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Video effects firm cuts costs by 20% and goes hybrid with Hammerspace

Jellyfish Pictures saves on rising power and office space costs, as well as Brexit difficulties, by using Hammerspace to allow access to large files from any geographic location

Visual effects production house Jellyfish Pictures has deployed a Hammerspace global file system to manage around 1.5PB (petabytes) of storage for very large video files, and expects to save around 20% in costs in areas ranging from electricity bills to office rent.

The company – based in London and with a Middlesex datacentre – produces visual effects for movies and broadcasting, with credits that include Star Wars, Sex Education and Gangs of London.

Jellyfish Pictures has transitioned from being a fully office-based work environment to hybrid working. This has allowed it to recruit more widely across the UK and Europe, as well as around the globe where Hammerspace instances can be stood up within 24 hours to support employees.

“Running costs in the UK have increased massively,” said chief technology officer (CTO) Jeremy Smith. “A lot of our workloads are similar to HPC [high-performance computing], and the cost of electricity in UK datacentres has also shot up.

“We’re looking to run in more cooling-efficient areas – for example, Montreal, where cooling and electricity are a lot cheaper. Over three to five years, hardware costs are nothing compared to the cost of powering it.”

Also, said Smith, the workforce – especially since Covid – is predominantly remote. The bulk are in the UK, with around 40% in Europe.

“Brexit is also a consideration here,” said Smith, “because people don’t know if they can buy a flat or house in the UK with any certainty.”

Finally, there has been a huge upsurge in demand for content.

Currently, data is managed from mostly Linux servers in Jellyfish’s own datacentre in Hayes, Middlesex. Hammerspace runs on high-end AMD processors with about 1.5PB of storage capacity, and expansion is planned. Users can connect to datacentre-hosted workstations to work on files.

When people work from new geographical locations, Jellyfish sets up Hammerspace instances there and the software handles data migration to those countries.

“We can stand up a new territory in about a day,” said Smith. “So, if we wanted to set up in South America, we’d run a Hammerspace instance on [Microsoft] Azure with the storage and workstation provisioned. Then we can see how it goes and, if needed, we can work with a datacentre partner and put bare metal resources on the ground.”

Smith said the company could save 20% on compute costs by storing data in a cheaper geographic region. “We haven’t done the sums on bare metal power consumption yet, but expect the saving to be about the same, and that’s a lot over a year.”

Hammerspace also makes a big difference in management overhead for Smith’s team.

“It takes a lot of headache away from workload migration. Moving data from A to B is done on the back end. Ordinarily, you’d have a team of people just moving data, but the global file system handles that without us needing to,” said Smith.

“It’s disruptive, in terms of lower running costs, scaling easily, working with distributed teams, getting over issues like Brexit and allowing us to shed office space.”

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