Interview with Ono Seigen and Ardis Technologies CEO

Seigen Ono: In February 2010 in exclusive review for ProSound, I had a chance to test DDP - Dynamic Drive Pool with multiple ProTools, Fairlight and Final Cut Pro workstations with some famous Japanese Audio and Video engineers and results were very impressive. I think DDP is revolutionary solution for saving time, equal budget for TV, Film, Game and Music industry.  We actually never saw anything similar, especially not for Audio. What is the secret behind it?

Mr. Jan de Wit: Well our background is a quite creative one and coming from that point of view, we have made decision to try make DDP as simple as possible but at the same time to make it very powerful.
Creative people such as producers, sound engineers, musicians, directors, editors etc. do not want to spend their time on learning new equipment and when you tell them word SERVER they become even afraid, so that was our biggest task but we took on this project and since introduction of AVFS, we are almost there in the making the DDP the ultimate storage solution.

SO: I agree, At the moment most of my works are done in Hi-Resolution DSD, often direct recording (8 to 10 tracks) or mastering. But If I work commercial session for client (like 48 or more tracks) I prefer DDP without compromise the quality and flexibility for client"s needs. DDP must be only solution for 96KHz X 96 tracks, so secret is AVFS right?

JdW: Well yes, AVSF is the major element of the built in technologies inside of DDP and stands for Ardis Virtual File System, it combines the intelligence and ease of use of NAS with the speed of SAN system.

