Creating digital imagery for major blockbusters requires an extreme density data centre that can handle massive data traffic and storage
New Zealand company Weta Digital is at the forefront of its industry and is responsible for creating stunning visual effects for some of the biggest grossing films of recent times.
To cope with the current and future technological demands of Weta’s visual effects creations, the company worked with selected technology partners to install a purpose-built, extreme-density data centre in Wellington.
The processing needs for the production of Weta’s digital imagery are intense. At the peak of a project Weta’s creative team can be processing an incredible 7 or 8 gigabytes of data per second, 24 hours-a-day.
The 10,000 square foot data centre handling this task was built to support more than 4,000 HP BL2x220c blades, holding 104 terabytes of RAM, connected by 10 Gigabit Ethernet networking gear.
Those are some serious numbers and as Weta’s System Administrator, Paul Gunn says, “industry standard raised floors and forced-air cooling couldn’t have kept up.”
To add to the challenges Weta had limited space to build the data centre and was concerned with the environmental impact of its operations. Being located in Wellington meant the threat of earthquakes was an additional consideration.
The infrastructure selected to support the IT systems was the RimatriX5 solution from data centre infrastructure provider Rittal. The installation consisted of 35 seismically-braced racks and LCP + liquid cooling units capable of cooling up to 30kW per rack, together with power distribution and management to moderate and control the temperature within each rack.
“Instead of the traditional and less responsive method of eliminating hot spots around cooling, these racks self-regulate the amount of cooling they require in real time, adjusting the waterflow and fan speeds as required,” says Adam Shand, Weta Digital’s acting CTO.
Weta has achieved significant savings in cooling the data centre due to a unique feature of the Rittal system that allows a high water inlet temperature to the cooling units. This means that on any day where the temperature is 15°C or below, Weta can use the ambient air conditions to cool the water circuits in the cooling units, without the need for compressors.
The level of temperature control provided by the LCP+ solution means that Weta has been able to fine-tune the system to realise further savings.
In fact, Weta won an energy excellence award for building the high-powered data centre with such a small footprint and using such energy-efficient cooling systems. Weta’s cooling costs are 40 per cent lower than the average costs for a standard-build facility of equivalent capacity.
The expandable capacity of the data centre infrastructure ensures that Weta Digital’s work can be supported by faster and more powerful technology well into the future, allowing them to continuing pushing the boundaries of their craft.