With the exponential development of content linked to the rise of streaming platforms, the film and audiovisual industry is facing a major change in its economic paradigms. It is partly relying on innovation to respond to this, and is mindful of including ecological issues in its considerations.
Film Paris Region is highlighting these innovative and eco-responsible initiatives. This week, discover Qarnot Computing, which designs efficient and clever IT solutions by making the most of computer heat.
Interview with Ariane Robineau
What is your position ?
Qarnot is a company with a dual focus: on the one hand, it provides sustainable heat for the building sector; on the other, it is a stakeholder in cloud computing and computing power. The cloud sector offers a wide range of jobs in IT: from devops engineers, to machine learning experts, to web developers, there is something for everyone.
My job as 3D Lead consists in supervising the activities concerning the 3D animation and VFX branch (from a global point of view: computer-generated images).
Technical support, development of solutions for 3D, commercial follow-up and support allow me to centralize matters related to rendering within Qarnot.
Tell us about the history of Qarnot
Qarnot was founded in 2010 by Paul Benoit and Miroslav Sviezeny, who still run the company today. Both Parisians, their choice naturally fell on Paris Region and Montrouge.
Since its creation, Qarnot has pursued a double objective: technical and ecological. Qarnot's primary objective is to reduce the energy consumption of IT activities by recovering the heat generated by servers. In other words: Qarnot heats buildings and industrial sites with computer waste heat, the heat released by servers. To do that, we place servers directly on heat-consuming sites, and use the heat from the servers to produce hot water, which is used for swimming pools, heating networks, industries, etc.
Qarnot has therefore created an ecological alternative to data centers, these large digital factories, which must be built, supplied with energy and cooled, while at the same time, cities need to be heated. This paradigm shift allows for a waste product, IT heat, to become a resource for cities.
What is the link between Qarnot and the Film and Audiovisual industry?
We have been working with the animation sector for almost 10 years. As we are very interested and aware of the open-source issue, we discovered 3D through Blender and the Blender Foundation, which was an opportunity for us to
become familiar with the vast and fascinating field of computer graphics.
Our service offer allows us to provide rendering to freelance artists, as well as to users who need very large volumes: we work regularly with a large part of the French animation studios (Illumination, Fortiche, Fix Studio, Supamonks, Tu Nous ZA Pas Vu, ?). Since the ecological awareness that started in recent years, as well as the CNC's announcements about reducing the carbon footprint of audiovisual productions, we have been increasingly contacted by studios.
In addition to Qarnot's concept, which is appealing and attractive, our rendering services are technically convincing, and we give primary importance to performance and the follow-up of our clients. We also provide carbon footprints for each computational task, which allows for studios to measure the environmental and energy gains of their 3D renderings. And the idea that a 3D rendering calculation can heat a swimming pool or a heat network is great news for the studios to tell. The figures speak for themselves: a calculation performed on Qarnot allows for an 80% reduction in impact and a 65% reduction in energy consumption compared to the use of a conventional data center.
What is the green innovation you are developing that is the most requested by the Film and Audiovisual industry?
Qarnot's DNA is to provide high performance computing services on unique infrastructures: the latest is our new computing cluster, which looks like a digital boiler. The result of intensive R&D work for nearly 5 years, this model allows for a large number of computing cores (computer unit constituting the CPU or GPU, the chips that perform the calculation and rendering operations) whose heat produced during the activity is recovered thanks to a water circulation system. These boilers are directly installed on the sites where heat is useful: swimming pools, buildings, heating networks are heated thanks to our clients' renderings. The water is heated exclusively by the on-board servers, and rises to over 65°C!
With this innovation, we treat heat as a useful resource and not as a waste product, which is unfortunately the case in conventional data centers. The film and audiovisual industry is very interested in rendering services that allow for calculations to be sent to remote machines: web interface, API, SDK, each tool corresponds to a specific use case and can meet the needs of freelancers as well as those of major animation studios!
What other tools are available to professionals in the film and audiovisual industry?
Qarnot gives access to several tools, each one corresponding to a specific need of the industry by providing machines through an API that allows for the distribution of calculations on the available instances that correspond to the users' needs.
Two main tools exist and are commonly used:
- The first tool is a web interface, a SaaS service for 3D artists. Initially intended for Blender users, the Render platform now gives access to many software and rendering engines (3DS Max, Maya, Arnold, V-Ray, Guerilla, ...). This tool allows you to use the power of a rendering farm, without necessarily being comfortable with code: in a few clicks, the calculation task is sent to our boilers!
- The second tool is a slightly lower-level layer: a Python SDK that allows you to automate the dispatch of computational tasks to the cloud and integrate Qarnot with existing pipelines. This solution allows for many different operating modes and can be integrated into a large number of paradigms. SDKs in other languages are available for use, but we have observed that Python is still the most widely used language in this field.
These services come with many other possibilities: dark fiber deployments, coaching and support, custom developments, we still haven't found a case we can't handle!
Does Qarnot have an R&D department?
R&D has been Qarnot's DNA since its creation, our foundation for creating disruptive technologies.
R&D can be broken down into three branches:
- The first of these is thermal, electronic and mechanical, and consists of optimizing the industrial design and production of our computing clusters so that the maximum amount of heat is recovered. Our digital boilers are thus the result of our R&D teams, whose objective is to guarantee IT performance, the best heat recovery, and integration on heat-consuming sites.
- A second R&D branch, and perhaps the most central one, although it is less visible from the outside: IT R&D, in particular for the distribution and proper execution of computing operations. This team, which is made up of dozens of computer engineers, ensures the security, proper execution and speed of the calculations that have been entrusted to us. And also, they are behind Qware, the computational orchestrator that distributes tasks according to the available clusters. This is now one of Qarnot's major strengths.
- The third branch is the Qlab, which develops applied R&D in computer science. This team, which is made up of engineers specialized in specific fields, ensures that our clients' needs are well understood and that our technologies and software are in line with their requirements. In this way, we are able to carry out computation for artificial intelligence, genetic research and operational research, thanks to their help.
R&D is therefore an essential part of Qarnot's business!
What is the innovative and green project Qarnot is currently working on?
Qarnot's current focus is the transition to an industrial scale in the deployment of our infrastructures. We want to extend the energy gains to bigger heat consumers like swimming pools, heating networks, agricultural stakeholders, industries.
This shift will allow for a greater amount of waste heat to be recovered and for a corresponding reduction in energy consumption.
And also, by having a larger park, we can meet the needs of some of our clients, who are very demanding in terms of computing power.
After having succeeded in distributing computing on small-scale infrastructures, we are aiming for bigger things, with the conviction that a technology that is virtuous for the environment will be even more so if it is multiplied!
Find Qarnot computing and other innovative companies from Paris Region in our guide.