Animal Logic Chooses Its Own Datacenter Over Cloud

Alex Timbs, Head of IT at Animal Logic
Alex Timbs, Head of IT at Animal Logic

It turns out cloud isn’t a great choice for certain customers, and one of them is digital animation house Animal Logic, who partnered with Schneider Electric to keep their systems close to home.

Animal Logic is the animation and video effects company behind The LEGO Movie, Happy Feet, and parts of a variety of other movies you will have heard of.

Once upon a time, Animal Logic housed its gear in a co-location facility, but its demands grew too substantial for a mere colo to support. A 40,000 CPU core render farm requires a lot of power—and generates a lot of heat—and Animal Logic were finding themselves squeezed off into a corner of the colo (to protect other customers) and were being charged a premium to boot. Instead, Animal Logic partnered with Schneider Electric to install a pre-fabricated data-center on its own site at Fox Studios in Sydney.

While the company could have chosen to move to cloud hosted systems, it didn’t for two major reasons: data sovereignty and the physical reality of clouds.

“Most of the spare CPU cycles are in facilities overseas,” says Alex Timbs, Head of IT at Animal Logic, “but to use those cheap cycles meant getting the dataset over there, and that’s when international links come into play, and they are extremely expensive.”

“You can think of our render farm as a private cloud,” says Timbs. “There’s still a major gap between the price of a CPU-hour on our farms and what we could get on one of the major cloud providers.”

Timbs says the network has been a major limiting factor for him. He contrasts using ubiquitous Internet connectivity (which is fine for modest I/O) with the multiple 10 Gigabit links Animal Logic requires. “It’s quite complex and time consuming to set up,” he says. It’s the complete opposite of the highly flexible, on-demand, consumption story we’ve all heard about cloud.