SO: Yes, what I want to know is how it works? 
JdW: Imagine extra Drive on your desktop, just like your own internal drive, but this new Drive is 2-3 times faster than your internal drive when transferring Audio or Video and it is connected over 1GbE ethernet (or 10 GbE).
Also as its running our own version of iSCSI,  it's Directly Attached pretty amazing right?
SO: Our work suppose to be that way. But most of HDD has limitation. So instead of creating work, mixing, often we have to work more for solution for tracks, capacity, etc. If I say simply "I want to work on 96KHz 96 tracks" someone says "It's not yet stable, but is ok up to 32 tracks..", I don't want to hear those technical excuse issues in production. 
So AVFS makes DDP fast, am I right?
JdW: Yes, its very fast, but now imagine the same drive which can be connected and shared between multiple PC's, Mac's and Linux machines without any other additional software.
SO: But don't other shared storage do the same?
JdW: No. Most of other NAS storage solutions uses NFS or SMB/CIFS as a file system which is 2-3 times slower and not directly attached also often called "Network Drive". The DDP uses the concept of local drives. You see a local drive icon appear on your Mac or in your computer on the PC. The difference with a local drive is that in the DDP case everybody can read and write to that same local drive if they want to. That way the DDP is called an Ethernet based SAN.
SO: I also remember, we could play audio files on Mac and those files were originally created on PC or vice versa?
JdW: Yes, that is also possible because of AVFS, so one drive can be shared between multiple OS platforms without any extra software or additional set ups.
SO: So how many audio tracks of audio can you play from 1GbE cable with AVFS than?
JdW: With DDP we can play 400 tracks of audio with single 1GbE cable, and by using the 2 x 1GbE we can even record 10Bit HD uncompressed Video. 
SO: You mean by using two 1GbE cables?
JdW. For the last 3-4 years, all MacPro computers have 2 ethernet connections and also some of the modern PC's as well. By pairing them we can double bandwidth/speed, this we call MCS - Multiple Connections per session and is another great hidden technology inside of every DDP. But power without control it doesn't mean anything, so because of that we have made Bandwidth Limit. With Bandwidth Limit on Read and Write we can enable any user to play more video tracks for example , while when they try to copy data, speed is limited. This is great because it prevents users to pull the network down which means by doing this we can avoid drop frames. Another example is heavy rendering over the network, so Bandwidth limit should be used here as well. There are many other hidden features and built in technologies inside of every DDP.
SO: Thats sounds wise and logical...  Do you have any special installations worth of mentioning?
JdW: We have lots of installations in Japan and worldwide, we used DDP in South Africa for live ingest and edit of Football World cup in 2010, also we recently sold DDP here in Japan which will be used for World Swimming Championship this year, but maybe most interesting project for readers of ProSound is the one involving 20 ProTools HD3 systems and simultaneous playing up to 4000 tracks of audio and dozens of DNxHD 145 streams of Video.
SO: Wow, I use mainly 8 tracks (DSD) or 32 tracks in ProTools.
JdW: Well, nobody is perfect
(both laughs) 
SO:  Can you explain simply why  DDP is the only Shared storage solution which can handle PT correctly?
JdW:  Merging technologies, Logic, Cubase, Nuendo etc. uses regular File system, But  because of reliability  of ProTools, Digidesign built they own DAE - Digidesign Audio Engine.
For Pro Tools is very important to have DAE which bypasses standard file system on PC/Mac. So with PT you dont have normal standard computer file system, but you have DAE which reads and writes to the disk. 
So the solution was to build the interface inside of DDP software so that DAE could can communicate with DDP correctly.
It took long time and lots of efforts, but we are still the only one who can manage ProTools and small Cross fades properly. 
SO: So how this all started, you mentioned you are also creative right?  (laugh)
JdW: We started Ardis Technologies in 2001 which is owned by Bart Thissen and myself. Before Ardis Technologies we had a company called "Augan Instruments" which made one of the first audio recorder/editors at that time. Both of us come from audio background and we are still active as musician/composer and dj.
SO: What do you play, guitar like me?
JdW: Yes, everybody plays guitar nowadays. (laugh)
Before 1990 I was a distributor of Synclavier in the Netherlands. During one of these shows I met my present partner Bart Thissen, a young bright 18 year old wizard kid. At one point I had a request from an organization called Fokker-Huygens who managed a 31-one tone per octave electronic organ in the Teyler Museum in the Netherlands. It is called the Huygens principle. The dutch physicist Huygens back in the 17th century had calculated this as the pure mathematically tonal scale. This organ was up for replacement because it was old. 
They came to me as an distributor of Synclavier and asked if Synclavier could build a digital 31 tone/octave version. Since Synclavier was not interested, myself and Mr. Thissen decided to develop one from scratch. We build a prototype consisting of thousands of TTL components and developed the software for it. We build the prototype such that it could be integrated in 6 integrated circuits (IC's) later on. We also made arrangement with churches with good sounding pipe organs so they could sample the sound of the pipes of the organs. Finally we were at a stage to show the prototype to the Fokker-Huygens organization. They were very enthusiastic but unfortunately they could not get the money organized.
SO: So what happened?
JdW: At that point I had poured all the money from my  musical instruments retail business and the money from my career as a pop musician into this prototype. 
Well, we decided to look for funding elsewhere and we got into contact with Mr Graham Blythe the founder of Soundcraft mixing desks but also a well known organ player. He suggested to build an audio recorder/editor from it and he draw some pictures of how a user interface could look then. Mr.Thissen and myself then decided to make a Ltd company called Augan Instruments and raised capital to fund the making of the integrated circuits and the software. Developing integrated circuits at that time was very very expensive (more then 300.000.000 Yen) and to save on the costs, we trained ourselves to be chip designers so we could designer own chips in the chip design company. After the first chips arrived and after building the software using the Linux with more than 500.000 lines of code  to operate the machine we made a product called GO-OP with 2 inputs and 4 outputs using one of the first magneto optical disk drives. We rented a booth at NAB but we where on such a tight schedule that we were still testing the product while the taxi was waiting to bring both of us to the airport. 
When we came into the hotel in Las Vegas with the first GO-OP we heard noises by turning the box. Luckily we brought screw drivers and solder iron to fix it. When the show opened right from the beginning our small booth was immediately fully crowded with visitors. That stayed that way until the show finished. Because the machine crashed with certain operations rebooting was need quite a lot. While one of us rebooted the system the other one explained then the workings further. Later on people from Philips told me that that was normal. When they showed the first prototypes of the CD player they had a huge installation behind the curtain with coolers and a mockup before the curtain to show.
SO: when was this?
JdW: Luckily at the time there were no big screens and the GO-OP had a dedicated controller with a small very high quality Finlux screen. Mm, It was 20 years ago.
After the NAB we finished the product and took it into production and setup a network of distributors. Our company sold many of these systems but in Europe only. Until this day later version of this technology are still in use in some dubbing companies in Germany and UK.
Few years later, I saw one of our products in China, unit was looking identical to ours with same knobs a, but inside there was no software whatsoever. 
SO: And after that?
JdW: In the late 1990 Philips and Sony decided that the market needed a new technology to replace CD's. That technology was called DSD but also known as SACD. Because there were no DSD audio recorders on the market and Philips wanted to make recordings themselves to get that part of the cycle going Philips approached AUGAN and DCS. They invited us to build 4 DSD audio recorders. So together with DCS we build four SACD recorders with magneto optical disks. Philips put these in flightcases and shipped them with a team all over the world to do recordings. 
They were the first usable SACD recorders and very expensive at that time.
SO: That is amazing story and?
JdW: At the end of the previous century we could not compete with other audio recorder/editors anymore and started doing development work for Linn Audio products and Behringer under the name Ardis Technologies. 
On my way to Tokyo in plane next to me sat the guy, smiling on me. It was Ian Wilson, from Linn audio who was visiting his distributor in Japan. It was so great a coincidence. We talked about good old times and future of course.
SO: So when was DDP born?
JdW: In the spare time Ardis Technologies started developing the DDP technology. The first DDP products was brought to market at the end of 2006 and Dreamtek with Elvin Jasarevic in charge, were the first Distributors of DDP in UK.
SO: So when was DDP introduced in Japan?
[jan_de_wit] JdW: The first DDP in Japan was sold in March 2010 and the same client bought 4 of DDP24D at the same time.
Today most of major Audio and Video companies including major TV stations uses DDP in 24/7 operation and many more already planning to employ it.
SO:  What is next for DDP?
JdW: With introduction of our AVFS file system in late 2008, DDP started to represent benchmark for Video shared Storage and only solution for Audio companies with guaranteed and highest number of Audio tracks at highest audio resolution possible. We have few big software projects already in development so you better watch this space. (laugh).

SO: Jan your story was really great, anything to add for the end?

JdW: My biggest wish goes for help in rebuilding of homes and life to people of Fukushima Prefecture and i hope all Japanese people will unite and solve this big problem. Whole world is with great Japanese nation, and we also  have made small financial contribution. I hope many others will do the same.
I also would like to personally thank to all DDP resellers and everyone at Mitomo, Too Corp, Tac System , Miki Gakki and Rock On for their hard and great work and i wish them lots of success in the future.

by Seigen Ono