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Siggraph: Pixar animation software to get boost on Windows supercomputers

Movie studio says new RenderMan release will support HPC Server 2008, 64-bit Vista

By Eric Lai
August 13, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The rendering software behind such hit animated movies as The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Monsters Inc. should become even more powerful when it becomes available on Microsoft Corp.'s most advanced operating systems later this year.

At the Siggraph 2008 computer graphics conference in Los Angeles this week, Pixar Animation Studios Inc. said that a new RenderMan Pro Server 14.0 release will be the first version of the software that runs on Windows HPC Server 2008, the upcoming release of Microsoft's operating system for high-performance computing clusters and supercomputers. RenderMan 14.0 will also support the 64-bit version of Windows Vista, according to Pixar's announcement.

Pixar, which is now a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Co., was founded and long run by Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs. But previous versions of the 20-year-old RenderMan software have long run on Windows, going back at least to Windows NT and Windows 2000. The software also runs on Mac OS X and Linux.

RenderMan 14.0 will be able to take advantage of the larger and faster hardware supported by 64-bit Vista and HPC Server 2008, according to a blog post by Todd Needham, a senior product manager for high-performance computing at Microsoft.

"Let's put it this way, your graphics pros, your render wranglers, they just got their headroom doubled," Needham wrote.

RenderMan 14.0 is scheduled to ship in the fall, said Pixar, which sells the software to other companies in addition to using it internally. Pricing for the new release wasn't announced.

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Windows HPC Server 2008 is in beta and is expected to ship by year's end. Known as Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 in its previous incarnation, the operating system is designed to compete with Linux in the research and scientific computing markets.

According to Microsoft, HPC Server 2008 can support systems that scale to thousands of processor cores, and it includes faster networking capabilities and more powerful cluster management tools than prior versions offered.

Read more about Windows in Computerworld's Windows Topic Center.

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