Qube's Metered Licensing for Burstable Cloud Capacity Is 'Taking Off,' Despite Industry Inertia

PipelineFX is previewing Qube 7, a major release that overhauls both the UI and the backend of the render-farm management software, at SIGGRAPH this week.

Qube 7 will sport a new, unified GUI with a view that adjusts automatically based on a user’s profiles so that artists can have a simple interface that promotes creativity while more technically oriented users will see more options related to render-farm set-up, pending load, worker management, and other system characteristics.

At the same time, Qube is switching database types. Originally written for MySQL, the database is now being moved to Postgres.

“Some of our customers have built very large render farms, and some of them are submitting very complex dependencies with hundreds or thousands of jobs concurrently,” PipelineFX CEO Richard Lewis told StudioDaily. “Row-locking and other [Postgres database] features will help us speed up the process of submitting massive amounts of jobs. It will be a big speed improvement for those larger shops.”

An example of metered license keys viewed in Qube.

Leveraging Cloud Rendering Capabilities: Slowly But Surely

Last year’s introduction of metered licensing, for burstable capacity on desktops and in the cloud, has been “taking off,” says Lewis, who nonetheless feels the trend has been slowed because it’s not always clear how users can license software for use in the cloud. “Cloud providers have [generally] offered the software stack you need, once you light up a cloud node, to do your work, but in VFX that hasn’t been true,” he explained. “A VFX pipeline might use six or eight or 10 software programs — and they need all of those. So many of our customers are not bursting due to a lack of licensing options.”

Ideally, Lewis said, PipelineFX would offer appropriate software licenses on the same minute-by-minute policy it uses for Qube. Pipeline has reached an agreement to license software from Foundry, he said, and is in discussions with the makers of other rendering engines — though he said negotiating those deals can be a “struggle.”

Oslo studio Qvisten Animation finished Anchors Up on time by bursting capacity to the cloud.
Photo: Sola Media

Despite his belief that the cloud is the clear future for savvy facilities, Lewis estimates that “serious cloud adoption” among VFX houses is still low, with perhaps 2% or 3% making regular use of cloud capabilities. Lewis cited a PipelineFX case study looking at how the small Scandinavian animation studio Qvisten ramped up some badly needed rendering capacity on Microsoft Azure, using Qube’s metered licensing policy to keep costs down, to finish CG feature Anchor’s Up. That’s a clear win for cloud rendering — but it doesn’t mean Qvisten is regularly finishing jobs in the cloud.

Catching Up to the Competition

“It’s going to take a lot longer than anybody wants it to, because the industry is averse to both risk and cost,” Lewis admitted. “But if you wait too long, the early adopters will jump in.” He uses Rodeo FX (Game of ThronesValerian and the City of a Thousand Planets) as an example, saying the company, which started as a smallish studio in Montreal, has grown steadily because its consistent use of hundreds of cloud nodes in addition to its on-premise render farm helped it deliver like a larger facility.

“There will be more companies like that,” he says. “For the ones resisting the cloud, that might be OK if you can limit your workload, but customers will ask you to do more and more and eventually you’ll have to turn them down. But other studios will not turn them down. They’ll say, ‘We’ll hire a few more people — and render on a bunch more machines.'”

PipelineFX: www.pipelinefx.com