Look to build a render farm network

Intel / PENTIUM 4
December 30, 2008 at 19:55:52
Specs: Windows XP Pro SP2, P4 3.2 GHz 2Gb PC3200 Ra
I'd like to be able to set up a 6 box 3d render farm with one box acting as a server. I'm hoping somebody might be able to point me in the right direction on this subject, so I'll try and briefly explain what I understand so far...

The basic concept - I have my workstation and then of course the plan is to be able to send tasks from my workstation to the server, which will dish out jobs to the 5 render boxes. Once a frame is rendered, it's sent to the network storage and the process starts again.

The Hardware: What I've selected so far are 6 identical boxes, one of which would be a dedicated server and would do no rendering. Its purpose would just be to manage the 5 workers while my workstation is free for me to continue working on, sacrificing zero resources to run the farm.

In the server box, I wanted to house the larger storage drives, either internally, or external drives through eSATA, rather than paying extra for a NAS. But one of those drives would contain all the necessary files for whatever job I'm doing, and the other would be where the finished frames are sent.

Beyond the actual boxes, I'm assuming a switch and cables will be all I will need to network everything.

Software: The network render managers aren't an issue, as there are plenty out there to choose from. Beyond that, can I do this without needing to purchase server software? I'd rather not spend that kind of money if I don't need to.

Questions: Can I control the server through my workstation, or will I need to purchase another monitor, keyboard and mouse for the server? If both, which would be most efficient?

I'm assuming that, through the server, I'll have full access to each client box and will be able to do all my installs, disk cloning, etc from one machine, or is that not the case?

That's all I can think of for now. I feel like I have all the right hardware in mind to do the job, but when it comes to actually setting it all up, I'm very new to this and have only just started searching for info on it.

So anybody that can set me straight, I'd appreciate it, especially if there's anyone out there that has done exactly what I'm looking to do.


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#1
December 31, 2008 at 06:30:32
http://www.extremetech.com/article2...

There is a render farm tutorial. I never built one but I think you can get away without buy server software as long as you don't go over 10 connections or whatever the workstation limit is.

During the setup phase, you will have to go to each machine at one point or another.


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#2
January 1, 2009 at 05:55:24
In the server box, I wanted to house the larger storage drives, either internally, or external drives through eSATA, rather than paying extra for a NAS. But one of those drives would contain all the necessary files for whatever job I'm doing, and the other would be where the finished frames are sent.

The advantage of a NAS over what you describe above is that a NAS should have RAID capability. RAID offer's redundancy and protection for your data.

What you describe is just two separate hard drives. My suggestion is, if you're going to spend the money, spend a little more and do it right. Either purchase a RAID capable NAS device, or.......buy an internal RAID controller for your server and then build a RAID in it.

Standard operating procedure in most cases is a separate RAID 1 array (made up of 2 disks) for your operating system and another 3 disk (minimum) RAID 5 for data storage. You could of course combine everything (OS and data) on a single RAID 5 array to save some $$$.

This offers redundancy the single disk solution doesn't. Of course you will still want to do proper backups.

Beyond that, can I do this without needing to purchase server software? I'd rather not spend that kind of money if I don't need to.

From what you've said, I wouldn't think it necessary to purchase a server operating system. I'm quite sure your 'server' would work fine under XP Pro.

Questions: Can I control the server through my workstation, or will I need to purchase another monitor, keyboard and mouse for the server? If both, which would be most efficient?

Depending on location of equipment, you could use a KVM switch to connect multiple computers to a single keyboard/mouse/monitor. I have a KVM here in my office at home and 4 of the 5 PC's I have in here connect to it (my main PC, the one I'm typing on now is also a gaming PC so I keep it separate).

Regardless of the monitor/KB/mouse issue, you would remote into your server using RDC (remote desktop connection).

I'm assuming that, through the server, I'll have full access to each client box and will be able to do all my installs, disk cloning, etc from one machine, or is that not the case?

That depends on you and your level of knowledge. I could do it, but I'm a professional with 15 years of experience working in industry. It's a topic that's a wee bit complicated to be discussed in forum here and to be honest, I don't have the time to teach someone via email either. If you don't presently have the requisite knowledge you could talk to people locally. Do you have any friends that work in industry?



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#3
January 1, 2009 at 08:10:22
Thanks for the informative responses. quapo: thank you for that article. I'm sure some of the info in that may come in handy when it comes time to set this up.

Curt, thanks for your help. I had no idea what a KVM switch was, but it looks like that will solve my peripheral issues. I'd just rather not have to constantly re-route cables everytime I need to work on a different box. So that's a huge help.

And I guess you're right. If I'm going to be spending the money on this, I may as well configure the storage properly. I guess I'll start comparing a good NAS vs. a raid set-up inside the server box, maybe with a case that supports hot swapping.

I do know a couple of guys that work in IT, so yes, if it comes down to it, I could probably get somebody to come over and help me out.

Thanks again for the responses, very helpful.


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