Tuesday, 18 December 2012

How You Can Roll Your Own Render Nodes

If you are a freelance artist, a popular option for you is to build your own nodes. The benefits are comparable to what you stand to gain by building your own PC rather than purchasing an off-the shelf system; the direct influence on the components that go into the assembling and lower per-unit cost. However, the shortcomings are also similar as you will have to support the individual pieces against failure yourself or pay someone to work on them when they break. Hence, it makes sense nowadays to use rack-mounted enclosures.

Moreover, you are going to spend a bit more but you will save power and space which is of great significance. A 1U chassis, like the Supermicro CSE-512L-260 can be purchased for around $100 and it comprises a 260W power supply. A node will make use of its own onboard graphics than separate graphics card, hence, there is a considerable power savings. Nearly all 3D animations and compositing rendering are dependent on CPU in place of GPU and if your nodes are going to be mission-critical, you can search for units with disused power supplies, but this will definitely raise the per-unit cost.

Furthermore, for the rack itself, you can either buy a professional unit or convert pieces of furniture with the right measurement to accommodate your nodes. For instance, the RAST or EINA bedside tables from IKEA as well as a pair Raxxess rack rails will do the job at a very low price. As a substitute to rackmount enclosures, you can also make use of traditional cases with MicroATX motherboards like the Antec NSK-1380 or a barebone cube like one of Shuttle's XPC chassis. Also, a cube chassis is small and can be acquired with low-wattage and high efficiency power supplies and in a number of cases can be stackable.

To a certain extent, you cannot get the processing density available by means of rackmount units, although you can use less-specialized components for cooling while you don't need a riser card to add a separate graphics. In addition, the system can carry out other tasks by serving as a secondary workstation, home-theater PC (HTPC) and so on. If you want to pick a motherboard for the system, choose boards with onboard graphics like G41/G43/G45 as an alternative to non-integrated graphics versions. You can also put a graphics card in any of these nodes by getting a cheaper motherboard that does not have a PCI Express (PCIe) x16 slot on it.

Cassie Songs is a CG expert and she writes regularly on issues relating to the industry including render farm software, a cloud render service, render farm price and so on.

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