Home Insight How a data centre can help a VFX company

Lockdown forced a lot of VFX companies to work from home for the first time, but most companies quickly adapted to the situation, overcame the immediate challenges and proved that remote working could be done successfully.

But what does this mean for the longer-term?

There are infrastructure solutions that the VFX industry generally hasn't considered before, but have the potential to future-proof your VFX company, as Covid-19, the new normal and new tech continue to affect the industry.

[Read how Covid-19 has impacted the VFX industry]

VFX Server racks in a data centre colourful

Why does VFX tech need to change?

Now that the industry has embraced working from home and torture tested its success (albeit not out of choice), we're seeing a growing trend of companies continuing this new way of working.  These forward-thinking VFX companies are reaping new benefits, such as:

  • Flexible working patterns for staff, and no commute saving both time and money 
  • Ability to attract the best people, from a larger talent pool without being limited by their location
  • Substantial savings on rental no longer required for premium office space 

But you will need to upgrade your IT for your remote working system to be optimised, since all current VFX systems were built focused on in-office working.

[Business Guide: How to boost your long-term remote working strategy]

Another consideration is that, with social distancing, building relationships and negotiating contracts over video calls is going to be the new normal, which is a blessing and a curse since your company in Soho is now just as accessible to a Hollywood studio as one based in LA; but also everywhere else in the world. Strong connectivity is going to help with these problems, and upgrading your reliability is going to keep you competitive in a changing industry.

What tech upgrades you should be looking at?

Moving into a data centre can be a relatively quick and straight forward process, particularly important if you’re struggling with the current remote working situation. A ‘lift & shift’ literally allows you to take your existing computer system and move it into a data centre. So if you're already part-way through a large post-production contract, you can make this move with minimal disruption and still meet your deadline. You can then benefit from:

  • Power redundancies
    Keeping your system operating and available to staff 100% of the time.
  • Network resiliency
    Reliably transfer files to each other as quickly as if you were in the same office.
  • Comprehensive physical and cyber security 
    Protect your system from attackers trying to leak your client's latest film.
  • Advanced cooling capabilities
    Letting you launch sophisticated hardware with new computing capabilities.
  • 24/7/365 onsite support
    Extend your IT team with expert engineers who can fix your system anytime of day or night.

A data centre with experienced engineers will also be able to give you ongoing advice and support for future changes you need to make to your system.

You will have an incredible amount of flexibility in a data centre, since they will have a much higher capacity than your in-office setup. If you need to launch new hardware, you can simply deploy it in one of their racks, next to your existing system. To do this in-house, you would need to make sure you’ve got the space for another rack and make the financial commitment of upgrading your power supply and cooling as necessary.

Bidding for large contracts from studios will be a lot easier when you know your data centre has the capacity to upgrade your system as soon as you have a need.

Upgrading to new platforms will be easier in a data centre as they can help you transition into a private or hybrid cloud if you decide that is the right direction for you. An HPC ready data centre would also be able to host your hardware if you decided to start clustering your GPUs and CPUs into dense computer cores to access the incredible computing power this allows. HPC is the next generation of computing, and will be a valuable addition to a VFX company's ability to process data and render effects.

How a data centre can save you money

As well as upgrading your computer system, properly utilising a data centre can be a very cost-effective way to run your IT, potentially saving you money.

There are a lot of hidden costs attached to operating a computer system in your office:

  • Power consumption
  • The floor space taken up
  • The staff hired to monitor the system

All of these costs are included in your colocation fee when you store your servers in a data centre. And if you work with an energy-efficient data centre, their power consumption per server will be lower than your in-office setup, and they’ll pass that saving onto you.

It might even be time to downsize your office, or get rid of it entirely. This would save you a huge amount of money in rent, especially if you’re based in central London, somewhere like Soho, and not having to provide space for your computer system will increase the amount you can save.

There is also the incalculable cost attached to system downtime, which can cause you to miss contract deadlines and damage your reputation with studios. A data centre will reduce your chances of downtime and protect you against this worst-case scenario.

Your next steps for upgrading your tech

Colocation in a data centre will provide short and long-term benefits for your IT system, so it’s an upgrade you’ll need to consider at some point to help you stay competitive in a post-Covid-19 world.

A data centre will help you put the necessary infrastructure in place to help your colourists and artists keep their productivity high - all while harnessing the full benefits of remote working. 

Data centre migration checklist