AFTER LISTENING TO FRUSTRATED students explain how they have to work around limited processing power while rendering complex objects, I've started looking at building a rendering farm. I first visited sites running IBM's BladeCenter HX5.
I have a soft spot for IBM systems because in the early part of the century, I used heavy iron from IBM to help a small animation studio get on its feet.
The IBM HX5 extends eX5 architecture into a bladed format. That means it's quickly scalable and comes with high performance specs.
Some first impressions from IBM literature:
-- The HX5 features Lenovo eX5 Architecture. It runs fifth generation mainframe-inspired Lenovo Enterprise X-Architecture technology on Intel ten-core Xeon “Westmere-EX” processors.
-- The HX5 was designed for rendering, modeling and simulation. It blazes through complex database routines.
-- The HX5 supports energy-efficient 1.35V DIMMs that consume 15% less power than 1.5V DIMMs. That allows for 20-30% more performance in the same power envelope.
-- The two-socket HX5 can be converted to a four-socket server simply by connecting two HX5s together through the scale connector. You get real performance in four socket configurations.
-- MAX5 allows the HX5 to support quadruple the memory capacity of many competing two-socket servers, up to 40 DIMMs for an HX5 and a MAX5, pushing the limits of virtualization with the ability to deploy the maximum number of virtual machines supported by VMware. Memory bound VMware customers can also save over $10K in licensing fees with a memory–rich, two-socket server over the competition’s four-socket server.
-- The eX5 architecture offers three levels of memory protection for maintaining maximum memory integrity – IBM Chipkill, redundant bit steering, and memory mirroring.
-- VMware comes preloaded on an optional USB flash drive, allowing the HX5 to operate in a diskless configuration. The result is a smaller memory footprint, extremely high performance, and enhanced security.
-- FlexNode partitioning with Automatic Node Failover allows one four-socket HX5 blade to run applications by day on two two-socket blades and run batch jobs by night on a single four-socket blade, all without manually reconfiguring the blade.
-- These bldes can support solid-state drives. Solid-state drives are faster and they don't fail as much as conventional drives. But they cost more.
-- Lenovo supports the Emulex Virtual Fabric Adapter (VFA) that allows splitting a two-port 10 Gb/s Ethernet card into up to eight ports per card in increments of 100 Mb/s and in a flexible fashion. This means the blade server could support several customers either in-house or remotely triggering rendering jobs.
In a previous job, our IBM servers were imaged and ready for quick deployment. The machines ran for more than four years without encountering a hitch. Today's blades feature Enhanced Predictive Failure Analysis to identify a troubled component before it actually fails.
I'm saving this ServerProven List for the 7873 Models because I think there's a Renderfarm in my future.