A Leading Animation Studio

Optimizing Render Farm for Higher Productivity & Performance

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF THE RENDER FARM

A render farm is a high performance computer system, e.g. a computer cluster, built to render computer-generated imagery (CGI), typically for film and television visual effects. CGI companies deploy CPUs in clusters or grids, going up to several 100s, in order to provide the computing power required to render computer generated imagery (CGI). Even with sophisticated computing, producing realistic images is a time consuming and compute intensive activity. Performance is nearly always a concern in render farm settings. There are other concerns driven by industry trends - data sets becoming larger, jobs becoming more complex, more collaboration in the projects than before, delivery deadlines becoming tighter and of course, budget spending becoming smaller. Small wonder then, that there has been a demand to make the render farms more efficient and productive.

THE COMPANY'S PROBLEM

The company is one of the Top 5 Animation Studios in the world. Like most animation studios they have a very demanding IT environment. Typically at the studio, animators are working on different frames and scenes and hundreds of jobs were deployed across the different servers in the grid cluster. Default policies often committed to writing huge volumes of data directly to storage without first thoroughly understanding it, resulting in high IOPS utilization and expensive hardware purchases for additional IOPS capacity. This created a large read I/O load stress over the network as well as the NAS. With multiple film projects running simultaneously, this meant a huge load on the entire storage system. Just to give an idea – at one time there were 3000 nodes running render jobs! Added to these challenges, were challenges posed by network bottlenecks, due to faults and other issues. This is often resulted in NAS slowdowns and productivity losses.

THE DATAGRES PERFACCEL SOLUTION

PerfAccel gave the administrators at the studio, for the first time, a micro and macro level reporting of all I/O in the grid. Administrators could identify frequently accessed scene files. Armed with this visibility and knowledge, administrators could now fine tune their caching rules, so that the frequently accessed files could be held inside the cache and made easily available to the application. This not only reduced I/O latency but also greatly accelerated the speed of applications.

BENEFITS

Understanding & View of the Active Data

Administrators could now:

  • Track macro and micro level reporting of all I/O
  • Search and find network bottlenecks
  • Identify hot files and hot areas within each file, Over time, in a particular movie project, the same scene files were now used again and again, improving performance

Control of the Active Data

Administrators could now:

  • Cache only hot areas of the file or frequently accessed files

Accelerate Data

Administrators could now:

  • Offloading of I/O from NAS to local cache
  • Perform file level caching on the server itself
  • Save network load and improving NAS response time

VALUE TO THE COMPANY

As data began to be serviced to applications, from the cache, this translated into not only performance gains for the company, it also did away with the requirement to constantly upgrade expensive NAS storage. So, besides performance and productivity improvements, The Company also realised IOPs cost savings.

To sum up, the overall value to the company was:

  • Increased IOPS, Users see an IOPS increase of at least 2X
  • Reduced latency, Users see a latency reduction of 10X-100X within days
  • Faster applications
  • Improved ROI

USABILITY

DATAGRES’ PerfAccel provided administrators with a single pane that combined analytics and insight through performance dashboards, as well as a simple command line, for running commands i.e. creation of cache/source, deletion of cache/source, adjusting sizes and so on.

Its flexible interface let users configure their own policies of persistent cache, pre-fetching, predictive cache, real-time cache size configuration and auto-caching hundreds of NFS mount points.

PerfAccel Commands were easy to use and an administrator could learn them in a few minutes. The studio's system administrators were able to learn the commands easily.

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