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Cluster with Xserves or Mac Pros


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#1 Michael Althaus

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Posted 12 February 2007 - 04:17 AM

Hello,
I am looking for information about building a cluster with Xserves or Mac Pros. I have a client which needs to convert hdv and uncompressed SD video into mpeg-4 (h.264) clips very fast. I thought building a cluster might be a good idea. Does anybody have any experience with it? Is it even a good idea or are there other (better) options.

Thank you,

Michael
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 12 February 2007 - 07:03 AM

Hi,

Unless you have a very specific software solution in mind, I think the Mac is probably the least obvious choice here - usually a cluster tries to keep the node cost down and you wouldn't do that very effectively with Apple gear.

Most clusters run a lot of custom software, too, being high bandwidth, high latency systems. Really it comes down to what software you want to run. There are very few off the shelf solutions for distributed computing.

Also unless you are going to build a cluster with ten-plus nodes, it really isn't worth it, as you can get multiprocessor motherboards of similar performance which will do it all under one OS and make your life a lot easier.

Phil
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#3 Dennis Kisilyov

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 01:52 AM

I think using the QMaster/Compressor combo would be a bad idea...

But if you're going to do it, you should know this:


1. You'll need a full Final Cut Studio License for each machine (Xserve or Mac Pro) $1300 USD per node.
(With Individual License Keys - It detects if the same license key is used twice, and exits.)

2. To get any decent speed from the Cluster
You'll need either

A) A Gigabit Network - Only good for about 10 nodes.

$2,000 for a decent switch

B) An XSan Setup -

$15,000 + $1000 Software License (XSan + XServe RAID - 10.5TB)
$1000 per machine for a fibre-channel card. (If using Mac Pro, XServe _should come with an inferior 2x card built in)
$5000 fibrechannel switch/hub.

Total Project budget for a speed-up rig would be.

1x QMaster Controller -3,000 USD $3,000
5x MacPro or 5x XServe -3,000 USD per = $15,000
6x Final Cut Studio License -1,300 USD per = $7,800

In a Gigabit Switched Ethernet you're looking at about : $27,800 for the setup.
In a XSan environment you're looking at about : $51,815 USD for the setup.

The XSan (You can still use Mac-Pro's if you like) will run WAY-WAY-WAY faster than the Gigabit Ethernet setup, as the "source" media and frame transfer between machines is much faster.


----- NOW FOR THE FUN PART ----

1/2 of the things you though you would want to do with Compressor 2.1 and Qmaster (Apples Job Distribution Engine) will not be possible due to restrictions on technology and licensing, such as the case with 3G/Windows Media/Dolby Surround etc.. etc.. etc...

----- NOW FOR THE EVEN MORE FUN PART ----

It will not in any way, shape form, by inference or otherwise make Final Cut run faster. No way to do this.


If you go to apples website this will be "missing" from their marketing literature and specs.

Oh did I mention Compressor 2, and 2.1 CRASH, ALOT, esp when used on Remote Client Machines for exactly that, Distributed Network Encoding or DNE as Apple Calls it.

-> Below is a link for a H.264 hardware encoder for Linux. I've not tried it, but I think it's a start for you.
-> I don't know what AVID is doing with H.264 ... like at all..

http://www.dspr.com/...pci_encoder.htm

Edited by Dennis Kisilyov, 20 March 2007 - 01:57 AM.

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#4 Dennis Kisilyov

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 02:19 AM

On the other hand.

If you are in a prodcution shop, filled with Macs, and lot's of Final Cut installations (like 10-20 people with Final Cut Studio Installed) than during "off-hours" you can send all these idle machines encoding jobs, and do quite well with it. Just make sure all those computers can talk to eachother.

This is what the primary goal for Qmaster2/Compressor2 combo is now. I think it was designed around DVD Studio when it was a stand-alone product.


Makes me wonder what that BBC guy meant when he said "We'll no longer have to pay for gear, just for that raw tallent" in his FCP featurette...
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