Since the hit movie AVATAR surpassed the $1 Billion Revenue mark this weekend I thought it would be interesting to post some information about how the movie was put together – especially since the hardware behind the magic was the HP BL2x220c.
According to an article from information-management.com, AVATAR was put together at a visual effects production house called Weta Digitallocated in Miramar, New Zealand. Weta’s datacenter sits in a 10,000 square foot facility however the film’s computing core ran on 2,176 HP BL 2x220c Blade Servers. This added up to over 40,000 processors and 104 terabytes of RAM. (Check out my post on the HP BL 2x220c blade server for details on this 2 in 1 server design by HP.)
The HP blades read and wrote data against 3 petabytes of fast fiber channel disk network area storage from BluArc and NetApp. According to the article, all of the gear was connected by multiple 10-gigabit network links. “We need to stack the gear closely to get the bandwidth we need for our visual effects, and, because the data flows are so great, the storage has to be local,” says Paul Gunn, Weta’s data center systems administrator.
The article also highlights the fact that the datacenter uses water cooled racks to keep the racks and storage cooled. Suprisingly, the water cooled design, along with a cool local climate, allows Weta to run their datacenter for less cost than running air conditioning (all they pay for is the cost of running water.) In fact, they recently won an energy excellence award for building a smaller footprint that came with 40% lower cooling cost.
Summary of Hardware Used for AVATAR:
34 racks – each with 4 HP BladeSystem Chassis, 32 servers (16 BL2x220c)
over 40,000 processors
104 TB RAM
Since I don’t want to re-write the excellent article from information-management.com, I encourage you to click here to read the full article.
HP’s BladeSystem server offering is quite extensive – everything from a 4 CPU Intel blade to an Itanium CPU blade, however their most well hidden, secret blade is their BL2x220c blade server. Starting at $6,129, this blade server is an awesome feet of design because it is not just 1 server, it is 2 serversin 1 blade case – in a clam shell design (see below). This means that in a HP C7000 BladeSystem chassis you could have 32 servers! That’s 64 CPUs, 256 CORES, 2TB of RAM all in a 10U rack space. That’s pretty impressive. Let me break it down for you. Each “node” on a single 2 node BL2x220c G5 server contains:
Up to two Quad-Core Intel® Xeon®5400 sequence processors
Up to 32 GB (4 x 8 GB) of memory, supported by (4) slots of PC2-5300 Registered DIMMs, 667 MHz
1 non-hot plug small form factor SATA or Solid State hard drive
Embedded Dual-port NC326i Gigabit Server Adapter
One (1) I/O expansion slots via mezzanine card
One (1) internal USB 2.0 connector for security key devices and USB drive keys
You may have noticed that this server is a “G5” version and currently has the older Intel 5400 series processors. Based on HP’s current blade offering, expect to see HP refresh of this server to a “G6” model that will contain the Intel® Xeon® 5500 series processors. Once that happens, I expect for more memoryslots to come with it, since the Intel® Xeon® 5500 series processors have 3 memory channels. I’m guessing 12 memory slots “per node” or 24 memory slots per BL2x220c G6. Purely speculation on my part, but it would make sense.
Why do I consider this server to be one of HP’s best hidden secrets? Simply because with that amount of server density, server processing power and server memory, the BL2x220c could become a perfect virtualization server. Now if they’d only make a converged network adapter (CNA)…