A tour of DreamWorks Studios' data center

One computer-generated film is made up of as many as 120,000 frames and requires 200TB of disk storage

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A rack of HP 3Par storage.

DreamWorks has standardized much of its IT infrasctucture on Hewlett-Packard HP BladeSystem c-Class server blades, 3,000 of them, which consist of preconfigured compute, storage and network architecture. It also uses HP NAS and HP's 3Par storage arrays. The only exception to the HP hardware is a small amount of storage from Hitachi Data Systems and NetApp NAS.

The studio's server racks back up into ventilation "chimneys" where the hot exhaust is drawn up and out of the room. "Cold air and hot air never mix," Cutler said. "So that's 30 degrees (F) of hot air that we don't have to cool."

A row of HP blade server racks. The hot air from the servers is exhausted into an enclosed chimney eliminating the need for added air conditioning

Just as with its first use of 3D imaging in 2009 for its Monsters vs. Aliens film, CG is also pushing the technology requirements at DreamWorks. 3D required an additional 100TB of storage capacity for productions because it doubled many of the images.

This holiday season, the release of The Hobbit by MGM will mark the first time a motion picture has been made using 48 frames per second technology.

"If that's an experience consumers appreciate, that will have a huge impact on storage and rendering," Wike said.

"And it may have a price tag attached to it, in the same way stereoscopic films did, but if it provides a premium experience people are willing to pay for that's OK,' Swanborg said. "That's a great tradeoff from the content creation standpoint."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at

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This story, "A tour of DreamWorks Studios' data center" was originally published by Computerworld.

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