers in this amazing environment, we basically got transfer rates similar to your home DSL connection. All of this processing power and bandwidth utterly wasted. If we had to rely on FTP to transfer this data, it would be arriving some time in the future where your children are grandparents and we would finally have the flying car.

Flying Car

If the world looks like this when your files finally arrive, you should have used FileCatalyst