Today, we learned that The Foundry is closing Athera, their cloud offering hub. Athera was launched in April 2018 and was designed to let you run applications, both from the Foundry, and others such as Houdini, on a virtualized PC on the cloud.

The project was in development for three years at the company. We spoke to Foundry Chief Scientist, Simon Robinson about the companies decision to move away from Athera, and if it signaled any wider issues about cloud adoption.

One of the appealing things about Athera was that you were only charged when you actually used it. There were no recurring subscription costs, and one can easily change what software you were licensing. This meant, in theory, one could scale your usage down to zero and pay nothing during lulls, and ramp back up instantly for your next big project on a month by month basis. Unfortunately, the service did not connect with enough users.

Simon Robinson

FXG: Do you think Athera would still be continuing in its current form if you had experienced wider buy-in from other software vendors or is was the model not correct?

SR:  Simply put, not enough people in VFX are yet willing to work this way (via a turnkey pure cloud platform). Support from other vendors has been good. We’ve run some fantastic projects with some innovative clients so we know it works for some.

FXG: I assume you feel the cloud is not a poor path forward, but it needs to be addressed in a different way, or are you backing off from the concept?

SR:  It’s absolutely where we’re all going. But the phase we’re in now, for companies large and small, is about hybrid infrastructure. Companies have a mix of on-prem, cloud and multiple geographic locations to optimise and are being very pragmatic about what mix of infrastructure leads to the best efficiency and cost for them. There are some fascinating challenges in there and we’re now well placed to address them.


The initial software offerings from Athera

FXG: How much was upload times to just to get to ‘first pixel’ an issue? Was the need to upload footage an issue?

SR:  Upload times were not a major issue, but we discovered a need for better tools for turning over and reviewing finished shots to clients. Anything that removes the data transfer from the creative feedback loop is a big boost for customers moving to cloud.

FXG: Looking forward, in your opinion, is VFX cloud computing most appealing for big 500+ companies or smaller teams or freelance operators?

SR:  From what we can see, it’s a pretty even spread.

The original storage options

FXG: Was there any geographical difference in take-up between say, the USA, Asia, and Europe?

SR:  We saw interest from all over the world where VFX production is done, but especially in North America and Europe.

FXG: Will your team be re-assigned or work on a different version of something similar?

SR:  The team are using their knowledge to help address current customer challenges in a hybrid cloud.

FXG: What was the greatest lesson out of this – perhaps the most unexpected?

SR:  When we first started working in this area (5 years ago!) we anticipated that the industry’s adoption of cloud-only pipelines would be faster than it has been.

From the original FMX launch in 2018 

Here is our original story on the launch of Athera in 2018

The Athera web site now reads:

Please note that the Athera platform is no longer available and we are not accepting new projects. Foundry remains committed to helping customers create and collaborate from anywhere, and we have some exciting future plans for cloud and collaboration across our product portfolio.

All the data in Athera’s Internal Storage will be deleted on June 1, 2020. If you have data in Internal Storage that you wish to retrieve, customers will need to contact the company before then. For any enquiries related to Athera, email [email protected]

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