Creating more power in less space with smarter computing

Published on 23-May-2011

Validated on 01 Aug 2013

Mac Guff Ligne

Media & Entertainment

Deployment country:

IT/infrastructure, Cloud Computing, Enabling Business Flexibility, Energy Efficiency, High Availability , Optimizing IT, Optimizing IT, Smarter Computing


Paris-based Mac Guff Ligne (Mac Guff) is one of the largest digital visual effects design studios in Europe. Its activity spans the film industry, adver­tising, television programs and music videos, and it partners with enter­tainment enterprises, including Universal Studios, to create blockbuster movies such as Despicable Me.

Business need:
Mac Guff needed to address ever-growing demands for more computing power and, in turn, power and space in its already strained data center.

Mac Guff transformed its infrastructure into a smarter computing solution designed to deliver massive processing power while being energy, cooling and space efficient.

The solution met Mac Guff’s end clients’ demanding schedules for critical projects while also saving the expense of building a new data center.

Case Study

Integrated: Shared power and cooling resources to help keep energy costs low and the footprint small

Automated: Launched the system with preinstalled, preconfigured components; dynamically provisioned processing resources.

Transformed: Enabled designers to submit rendering jobs without having to wait for a free node. Helped Mac Guff and its end clients meet demanding project schedules without huge capital costs.

Paris-based Mac Guff Ligne (Mac Guff) is one of the largest digital visual effects design studios in Europe. Its activity spans the film industry, adver­tising, television programs and music videos, and it partners with enter­tainment enterprises, including Universal Studios, to create blockbuster movies such as Despicable Me.

Requiring more power than the data center can provide
Generating detailed, three-dimensional (3-D) graphics requires much more than an artistic skill set and creativity: it needs to render calculus codes very rapidly to formulate the 3-D imaging in a timely manner. As a fast-growing business highly dependent on high-performance com­puting (HPC) technology, the data center of Mac Guff had come under tremendous stress. The rapidly growing demand for compute power brought with it the need for extra power and cooling—and the space and energy to support it. Plus, Mac Guff’s existing homegrown production environment was unable to easily or rapidly scale its processing capacity.

After obtaining a contract with Illumination—a subsidiary of Universal Studios specializing in animation—for the movie Despicable Me, Mac Guff needed to quickly grow its computing power. However, the company faced dramatic space, power and cooling constraints in its Paris-based data center. Not wanting to construct a new data center, the company sought an alternative approach to address this challenge and support future business growth.

Transforming IT to accommodate intense demands with limited resources
With help from IBM, Mac Guff implemented a preintegrated HPC solu­tion, resulting in a rapid installation and nominal disruption to work and its contract with Illumination. Designed to operate where power, cool­ing or physical space is restricted, the solution can operate within the company’s power and cooling limitations. Low-energy processors and computational methods helped enable Mac Guff to render 80 percent more animations versus the previous environment throughout the film production. This powerful yet compact and efficient infrastructure enabled the company to develop and run open source rendering applications that helped the business finish on schedule.

Integrating power and cooling resources
The compact solution uses server racks to store and supply shared power and cooling resources to server nodes. This integrated technol­ogy can deliver the scale and computing power that Mac Guff needs but for approximately 30 percent less power and 60 percent less space than traditional alternatives. Moreover, the IBM solution is preinte­grated, preinstalled and pretested—including its power cables, network cables and switches—enabling Mac Guff to implement and start using it just 48 hours versus the weeks that might be required to deploy a simi­larly powerful solution.

Automating system setup and provisioning
Because the solution was preinstalled, prewired and ready to run, many of the onsite installation processes were automated, helping to ensure a rapid implementation and maintain operations. Additionally, Mac Guff automated node provisioning of the HPC environment so the solution could add and remove processing power as required.

Dynamically managing resources
For Mac Guff, the requirements for compute power can vary dramati­cally. Largely dependent on the nature of its client projects, the ability to govern and control compute resources and react quickly to changing requirements is key. With the advanced management and high availabil­ity capabilities of its new infrastructure, the Mac Guff IT department can now respond rapidly to changing business requirements. The IBM System x® iDataplex® solution is designed to have the ability to scale quickly with minimal impact on operations.

To help make this responsiveness possible, IBM helped Mac Guff install an open source, scalable, distributed computing management and provi­sioning tool. It provides a unified interface for hardware control, discov­ery and operating system deployment.

Delivering exceptional performance for excep­tional results

Transforming the IT infrastructure has been a key enabler for Mac Guff to deliver on its business commitments. Unlike in their previous environ­ment, designers were able to submit 3-D rendering jobs without having to wait for a free processing node. As a result, Mac Guff was able to help its customer, Illumination, finish a movie for the first time on schedule.

After the initial installation, Mac Guff expanded its rendering farm even further and was able to add four new racks to the initial two, holding more than 500 servers. The expansion was accomplished without affecting the energy envelope. It is now one of the most powerful high-performance computing installations in France’s private sector.

Not only has the new infrastructure resulted in a reduction in costs of approximately 66 percent, but what is more significant is that it has pre­vented Mac Guff from having to build a new data center to support its growing computing requirements.

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

System x: iDataPlex dx360 M2, System x: System x running Linux - Red Hat

Extreme Cloud Application Toolkit (xCAT) Additions (Elite)

Operating system:

GTS ITS Server: Server Product Services for Linux, GTS ITS Server: Server Product Services for System x, GTS Data Center Services

Legal Information

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