View Full Version : Building renderfarm with Micro desktops: Has any tips?

06-09-2017, 05:33 AM
Hey Guys,
I am seriously considering building a mini render farm at home for 3d rendering using Micro desktops.
I don't care about the graphics card, but they can be configured with Intel® Core™ i5-7500T processors
and cheaply networked. And you can get each sys, on special, under $500.

So what do you guys think?

PS Could a mod help with the title (I posted it before I could tweak it to "Building Render-farm with Micro desktops: Do you guys have any tips?

06-09-2017, 07:38 AM
I've often thought about making a renderfarm with very cheap components - at under $500 per node at least the hardware aspect is cheap. How many nodes are you planning to buy?

Tips I have - these are probably things you've already thought of, but here goes:
* the i5 boxes don't need a video card, but make sure they have VGA. As much RAM as you can afford per box.
* electricity - i5's don't take up much power but make sure you have enough amperage. Maybe get some UPS boxes not so much for power outages but to put a buffer between these machines and your available electricity. I don't know what you have wired in your facility or how many i5's you want to buy, so this may not be an issue.
* cooling - i5's don't put out a lot of heat but I'm thinking the cases are small boxes with weedy little fans. Make sure they are kept cool - this means not in a small closet or stuffy box unless said enclosure has very good airflow or perhaps a vent to the outside with an exhaust fan. This is also related to how many i5's you're looking to buy.
* management - running Windows on each one? Windows RDP is useful, but with a lot of boxes you might want to look into an RDP management software that can load up multiple RDP sessions all at once.
* deployment - Get clonezilla or Fog set up to clone the base install to all the machines. Makes life easier.

Renderfarms are always a battle between costs and performance - and the costs cover direct cost (i5 boxes, any extra software, cooling [chassis fans, ventilation, etc]) variables (electricity and cooling costs) and intangibles (setup time, ease of use, maintenance).

I'm actually interested in building a renderfarm out of intel compute sticks. I know the cost/performance ratio on these shows they aren't worth it but its a fun idea anyway.

06-09-2017, 07:53 AM
Just to continue about the management angle - clonezilla and fog are free, but there are loads of other options for deployment and management of Windows machines. I'm a fan of monolithic "images" of Windows machines where you set one up, sysprep it and then copy it with a tool like Clonezilla to every other machine. This method tends not to work too well if you have wildly dissimilar hardware.

There is also a free Microsoft tool called MDT which works with another tool called WDS - this system allows you to script an install using a GUI and it will act like a robot on your behalf, installing Windows, settings and applications as if you were sitting there doing it. The advantage with this tool is that it is very fast, automated and it works great on dissimilar hardware. Disadvantage is the setup time will take at least a few days just to get it working at all.

There are lots of premium paid alternatives as well, but all of them are fairly pricey.

3D Kiwi
06-09-2017, 08:01 AM
Why go for i5s, I managed to pick up some refurbished pcs with i7s in them, Cant remember the exact specs but they are only slightly slower than my workstation. $130 each. I got four of them.

I am in Sydney but I am sure you can get some rebuilt where you are.

06-09-2017, 10:53 PM
Wow thanks for the replies
I am leaning into building a renderfarmusing Dell Ultra compact desktop

You can get a decent system for about $500

My only concerns would be memory & heating issues

06-12-2017, 01:37 PM
You may want to wait for the AMD 16 core, 32 thread or Intel i9 18 core, 36 thread monster processors coming out. Sounds like the AMD will be half the price of the Intel. It will mean less computers to setup & manage. Less operating systems.

06-12-2017, 02:20 PM
Yeah, I'd stick with at least i7s. My render farm is mostly small form factor boxes, plenty of RAM but otherwise stripped (small drives, onboard graphics only, etc.,) They run reasonably cool and use less power.

That said, if I was going to build a farm nowdays, I think I'd go for more power in one or two computers instead of a bunch of small moderately powered ones. It would just be easier to manage and maintenance. (I hate that I spend so much time doing my own IT stuff.)

But also because I really need a new workstation anyway. My current 'stripped down' render boxes are pretty old but they actually render faster than my creaky older workstation. :D