Rendering takes time. Add on the multiple tweaks, making sure the lights, materials, and scene settings all align to create the perfect picture or video, and you have a time-consuming process with a lot of time waiting around. Therefore, Lenovo and NVIDIA have a solution…. kickass hardware from Lenovo and powerful rendering software (Iray) from NVIDIA.

NVIDIA Iray Server

NVIDIA’s Iray Server allows you to offload your render to a stacked system or an entire network of systems. This utilizes the better hardware in your server plus cycles from each system in the cluster to reduce the rendering time. Network rendering is not new, but what’s most noteworthy is what Iray runs on and the lack of overhead. Iray runs on the hardware of your choosing. It integrates with NVIDIA’s physically based rendering product. It does this all without any host application overhead.  In addition, use the Iray server to stream interactive renderings to another “lesser” machine. providing these systems multi-GPU power.

Iray Server Makes Light Work of Complex Designs

On the server, it starts with a simple installation, which installs both the server software and the license manager. Server setup is so extremely simple I thought I had missed something. It is really install-and-go!

iray Server Tools

The server runs from a console window additionally providing details of the active events. Configuration is accomplished via the web-based interface.


Iray Server Settings

NVIDIA Iray Plugin

On the local system, it starts with the installation of the software plugin. The plugin is available for 3ds Max, Cinema 4D, Maya, and Rhino. I tested this with 3DS Max, obviously using the 3ds Max plugin.

Why would you use Iray over Mental Ray? Interactivity… Iray provides instant results. This plugin generates interactive physically accurate renderings by tracing light paths (progressive path tracing). The render starts and gets less and less noisy with each pass. Not only is it a progressive renderer, it also utilizes the CPU and GPU!

As the initial pass is up almost instant, therefore you can quickly see (or at least appreciate) what the final rendering will look like. Although it might be very noisy, you don’t need to wait until the end to make adjustments. You can make instant adjustments, quickly iterating through settings until you are satisfied with the results.

The Iray plugin provides two renderers: Iray+ and Iray+Interactive.

  • Iray+ is for quality. It produces the best results. This option contains a Lighting Analysis mode to simulate and monitor the minimum and maximum lighting levels and find dark spots in your building designs.
  • The Interactive option is for quantity. It provides live rendering. As a result, you can leave the render window open and it will continually iterate, updating the view as you make changes to the model and the settings. While the view is updating you get almost real-time results from changes without restarting the rendering.

On my Lenovo P70 system, I rendered quite a few models and the results were stunning. The settings are quite simple, which it a good thing.  You can get very good results, quickly, with very little tweaking.

Here, for example, is a Ducati Street Fighter using 3DS Max Production Rendering Mode and utilizing the Iray+Interactive renderer using the settings out-of-the-box.

Ducati_Product Iray Interactive

It took just under 10-minutes to complete the rendering and as you can see the results are awesome.

Ducati Local Results

[On a somewhat related note, with the Iray renderer, you can additionally download hundreds of materials.]

Lenovo Thinkstation

May the good Lenovo server shine a rendering on you,
Make every image(you create) your favorite hue.
May the good Lenovo server shine a rendering on you,
Warm like the evening sun.

To really push the rendering I utilized a big, black Lenovo Thinkstation Box I have lovingly named Ira. This beast is impressive… rocking 3 (yes three) NVIDIA Quadro M6000 Graphic cards. The rest of the specs includes Intel Xeon E5 processors at 3.10GHz and 128GB RAM.

lenovo thinkstation box

The NVIDIA M6000 utilizes Direct 3D 11 and rocks with 3072 CUDA Cores. The 24GB of VRAM uses a memory data rate of 6610 MHz and bandwidth of 317.28 GB/s.


Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA) are parallel processors in your graphic card. Consider them the equivalent to dual or quad cores in your CPU. The CUDA cores process data into and out of the GPU. As you can have hundreds of cores you can significantly improve performance.


Here is an independent M6000 benchmark

Network Rendering

Similar to local rendering you have the option to submit the render to the server as well as using the Iray server to stream the rendering. By streaming, you can see it render real-time on your system.

As you submit a job to the server it is put into a queue. Use the queue to monitor the status of jobs as well as adjusting the order. The queue is web-based and is accessible via a browser from any system.

iray server queue

If your environment contains multiple Iray servers the queue will take care of dishing it to the proper (aka available) server. So really there is no limit to the amount of hardware you could have at your disposal to process your rendering jobs.

To reduce the amount of data transfer, previously submitted information is cached and reused on future jobs. Existing jobs can be tweaked and resubmitted without going back to 3ds Max. Jobs can be copied, tweaked, and submitted, again without going back to 3ds Max.

So the proof is always in the pudding…

Using the same model and settings as with the local render, I submitted the job to the network renderer.


Although the results are identical it took just shy of 2-minutes to complete the process. That is 1/5th (20%) the time!



In Review

We took a look at three things in this post: Iray for 3DS Max, the Iray Server, and the Lenovo ThinkStations.

The Lenovo ThinkStation is a big beautiful black box chock full of power. This machine screams rendering but also provides enough power for other features like Virtual Reality.

In NVIDIA’s words, Iray is “primarily for working with 3D content when you require predictable photorealistic imagery. It delivers immediate visual feedback that results in stunning imagery for everything from architecture, engineering, and design to marketing and advertising visual effects.

To offset the heavy lifting from your local system consider implementing the Iray Server. With the right hardware and/or number of server systems, you can significantly reduce the time to render.

NVIDIA’s Iray products are available as a 90-day trial as well as for purchase on the NVIDIA website.