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Grid Computing with 256 Windows Azure Worker Roles

27 minutes, 2 seconds


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In this interview I talk to Connected Systems MVP Alan Smith about using a lot of resources in Windows Azure. He shows a demo of using 256 cores to render images.

Rendering 3D ray-traced animations is a task that requires massive compute power. Creating a 256 node render farm that is capable of producing high definition high quality 3D animations would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and take months to provision. Creating this environment in Windows Azure costs around $30 per hour, and takes a few minutes to provision. In this session the power of Windows Azure Compute will be demonstrated live on stage, with the creation of a render farm using 256 worker roles to render a 3D animation creating using Windows Kinect, and a text-based ray-tracer. The principles used in the architecture of this solution can be applied to many other scenarios, and will be covered in detail, along with tips and advice for creating your own grid computing applications.


Follow me on @bjorn_eriksen and Alan Smith on @alansmith


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  • Alan SmithAlan Smith


    I have written a blog post with a description of the architecture of the 256-core ray tracer. Feel free to ping me if you have questions.



  • would be nice to see the jobs parallelized, but may be limited by the renderer you're using.

    eventhough this example (256 worker roles, ~1 hour) would only equate to about 30$USD cost... any size studio would and does run 24/7 at times... this could be very cost prohibitive.  I estimated this to be around 22K$ USD/mo. (?)  that's really expensive.

  • Alan SmithAlan Smith

    Hi tswalker,

    Yes, I agree. I think that ray-tracing technology has vastly improved since PolyRay was created in the mid 90's. The reason for using it was it was that it helped to launch my IT career.

    The 256 roles for $30 / hour can really be applied to any task that requires heavy compute for a short time period, not just ray-tracing. The price does not compete with scenarios where you use the roles 24/7, but when you need that power for short time periods it makes the cloud look very attractive.



  • Great post, thanks Alan

  • Alan SmithAlan Smith


    If you liked this demo, plase vote for it in the Azure Fast competition: http://www.meetwindowsazure.com/fast



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