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Image Engine Consolidates Data Center, Ramps Up Storage For Performance Improvement

Video rendering is the generation of an image from a three-dimensional object model, which is a highly defined data structure capturing information about the image such as texture, lighting and shading. The use of video rendering today is central to the production of films, television shows and other video products--and is a specialized discipline requiring skilled artists and graphics engineers as well as the "right stuff" for computer-based processing and image  storage.

Known for its graphics rendering work for the Stargate TV series, The Hulk, Blades of Glory and other video productions, Image Engine wanted to further improve its production operations for the amount of rendering and the number of people doing the rendering in its heavy production schedule. The  success of Image Engine's rendering business, coupled with growing demand, had pushed storage and processing to the point where a re-assessment of IT architecture was needed--as well as a concerted strategy for reducing equipment footprints in the data center.

"We wanted to make the video rendering environment for our employees and our contractors more robust, in addition to creating an IT infrastructure that could be accommodated in a data center facility that was not that large," said Terry Bates, Image Engine's head of systems. "We operate in a Linux environment, with our production work being done on 20 Mac workstations and our administrative and accounting work being done on 90 computers in a Windows environment. We also have over 200 HP quadcore blade servers that support our operation, and that run Linux. We are progressively transitioning these blade servers to a 64-bit operating system."

To improve IOPS (input/output per second) performance in production, Image Engine made the decision to move to a BlueArc  Titan platform for its storage needs. "We had worked with BlueArc before, so it was easy to go that way," said Bates. "The BlueArc head can handle more storage, it fits neatly into the rack, and it also takes up less space in the data center. We had considered other storage solutions, but BlueArc gave us over 100,000 IOPS at peak, with scalability that would allow us to further increase IOPS as our operation continued to grow."

Image Engine's production environment features two BlueArc Titan 3200 heads, with each head handling different functions. "We use one head exclusively for rendering, and one for our other users," said Bates. "Each head handles 180 terabytes of storage, with the capability of peaking at a 220 terabyte load. With the BlueArc equipment, we use a combination of fibre channel and SATA (serial ATA) storage. The fibre channel storage stores mostly the data that we are currently working on in production, and the SATA houses data that is less often used or accessed. In both cases, we use hard drive (HDD) media, with most of the individual drives running at 10K RPM. "

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