Building a 3D render farm with Synology

A robust, cost-efficient platform for 3D professionals

“Storage used to play a secondary role in high-performance computing (HPC) environments, and yet it has a critical role to play in the field

of cloud-based 3D rendering and image processing,” said Dr. Kuo, a researcher in the National Center for High-performance Computing (NCHC) in Taiwan.

With the rise of 3D trends, high-end CPUs alone can no longer meet the demands of independent artists and production companies. 3D rendering requires more computing power from the GPU, along with massive storage and stronger throughput performance.

Though the mission is to become an internationally renowned HPC center focusing on scientific discovery and technological innovation, the NCHC didn’t just stop here. It saw the need for 3D rendering and therefore established the one and only national-level 3D cloud render farm in Taiwan.

When evaluating the construction of its storage system, the NCHC did research on various NAS brands. Synology stood out from the crowd in more ways than one. So what led them to choose us over other competitors?

A high cost-performance ratio is what sets Synology apart.

In the field of 3D animation, production costs can easily add up and become a huge burden to artists or movie production companies. The NCHC wanted to alleviate some of that financial burden and took real action to support the 3D industry in Taiwan. To this end, NCHC sought a solution that can provide a platform where creative professionals can create and stretch their skills without worrying about costs.

Much lower costs, even better performance

A solution that delivers stellar performance yet comes with lower costs is what the NCHC was looking for. After extensive evaluation, they found out that our cost per TB is 5 to 6 times lower as opposed to that of other storage vendors (first-tier providers included).

“Lack of transparency in pricing is the major problem with other brands. Only after you’ve made the purchase can you know the real performance and follow-up maintenance costs. Worse still, sometimes you can only use hard drives with a certain capacity,” said the render farm management team of NCHC.

All these are unpredictable hidden costs lurking behind the initial purchase. Synology offers a list of compatible HDDs and SSDs where you are free to choose from any of them, mitigating the total cost of ownership.

NCHC’s engineers set up Synology RS3617xs+ and storage servers from other vendors for testing purposes. They conducted file transfer testing in the same network environment and found out that the throughput of Synology RS3617xs+ is at least 100 MB/s faster than that of the others.

The NCHC has moved the whole render farm to the cloud with Synology FS3017 as the VMware datastore. So far, there have been around 300 virtual machines in the render farm, with over 100 VMs rendering at the same time. The all-flash architecture and Synology NFS Plug-in for VMware VAAI improve the speed of VM cloning by 3-4 times.

In addition to FS3017, there are two other servers deployed in NCHC:

  • RS3617xs+ with two expansion units offering a total of 230 TB storage (mainly used to store rendered files and point cloud data)

  • DS3617xs as an offsite backup destination of RS3617xs+

All the rendered files are saved in RS3617xs+, and they utilize Snapshot Replication to make sure all the files are well protected with multiple versions. Users can go back to any of the previous versions on their own without bothering IT administrators. What’s more, all the files will be remotely backed up to DS3617xs in case of any power outages or Internet disconnections.

Solid data protection for virtual workloads

With so many files stored in the VMs (with up to 500 GB per VM), it would be time-consuming to restore the whole VM just for a single file. No worries. Active Backup for Business, the license-free backup solution, comes with every Synology server and allows you to browse files in the VM and get the file you need via the Active Backup for Business Portal.

When it comes to building a render farm, it is of great importance to consider the deployment costs. The higher the deployment costs are, the higher the rentals will cost for users. The NCHC now gets to provide cloud render farm services at affordable prices with Synology’s storage servers, smoothing the path towards the rapid development of 3D image computing in Taiwan.

“We’ll recommend Synology if any other national-level unit has data management needs,” the team added.

Want to build a virtual environment for your critical workloads? Read this solution to learn about the benefits of using Synology in VMware and Hyper-V environments.