Intel

New Music Workstation

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I finally have my new studio workstation completed and running…took most of the summer (and fall) obtaining the components:

The performance is incredible, web pages jump off the screen and wakes from Sleep in less than 2 seconds. Importantly, the entire workstation is whisper quiet, I can barely tell when it’s powered on, and apparently is rated at < 20 dBA . The Intel 320 is my first SSD drive, and I’ve been suitably impressed with its speed.

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Reactions to VMware’s VSphere 4

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I was impressed with the VMware simulcast this morning announcing VSphere, the next iteration of their enterprise virtualization platform, dubbed the first “Cloud OS.” Having deployed and administered VMware products for several years, it’s exciting to see them continue to push the evolution of virtualization, which has now expanded from a single server up to multiple data centers.

It’s also becoming quite apparent that a loose alliance is coalescing between several of the established leaders in the infrastructure space. In particular, VMware continues to align with Cisco, whose recent unveiling of a “Unified Computing System” combined with VSphere offers the promise of a private “cloud in a box.” Other members of this confederation are Intel, whose recent Xeon 5500 Nehalem chip is tailored for VM loads, in addition to EMC, whose updated Symmetrix SAN is optimized for VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V support. Dell appears to be more closely aligned than HP, and has a better position in the SMB market.

And don’t count out Oracle / Sun, one of today’s VSphere demo’s featured Sunfire servers, and when Cisco CEO John Chambers left the stage to congratulate VMware’s lead engineering team, Sun racks were featured quite prominently.

So who’s not joining the party, yet?

Here’s my list –

  • HP – not seeing innovation, very quiet these days
  • IBM – passed on Sun, noticeably low-key at today’s VSphere event
  • Google – how long before they offer a full-blown Cloud service
  • Microsoft – no support for Hyper-V in VMware VSphere
  • Citrix – falling further behind, no support from EMC Symmetrix, or VSphere

The continued limited inter-operability between major virtualization vendors – VMware, Microsoft, Citrix – and subsequent “vendor lock-in” really makes me wonder about the feasibility and likelihood of a truly Open Cloud platform, given the symbiotic relationship between Virtualization and Cloud computing.

P.S. I still think Cisco should have picked up Sun…

Assessing cloud computing for digital media shops

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One of my recent IT consulting clients is a digital media shop that operates a local 60-node rendering farm. Based on their available bandwidth, scale, and, most importantly, established workflows and style, this client is not interested in exploring an external cloud solution at this time. Fast and stable access to rendering farm resources from desktop workstations is absolutely critical for their ongoing projects, and the trade-offs involved with a cloud provider are not favorable. Most likely, comparable new media and effects studios of this size will come to a similar conclusion.

However, larger studios such as DreamWorks are already beginning to assign additional work to specialized compute clouds, in this case developed by the state of New Mexico. As graphics and rendering-specialized clouds emerge onto the commercial market, a key question is once again determining the relative strategic value of IT infrastructure to the business. Certainly, in the case of a digital/3D studio, the primary source of competitive value resides in the creative capabilities of designers, upon whose completed projects the studio builds it reputation upon. Tangible assets from graphics software to Mac workstations, network switches and SAN’s are generic and easily replaced. But the utilization of the technical infrastructure, encompassing a workflow from importing raw media to editing and rendering files, and managing IT resources such as render node availability, storage space, security, and backups, are also critical components of this business and therefore not likely candidates to be fully sourced externally.

As the cloud computing market matures and delivers more customized solutions, the 3D/render space should get very interesting. New and specialized processor offerings from vendors such as AMD and Intel will also make the choice between local and cloud-based render farms more challenging.