Hollywood's Elite Data Centers Must Deliver Star IT Performances

Some companies need data centers capable of sending and receiving petabytes' worth of data. Others require reliable connections to sites half a world away. Others still must scale up, then down, at a moment's notice. The firms that help make Hollywood blockbusters must do all three at once. Their experiences offer lessons to enterprises in all industries.

By John Brandon
Tue, June 12, 2012

CIO — Hollywood movies inspire us with wondrous sights and well-crafted dialogue. The jokes in The Avengers blend seamlessly into the bright blue skies and intense battle scenes, while the fantasy realm in Snow White and the Huntsman feels like something from a twisted dream.

As you can imagine, these movies were built on the backs of a vast IT infrastructure. Fortunately, many of the lessons learned from movies apply quite easily to financial institutions, real estate firms and application development shops. The trick? Taking only what applies to your own organization. The experiences of three companies with ties to the entertainment industry—Technicolor, Livestream and Nice Shoes—should give CIOs some food for thought.

Hollywood Data Center

Technicolor: Connecting Data Centers with 10 Gb Lines

Technicolor, one of the most recognizable names in Hollywood, is a color processing company that operates six data centers all over the world, including one in Los Angeles. Some of these data centers provide a typical set of services, including back-office integration, e-mail and SAP, and accounting. Not surprisingly, though, the creative services needs of the organization— processing films for the most well-known studios like Dreamworks Animation— place high demands on IT, according to Technicolor CIO Ginny Davis.

"We have a production network that ties all of our sites together," she says. "One person might be working in London on a movie and need to move content in real-time to LA. When a director is working on a new movie, if we are not successful, they can run to a smaller boutique company."

In the News: Ericsson to Acquire Technicolor's Broadcast Services Division

Davis says the backbone for Technicolor's data centers includes eight 10 Gb lines that are used to push content from storage to production. She says the company has agreements with multiple telecom providers to make sure content can be moved freely and relies on storage-on-demand technology to ramp up quickly for the needs of a particular movie. For example, the company might start working on a 3D movie that suddenly has immense data storage requirements.

One of the great challenges for Technicolor is that, on any movie, the work is often completed in different geographic areas. Sound work might be completed in London, for example, while the final rendering is done in Los Angeles. As a result, the distribution network must run smoothly, with no dropped frames. This is compounded by the fact that there are often many versions of the same film—producers and directors often want to look at different versions of scenes and choose the one they like.

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