The Essence of Global Windows Azure Render Lab


This weekend, a worldwide community initiative was executed, called Global Windows Azure Boot Camp. Global Windows Azure Boot Camp was a free community training day that is organized by User Groups all over the world in a timespan of 24 hours. To give the event a truly global effect, Alan Smith, modified his ‘Rapid Massive On-Demand Scalability Makes Me Fast!’ demo to make it available on a global scale and handed out a very easy to deploy package to all organizers and attendees of the Global Windows Azure Boot Camp. He also created a dashboard with which we could follow the latest statistics of the global Render Farm.

Apart from the high entertainment value, at first glance, this render experiment didn’t seem to have very much educational value. Attendees could simply deploy a .CSPKG file to Windows Azure and scale the hell out of it :-). When we look a little closer, though, this global experiment actually shows the true essence and beauty of Cloud Computing and Windows Azure as a Cloud Computing platform.

What a Small Country can Contribute…

In The Netherlands, we had 29 attendees that started at 10 a.m. and our event stopped at 5 p.m. We actually didn’t start the Render Lab experiment until 11 a.m., but I reckon that we left the WorkerRole instance run for another hour or two, so in total our event lasted for about 8 hours. During those 8 hours we managed to fire up 450 WorkerRole instances and rendered 33425 frames. This would have taken a single WorkerRole instance (or computer core) 75 days, 23 hours and 36 minutes to complete!

Now, that’s the power of Cloud if you ask me!

On a Global Scale

Globally, there were 21 countries contributing to the Render Farm for a total period of 24 hours. In these 24 hours 724059 frames were rendered by in total 9793 WorkerRole instances. At a little over 3 minutes per frame, this workload would have taken a single computer core over 4,5 years to complete. We did it in under 24 hours!

Again, that’s the power of Cloud, don’t you agree?

How Much?

Ok, you think, but how much did this cost you? Well, the answer is, … nothing! All attendees had either their MSDN Subscription benefits for Windows Azure enabled or they had registered for a free trial. Would this have been a commercial scenario, it would have cost us around $249.955,-. We would have done the same work in 24 hours as we would have done in 4,5 years on a single computer core, though.

Now you try to match these costs with hosting 9793 servers in your own datacenter or hiring them at some hoster. And think of the upfront investment you would have to make to get started and the period over which this investment looses its value. We got this started and ended in within a period of 24 hours.

For more information, please take a look at Alan Smith’s blog post.

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