Deadline Finds Work for Idle Workstations

Version: Deadline 7.2

Background

John Doe, co-worker of Bob at VFX.co, is tasked with effectively managing the company’s render farm with Deadline. He notices that when the artists take their lunch break, or are in meetings, their powerful machines sit idle. John wishes to use those idle machines as render nodes and asks all the artists to start a Slave whenever they are not actively using their machine. However, the artists are busy focusing on other important tasks and sometimes forget, thus wasting potential rendering time. Enter Idle Detection.

Requirements

There are a few requirements associated with Idle Detection that should be noted:

  • Deadline Launcher must be running on each machine that desires Idle Detection.
  • Windows requires that Deadline Launcher not run as a service.
  • Linux needs access to X11, and thus Deadline Launcher cannot be run as a daemon.

Idle Detection

Rather than having artists manually start Slaves when they leave their workstation, John can have Deadline automatically detect when the artist’s machine is idle and boot up a Slave. A machine is only considered idle by Deadline when there is no keyboard, mouse, tablet, or spaceball input.

To do this, John uses Deadline Monitor in Super User Mode and selects Configure Slave Scheduling in the Tools menu.

In this case, John wants to set idle settings for all the artist machines, so he creates a Slave Scheduling Group, labelled accordingly. He then enables it and adds all artists’ machines to the group. John can now fine tune when Slaves on artist machines should start up, and their behaviour when the machine is no longer idle, with the settings under both Idle Detection and Miscellaneous Options. Note that, if desired, John could be more granular in how he sets up Idle Detection by splitting up ‘artist_machines’ into more Slave Scheduling Groups with their own unique behaviour.

Overriding Idle Detection

Having one catch-all Slave Scheduling Group for artist machines is very useful to John, however not all machines are created equal. Since John strives to be extremely efficient with VFX.co’s machines, he recognizes that a workstation with more CPU cores, or more RAM should have different Idle Detection settings. Rather than create a new group for one or two machines that are extremely different hardware-wise, John can override the Idle Detection settings for those Slaves.

To do this in the Deadline Monitor, look under the Slaves panel and right-click the Slave that requires overriding and select Modify Slave Properties. Under Idle Detection John can then set the machine specific Idle Detection settings such as increasing Only Start Slave If Cpu Usage Less Than from 50% (in the group setting) to 80% due to having more cores.

Idle Detection may also be overridden locally via Deadline Launcher by right-clicking on the Launcher icon and choosing Local Slave Controls. However, since John doesn’t want artists to have control over these settings, he had Bob lock down the Render Farm, and the artists are now restricted from changing or disabling these settings through Deadline Launcher and Deadline Monitor.

Wrapup

As shown with John, using Idle Detection settings is simple and gives the ability to effectively use the compute resources available to the render farm.