Best upgrade path for a small studio, better workstations or a dedicated server?

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  02 February 2013
Best upgrade path for a small studio, better workstations or a dedicated server?

Hi All-
I run the 3D and VFX departments at a small studio, we specialize in architectural visualization, animation, video, and motion graphics. Currently we use C4D and 3DS Max with VRay, After Effects, Premiere, Final Cut, and a few other packages. I have about 5 people under me who all have mac-based workstations running Bootcamp with windows 7 and ATI video cards, most of which are no more than a couple years old. We connect through a gigabit ethernet connection to a central server that houses both our 3D and VFX files, the 2D departments files (they do a lot of large-scale indesign and photoshop work, think billboards and advertisements), and various other business related files that our producers access. We also have a 5 node mac-based renderfarm that currently only works with C4D, but would like to switch them over to windows to get backburner working.

My accounting department has ok'd the purchase of a dedicated 3D server, which is something I have been wanting to get for years. Currently the whole office works over the network on files on an enterprise server, including 3d, so no local files are being used. Our main server gets hammered quite a bit and I am hoping that getting a dedicated 3D server will help, we also do not use texture paths other than to default texture directories, so getting a central server that we can load textures from across the board would be an organizational godsend (this has not previously been possible due to a mix of Windows and OSX users).

So here is the dilemma, I get a certain amount of budget to spend each year, would it be worth it to buy a file server or spend it on other things such as quadro cards for my workstations, or even a beefed up renderfarm? Can I run NetRender, backburner, and whatever other render farming off the same server that is serving our files, or would this cause a bottleneck? What about video and motion graphics files, is it still better to work locally or has server tech caught up that working over a network is now not an issue?

This server would become a hub for all our visual files minus the 2d stuff, so video, 3d, and after effects files. This will be the first time I get to build up a server from scratch professionally, I havn't built a server since the days of quake 2 so I am a bit behind in the technology and what is feasible now. Thanks for any advice!!
  02 February 2013
what's your budget and what are your current bottlenecks?
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  02 February 2013
Hey man,

A really nice, redundant 10TB rack server could set you back 6-8K. Are you looking to build it yourself? Dell and HP have lots of pre-built solutions.

They do make those $1500 NAS boxes, but with 5 people and 5 render machines pulling on it, it might get overwhelmed. Its also not completely redundant.

  02 February 2013
What are the spec of your current server?

Did you checked what are the bottlenecks in it? Disk access, network, CPU ? Only with that information you can see what can be improved in that side.

For quadros if you don't have a serious graphic issue that makes the work slower there is no need for them.
  02 February 2013
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