Computer Graphics World

November/December 2014

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n o v e m b e r . d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 4 c g w 1 7 coordinating the contributions of many – scattered across the globe – in an effi cient, stream- lined workfl ow. Or, increasingly, it can go further and actually host the entire desktop – the data, the processing, and the render- ing – delivering only the visual representation of that desktop. These three usage models – call them the Compute Cloud, Workspace Cloud, and Graphics Desktop Hosting Cloud – all boast compelling benefi ts today. But, we're still only looking at a snapshot of a rapidly evolving space. Looking forward, the syner- gistic combination of this trio of cloud models – and, most likely, a couple more nobody's even thought of yet – will in all likelihood transform the DME workfl ow forever. T H E C O M P U T E C L O U D Call it a revolutionary new appli- cation in compute outsourcing. Or, call it simply the latest incar- nation of the oldest paradigm in computing history – create a job, upload a job, wait a bit, then download results and review. It's basically the same batch-job processing model from the days of mainframes and minicomput- ers. In the age of the cloud, it's more transparent and agnostic (in terms of applications and platforms), but the fundamental model really hasn't changed. What kind of batch-type compute outsourcing is the cloud presently handling for creators? High-quality 3D rendering and video transcoding are two of the most common uses. Given the incredible range of video content consumption devices available, with displays that fi t in the palm of a hand to the wall of a living room, quality transcoding isn't just a nicety, it's an absolute necessity. It is also a perfect candidate for the compute cloud, with provid- ers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) jumping in to fi ll demand with its Elastic Transcoder. Charging by the minute (of transcode time, not content duration), AWS provides fl exible and accessible transcoding in the cloud, with tools to manage processing options, security, and delivery, with a link to AWS cloud storage services. Renderfarms producing frame-to-frame quality imagery are a natural fi t for the Com- pute Cloud Model, a fi t that did not go unnoticed by the small group of visual eff ects veterans who founded Zync, Inc. The company created Zync Render, a seamless, full-featured and platform-agnostic cloud-based renderer capable of both tra- ditional scan-based rendering as well as raytracing. Creators kick off a render natively, from directly within the application, just as they would if rendering on their local machines. With Zync Render, creators need to upload assets only once, upfront, and in advance. From there, the application tracks changes to assets in the background, allowing for subsequent renders to initiate without delay. Supported applications include Autodesk's Maya; The Foundry's Nuke, Furnace, and Ocula (with Modo expected); and raytrace renderers Solid Angle's Arnold, Chaos Group's V-Ray for Maya, and Nvidia's Mental Ray. Zync Render has helped power big Hollywood releases, including Star Trek: Into Darkness, American Hustle, and Looper. That kind of high-profi le work got Zync noticed, leading to the fi rm's recent acquisition by Google, the IT goliath with de- signs on becoming the dominant cloud provider of the future. An eff ective cloud solution will tend to keep the user blissfully ignorant of the wheres and hows of the processing. Seamless, "black box" opera- tion is one of its draws, if not its primary appeal. But that doesn't mean it's better to hide everything. In the case of the compute cloud, users will o en want to specify both con- straints and performance goals, as well as manage assets and monitor progress. Under the gun to get results fast? Select 16 processing cores paired to 60 gb of memory. Working at a comfortable pace with other tasks to juggle in parallel? Choose a capable but more modest eight cores and 30 gb (both supported options once Zync becomes available on the Google Cloud Platform). The more resources request- ed, the higher the cost, with Google's Zync Render expected to charge by the minute (with a 10-minute minimum). For completed and in-progress jobs, Zync Render's Web-based front end gives users the render pro- cess controls to track progress, review results, and manage all cloud-based assets. T H E W O R K S P A C E C L O U D In exploring the promised bene- fi ts of cloud-centric approaches, it's not diffi cult to see why the technology piques the interest of so many: access what you want, when you want, and from where you want, tapping and sharing a singular, secure (or at least securable) database. With a cen- tralized computing model, users don't have to be in their offi ces or even on the same continent. By storing models and foot- age in one place and avoiding costly copying, the "big data" problem becomes far less bur- densome. And since the source content doesn't leave the RENDERING TO THE CLOUD IN NUKE IS JUST A CLICK AWAY. Source: Google/Zync RENDERFARMS PRODUCING FRAME-TO- FRAME QUALITY IMAGERY ARE A NATURAL FIT FOR THE COMPUTE CLOUD MODEL.

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