Sidebar: Rendering on Demand

For Threshold Digital and other visual effects studios, the demand for processing cycles has peaks and valleys that follow film production schedules. "Toward the end of a project, we need more power," says chief animation and technical officer George Johnsen.

Rather than adding blade servers, however, Threshold recently began experimenting with the idea of renting processor cycles as needed from IBM's Deep Computing Capacity on Demand center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. "On-demand is a cool thing, especially for a cyclical business like ours," Johnsen says.

Under the arrangement, IBM dedicates a group of preconfigured blade servers to Threshold, which accesses them by way of a virtual private network connection through the Internet. "We have a dedicated gateway and a core group of processors," he says. "If we need more, we ask for more." IBM then configures additional blades to the studio's specifications on the fly and brings them online as needed. "It gives me access to a tremendous amount of power and a resource that I can schedule differently," Johnsen says.

With Threshold Digital's workload expected to grow 25% this year, Johnsen still plans to add more blade servers to the rendering farm, doubling the number of processors to 1,024. But with a server room measuring just 15 by 20 feet, space is at a premium. Outsourcing of processor cycles could solve that problem. "If the strategy works with the on-demand center, I won't need a bigger room," he says.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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