Tag Archives: AVATAR

A Look at the Dark Side of the Force

When I go to San Francisco, I head over to the west side of town to peer through the closed gates of the hidden campus of Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) dreaming of catching a glimpse of the magic.  Recently Arik Hesseldahl, from All Things Digital, accomplished my dream and had a peek behind the curtains of what makes ILM run.  Arik interviewed ILM’s CIO, Kevin Clark and then toured the ILM data center.  Continue reading

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Yet Another Win for HP Blades, but Why?

I heard a rumour on Friday that HP has been chosen by another animated movie studio to provide the blade servers to render an upcoming movie. To recount the movies that have used / are using HP blades: Continue reading

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Weta Digital, Production House for AVATAR, Donates IBM Blade Servers to Schools

Weta Digital, the digital production house that designed the hit movie AVATAR recently donated about 300 IBM HS20 blade servers to Whitireia Community Polytechnic in Porirua which will use them to help teach students how to create 3-D animations. The IBM HS20 blade servers were originally bought to produce special effects for The Lord of the Rings at a cost of more than $1 million (for more details on this, check out this November 2004 article from DigitalArtsOnline.co.uk.) Weta Digital has since replaced them with more powerful HP BL 2x220c G5 servers supplied by Hewlett-Packard, which were used for AVATAR.

According to the school, these older IBM blade servers will help the schoolexpand its graphics and information technology courses and turn out students with more experience of 3-D rendering.

Thanks to Stuff.co.nz for the information mentioned above.

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The Hit Movie, AVATAR Processed on HP Blade Servers

Since the hit movie AVATAR surpassed the $1 Billion Revenue mark this weekend I thought it would be interesting to post some information about how the movie was put together – especially since the hardware behind the magic was the HP BL2x220c.

According to an article from information-management.com, AVATAR was put together at a visual effects production house called Weta Digital located in Miramar, New Zealand.  Weta’s datacenter sits in a 10,000 square foot facility however the film’s computing core ran on 2,176 HP BL 2x220c Blade Servers.  This added up to over 40,000 processors and 104 terabytes of RAM(Check out my post on the HP BL 2x220c blade server for details on this 2 in 1 server design by HP.)

The HP blades read and wrote data against 3 petabytes of fast fiber channel disk network area storage from BluArc and NetApp.  According to the article, all of the gear was  connected by multiple 10-gigabit network links. “We need to stack the gear closely to get the bandwidth we need for our visual effects, and, because the data flows are so great, the storage has to be local,” says Paul Gunn, Weta’s data center systems administrator.  

The article also highlights the fact that the datacenter uses water cooled racks to keep the racks and storage cooled.  Suprisingly, the water cooled design, along with a cool local climate, allows Weta to run their datacenter for less cost than running air conditioning (all they pay for is the cost of running water.)  In fact, they recently won an energy excellence award for building a smaller footprint that came with 40% lower cooling cost.

Summary of Hardware Used for AVATAR:

  • 34 racks – each with 4 HP BladeSystem Chassis, 32 servers (16 BL2x220c)
  • over 40,000 processors
  • 104 TB RAM

Since I don’t want to re-write the excellent article from information-management.com, I encourage you to click here to read the full article.

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