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.  In his tour, Arik reveals that ILM is using IBM’s LS22 (AMD-based) blade servers and IBM’s HS22 (Intel-based) blade servers to help with the rendering of several movies in post-production at ILM such as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Transformers: Dark of the Moon or even Star Wars: Episode 1 (in 3D).  

Arik’s article excites me not just because I’m a Star Wars geek, but because it’s yet another example of the success of blade servers in a high-compute environment.  This is no surprise to Disney and Dreamworks who continue to use HP blade servers.  In fact, one of the biggest movies of all times, AVATAR was processed on HP blade servers.  As technology continues to evolve this year with the introduction of the Intel Westmere EX and the Intel Sandy Bridge platforms onto blade servers, I believe we’ll see more success stories in the near future.  Arik mentions in the video below and in his article, that ILM previously used “customized Racksaver servers, each containing a single AMD Athlon processor and 2 gigabytes of memory, that were used to render imagery for Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith. They’re also now considered so old that it’s not cost-effective to run them any longer.”

If you aren’t running blade servers, perhaps you should take a look at the Dark Side and see what you are missing.

To read Arik’s full article titled, “Lucasfilm’s Data Center, and an Encounter With the Real Death Star”  and to get a glimpse inside of the ILM data center, go to http://newenterprise.allthingsd.com/20110325/lucasfilms-data-center-and-an-encounter-with-the-real-death-star-video/

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