PixStor has performed exactly as advertised. Our experience to date has endorsed the fact that we made the right choice.” – Ryan Cawthorne, Systems Engineer – Nexus
Nexus is an award-winning creator of visual content based in Shoreditch, East London. Founded in 1997 with an initial emphasis on animation, the studio has continued to diversify, delivering increasingly ambitious projects across film, advertising, visual effects and even interactive media. With a desire to produce ever more ‘talked about’ content and beautifully crafted ideas Nexus has recently extended its technical capabilities with an investment in Pixit Media’s PixStor scaleout SAN and NAS technology.
“The PixStor was part of a major expansion intended to allow us to push the type and scale of the work that we do,” explains Ryan Cawthorne, systems engineer at Nexus. The company’s existing storage system – based on proprietary hardware – was going ‘end of life’ with Nexus facing an expensive replacement rather than an expansion. “Being tied to a bespoke hardware vendor doesn’t give you any flexibility,” says Cawthorne, “and the longer term costs are not always transparent.”
Nexus wanted a solution that could cope with its current workload, but that could also adapt and scale to future changes in the workflow.
“I was recommended PixStor by a former colleague so I did some research,” says Cawthorne.“There were many companies similar to us using PixStor in production and I liked the fact that Pixit Media has a good reputation in our industry, particularly for the high quality of support. It’s quite unusual to find a storage vendor with an intimate understanding of VFX pipelines.”
Nexus worked in close consultation with Pixit Media to ensure the chosen solution could comfortably support its 70+ 3D artists and 20 compositors, and also cope with the spikes in network traffic expected from the render farm.
Adaptable and Scalable
Nexus purchased the PixStor from specialist CG and VFX reseller Escape Technology. “Nexus is a talented company producing innovative work,” says Mark Cass, managing director at Escape Technology. “We like to take the same approach to technology, ensuring that we recommend solutions that enable the customer’s creative process. With PixStor, each system is tailored specifically for the customer environment.”
The PixStor provided Nexus with 133TB of useable tier one production storage that delivers 1200MB/s of throughput to their artists – sustained for the life of the system. “The immediate impact of the PixStor was that we had four times more storage capacity than before,” recalls Cawthorne.
“However, a few months later, we had several projects running simultaneously including one of our largest and most complex VFX jobs to date, with high resolution live-action plates and large texture files. We added 20 artists and additional render nodes to cope with the larger texture and frame sizes. We were operating at 95% capacity and suffered no performance loss whatsoever. The resilience of the PixStor is really incredible.”
With the PixStor providing optimal performance to its artists, Nexus’s systems engineers also benefit from additional resources on the support front. “The support we get from Pixit Media is refreshingly personal” says Cawthorne. “We get to talk to the individual engineer who is dealing with the problem, without having to go through any intermediaries.”
“Another appealing aspect is Pixit Media’s holistic approach to the overall environment.” “Support isn’t limited to the storage, it extends to the network performance, so there isn’t the limited accountability you often encounter with the more traditional appliance vendors,” he enthuses.
With a move to a brand new studio facility, Nexus is entering an exciting new chapter with the confidence that PixStor can scale to meet whatever the studio throws at it. “The nature of this business is we continually push the boundaries of technology to the absolute limit,” observes Cawthorne. “The PixStor is specifically designed for these environments. Since it uses commodity hardware its architecture is much more versatile, and therefore so are we.”
As the creative team continue to push the scale and scope of their output Nexus expects to use some of PixStor’s more advanced tools to accelerate the workflow. “Integrated features like uncompressed 4K playback and SSD hot-caching are another reason why we chose the system. From a growth point of view, it’s great to know those options are there when we need them,” says Cawthorne.
Looking back over the 12 months since the PixStor was installed, Nexus is happy to confirm that the system has exceeded expectations. “We did our due diligence a year ago, but the only way you can really test a system is to work with it daily,” says Cawthorne. “PixStor has performed exactly as advertised. Our experience to date has endorsed the fact that we made the right choice.”