DreamWorks Data Center: Where Creativity and IT Efficiency Coexist

 
 
By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2012-10-19
 
 
 

Icon of the Animated Film Industry

Founded in 1994, DreamWorks SKG has produced some of the most popular films in the world, including the "Shrek" series, the "Kung Fu Panda" and "Madagascar" series, and many more. Its two main studios are in Glendale and Redwood City, Calif. The company has a new studio in Bangalore, India.

Icon of the Animated Film Industry

SKG in Person

From left: Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, founders of DreamWorks SKG. Katzenberg is the most IT-oriented of the trio.

SKG in Person

'Rise of the Guardians' Up Next

"Rise of the Guardians," a story about the legendary characters most beloved by children, including Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, is the studio's latest creation. It will open in November 2012. DreamWorks now produces three films per year, and it takes three to five years to make each one.

'Rise of the Guardians' Up Next

Redwood City Data Center

DreamWorks' main film-processing and data storage center is located on the San Francisco Bay at the far eastern edge of Redwood City, Calif., about 30 miles south of San Francisco. The facility is said to contain more than 4PB of film data and has access to many more petabytes of archived film if necessary. Each 3D movie can use as many as 17,000 processing cores and comprise around 200TB of data.

Redwood City Data Center

Exhausting Work?

DreamWorks IT director and data center manager Mike Cutler shows how he uses "chimneys" to keep hot exhaust air from the whirring servers inside closed panels, instead of allowing it to go into a so-called "hot aisle," as many other data centers do. Here, the air is funneled up and through the ceiling of the data center, then out onto breezy, foggy San Francisco Bay. Most other data centers use other methods to channel hot air.

Exhausting Work?

Not a Thing Out of Place

The DreamWorks data center, where the air temperature stays around 72 degrees most of the time—higher than the 66 to 68 degrees many older data centers tend to use—is the picture of organization. Data center manager Cutler said that the server and storage facility could easily operate at 10 degrees warmer if necessary.

Not a Thing Out of Place

HP Prominently Displayed

Hewlett-Packard servers and its 3PAR storage machines are found in many racks in the DreamWorks data center, although they are certainly not the only ones. NetApp storage and Avere System network-attached storage nodes are also among the brands observed on racks.

HP Prominently Displayed

Peeking in the Backdoor

Some aisles in the data center looked like a series of footlockers. When a door is opened, some hot air comes out, and here is what you see: a very efficiently designed server rack back-end.

Peeking in the Backdoor

Avere Nodes a Key Ingredient

When a film is in its final 18 months before release date, processing speed becomes very important. Avere's FXT 2550 and 2750 storage arrays, like most all of the newer-generation storage hardware now being produced, feature fast and cool-running Intel Xeon quad-core processors. These machines also feature additional capacity on the dynamic RAM (DRAM) cache tier and optimize the storage I/O in the data center.

Avere Nodes a Key Ingredient

3PAR Tiered Storage

HP's 3PAR division produces storage that keeps hot files nearby and archives the ones that won't be needed right away, allowing artists and producers to move quicker between scene cuts.

3PAR Tiered Storage

Oscar Looks On

DreamWorks has won several Academy Awards for its films. One of them, for "Shrek," is displayed in the Redwood City campus lobby.

Oscar Looks On

Whimsicality in Topiary

The well-known DreamWorks logo of a boy fishing while sitting on the moon greets visitors in a topiary at the entrance to the studio's Northern California campus on the San Francisco Bay.

Whimsicality in Topiary

Rocket Fuel