Rising Sun Pictures signs up for cloud render farm rental

Visual effects company Rising Sun Pictures has signed up for a new cloud computing service, and the company’s owner says the service’s location in Australia was an essential part of its decision.

Rising Sun Pictures has become a customer of Frontline Systems’ new infrastructure-as-a-service offering, Steam Engine.

A visual effects production house that works exclusively on feature films, Rising Sun has peaks and troughs of demand for the computing power needed to render its output.

If we can slice off the top 50% of capacity we need, there is a saving of an enormous amount of capital expenditure we can make each year.

Tony Clark, owner, Rising Sun Pictures

"Our year is dominated by a number of spikes when our requirements go through the roof," says owner and visual effects supervisor Tony Clark. "Usually this happens in May and in the lead-up to Christmas -- the two major movie release windows.

"We end up with this significant spike that means you need double or triple the usual computing requirements. It makes no sense to provision for that. You’d have 300% of baseload," much of which would be underutilised at other times. Rising Sun has therefore come to an arrangement with Steam Engine that sees it rent servers configured with images of the operating system and other software used on the machines in its own "farm" of computers dedicated to rendering.

"This is a bare metal hire of a bunch of compute power," Clark says. "They boot an image specific to us on the bare metal and we hire those servers for the duration of the project."

This approach, Clark says, is superior to creating a cloud application on a public cloud platform, as there are no APIs between Rising Sun and the rented capacity. Nor, thanks to a fast link between the company’s Adelaide offices and Steam Engine’s Sydney data centre, is there a lot of latency to worry about. That speed is important, because while Clark is aware of numerous public cloud compute cycle services, his clients literally become agitated if work is delivered ten minutes late. A local cloud with less latency is therefore something he appreciates and hopes other providers will supply.

While he waits for that innovation, Clark is enjoying the impact of his new on-demand service."What we will achieve is the ability to slice peaks off demand utilisation," he says.

"We know each node in our render farm costs between $3,500 and $4,000 to acquire, and then between $150 and $180 a year to house. If we can slice off the top 50% of capacity we need, there is a saving of an enormous amount of capital expenditure we can make each year. We have done our financial model and it stacks up very well."

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