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Old April 16, 2009, 08:16 AM
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Default rendering network - newbie

Greetings all,

I've been learning more about computers (even learning a bit about Linux recently!) since I put one together with the help of my local store about 2 months ago. I went with a Q9400 system cooled by the Vendetta 2 on the ASUS P5Q Mobo and a cheap Nvidia GPU. I mostly use the computer for AutoCAD and 3dsmax as well as the Adobe suite.

Recently, a friend of mine and myself have started to put together a business plan to start a rendering company to service the local architecture studios - there is a strong demand for renderings and a lack of skilled people. We both have experience with high end architectural renderings.

This being said, we will be purchasing hardware and computers in about a month from now. I will be in charge of this and looking forward to getting my hands dirty.

I'd like to get two computers and set up a small render "farm" between the two. However, I don't know what this would require and how to go about it. There is a possibility of adding a 3rd computer in about a year, and perhaps more later on.

For now, how should I approach this? There will only be one working computer as we're only purchasing one license. Do all the other computers require monitors? What don't I need in the other machines?

I have 3000$ to spend on machines. Would like to get something going with Q9500 series.

Cheers!

J
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Old April 16, 2009, 08:43 AM
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Build Your Own Render Farm - ExtremeTech

If you need any more help, post here and I'll do my best to take care of you since I have experience with this.
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Old April 16, 2009, 08:55 AM
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3DSMax has its own Backburner software for network rendering.

You should also do some research about the following software:

Autodesk Burn: Autodesk - Autodesk Burn
Autodesk Backdraft: Autodesk - Autodesk Backdraft Conform

You can probably skip the Lustre software for the time being.
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Old April 16, 2009, 09:41 AM
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Thanks,

Have some very limited experience with Backburner as we tried setting it up at work with very little success. However, I imagine that when it's working properly it gets the job done.

I'm not sure I understand something about how a farm works. For example, lets say I set up my working computer and then have 2 other rendering machines next to it. I install windows and 3dsmax on my working computer.

Do the other two need windows and 3dsmax or can they run linux? Autodesk products don't run on Linux...so I initially thought that I couldn't go that route. However, all these articles I find talk about Linux based render farms. When using Backburner, 3dsmax must be installed on each machine (minimal install is fine and doesn't require second or third seat). In this scenario, all 3 machines would have to run a version of windows and 3dsmax?

Also, everything I read talks about larger render farms where the working computer isn't really part of the "farm". In my case, my working computer will be the most powerful and must be part of the rendering.

I'm not sure if this makes sense, but here's how I envision the system:

1. Main computer where the 3D modeling (AutoCAD) and rendering (3Dsmax) is performed. This computer is also where files are stored. From this machine, I can "see" and access the other machines (2 at first, then keep adding as funds are available).
2. Secondary machines that are primarily CPU power. Minimal storage and GPU. A bare bone machine that simply houses a CPU (at least this is how I understand it)
3. Eventually I wouldn't mind getting a file server that is separate from the main working computer as this would allow any machine to access the files if ever a secondary working computer was introduced.

Does this mean I have to install Windows on all 3 machines since I need to install 3dsmax on all three, or is there a way to simply use the CPU power of the other machines without the software being installed?

As you can see, my understanding of networks is limited...to say the least.

J

Last edited by HalifaxJ; April 16, 2009 at 10:07 AM.
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Old April 16, 2009, 11:05 AM
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The number of installs really depends on which software you use. As you stated, using 3DS Max's Backburner means you have to install the program across multiple machines. I have used Backburner for the last few years without an issue on multiple Windows machines.

If you want to work on your your computer while it is the host, you can forget about it. Rendering takes up a ton of resources. What usually happens is companies with even a pair of dedicated rendering machines will set up one as the host and the other as a client and won't use them for anything but rendering duty.

In smaller firms I have seen a few instances where everyone's work computer was hooked up to the rendering network and then at night when no one was around, the computers would be tasked with rendering. This is a great if you are on a limited budget but if the scene isn't finished rendering by morning, you are SOL.

If I were you I would go with the second option, especially if you want the fastest computer for yourself. However, I would caution against popping yourself up with the fastest computer. This is what I would do:

Your computer: mid-range processor and a high-end FireGL graphics card
Host computer: massively fast processor (think i7 + 12GB memory) with a lower-end FireGL card
Networked computers: highest-end quads you can afford + the most memory you can afford + mobos with onboard GPUs.

In all reality though, I would seriously look into Nvidia's CUDA. There has been talk of it being set up to accelerate 3DS Max through a custom plugin. Heck even Nvidia's Gelato could be used.

If you could get your mind around either one of those Nvidia solutions, you could literally multiply your computational power my an amazing amount by using GPUs instead of slower CPUs.
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Old April 16, 2009, 09:14 PM
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Thanks,

Realistically, a two computer system with "night time rendering" is all we can afford for now. MAYBE 3 computers, but the computer I use to work on will also have to be used to render.

I read a bit about CUDA...but probably don't know enough about computers to get it working. Eventually maybe, but for now, we just want a simple system with 2 or 3 computers...the better one being the one we work on (we also each have a computer at our home that can handle modeling and light rendering).

So say I want to set up a 2 or 3 computer render farm, would Backburner be the best option?

J
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Old April 17, 2009, 03:59 AM
HaDeS
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I tried looking for it for you to find a link.... Nvidia makes headless vid cards built specifically for rendering...else you can look into their tesla and quatro solutions. Nothing worse than running a rendering solution for a company that takes 2 days and was done wrong. Rendering needs to be done as fast as possible imo. Nvidia also has rendering software but i know nothing about it.
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Old April 17, 2009, 06:06 PM
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I just talked to my partner about this and he thinks that perhaps CUDA would be the way to go. Problem is that I don't know ANYTHING about CUDA. I'm assuming this type of rendering system would be one working computer, and one CUDA dedicated rendering machine?

Any info on CUDA would be great. Currently reading google search articles...

J
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Old April 17, 2009, 09:06 PM
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Well now I'm more confused than ever...

There doesn't seem to be much clear information in terms of the CUDA and the Nvidia cards that are supported...such as the Quatro series.

However, I'm really confused in terms of what is GPU computing. They advertise their Tesla as GPU computing using CUDA. Is a workstation that uses a Quatro FX card and the CUDA architecture also GPU computing?

The advantage of CUDA seems to be multiple core processing, essentially a cluster in one desktop...yet I'm not sure where a system is simply a powerful desktop and when it becomes GPU processing. It seems that maybe the Workstations are more geared for the real time rendering environments, but that's not what I'm looking for. We just need faster rendering.

So is Tesla what I need, as a GPU processing unit, or are the other systems, such as the Quatro cards that also use CUDA, considered GPU processing that will increase rendering power?

When I read the Nvidia write ups, it seems to be talking about "graphic solutions", but in what sense? Is it simply making the on screen real time experience better or is it improving rendering times?

Is there any good info out there?

J

Last edited by HalifaxJ; April 17, 2009 at 09:15 PM.
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Old April 17, 2009, 10:20 PM
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That's what the quatros are built for... rendering.
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