Rendering of 3D animations is one of the world's most compute-intensive tasks.
Gareth Williams, managing director of YellowDog.co, an online rendering service, thinks the way the compute power can be made more readily available is through the cloud.
Williams believes there's plenty of compute power available for the task in the world already. "There's just an imbalance between demand and supply," and that's something his YellowDog startup is seeking to rectify, William told a roomful of press and analysts attending an afternoon session at the 2016 Oracle OpenWorld show in San Francisco on Sept. 19.
Williams is an Englishman with something of a scientist's appearance. He was one of several Oracle customers who spoke Monday about his firm's adoption of the Oracle Cloud, among others. Williams had the floor for a 30-minute session for cloud users in the afternoon, following CEO Mark Hurd's keynote earlier in the day.
During his talk, Williams explained that he founded YellowDog as a participant in Oracle's startup incubator in Bristol, UK, in 2014, and then launched a commercial rendering service in November on multiple clouds, including AWS, Rackspace, French provider OVH, and the Oracle bare metal cloud.
Of the set of compute suppliers, he said that running six bare metal Oracle servers, each with 32 or 36 cores, in the Oracle Cloud was from 2 to 9.8 times more effective than using virtual machines in other public clouds when it comes to the task of 3D rendering.
YellowDog has access to somewhere between 216 and 308 cores in the Oracle cloud. When all of its online resources are combined, the company "can bring up 96,000 cores in about 36 minutes," Williams said.
Given variations in the different services, however, YellowDog has had to create algorithms capable of benchmarking the servers that it activates in different cloud settings to see how fast they can perform the rendering work. With those statistics in hand, it knows how to apportion the work among the various environments so different tasks are completed in similar times, Williams explained.
One of the uses of YellowDog is in the making of automobile commercials, which rely heavily on use of digital animations, rather than actual vehicles. Their producers want assurance that their creative work will remain private data, given the competitive nature of the industry. Some of them prefer to do their processing with the security they associate with Oracle and the Oracle Cloud.
YellowDog is being used to create 3D renderings of architectural drawings, and environmental renderings of important architecture projects. The company also considers privacy paramount.
The firm had to build software to consolidate a bill across different services when using more than one. But that helps give it an edge when it comes to competing with other, single cloud services.
As Williams was getting YellowDog up and running, Google acquired Zync Render in August 2014 to offer its own Google Cloud Platform-based rendering service.
"We're beating Google," Williams claimed.
YellowDog is also announcing that it is looking for underutilized compute cycles in corporate data centers or elsewhere to add to its list of compute cycle suppliers.
"Most business servers are used just 5% to 15% of the time. It's really quite low," Williams said. He's subsequently negotiated an agreement with a managed service provider in the US Southwest for low-cost compute cycles, when they're available.
YellowDog has already dubbed its group of sellers of underutilized cycles its YellowDog "pack," but so far the pack has only one Southwest managed service provider as a member.
Williams explained that it complicates operations to bring additional sources online, when those sources will each have a set of conditions that address when their surplus cycles will be available and which thresholds of utilization must not be breached as they are tapped.
[Want to see how the Google cloud compares to others? Read Comparing Cloud Vendors: A Primer.]
But the idea remains to build "a niche sharing economy" in compute cycles. Williams said he got the idea talking to friend at Paddington Station in London. They were remarking on the unused processing power of the iPhone sitting next to them, when it occurred to Williams that there were unused cycles in the servers all around him.
Williams then asked a professor at the University of West England in Bristol what unused compute cycles could be used for. The answer was an almost endless supply that were needed for 3D rendering of animations and other digital content.
YellowDog has 350 paying customers at this point. The service consists not only of a deployment and rendering engine service but advice on how to obtain the best results in employing an engine. The service is available through a public API.
Williams holds a masters of engineering in information systems from the University of Durham. He says he cut "his canines" working on software for telecommunications companies Orange, Experian QAS, Freedom4, and Arieso.
At the latter, he was part of the management team that sold the company for $85 million to JDSU in 2013. The sale provided him with seed money for YellowDog. Angel investors have put £580,000 ($756,000) into the company so far.