The New Year brings unwelcome news from Intel and NVIDIA, both of which are likely to cause major disruption for the CGI and video production sectors. Details are still breaking, but we do expect that there will be impacts on pricing for render jobs.
Intel CPUs (pretty much all of them) are affected by three critical kernel memory bugs which can only be mitigated by switching to a much less efficient way for the operating system to manage processor instructions. Initial tests estimate that as much as a 30% drop in processor speed could be seen when the patches roll out for Windows and Linux in a few days time. This will affect every computer with an Intel CPU made in the last decade, and of course these chips are in render farm servers that we use to create CGI images and video sequences. Since these farms operate on a time-based pricing model, if the processor speed drops then the jobs will take longer, and this will in turn affect pricing. We don’t yet have statements from the main farm operators, as until the patches are released it’s not possible to determine the effects on specific programs.
NVIDIA has also thrown a spanner into the render farm machine, by changing their licensing terms and conditions to suddenly ban all of their consumer grade video cards (GeForce) from being used in a ‘data center’. Render farms often use GeForce cards to support GPU-based renderers, as they are orders of magnitude cheaper and can be faster than the server-class equivalents. Again this is breaking news and nobody is entirely sure of the effects, but nobody expects render farms to go out and replace their racks of $500 Titan cards with $10,000 Tesla cards (and that’s not including the annual license fee to use the drivers). This could be the death knell for GPU-based rendering engines, but luckily for us we use Corona, which is a CPU-based engine. It will be affected by the Intel bug, but at least it can still be farmed.
We expect to have more information in a week or two. It is likely that our frame prices will increase going forward, however customers with in-progress jobs will not be affected. New pricing schedules will be circulated to our customers when the situation becomes clear.