I am an avid Avatar fan. Not the Last Airbender, but the epic film by James Cameron. My involvement on the Learn Na’vi forum, learning and teaching the language, as well as owning several copies of the film on DVD and Bluray should attest to that.
I also love technology that is put to use in a good way.
The combination of that goes into Avatar’s background. The link takes you to an article about the computing power used to render the film. It’s impressive.
Thirty four racks comprise the computing core, made of 32 machines each with 40,000 processors and 104 terabytes of memory. Weta systems administrator Paul Gunn said that heat exchange for their servers had to be enclosed. The “industry standard of raised floors and forced-air cooling could not keep up with the constant heat coming off the machines,” said Gunn. “We need to stack the gear closely to get the bandwidth we need and, because the data flows are so great, the storage has to be local.” The solutions was the use of water-cooled racks from Rittal.
Gunn also noted that tens of thousands of dollars were saved by fine tuning the temperature by a degree. Weta won an energy excellence award recently for building a smaller footprint that came with a 40 percent lower cooling cost for a data center of its type.
For the last month or more of production those 40,000 processors were handling 7 or 8 gigabytes of data per second, running 24 hours a day. A final copy of Avatar equated to 17.28 gigabytes per minute of storage. For a 166 minute movie the rendering coordination was intense.