Power Management: It’s Not Just About Being Green

Version: Deadline 7.0 and later


One could make a point that this feature saves the environment, and although that is correct, Power Management does much more than that.

One day Jimmy, VFX Supervisor at VFX.com, got one too many complaints from the artists that had to manually go and power off all the machines in the renderfarm. On top of that, Jimmy is also concerned about his high electricity consumption. He wished there was some way to solve this problem. Luckily Jimmy met Bob, who told him about Deadline’s Power Management feature.

If you can relate to Jimmy’s problems you should read on, since you don’t know Bob.


There is one requirement associated with Power Management that should be noted:

Power management is built into Pulse, so Pulse must be running for Power Management to work. The only exception to this rule is the Thermal Shutdown feature. Redundancy for this feature has been built into the Slave applications.

Idling No More

Deadline’s Idle Shutdown is a powerful tool that can help you save money by shutting off machines that are sitting idle. This way, you can easily recoup the investment in Deadline license costs (by saving on electricity), while also enabling you to better scale your farm.

Since artist teams have meetings and often go out for lunch, Jimmy decides to make groups based on the teams and their schedules, to better tune idle detection. He was thinking that this way he can make Deadline more aggressive in idle detection by lowering how many minutes of idle time till shutdown as well as lowering the number of Deadline Slaves that will be left running.

To start configuring it, Jimmy launches the Deadline Monitor and enters Super User mode from the Tools menu (note that if this is password protected, you’ll have to enter your password). Then he selects Configure Power Management from the Tools menu, selects a machine group, and then selects Idle Shutdown.

He enables Idle Detection, configures the other parameters and then proceeds to add a few overrides for SuperVFX.

Jimmy sets an override for the weekend, followed by another on Friday, where the team SuperVFX has a weekly 2-hour meeting.

Jimmy was pleasantly surprised by the configuration options that Idle Shutdown offered. He managed to configure Deadline such that his farm has its idle time kept at a minimum while also making big savings on electricity bills. This setting works in conjunction with Machine Startup.

Machine Startup - Always On, When Needed!

In conjunction with Idle Detection, this setting helps start machines whenever there are jobs submitted to the farm, which are applicable according to the Deadline job scheduling logic. This will ensure that the farm operates at maximum efficiency when combined with Idle Detection. The way it works is by using Wake on Lan (WOL) or Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) to start the machines.

To configure this setting, Jimmy needs to enable this mode in the Machine Startup tab, set the maximum number of Slave to wake up per interval, and select the wake up mode.

He then proceeds to configure his machines. For a detailed guide on how to enable WOL or IPMI please follow our Power Management documentation.

Another useful part that is worthy of mention is the ability to override the order in which machines start up; therefore, you can select the order that makes most sense to you (e.g. power up your fastest machines first and slowest last).

Although Jimmy took a while longer to get this configured on all his machines, he sees the benefits of having a dynamic size farm that reacts to the change in work load.

So Who Likes Their Render Farm Toasty?

Hopefully, no one!

Jimmy wants to make sure his machines are working under correct conditions so they don’t wear down due to exceedingly high temperatures. Deadline’s Thermal Shutdown setting allows him to make sure that at no time the farm will exceed critical temperatures. It does that by getting readings from strategically placed thermal sensors (via SNMP) and then by shutting down machines if the temperature goes over a certain threshold, and as soon as it cools down it restarts them.

This feature is especially useful in case your cooling system fails. In such a scenario, this setting will save your machines from a potential disaster, avoid large insurance bill, and keep your clients happy. In addition, it also reduces wear and tear on your air conditioning units.

To configure it one must enable this mode in the Thermal Shutdown tab, select the desired units, and then add a supported SNMP sensor. To add a sensor, click on the add button and complete all the fields. For more information on the thermal sensors and what types are supported please see our documentation. We are always looking to add support for more thermal sensors, so please do get in touch if your sensor type isn’t currently supported.

Next, Jimmy must add a thermal threshold, by entering the temperature and the number of Deadline Slaves that will be shut down per interval. Once done, Jimmy can rest assure that his farm will be safe in case the air conditioning unit fails and will never reach extreme temperatures. It’s also worth reminding readers that our thermal shutdown feature is fully redundant if the Pulse application was ever to fail as the individual Slaves also carry out this check in the background. Don’t forget you can also run multiple instances of our Pulse application on different machines and they can be easily configured to provide a primary-secondary failover, which provides another level of redundancy for your company.

Machine Restart - Baddies No More

Jimmy knows his machines and he knows which ones always end up in some kind of bad state on a regular basis. It was quite a nuisance for the artists to always go in the farm and restart the machines. This is where Deadline can help you as well. Power Management’s ‘Machine Restart’ setting can be configured to restart Slaves for you at a certain interval of time. This enables you to have machines in a clean state. This ensures that at no time a machine left in a bad state by some job can compromise the results of consequent jobs.

“But what if the machine is doing some work and the restart timer expires?”, asked Jimmy worrisome. Do not worry! If the Slave is in the middle of a task, Deadline will let it finish its task before restarting the machine.

Wrapping Up

With all these settings now configured, Jimmy will have a pleasant surprise over the next months when he will see a reduced electricity bill! On top of that his farm is now safe in case of a cooling unit failing, and his slaves will always be in a clean state for his render jobs. If you are in the same boat as Jimmy, you should start using Power Management. All in all, buying Deadline just for Power Management will pay for itself and save you money in the long run.