Published on 27 Oct 2011
Validated on 02 Jan 2014
"The IBM iDataPlex solution puts us on the same level as animation studios on the other side of the world." - Auchuara Kijkanjanas, managing director, Kantana Animation Studios
Kantana Animation Studios
Media & Entertainment
Technical Computing, IT/infrastructure, Energy Efficiency, General Parallel File System (GPFS), Green/Sustainability
Kantana Animation Studios, based in Bangkok, Thailand, is making a new animated feature about global warming. Called Eco Planet, the film is set to be the first stereoscopic animated feature in Southeast Asia.
To meet the studio’s goals for the film, Kantana needed an energy-efficient, high-performance computing platform that would help accelerate development.
Working with IBM, Kantana Animation Studios implemented a 36-node IBM® System x® iDataPlex® system running the Intel® Xeon® processor 5600 series. With high energy efficiency and a small data center footprint, the iDataPlex solution enables the studio to leverage green computing to make a film about preserving the environment.
The IBM solution enables animators to render frames two to three times faster, reduces power and cooling costs by half, and provides massive scalability without disrupting operations.
To read the Thai version of the case study click here.
The goal of most animation studios is to use today’s digital magic to entertain children around the world. Kantana Animation Studios, based in Bangkok, Thailand, wants to do even more than that. They want to entertain and educate children at the same time.
“Thailand is about the philosophy of trying to live in harmony together—to live peacefully together,” says Auchuara Kijkanjanas, managing director of Kantana Animation Studios. “That’s the message we are trying to share with kids.”
The studio’s latest project is a new movie called Eco Planet, an animated feature about an Asian girl and a Western boy who are trying to save the world from global warming. Says Kijkanjanas, “We have a global warming situation right now, and we felt that we could help by reaching out to kids. This world belongs to them. So we are trying to do something to help the world—but in a fun way.”
The IT demands of computer animation
Part of Kantana Group, a large entertainment company, Kantana Animation Studios is producing Eco Planet in stereoscopic animation, a demanding 3-D format that their existing IT infrastructure could not effectively support.
“Making animated movies requires fast rendering, and the faster you want to render, the bigger the machine you need,” Kijkanjanas explains. “Because we are doing Eco Planet in stereoscopic animation, we needed a high-performance solution in order to be able to finish the project on time. As it stands, it will be the first stereoscopic animated feature in Southeast Asia.”
At the same time, Kantana had specific requirements regarding data center footprint and energy efficiency. They needed a space-efficient solution that would not run up power and cooling costs. They turned to IBM for a high-performance solution that could address these requirements at a price the studio could afford. IBM responded with the IBM System x iDataPlex system running the Intel Xeon processor 5600 series.
A green spin on high-performance computing
“In the old days, high-performance computing meant consuming lots of power, lots of air conditioning and lots of space,” says Kijkanjanas. “There were a lot of environmental concerns. But iDataPlex met our space requirements with a solution that consumes less power and is friendly to the environment. With iDataPlex, we can make our movie about a green environment using green technology.”
Hideo Mori is technical director of the studio and is responsible for lighting in the 3-D software. He says the requirements for the new platform were straightforward: “We needed high-performance computing, low power consumption, a small footprint and ease of management. We got all of that with IBM iDataPlex. The green technology of IBM iDataPlex was the best match for our film.”
The Intel advantage
Mori says the performance and reliability of the Intel processors were one of the reasons Kantana chose the iDataPlex solution. “The Intel Xeon processors are very tough and super fast. We are running almost 90 percent of the CPU all the time, and it’s never stopped. It keeps running without giving us any errors.”
The iDataPlex solution connects with Scale Out File Services to the Network File System. The solution currently has 36 nodes and provides 100 TB of disk, as well as the IBM General Parallel File System (GPFS™).
Says Kijkanjanas, “With high-performance computing, we can jump instead of walk. The IBM iDataPlex solution puts us on the same level as animation studios on the other side of the world.”
Twice as fast, in half the footprint
Kijkanjanas says the impact iDataPlex has had on the studio is measurable—and dramatic. Tasks that used to take four hours are now completed in only one or two. This increase in speed makes a big difference to the animation artists, who rely on a quick turnaround in order to fine-tune their work.
The animation team uses Maya software, a demanding animation application that has high I/O and storage requirements. The iDataPlex solution provides the ideal platform for this application, giving the team the power and flexibility to make the most efficient use of processor resources.
Despite delivering these huge boosts in performance, the iDataPlex has reduced the studio’s data center footprint—both in terms of space and in terms of power consumption—cutting both in half.
“When I first learned about the iDataPlex, I thought it was going to be a much bigger system, because we required each CPU to run faster and with more memory to be able to compute complex scenes,” Kijkanjanas recalls. “But it’s a good solution for a small data center like ours.”
In terms of energy efficiency, Kijkanjanas says he was not at all surprised to see their power and cooling costs reduced by 50 percent. “IBM said we would see our energy bills cut in half, and that is exactly what happened.”
A solution for the long term
In addition to high performance, energy efficiency and a small footprint, the iDataPlex solution gives the team the scalability and manageability they need to maintain the solution into the long term. Mori says Kantana may expand the iDataPlex to 50 or 60 nodes in the future.
“When the artists need something, they need it right away,” he says. “The iDataPlex gives us immediate scalability. And it’s easy to manage. It’s just like a PC you might have at home. You just buy it and plug it in.”
A long-term relationship with IBM is precisely what the Kantana team has in mind. Says Mori, “The best thing about working with IBM is the partnership. When I say there’s a problem, IBM will find the answer very fast. We consider them friends.”
For more information
Contact your IBM sales representative or IBM Business Partner. Visit us at: ibm.com/systems/x
For more information about Kantana Animation Studios, visit: kantana.com/animation_eng
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