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www.expresscomputeronline.com WEEKLY INSIGHT FOR TECHNOLOGY PROFESSIONALS
08 February 2010  
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Home - Case Study - Article

AMD gives big quad to Big Animation’s creative core

Pune-based BIG Animation has been running its backend operations on AMD Opteron Quad Core processors. Subhankar Kundu writes about the benefits of this partnership

The animation industry in India is at its exponential growth, set to reach $1 billion by 2010 and so its need for a robust processing technology that can ensure meeting international production standards at a much faster pace.

The Nasscom study indicates that the factors like superior technical manpower to meet the 2-D and 3-D animation requirements, lower costs of animation production and potential market in television channels are shaping up the Indian animation industry. But, one factor that can never be overlooked is the technology that goes behind making it possible for animation production houses to meet international benchmarks and faster turnarounds.

Let's study a case focusing on how a technology plays the silent pivotal role behind the hype over India's animation quotient.

Spread over 60,000 square feet, the first ever state-of-the-art end-to-end quad core studio in Pune, BIG Animation, a Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group Company has been completely running its backend operations on AMD Opteron Quad Core processors. About 80% of the systems are Linux-based, some run on Windows XP and waiting to run on the latest Windows 7 and around 30 to 40 machines on Mac OS. The core team consists of 150 members.

The case

Big Animation required an IT infrastructure that satisfied its own benchmarks of high performance.

The other major challenge was to ensure rendering as a processor intensive operation as it had to look deep at the platform level for the right balance of stability, performance and cost of ownership.

The apt solution that Big Animation figured out was going for Quad-Core AMD Opteron processors to power their workstations.

The selection was based on their own benchmarks, file structures and referencing levels as the studio believes in research and self-benchmarking instead of blindly following the easily available white papers and biased feedbacks.

The result was apparent and Big Animation could find a distinct difference after empowering their creativity with Quad-Core AMD Opteron. Compared to alternative platforms, Quad-Core AMD Opteron processors take one minute less for each rendering of 4K frame. At the testing phase, the same file had taken us five minutes on a competitor’s processor.

By the end of 65,000 frames, Big Animation saves at least 5-6 days of running time. Across all the servers, it amounts to a saving of lakhs of rupees in terms of power usage and resource utilization costs per project annually. Faster processing ensures Big Animation can deliver ahead of time. Using Quad-Core AMD Opteron processor driver patches, the company is improving CPU efficiency and saving energy.

Technology edge

Ashish S. K., Chief Executive Officer, Big Animation, said, “Studios like Big Animation require carefully calibrated superior technology to help deliver high-class animated films at a faster pace. Being the first end-to-end AMD quad-core processor-driven studio, we have the competitive advantage over other studios in terms of the time taken to deliver high-quality animated films to the market at a reasonable cost.”

“The quality of 2D and 3D digital content today is based on high performance graphic engines, highly intensive calculations and realistic output demands for frame generations. We have always valued superior technology and wanted our technology installations to be by far the best in the country,” added Ashish S. K.

“In our industry, performance is directly connected to money. We considered Intel Xeon before selecting AMD Opteron processors. We conducted our own benchmarking for performance on HP and Sun Microsystems machines and several third-party software. The results clearly showed AMD processors offered faster performance,” said Senthil Kumar, Senthil Kumar, General Manager-IT, Big Animation, the man who spent rigorous hours on technical documents and benchmarking studies to help him decide the right processor.

Benchmarks

Big Animation did a benchmark with Sun Ultra workstations and with Apple Mac Pro workstations. It was Apple Mac Intel Dual core where the systems were tested on Intel Xeon dual core processor and Sun Ultra workstation also.

The rendering performance test that was actually built using Maya APIs to check the time it took to render an image and to churn out a frame.

Kumar said, “In this test actually, we didn't compare AMD quad core with any other machine because no other vendor was having quad core processors at that time. We did our benchmark with Dual core Intel Xeons against AMD dual core machines.”

Kumar iterates, “We wanted to do our own performance check and confirm whether it's really like that what they say. We didn't want to go blindly on the whitepapers of the vendors.”

The selection process

Kumar analyzed several studio infrastructures before deciding on the parameters for the Big Animation studio. AMD provided them with more options on over-clocking and CPU throttling, whereas other vendors did not demonstrate to us how we could improve performance.

Big Animation found 10-15% of difference between the performance of AMD Opteron processors and competitor’s processors when they loaded some driver patches and libraries from AMD. As a result, HP and Sun Microsystems boxes supporting AMD were giving higher performance than those with Intel.

The AMD team, on the other hand, shared with him a lot of documentation and keys to driver patches, small tweaks and keys into the operating system that would help unleash more power from the processor.

subhankar.kundu@expressindia.com

 


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