Wednesday, 28 September 2016 11:23

Weta finds Oracle storage effective for effects

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Renowned visual effects firm Weta Digital uses Oracle for its top-tier storage.

Technology vendors like working with Weta Digital because the company provides demanding, real-world workloads, said chief information officer Kathy Gruzas.

Weta's storage vendor of choice for the last two years has been Oracle, and 3PB of the company's 5PB of storage is provided by a collection of Oracle ZFS Storage Appliances.

Storage systems from NetApp, SGI and Hitachi Data Systems make up the remainder.

Since Weta writes between 50 and 100TB of data a day and reads around 0.5PB, performance and capacity are clearly important.

"The Oracle system has been great for us," said Gruzas, noting that it delivers twice the performance of the previous systems. Sixty-four storage systems are currently online: "fewer to manage is better for us," she observed.

A particular issue for Weta is that with around 300 artists working on one project, certain files are used very heavily. One example is that a particular surface texture may be used extensively in a movie. Oracle's analytics features are useful in this regard: Gruzas explained that they make it possible to identify which processes are competing for heavily-used files, and where necessary stop the least important to make sure others reach timely completion. Oracle was the first vendor to provide this capability, she said.

Another problem rarely faced by IT departments its that a significant amount of work is done in the field. Weta's staff work on sets, capturing reference photography, 3D scans of props (to allow the application of digital effects), and motion capture and face capture for animations. This involves a huge amount of data, Gruzas explained, and it is important to collect it on the first attempt.

So Weta has built custom equipment cases containing an Oracle ZFS Storage Appliance, a server and a network switch that can go "into the forest, into the rain," she said.

Weta has been in business for 23 years, and has won five Oscars in that time. The company's current projects include work on the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel and War for the Planet of the Apes.

Disclosure: The writer attended Oracle Open World as a guest of the company.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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