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Cloud bursting saves the day for visual effects studio

A digital effects studio uses Amazon Web Services for extra render farm capacity -- without administering individual EC2 instances.

Cloud bursting into Amazon Web Services has helped a visual effects studio double its infrastructure overnight, allowing it to enhance popular TV shows with special effects on time, thanks to software from a startup that abstracts cloud infrastructure.

FuseFX, based in Burbank, Calif., creates visual effects for shows such as Agents of Shield, American Horror Story, The Blacklist andBones, and wanted to expand its 100-server render farm when it engaged with Bracket Computing Inc., based in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Bracket's Computing Cell software allows resources to be spun up according to quality of service directives. For example, a user could specify how long they want a certain processing job to take, and Bracket's software would spin up the necessary number of public cloud instances to meet that requirement on the back end. The company's software sits in the data path, between the guest operating system and the cloud service provider's infrastructure.

Competitive products for abstracted cloud provisioning and multicloud management include offerings from Carmelo Systems, VMware, Dell and Ravello Systems. Bracket's software is priced according to underlying infrastructure costs that approximate cloud vendors' infrastructure prices -- on average, the first 10 TB of data transfer per month costs $0.12 per GB; standard compute with 4 vCPUs and 16 GB RAM is priced on average at $0.28 per hour; and primary storage capacity is priced on average at $0.25 per gigabyte per month.

"The Bracket interface allows us to turn on what we need," said Jason Fotter, CTO for FuseFX. "Bracket allows us to define … how long we want the workload to run."

FuseFX put Bracket's software into production last week, sending render jobs over an encrypted VPN to Amazon Web Services (AWS), spinning up about 100 AWS server instances in all. Once the jobs were completed, the final results were sent back to FuseFX for delivery to its customers.

Fotter's alternative to cloud bursting for extra render capacity was calling other studios to ask for spare compute capacity.

"That's always tricky because everybody has a different pipeline, everybody has a different workflow, and it's critical that things fit into our workflow so we can stay as efficient and fast as possible," Fotter said.

FuseFX had delivery deadlines and may not have had time to set up a second computing environment without Bracket, Fotter said.

Still, getting Bracket's software integrated with the company's workflows took some scripting work so that machines with shifting IP addresses would register on FuseFX's domain name system (DNS).

"One thing that we're missing is static IP addresses," Fotter said. "We were able to work around it, and update our DNS as needed so it's not a critical problem, but that's one of the next steps."

Bracket CEO Tom Gillis said this wishlist item is on the roadmap for his company's product. The company was pleased to work with the FuseFX team to iron out these details and will take static IP addresses under advisement as it develops its product.

Another item still on the roadmap for the company is encryption of data in flight to the cloud, according to Gillis in a separate interview. Right now it performs encryption on data at rest.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchAWS. Write to her at or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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