by Jamie Beckett
Ogres, princesses and fairy godmothers aren’t the
usual fare for scientists at HP Labs. But thanks to a unique partnership between
HP and DreamWorks, researchers got to play a part in the soon-to-be-released
The animated fairy tale, a sequel to DreamWorks’ Academy Award™-winning
blockbuster "Shrek," came
to life with help from technology developed by HP Labs for providing scalable
off-site rendering capacity to the production. Rendering is the process that
converts animators' computer-generated
wire models into finished frames by adding color, light, texture and other
The HP Utility Rendering Service ran on a data center
researchers built in HP Labs' Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters -- the first
time DreamWorks has moved the critical rendering process outside its own
The data center became a remote extension of DreamWorks’ IT infrastructure,
providing the computing boost needed for peak periods in the production
"We had to build not only a robust, high-performance
system, but also to provide a secure, trustworthy environment
so nothing about the film leaked out," says Gene
Becker, who led the HP team on the project. "And
we had to do it in about 12 weeks."
The data center
that resulted consisted of 500 HP servers (1,000 processors) connected
to DreamWorks’ studio 20 miles away in Redwood City, Calif., via
a secure fiber optic link. It is an example of HP’s Adaptive Enterprise
model for computing as a service, in which companies can draw on
expanded computing resources when they need it most, without having
to purchase or manage physical computing assets.
In working with DreamWorks, HP researchers developed advanced capabilities for service configuration and management of data centers. In addition, they created comprehensive instrumentation to collect terabytes of system data used to optimize performance and reliability.
The data center also uses HP’s "smart" cooling and "smart" power
solutions to provide the maximum compute capability in the smallest,
most cost-efficient footprint possible.
HP’s partnership with DreamWorks began in 2001, when the companies
worked together on "Shrek." HP provides the filmmaker’s
computing infrastructure, which DreamWorks has credited for helping
it break new ground technically, creatively and financially on
several feature films.
"Shrek 2," to be released on May 21, picks up the ogre’s
story after he and Princess Fiona are married, and the newlyweds'
parents extend an invitation to the couple to visit.