SAN JOSE, Calif.—Desktop virtualization has a history of unfulfilled promise.
The technology has been promoted for years as a way of helping employees become more productive while enabling IT departments to more easily safeguard and manage corporate data by keeping it centrally housed within the company’s data center.
However, the user experience hasn’t always matched what employees need. The environment has had trouble handling graphics-intensive workloads and meeting the demands of an increasingly mobile workforce that requires the ability to connect through a broad array of devices and systems.
Now tech vendors are promising an improved experience and better security and management through enhanced virtualization technologies and by leveraging the parallel processing capabilities of GPUs.
VMware last week announced the latest release of its Horizon 6 virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) platform that officials said will provide rich, 3-D graphics on high-performance virtual desktops for workstation-level workloads. The enhancements include enabling Nvidia’s Grid virtual GPU (vGPU) to run on VMware products, including Horizon 6, which should make it easier to run a range of graphics-intensive applications, from videos and three-dimensional CAD workloads to Microsoft’s PowerPoint, Adobe’s Illustrator and interactive workloads, in a virtualized desktop environment.
A week later, Nvidia and Dell talked about separate efforts they’re making to better run workstation-class applications in virtualized environments. At the GPU Technology Conference 2015 (GTC) here, Andrew Cresci, general manager of Nvidia’s Grid business, said that now that VMware’s Horizon 6 platform is available with Nvidia’s vGPU technology, the challenge is to educate users about the capabilities around running graphics-rich workloads in their virtual desktop environments.
It’s also about showing organizations and employees how this capability will help change the way they do business. Enterprises can more easily manage and secure their data while employees are more mobile. If there is a problem with a system in the data center, an IT professional through their virtual desktop can solve the issue remotely rather than having to come into the building on a weekend day.
For much of the past 10 years, the case for VDI was made in total-cost-of-ownership (TCO) terms, Cresci said. That has changed.
Nvidia, Dell Push to Make VDI Easy, More Robust
The GPU maker is looking to take advantage of its market possibilities by enabling potential users to test drive its Grid technology running on VMware’s Horizon and vSphere 6 software. They will get four hours of access to graphics-rich applications like AutoCAD, Solidworks and ArcGIS, to run in the virtualized environment from their PC.
“Before vGPU, graphics performance was one of the final obstacles to offering a complete VDI ecosystem because users had to choose between low-cost with low performance or high performance at a cost,” Will Wade, director of Nvidia Grid, wrote in a post on the VMware blog. “NVIDIA GRID vGPU technology allows each GRID board to share physical GPUs among anywhere from two designers to 32 knowledge workers.”
Dell officials at the GTC announced the Dell Precision Appliance for Wyse, an appliance that enables users to more easily run their workstation-class workloads in virtualized environments. The offering combines compute capabilities of the Precision workstations with the virtualization strengths of Wyse thin clients.
The appliance leverages Dell’s Precision Rack R7910 workstation, Nvidia’s Grid vGPUs and Quadro GPUs, VMware’s virtualization software and Teradici’s PC-over-IP (PCoIP) remote workstation technology. In addition, Dell has worked with software makers to validate and certify their applications on the Dell appliance. In addition, there are certified configurations for graphics-rich workloads from Siemens and other vendors.
The Precision Appliance for Wyse, which will be available in May, offers simplicity and flexibility, according to Dan O’Farrell, senior director of product marketing for client cloud computing at Dell. It can be deployed in less than five minutes once it’s plugged in, and it can be managed without a dedicated IT staff. In addition, it can be deployed either as an on-premises appliance leveraging the Quadro K4200 GPUs or in a virtualized fashion leveraging the Grid software.
In a dedicated, on-premises mode, the appliance offers access for up to three users per appliance. In a virtualized environment, four to eight users can be supported.
“The reason we decided to do this in an appliance is to make it super easy,” O’Farrell told reporters, noting that to scale out the environment, organizations need only to add more appliances. “The concept here is to take the guesswork out of it.”