Case History - Rainbow

“In Italy, in the animation sector, there are but few companies of our size. For this reason, it has always been difficult to identify the right expertise for our needs. With HP and TT Tecnosistemi, we have been able to find the solution to many of our problems"

Sergio Polzinetti, CIO of Rainbow

“Thanks to the extremely direct relationship with HP, we have been able to provide the client with specialised resources to address and resolve the issues that have arisen during the implementation phase of the project"

Roberto Romaldi, Sales Executive for TT Tecnosistemi

Founded in 1995, Rainbow is a content company that creates and produces animation content for children. With more than 300 employees and 11 companies, Rainbow today is the largest European studio dedicated to animated television shows and films.

In addition to the creation and production of cartoons, Rainbow also distributes and licenses cartoon characters through a comprehensive media platform.

The "Rainbow model" is based on high-quality Italian productions aimed towards an international market. Rainbow manages all projects and activities entirely and directly, from the concept to production, through to broadcasting and licensing.

Rainbow's headquarters in Loreto, in the Marche Region of Italy, is a 20,000 sqm facility designed to be the perfect environment for creative development.

The modern-design building is an integrated system of offices, workshops, a canteen, cafés, and leisure facilities including a fitness centre, a swimming pool and a 80-seat 3D movie theatre.

Experiencing great growth and with the availability of new multifunctional spaces, the company decided to make a leap on quality on the IT front, choosing and installing HP EVA storage systems, thus achieving a solution that can provide high performance and business continuity.

In 1995, Iginio Straffi, a creative professional with a strong entrepreneurial drive, returned to Italy after a period abroad and founded Rainbow, a new player in the multimedia content industry, enhanced by a group of colleagues and technologies that, by today's standards, would seem insufficient for even for a task as trivial as office automation.

"There were seven of us when we started," tells Sergio Polzinetti, now Rainbow's CIO, " with only four computers and without even a UPS. For many years, we continued thanks to tenacity and good will, always producing technologically-advanced content, but without a CED worthy of the name, or infrastructures to meet the goals we were setting. We always managed to reach these goals, despite everything, thanks to the passion and love for what we do. Just to give an example, for some time, we had been working with an NAS placed under the desk and a switch on my desk, so we could provide fast connection to the workstations, as the cabling at our old office was not very reliable."

Over the years, the company has become increasingly renowned, first on the Italian and then the international animation scene, becoming a market leader, thanks in large part toWinx and its characters loved by children all over the world.

In 2010, the company, which now had multiple offices in different countries, decided to treat itself to new, prestigious and technologically-advanced headquarters.

With the new space, and above all driven by the new demands of the market, the Rainbow managers decide to renew the IT platform, adapting it also to future animation needs, as well as the modern safety and business continuity measures that are essential today, when data and processes become some of the most precious assets.

"The underlying premise at our company is that the core business is not the financial nor accounting part of it, but the creativity," explains Polzinetti, "and we have to handle huge amounts of high-speed, high-definition data (high-definition graphics for video). We cannot lose a single frame, the distillate of our work".

Thus began, because of the specific nature of Rainbow's business, the search for an IT solution that would ensure maximum continuity and data protection. The company also needed a solution that would secure the high performance levels required to work in full HD, not to mention the necessary economic sustainability of the potential solution.

HP and TT Tecnosistemi are a winning combination

"We had a system that could guarantee continuity down to the level of minutes," Polzinetti shares, "and the security of not losing any completed work even in cases of disasters. We had to put this overhaul off several times, and in 2010 the opportunity finally came, thanks to the new offices".

In the initial phase, Rainbow implemented an EVA 4400 HP architecture solution, but had not yet created a real disaster recovery system. Next, together with TT Tecnosistemi and HP, a second important step was completed by acquiring the new P6500 storage and at the same time achieving a remarkable degree of business continuity and disaster recovery (implemented by deploying two different SANs in synchronous replication on as many sites at their Loreto complex).

"We looked into a range of alternatives," says Polzinetti, "and honestly, all of them seemed technically valid. In the end, however, we decided that HP was the most suitable for our needs, and that the relationship with TT Tecnosistemi was a perfect fit to our needs, being straightforward and highly professional".

This trust was well-founded, because HP and TT Tecnosistemi are a solid team that quickly managed to grasp the peculiarities of the animation industry and bring the know-how and international experience of HP required to successfully complete the project, alongside the two EVA storage units, including the HP Network Storage Gateway X3800. The project leveraged the functionality of software environments such as Data Protector and EVA Continuous Access, all in a virtualised environment.

Also thanks to these technologies, Rainbow is the only Italian production house that can produce movies in 3D.

Performance and security are the basis for future development

The implementation phase of the new architecture has put the expertise of all players to the test, given the rather particular demands of animation-related activities. Yet, it was clear right from the start that there was a clear difference between the previous systems, and the satisfaction of the client was undeniable.

"There are psychological benefits," explains Polzinetti, "such as the certainty of never losing the completed work and the tranquillity of knowing that nothing or almost nothing will interrupt the process. There are also visible benefits in the day-to-day work, such as faster processing of data. To give you an idea, we are now able to create Full HD animations, having four times the resolution of an old movie in standard PAL, in a time-frame that is often even shorter than before.

If we consider that producing a simple cartoon requires months of work, it is easy to see what a leap in quality we have made with the new solution."

The future challenge, continuing on the road of technological innovation, is called 4K, and is the new video standard that will most likely replace Full HD.

"We will have to review our architecture again", concludes Polzinetti, "probably requiring a quadrupling of the current speed and quadruple the disk storage capacity , which now amounts to about 500 TB. Given the great trust relationship established with TT Tecnosistemi, which is always by our side in day-to-day operations, and the flexibility demonstrated by HP solutions, I cannot see any reasons for changing partners".

Rainbow has chosen various SLAs for the technical support of its hardware subsystems, from the "next business day" of networking to the "four hours" for the main storage.