DreamWorks Turns To Cloud To Speed Production

Animation studio uses HP cloud and networking technology to help produce up to five feature films every two years.

Paul McDougall

May 9, 2012

3 Min Read
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The Best of Interop 2012

The Best of Interop 2012

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DreamWorks Animation Studios boasts a globally distributed production environment that allows its roster of world-class animators and artists to work on any job, any time, from any of its locations.

The setup allows the company, which is responsible for hits like "Antz", "Shrek", and "Kung Fu Panda", to leverage global resources—but it also presents challenges given that a single movie can contain up to 120,000 frames of digital data that needs to be shunted around the globe.

"Any artist can work on any project," said Derek Chang, head of Global Technology Operations at DreamWorks, during a keynote presentation Wednesday at the Interop IT Conference and Expo in Las Vegas. "But it takes a lot to bring all this to bear."

[ Read about HP's Virtual Application Network at HP Virtual Application Network Addresses BYOD Challenges. ]

The moviemaking process begins with the creation of digital sketches and motion captures, and over the period of about year characters are created and crafted, and teams of artists work on lighting, camera angles, and animation. "Our entire process is digital," said Chang.

To speed the transmission of big files between its production centers in Redwood City and Glendale, Calif., and Bangalore, India, DreamWorks in 2010 tapped Hewlett-Packard for networking and cloud technology that lowers the burden on local storage and networks and reduces bandwidth stress. Instead of inefficient, point-to-point connections, files are stored and distributed through HP's Switch Cloud in Las Vegas.

"The network ties it all together," said Chang, who noted that at any time DreamWorks is managing more than 200 terabytes of data, about 20% of which is resident in the cloud.

The system uses HP's Intelligent Resilient Framework switching technology, which is designed to manage big data in the cloud. Virtual switches intelligently route traffic based on capacity and demand, and can offload data from one router to another in the case of a maintenance issue or other problem. DreamWorks can also control the flow of data through HP's Intelligent Management Center. "It gives us a single pane of glass," said Chang.

The efficiency gains wrung from DreamWorks' HP cloud architecture gives it the capacity to produce five new movies every two years and have as many as eight in the pipeline at any given time. Next up for the studio is "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted". Interop attendees got an exclusive preview of the 3D film during Chang's keynote.

To make its cloud and networking services even more efficient in the future, HP is moving toward Software Defined Networking (SDN), according to Bethany Mayer, senior VP and general manager for HP Networking. "Networks today can't identify what apps are there," said Mayer during Wednesday's keynote. "You have to be able to automate the orchestration of the network. It's the goal of what we are doing."

On Monday, HP announced a partnership with F5 Networks on new Virtual Application Network technologies and services. The technology is designed to reduce the time required to deploy applications on networks from weeks to hours. The solution incorporates HP OpenFlow to give IT managers unified, programmable access to their network operations. "To get to the benefits of the cloud, you have to be able to deploy as quickly as possible," said Mayer.

See the future of business technology at Interop Las Vegas, May 6-10. It's the best place to learn how cloud computing, mobile, video, virtualization, and other key technologies work together to drive business. Register today with priority code CPQCNL07 to get a free Expo Pass or to save 25% on Flex and Conference passes..

About the Author(s)

Paul McDougall

Editor At Large, InformationWeek

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