[Sidefx-houdini-list] mantra render farm service

Mark Story mstory at xion.org
Thu Feb 19 14:18:02 EST 2009

Hi Antoine,

This isn't too easy to project just how much biz we could actually 
attract, the main idea was to make it easy for students to work on their 
course material, with good tools.  But considering there's few, if any, 
remote rendering services offering mantra, it seems like there might be 
a market there, don't know.  I mean mantra is a damn good renderer, 
right?  :-)

A little more info, we're trying to shoot for at least 250+ cores to 
start with, that would fit the student load we anticipate.  But there's 
a few incentives coming from the stimulus bill that may make it easier 
to lease much more, we'll see how that rolls out ...  I can always use 
more compute power.

Also, we aren't going to be running the training center on a semester 
type basis, no long multi-month programs, they will be 2-5 days in 
length, with an occasional 2 week workshop and single day events every 
now and then too.  So the farm (hopefully) will be in use 24/7/365. (all 
unused CPU cycles will likely be contributed to global grid computing, 
e.g. SETI, and for reasons like: 
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/58852.php )

BTW: we'll be running other kinds of apps too, like Csound, processing, 
Apophosys, and custom apps that students will be writing.

Having been a sys admin/net security dude for all too many years, and at 
  univerisiites which are notrius for various types of net attacks, I 
have to be very careful about the types of jobs that could execute on 
the farm.  I really, really don't want an adult relay server hosted on 
our machines ... So this will mean that there has to be some admin 
assistance, especially for students.  The students will submit their 
jobs in class but also have access on the web, with a few restrictions 
of course.  We also are collaborating with other education facilities to 
offer discounted rates to their students, it's getting good response. 
Nothing like engaged, passionate students to give you hope!

The lowest rates I've been able to come across are something in the 
order of about $0.07/GHZ/hour.  Of course that's not mantra or the kind 
of work we will be doing, but seems like a baseline:


What do you think?

Nothing in concrete by any means, we're just tossing some numbers into 
the hat to see if this might be affordable to small-mid size shops, it's 
a guess, totally.  So I think we're looking in the $0.10 - $0.15 
GHZ/hour range, at least I think that's what we're building into course 
costs structure (not trying to reveal a biz plan here, it's not too hard 
to figure it out).  So, along with the caliber of instructor, the 
quality of the course material, and the solid professional tool set to 
teach with, we've got a good thing underway.  It's pretty exciting even 
amidst the very strange/dynamic economic climate.
It's gotta get better right?


> Hi,
>   Floq FX would certainly consider it if it were cheap enough.  All the 
> commercial services out there aren't competitive against a farm of 32 
> cores (inconvenience, not having to care about rerenders, etc).  My 
> render farm is tiny, but perfect for a staff of about 3.  Who would 
> staff the renderfarm between semesters?
> -- Antoine

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