The Render Farm Grows From 1,000 To 4,000 AMD Based Computers
While Lucasfilm is most noted for its huge AMD CPU based render farm that makes its visuals shine, the move gave the company an opportunity to further expand the render farm to include the entire corporate Workstation population. One of Plumer's ideas was to pull plenty of fiber around the new campus, and make sure that all workstations could be remote controlled from a central location. This includes using them during off hours when all that AMD CPU power can continue to work productively.
ILM's new campus is easy to get to.
The main render farm, lovingly called "the Death Star," is located in the 13,500 square foot data center. The farm includes about 1,000 machines. Three thousand user workstations are spread around the campus. All of the Lucas buildings at the Presidio have raised floors everywhere to facilitate installation of fiber. The company standardized on Opteron-based HP 9300 workstations, and is using the higher-end dual-core Athlons from AMD, too. But, that can change at any minute as Plumer and his technical staff keep pressing AMD for CPUs that provide more and more computing power.
"Our machines are working 24x7. When the artists go home in the evening, those workstations become part of the render farm, thanks to our own job scheduling program," Plumer said. "The jobs go into a large queue and from there are assigned to a processor - it could be any AMD processor on our network, so the render farm can grow to 4,000 machines at night."
With all these PCs crunching away, you can imagine the cooling costs are enormous. "We are also clever at what we can do with power cycling the systems to keep the cooling costs down," Plumer said.