“I cannot speak highly enough about Qumulo’s customer success team – they are super available, easy to work with, and they feel like an extension of our team.”

Kevin McGillicuddy, IT Infrastructure Supervisor

COMPANY

Sight & Sound Theatres is an entertainment company that produces live performances at multiple theater locations.

REQUIREMENTS
  • Ease of use
  • Data access at home and at work
  • Intuitive management of permissions & access
  • Simplified architecture
  • Long-term partnership and support

For Sight & Sound Theatres, Qumulo’s reliable, scalable and secure file storage provides peace of mind and simplified system management.

Educating and delighting millions of people every year requires reliable infrastructure technology.

For more than 40 years, Sight & Sound Theatres® has been bringing Bible stories to life on stage. With locations in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Branson, Missouri, more than a million people come each year from around the world for this uplifting, one-of-a-kind experience.

Today, Sight & Sound is the nation’s largest organization of its kind, and one of the top three theater destinations in the country.

Kevin McGillicuddy is the IT Infrastructure Supervisor for Sight & Sound, and oversees the upkeep, security and design of its information systems. His role includes managing a team of technicians who have a wide array of systems to secure, maintain and install every year.

One of the pieces of technology McGillicuddy’s team provides to the staff is storage. “Our audio and creative teams generate a lot of content, and having a place to ensure that is protected and available is critical to their deadlines,” he said.

Users want data everywhere, and on every device

Sight & Sound’s user needs are pretty straightforward. “The teams using the storage are looking for it to just work,” said McGillicuddy. “Users expect simple home experiences with technology to translate over into the work environment. Challenges with losing files, permissions or inability to access from any device need to be solved.”

McGillicuddy set the stage with some history on the organization’s journey to Qumulo. “When I started at Sight & Sound, the creative teams only used external hard drives. As you can imagine, this caused confusion and data loss. We then partnered with an outside party to implement a Fiber Channel SAN (from Quantum) to help alleviate these concerns. This SAN came with its own set of costs and complexity. As we started to grow, both in terms of how we worked and how much data we created each year, the SAN became more and more unwieldy to manage.”

Given the growth of data within the theaters, McGillicuddy’s team needed to expand the SAN’s storage capacity and performance almost every other year. “It was a costly, long, painful, and expensive endeavor,” he explained. “We did not have enough comfort internally to perform this ourselves, so had to work with an outside vendor to schedule and perform the upgrades and storage increases. This became a huge pain point because of how long it took to upgrade and how much trepidation there was around doing it.”

BENEFITS
  1. Real-time Visibility. Better insights into what the data is and who uses it led to better decisions and awareness.
  2. Control. Better permissions and peace of mind knowing data is safe.
  3. Scale Across. Accessible data across locations and devices.
  4. Customer Value. Meaningful partnership and investment from support.

Offering dynamic accessibility requires granular control

Securely managing access and permissions was a concern for Sight & Sound, which uses Active Directory as its primary identity management tool. “From the start, having Mac computers joined to the network and accessing the Fiber Channel SAN was fine. We had other Macs accessing over NFS since the high cost of Fiber Channel did not warrant some users getting Fiber. As we started to grow, and users began needing access from outside the building from iPads and Windows machines, the permissions became difficult to manage,” said McGillicuddy.

In 2018, Sight & Sound started an evaluation of several different vendors for a new storage solution. McGillicuddy said, “the main assumption we wanted to challenge was that we needed to have Fiber Channel, or if it could be possible to see acceptable performance from a NAS solution and simplify the architecture in the process.” When examining storage providers, Sight & Sound looked at Quantum, Red Hat Gluster, Dell EMC’s Isilon, and Qumulo.

“With our old storage vendor, growth wasn’t easy, so we had to put archived data on other shares, and this caused confusion when looking for assets.”


Kevin McGillicuddy, IT Infrastructure Supervisor

The power of an invested partner in storage

For McGillicuddy, there were several factors that led to Qumulo’s ultimate selection. “Support was a huge one. Being able to have some of our newer network admins be able to work with Qumulo’s support team who was friendly and knowledgeable was huge in helping support our environment.”

The implementation process with Qumulo went smoothly for Sight & Sound. “Qumulo sent out an engineer who took the time to train us and make us feel comfortable,” said McGillicuddy. “He really cared about our success. I cannot speak highly enough about Qumulo’s customer success team – they are super available, easy to work with, and they feel like an extension of our team. There is no dreaded feeling of ‘I have to call support now.’”

He continued. “We got a proof-of-concept up and running in five minutes. The user interface, being so simple, was refreshing.”

Visibility enables better insights and business decisions

Qumulo’s real-time analytic capabilities helped Sight & Sound’s IT team become better aware of data usage and bottlenecks. “We were in the dark a bit about what our data was, and who used it the most. The stats have been a great resource to my team,” said McGillicuddy.

Data replication and snapshots were also valuable for Sight & Sound. “The IT team relies on the ability to replicate and snapshot data within the Qumulo file system the most. We love that we can have our digital assets protected offsite and that they are able to be recovered from accidental deletion onsite quickly and easily.”

The last factor in Qumulo’s favor was “how easy it was day-to-day, it just works. We don’t spend much time with it, and upgrades are very fast and easy. Ultimately, our job has become easier with Qumulo and we are more confident in the services we are providing to our users. We also have less risk of data loss due to the new setup.”

What’s next for Sight and Sound?

Over the next five years or so, McGillicuddy sees organization and finding data as Sight & Sound’s main challenges. “We grow at about 25 TB a year. With our old storage vendor, growth wasn’t easy, so we had to put archived data on other shares, and this caused confusion when looking for assets. All our data is on Qumulo’s file system now, but it is not easily categorized by any media assets software yet.”

McGillicuddy is excited about the work he does with Sight & Sound. “I love to be able to work for a company that values people as well as technology. We are always willing to try out new technology to make our show design better. We get to support a 3-D unity application that is used to preview the show, and recently have been experimenting with augmented reality. Being able to offer reliable and protected storage at the same time helps me sleep better at night from a risk management point of view knowing that our storage is protected.”

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