Widespread Availability of Rental Licenses, Savvy Presence of Google in Market Makes Cloud Services a Winner, CEO Says

PipelineFX has added metered licensing options to its Qube! render-farm management software. Licenses are billed at 10 cents/hour on a per-minute basis and can be used for projects rendering on site as well as in the cloud. Moreover, the company stressed that metered licenses are only billed as used, and not pre-sold in blocks or charged in advance.

Perpetual and subscription licenses are also available, and are counted before metered licenses so users only pay per minute when they've run out of available licenses.

The new metered options come as company CEO Richard Lewis feels that cloud rendering has only recently become a winning proposition for VFX and animation facilities. "Prior to this year, there was a lack of available software licenses [for cloud usage] and a lack of customer acceptance of vendors using what they felt was an insecure medium," Lewis told StudioDaily. "And there was a performance problem. Getting stuff up and down [to and from the cloud] took forever."

Morever, none of the leading cloud providers showed any special interest in learning the ropes of the VFX business. That changed recently, after Google purchased the cloud-rendering service Zync and started making informed overtures to the market. Also recently, Lewis notes, rental licensing has become available as a standard option industry-wide. So a former skeptic of cloud rendering solutions became a believer — and PipelineFX became a Google Cloud Platform technology partner. 

The appropriateness of sending jobs to the cloud is not just a question of money, he said. "ROI is the wrong way to approach it," he said, "It doesn't matter if it's less expensive. It might be. If you're in Vancouver, you've got cheap power and not a hot climate, so [running your own data center] might be affordable. But [with cloud rendering] you can take on an extra project when you're already busy. When you're late, you can get it finished by doing final renderings overnight. You couldn't do that before, but now you can."

Lewis said it's still "the early days" when it comes to building efficient hybrid pipelines that utilize both cloud and on-site render capacity, but he hopes to help educate the industry about the options that are available to them. One thing the cloud should do for both facility and client alike, he said, is demystify part of the billing process. VFX houses will no longer have to bill an infrastructure charge in order to meet a specific project deadline, instead simply passing the costs of an upward burst in computational capacity on to the client demanding it.

"Our industry has never been reimbursable," Lewis told StudioDaily. "It's been fixed-price. It makes more sense that the client is paying for what can rationally be tied to their project. And over time the client gets more sophisticated and so does the VFX firm. Over the long haul, it's the right way for things to happen. The value of a VFX studio is in its creativity and design skills, not its computation capacity."

DHX Media and House Special have been beta customers for metered licensing, and Rodeo FX adopted it last week, Lewis said. A free one-month trial is available.