"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
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