Nimbix Blog

Super musing about all things supercomputing

GPU Rendering with Blender on Demand

Written by: Leo Reiter on September 16, 2014

Imagine if you could render complex 3D images and movies without an expensive workstation on your desk.  Whether it’s your laptop or even your tablet, it’s easy to submit rendering jobs with Blender on Demand in the Nimbix Cloud and get results fast.

Registering and launching Blender on the Nimbix Cloud

We’ve made registration very easy for you, and completely self-service.  There’s no need to speak to anyone on the phone or even wait for a support team to set you up.  Just create an account, enter your credit card information, and start using Blender on Demand right away.  If you don’t already have a Nimbix Cloud account, you can sign up here.  Once sign up is complete and you’ve verified your email address, you will enter the portal.

Next, it’s a simple matter of clicking on the Compute tab at the top of the screen.  You will see the available applications sorted alphabetically, or you can filter out just the rendering applications by clicking the blue Rendering link on the right.  You will find both Blender Interactive and Blender Rendering.  The difference between “Interactive” and “Rendering” is GUI versus batch mode, respectively.  In GUI mode, you interact with Blender as you would on a desktop.  In Batch mode, you can simply supply a .blend file, adjust parameters right from our portal, and then submit rendering jobs.  This way you can submit multiple jobs and the Nimbix Cloud will process them to completion without you needing to interact with them.  Once complete, you will get an email notification per job.  In Batch mode, you will only be charged for the processing time, and there’s no need to manually “terminate” the application once it completes.  This is especially effective if you have a lot of jobs to run, or if you have a very large job that you want to run overnight without having to monitor it.

Note that for the purpose of this example, we’ll use the Interactive mode only.

Once you click on the Blender Interactive application, you’ll then click on the Interactive link, and the Nimbix Cloud will take us to the Task Builder.  The only parameter for Blender Interactive is the initial desktop resolution to use.  This will size the Blender GUI for you.  We support either TigerVNC as an access client, or HTML5 (currently experimental) right from the browser.  TigerVNC is a free download for all desktop platforms.  If you are using the TigerVNC mode (strongly recommended over the HTML5 mode), you can resize the window after connecting to it, so the initial resolution is not as important to determine.  After clicking the green Continue button and then Submit to accept the API call, your interactive session will start automatically.  After a few seconds, you will see it in your Dashboard.  Once it goes to Processing state, simply click on it to expand the details, then click the Connect button to get the VNC address and password of the session.  The password is strong and randomly generated each time you start a session for security.  You can paste the VNC address into your TigerVNC client, connect, and paste the password when prompted.

Here is an example video of how to launch Blender Interactive from the Nimbix Cloud after logging in:

With Blender Interactive, you can either create a .blend file right in the Nimbix Cloud yourself, your use an existing one.  To find out how to upload .blend file(s) to the Nimbix Cloud, please see our video FAQ titled How do I transfer files to and from NACC?  (Note that NACC is a technical term for “Nimbix Cloud”).

Performance

One of the benefits of running Blender in the Nimbix Cloud is that it automatically leverages powerful supercomputing-class GPUs underneath.  This can speed up rendering by tens or even hundreds of times depending on your model, versus even very powerful desktops and laptops.  The NVIDIA Tesla GPUs that we provide support computation, not just visualization, and are much more powerful than most graphics processors available on PCs.  Best of all, it doesn’t matter how fast your client computer (or tablet) is – your rendering will still happen on supercomputer class hardware.  Imagine being able to use Blender from your tablet while sitting on the beach!

We’ve prepared a simple benchmark to illustrate the difference in performance versus even very powerful PCs.  We compared our standard Blender on Demand application to a beefed up MacBook Air with 8GB of RAM and a Core i7 processor.  This is about as powerful a laptop as you’ll find without spending many thousands of dollars.

The sample .blend file was posted on a public forum by a fellow Blender user for the purpose of benchmarking.  We did a single frame comparison to keep things simple.  The net result: our Blender on Demand application completed the job in just over 48 seconds, while the MacBook Air took almost 4 minutes and 40 seconds.  This means the Nimbix cloud was almost 6 times faster in a like-for-like comparison with one of the most powerful laptops you can find.  (We should note that similar tests done on Core i5 laptops, which are much more common, took over 6 minutes – or almost 8 times slower than the Nimbix Cloud!)

Additionally, while the job was running on the MacBook Air, the fan was blowing and the computer was not very useful for other work given how busy it was.  Conversely, while Blender was running on the Nimbix Cloud, our client did not even break a sweat, since all the heavy lifting was done remotely.  This is another huge benefit to cloud computing that is often overlooked!

If we were to extrapolate rendering times to a full 200 frame movie, it would mean more than 15 ½ hours on the MacBook Air, while just over 2 ½ hours in the Nimbix Cloud.  This is the difference between not being able to use your laptop all day (MacBook Air example) and having your rendering done for you in the background while you work on other projects for a couple of hours.

Blender Platform Single frame MM:SS (example)(lower is better) 200 frames HH:MM (estimated)(lower is better) Screen shot (Click to Enlarge)
MacBook Air, Intel Core i7, 8GB 4:39 15:30 Blender on a MacBook Air
Nimbix Cloud (nacc.nimbix.net) 0:48 02:40 Blender on the Nimbix Cloud

How Much does it Cost?

The Nimbix Cloud charges by the hour, but billed to the minute.  This means that if your job runs for 5 minutes instead of one hour, you pay only the fractional cost for those 5 minutes.  So your 48 second single frame rendering would cost about 3 cents (US).  More importantly, the 2 ½ hour job would cost you slightly more than 5 dollars (US).  That’s right, about the cost of your morning latte gets you a full day’s worth of rendering done in less than 3 hours.  Just think about that.

We invite you to see for yourself.  Start off with a small file if you want to judge the speed without a large commitment.  We’re confident that once you see what Blender on the Nimbix Cloud can do for you, you’ll be doing some serious work with it in no time.  And best of all, our customer service agents are delighted to help 24 hours per day should you run into any problems.

If you use Blender Interactive, just make sure to either exit the application or terminate the job in your Nimbix Cloud portal in order to stop billing.  Note that closing the window does not terminate the application, since you can reconnect to it later!