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Linux Journal: Industry of Change: Linux Storms Hollywood

Mar 01, 2002, 13:32 (27 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Michael J. Hammel)
"Before the summer of 2001, Linux supporters often pointed to any of a number of single-company deployments as a measure of success for the fledgling operating system. There was Burlington Northern, which committed in February 1999 to deploy Linux in 250 US stores. That was followed by Japan's Lawson, which struck a deal with IBM to supply that convenience store retailer with 15,000 IBM Linux-based eServers running on Red Hat software. Ford announced a plan where they would deploy 33,000 Linux desktops. These were big wins for the open-source faithful. But they were corporate waves in a sea of change. What Linux needed was a tidal wave--an industry-wide migration--to signal that the penguin had come of age.

Enter the visual effects industry, the collection of studios that produce special effects, or VFX in industry parlance, for movies and animated tales like Toy Story and Shrek. This is an industry ripe for change, an industry struggling to shake the bondage of single-vendor solutions and high-priced specialized hardware. It's also an industry that tested the waters of Windows and found it flowing in the wrong direction.

This isn't a story about one or two studios adopting Linux as servers in their renderfarms, those back rooms full of servers used to produce the individual sets of frames used in a movie. We're talking about the entire industry--from Rhythm & Hues to Pixar, from Digital Domain to DreamWorks. DreamWorks-PDI had over 2,000 Linux-based CPUs on-line by the summer of 2001. Their summer blockbuster Shrek was rendered on 1,000+ mostly Linux machines (see GFX: "DreamWorks Feature Linux and Animation", August 2001 issue of LJ). Pixar has only deployed 15 stations in production and 25 in software development, but VP of Technology Darwin Peachey says the studio is on the verge of a major purchase and deployment of desktops to replace their current SGI desktops. Even Industrial Light & Magic is considering a major switch to the penguin OS."

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