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Home render farm - this time its serious
show user profile  mike_renouf
Ok... so I've got a budget of approximately £1000 max. I don't want to build my own system. I don't want to have to do mental amounts of networking. I'm a 3D artist, unfortunately not a network engineer or IT consultant.

However, I also don't want to pay the ridiculous prices for a Boxx machine or something of that ilk. I have a garage in which I can set up a few machines and leave them running for several hours, but I don't want to have to put aircon or a fireproofed cabinet in place.

My thoughts are as simple as getting four of these, good priced multicore machines:

I figure that the dual xeon setup is great for vray. The four gigs of ram should be sufficient for each node. The 1/2 terrabyte hard drives are large enough for a barebones windows and max install.

All I'll need now is a small LAN unit that I can connect the four machines plus my workstation.

Can someone with some hardware knowledge tell me if I've missed anything please? I know there are cheaper ways of acheiving the same setup if I build my own, but I can't face that at all.

All constructive input gratefully received!


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4/15/2014 11:25:16 AM (last edit: 4/15/2014 11:25:16 AM)
show user profile  Nik Clark
Seems cheap!
It's a better plan than that 10x rack you were looking at.

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4/15/2014 11:37:38 AM (last edit: 4/15/2014 11:37:38 AM)
show user profile  BishBashRoss
4 gigs of ram isn't much these days even for nodes. I'd check what kind of RAM these machines take, some older DDR2 can be quite expensive particularly the ECC stuff that these machines appear to require. I think with the ECC DDR2 it doesn't even have the same pin layout as normal DDR2.

Then with big scenes you are going to need to transfer the data quickly between nodes to see the benefit of all 4 machines. This might require fast expensive network hardware, I imagine someone round here will be able to offer you some good advice on that.

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4/15/2014 11:55:48 AM (last edit: 4/15/2014 11:55:48 AM)
show user profile  mike_renouf
Thanks for the input Ross. I took a look at the crucial website and discovered that there's far more to RAM than I knew. ECC ram comes in three types: Fully Buffered ECC, Registered ECC, Unbuffered ECC. There's nothing on the computer vendor's site which says which type these machines are loaded with. The spec is "4GB (4 x 1 GB) PC2-3200R DDR2-400 ECC". Also, this suggests to me that there are four slots and all are utilised.

My workstation has 16GB of RAM but to be honest I never encountered issues when I only had 8GB in it before upgrading.

Would you go for 8GB as a minimum for the render nodes or do you think I could get away with 4GB? I've no hands on experience of distributed bucket rendering.

Again - any input gratefully received - I'm a bit in the dark, but I'm learning!

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4/15/2014 2:01:52 PM (last edit: 4/15/2014 2:01:52 PM)
show user profile  BishBashRoss
8 GB minimum for sure. I used to have couple of old machines with just 4 gig and they would struggle on large renders. Displacement can be a killer too. 8 Gig will be fine for most scenes from my experience. You want to be future proofing to a certain degree, don't want to be shelling out more in the long run.

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4/15/2014 2:38:21 PM (last edit: 4/15/2014 2:38:21 PM)
show user profile  reeves1984
Old ram is expensive to upgrade I've found, which is a abit annoying.. I have an old machine at home and it has 6gb and I need more sometimes just for nuke as much as anything else! But the cost of upgrading it is crazy (I guess it's all limited production as its old)

Simon Reeves - VFX Artist & Blog
twitter <-- I work here

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4/15/2014 2:42:20 PM (last edit: 4/15/2014 2:42:20 PM)
show user profile  BishBashRoss
Yeah, particularly for the ECC stuff.

We had a couple of old Q6600s, ended up buying new cheap ddr 3 motherboards and buying ddr3. actually worked out half the price of buying new ddr2.

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4/15/2014 2:45:18 PM (last edit: 4/15/2014 2:45:28 PM)
show user profile  mike_renouf
Sad face. Ok, like I said, I'm learning. Gratefulfor the input. Will start looking at other options, but I doubt the dual Xeon option will be possible for comparable price with newer ram. I'll keep hunting..

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4/15/2014 3:00:42 PM (last edit: 4/15/2014 3:55:44 PM)
show user profile  Mr_Stabby
That offer seems totally legit lmao. Its most likely an old dualcore xeon which would be on par with a modern €30 celeron chip.

look for the cheapest i7 4770 based system. Ram you can always add, 8gb costs around €50 these days. Do not buy anything that doesn't specify part models.

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4/15/2014 3:47:40 PM (last edit: 4/15/2014 3:48:51 PM)
show user profile  mike_renouf
I was blanking out the "too good to be true" factor. Thanks for bringing me down to earth Stabby. More research rqd.

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4/15/2014 6:37:11 PM (last edit: 4/15/2014 6:37:11 PM)
show user profile  chillywilson

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4/15/2014 6:40:19 PM (last edit: 4/15/2014 6:41:10 PM)
show user profile  mike_renouf
Chilly - I saw that first. That's what set me off looking at blade servers and started me on this ridiculous quest :) there was one I saw for £1000 with about 20 CPUs. Mental.
I don't fancy dealing with the 3kW heat output though, not to mention the noise...and the electric bill..and the weight... Etc etc.

Taking stabby's advice I've found a machine at £419 plus tax with i7 4770 CPU, 8GB unbranded ram, 1TB drive, 500Wpsu (unbranded) and a gigabit LAN. That's the cheapest i7 with 8Gb I can see so far. I know it's probably inferior kit , but it's a render box.

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4/15/2014 7:11:36 PM (last edit: 4/15/2014 7:11:36 PM)
show user profile  chillywilson
ok here is an Idea.

What if everybody got got cash together and got one site license for renderpal and we all could set a socket to a server on when are computers aren't in use and make a maxforum render farm.

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4/16/2014 3:55:04 AM (last edit: 4/16/2014 3:55:04 AM)
show user profile  mike_renouf
Here's a link to the boxes I mentioned above.

I'm thinking that I will also need a gigabit router. Might also require a network attached storage (NAS) to put all project files, maps etc.

Can anyone confirm this is the appropriate requirement pls? I think I will need to find a bit bigger budget to make it worthwhile. Thinking that 4 render boxes are the way to go.

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4/16/2014 9:19:54 AM (last edit: 4/16/2014 9:20:57 AM)
show user profile  chillywilson
Just a network storage device with dual raid, but a fast ass router is never a bad Idea

If you get something like below, I would set up a raid 1 on the textures and files with 2 drives.
Then use the other 2 slots to set up a raid 0 so the computers can write faster to it when rendering, move the renders to the raid 1 for storage and back up when done.
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4/16/2014 4:40:07 PM (last edit: 4/16/2014 4:40:07 PM)
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