Managing the storage needed for 3D movies such as The Great Gatsby is all part of a day’s work for Alex Timbs.
Timbs is head of IT at Sydney-based animation and visual effects studio, Animal Logic. He spoke to Computerworld Australia about data centres, cloud computing and his new workstation.
What does your role as head of IT involve?
In a nutshell, it is the management of the day-to-day IT operations for the company. That spans two offices in Sydney and a smaller office in Los Angeles with 35 people in four teams. The teams include desktop systems, data and rendering.
What are some of the technology projects you have been working on?
We moved all of our rendering capacity and primary production storage into a containerised data centre at Fox Studios earlier this year. We did that to drive down costs, get better operational control of our infrastructure and be more power efficient. During that project, we were able to implement a free air cooling system.
We were using a co-location data centre but had instances of the operator losing power and control of their cooling.
Virtualization has been ongoing for years and 80 per cent of our core infrastructure is now virtualized. This has given huge improvements to our uptime and ability to move data across storage systems.
One of the bigger projects we have underway is a voice over IP [VoIP] upgrade. The VoIP system is used effectively between all three offices.
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What are some of the challenges you face in the role?
The challenges I face all relate to the cyclical nature of the business. It is project based and we have these huge peaks and large troughs as well. Trying to deal with the huge growth of the business over six to 12 months is about how to best manage budgets and resources. The hardest areas relate to storage and render. We might need to double our storage capacity for the last six months of a film project to finish it so I need to work out whether to buy or hire that solution.
We’re looking at the cloud computing proposition and how it can help us deal with those huge peaks from a storage and render perspective. We need a lot of memory and compute power but there are cloud offerings coming to market which will fit the bill.
What are the issues facing IT managers today?
The main challenge is doing more with less. We’re under pressure to produce images faster and do them in a higher resolution.
What is your favourite gadget?
My HP Z1 workstation. It fits so much power into a 27 inch monitor with just one cable.
Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick