The Weta Digital server farm or ‘rendering wall’, as they call it, has a disk array capable of storing roughly 2 petabytes of data in total. The individual servers are linked by a 10 gigabits per second networking infrastructure, and in total there are 35,000 cores based in over 4000 Hewlett Packard Blade servers. In the case of Avatar, each minute of rendering equates to approximately 17.28GB of data.
The system is entirely water-cooled, as traditional air and fan cooling systems are not sufficient during near deadline times, due to constant high load on the servers.The photograph below shows the enormous water cooling system cooling a portion of the server farm.
According to Paul Gunn, a systems admistrator at Weta Digital, Ubuntu is at the core of almost all their systems. Ubuntu runs on all of their 3D rendering servers, and at least 90% of all their desktop systems. More detailed information about the Ubuntu powered rendering farm that rendered the CGI of Avatar is available from the Information Management and IT World websites.