Photo: Rainmaker Entertainment
When you take your kids to see the movie Escape from Planet Earth think about this: The people that made this movie invented a whole new way to do cloud computing.For lack of a better name, we’ll call it a “private shared cloud,” and it offers a lesson that all kinds of other industries can use.
The story begins with Rainmaker Entertainment and its really big problem. The Vancouver special effects company was getting bigger projects including its first feature film, Escape from Planet Earth (coming out in February). To do these projects it needed a lot more servers — but only for a few months. “We would have to temporarily double our infrastructure for rendering. For a relatively small independent company, even for larger companies, that’s not that realistic,” explains Catherine Winder, CEO.
So Winder and her top IT guy Ron Stinson, got this crazy idea.
All of the other studios in the area had the same problem. What if this group of competitors decided to share their IT?
Vancouver is a hot spot for video rendering. Along with Rainmaker, it’s the home of Digital Domain Productions (involved in movies like Transformers, X-Men, Star Trek, others), Image-Engine (Breaking Dawn, Eclipse, The Hulk) and a bunch of others.
Winder and Stinson gathered all the rendering companies together and proposed the idea of building their own personal Amazon-like cloud, where they could instantly expand and contract their IT resources.
RenderCloud was born — sort of.
“Initially, everyone was excited, but a few studios voiced concerns over the challenges,” Stinson said.
Photo: Rainmaker Entertainment
There were tons of issues. “How do you create a business model where everyone feels their interest is served without everyone competing with each other?” says Winder.They knew this would only work if they could reduce everyone’s costs — not just the costs of the smaller studios like Rainmaker.
So, they got the government to chip in money because RenderCloud would make Vancouver’s special effects industry more competitive with spots like New Zealand and Northern California.
The also got a public university to give them land for the data centre and to pay for the power. They found a reseller who would purchase the equipment initially and rent it to each studio on a three-year lease for the same price.
Then they had to work out the the sharing part:
- Every studio committed to a certain number of servers and they are responsible for paying the lease on them.
- Some studios were bigger and needed more servers. So they got more. Smaller studios signed on for fewer.
- When a studio doesn’t need all of its servers, it sublets to it others at a fixed price that covers the cost of the lease.
- If no other studios needs the servers, they can lease them outside the group.
- If there are no extra servers available, the studio that needs them has to get them and then be responsible for paying for them for the three-year lease.
Why didn’t Rainmaker just go out and rent infrastructure from a cloud company like Amazon? They wanted to, and looked at cloud companies in Canada and the U.S., but it cost too much.
“We were looking for solution that would be equal to or less than the cost to run a server in our data centre. But the cheapest cloud we found was about four times more expensive than RenderCloud,” says Stinson.
Since RenderCloud came online in early 2012, word has spread about this strange way to share IT. Stinson says he’s been hearing from other curious industries and that it would be good for lots of them: mining, financial industries, chip companies.
He also says there’s no reason why a group of companies has to be in the same industry to build such a cloud. They don’t even need to be in the same town. They just need to be willing to work together.
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