Interop: Dreamworks animates vision of the public cloud

Says private is not always ideal when working across dispersed sites, but public still has its challenges

9 May 2012 by Penny Jones - DatacenterDynamics

Interop: Dreamworks animates vision of the public cloud
Puss in Boots is one of Dreamworks' digital-animation creations.

For Dreamworks, the public cloud could be the answer to its problems around scalability.

Derek Chan, Dreamworks' Head of Digital Operations said the US-based animated film company runs to tight production schedules which bring about intense compute loads nearing the completion of a project, and he believes a public cloud can help it scale during these periods.

"Our single biggest problem is providing the amount of compute," Chan said.

"We want flexibility - we want to use the Cloud for a sustained load, then just flex that for the peak. We have been using the private cloud primarily but this does not have the same ability to scale as a public cloud."

Chan said Dreamworks, which has standardized much of its architecture using HP, has been working with the company on developments around its Converged Infrastructure, which ties together network, storage and compute. Now it is working with HP to investigate ways it can use the public cloud to tie together its operations around the world.

Dreamworks has three production centers, two in the US and one in Bangalore, India, and while it has a dedicated 10Gb fiber ring network connecting its US operations, getting India onboard with such high speeds is more of a costly challenge.

"If we are in the US we have in the order of 10ms latency, but being so far away from Bangalore doesn't work so well," Chan said.

"It is pretty cost prohibitive to get a 10Gb line between there and the US, so there we run at 500ms. We would love to have a global system that could provide a single view of that same data across all of this, whether private or public cloud. This is one of our big targets - the next evolution of the cloud for us is to make this a viable reality."

Chan said numerous staff can be working on the one project from Dreamworks' three locations. A public cloud could provide them with certain guarantees of access to works being assigned.

The challenge at the moment, however, lies in the amount of data that has to be pushed across the network, and the public cloud is not as good with dealing with data.

"Security is also a primary concern - we are an IP creator," Chan said.

Chan said Dreamworks is no stranger to the ideologies of cloud computing. In 2002, it started doing offsite grid computing he said "was sort of a cloud" to handle workloads from multiple sites.

"We had figured out what we needed to do for managing our infrastructure in terms of caching. We could do caching between our sites. We also worked out what jobs worked well outside, in other sites, and how to steer jobs given their profile.

Chan said Dreamworks is currently upgrading its network using the latest HP infrastructure, including virtual switches.

The company is also investigating HP's latest releases, which include the Virtual Application Network for the automated provisioning of applications and the BYOD solution, for managing mobile devices on both wireless and wired networks, both out in June.

It also released its Network Infrastructure Optimized Services portfolio covering all network technology in the data center through to the wide area network and local area networks to see where efficiencies can be found, and infrastructure optimized to ensure applications run faster.

Chan said while the network is the focus for Dreamworks for May 2012, the converged infrastructure approach will become more important for the company in years moving foward.

"Storage and compute and the network are all tied - they are a triangle you pull on one side and it may advance a bit , but then the other side pulls you back. Storage is going to have to adjust to compensate now [for the network]," Chan said.

"The whole cloud computing paradigm is an effort to address this, to think about scale, flexible resources. The idea of pulling those together and advance them as a set, instead of individual pieces, is appealing."

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