3D Renderings and Animations require "Rendering" time. This can take hours or days of processing on just one computer. Years ago it meant setting aside one computer for a while, hoping that it got it right first time and there was nothing that stopped the process part way through. We bought faster and faster computers but even today we crave speed to keep up with the demands of the 3D Artist.
Unfortunately back then super computers were out of reach for most of us and didn't have the ability to run the software we used anyway. But a new form of super computer emerged; the Beowulf Cluster. This system tied arrays of relatively inexpensive computers together to form one super computer. The more computers you added to your cluster the more power you added. You could add faster computers to slower ones with no compatibility issues, so constant updates and rebuilds with new technology are very possible.
The Render Farm comes from the same philosophy and can be structured in a couple of different ways; as an add on to one workstation, or as a standalone rendering powerhouse. Both have advantages in that you could have extra power attached to one 3D Artist "on tap" or an entire group of artists could process out even larger projects.
Archiform 3D's render farm is controlled by one central server machine that distributes the workload to each clustered computer, or "render node", or "render cow". It is most suited to many large projects. When a 3D artist has completed the work on the 3D Scene it is sent to the central Render Server. The server then breaks the job into pieces, sending each part to a render node and then gathering the completed pieces. To produce animations on time this is critical and no one computer could keep up with our workload.
The whole render farm is kept in a dedicated room with extra electricity and cooling. The main render server sits right next to the central company server and the render nodes are kept in racks.
As newer technology becomes available, usually like a computer chip, we rebuild the render nodes progressively. When we take on an extra large job with a tight deadline, such as for a TV broadcast or show, we often do an upgrade to the slower nodes and we may add new ones.
Archiform 3D's render farm started with just 10 CPUs but has grown to over 150, ensuring high quality with smaller render times. It is now also offerred part time as a service to other 3D artsists.