Avid Storage: ISIS vs. NEXIS

When Avid announced the revamped storage line – dubbed “NEXIS”, it was more than a simple rebranding. The tech changes under the hood only reinforced the Avid storage platform as one of the most effective solutions out there for collaborative productions. What may have been lost during the deluge of tech announcements earlier this year was exactly why NEXIS is more than just a name change.

First, let’s demystify the 3 new Avid storage options.

1. The NEXIS | PRO. The NEXIS PRO is the market equivalent of the ISIS 1000. It’s a single, standalone chassis, clocking in at 20TB and expandable to 4 chassis maximum.

2. The NEXIS | E2: a standalone chassis, and half the rack space of an ISIS 5000/5500. It’s actually the same footprint as the NEXIS PRO/ISIS 1000. It contains 1 of the new “Media Packs”, which is a pack of 10 drives. Available in 20TB or 60TB variants.

3. The NEXIS | E4 is also a standalone chassis, and twice as large as the E2, in terms of hard drive capacity and rack size – it’s just as large as an ISIS 5000/5500. The E4 can house 1 or 2 Media Packs – thus, 10 (half populated) or 20 (fully populated) drives before you need a new chassis. Think of it as a doubled E2 in a single chassis.

Often, storage comparisons use speeds and feeds to differentiate from other solutions. However, often the context of these numbers is lost during comparisons, leading to confusion in the market. For example, one company’s burst speed can be another company’s sustained speed. Thus, when we look at Avid’s new storage, it’s important to clarify some of the finer points of the new features.

1. Media Protection. It would be simple to call the NEXIS protection scheme as a RAID5 (1 drive redundancy) or RAID6 (2 drive redundancy). But it’s not. If a drive dies, data is systemically rebuilt, focusing on recovering the media referenced on the lost drive first as opposed to the entire drive set. Avid calls this “Media Aware Protection”. This ensures that the most sensitive data is recovered first. Both the E2 and E4 solutions offer this type of protection, while the NEXIS PRO is full time 2 drive protection.

2. Speed. While Avid shared storage has never been the fastest storage solution out there, Avid has always been a big proponent of sustained throughput. This means that under light or heavy loads, Avid guarantees the same performance. This allows you to have predictable results when planning your production. Each single NEXIS PRO or Media Pack can handle up to 400MB/s – and it scales linearly as you add NEXIS PRO chassis or Media Packs. For example, this means a fully populated E4 has 2 Media Packs (2 x 10 drive Media Packs) and allows for 800MB/s.

ISIS | 5500

ISIS | 7500




Drive Sizes






Media Protection

Raid 5 / Single Disk

RAID 6 / Dual Disk


Mirror + Dual Disk

Upgradeable Redundant Controllers

System Director



Mix and Match Engines

Common Spares

Half Populated Engines

SSD Acceleration

Per Chassis Max Speed





800MB/s (fully populated)

An unseen yet vital reason for the increased performance of the NEXIS system over the previous ISIS offering is the OS underneath. Avid has opted to move from a Windows server OS to Linux (Debian “Jesse” if you’re into that sorta thing). Not only does this OS change yield the inherent security provided by a Linux OS, but also the stability needed in mission critical environments. Often, processing overhead typically required by a Windows server OS deployment can also decrease overall system performance – something a lean and mean Linux deployment can bypass.

If we put the tech aside for a moment, we should remember that these new storage offerings are a sobering reminder of something we never really want to think about.

That is, the investment you made into your shared storage solution may be reaching the end of it’s warranty. Drives are apt to fail (20% of hard drives die within 4 years of purchase), and support may come to an end. The blend of the potential loss of warranty, coupled with the improved technology may be the “right place right time” scenario to upgrade your systems.