E-Guide VIRTUALIZED GPUS TO IMPROVE VDI PERFORMANCE

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1 E-Guide VIRTUALIZED GPUS TO IMPROVE VDI PERFORMANCE

2 V irtualized GPU is anticipated to change the virtual desktop industry, but which VDI pain points will this new technology address? In this e-guide, from the experts at SearchVirtualDesktop.com learn how virtualized GPU technology is drastically helping VDI performance, specifically how Nvidia s GPUs are affecting the technology. Learn virtualized GPU technology use cases such as lowered IT requirement, improved VDI graphics and ease of access to applications. PAGE 2 OF 14

3 WHAT VIRTUALIZED GPU TECHNOLOGY IS DOING FOR VDI GPU virtualization means VDI can go where it s never gone before -- and that s big news for the still-niche desktop delivery technology. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has become viable for more types of users, thanks to virtualized graphics processing unit (GPU) cards, which offload graphics processing to the server, improving application performance. Users that access 3-D or computer-aided design (CAD) applications, as well as video-intensive and gaming apps, won t see solid VDI performance without some kind of processing offload, said Todd Knapp, the CEO of Envision Technology Advisors. CAD doesn t work in VDI without this technology, he said. Before virtualized GPU technology came along, VDI was primarily used by task workers. Desktop virtualization from Citrix and VMware could be deployed for about 60% to 70% of users before coming up against pockets of users that required more GPU power, according to Justin Boitano, a director PAGE 3 OF 14

4 of marketing for NVIDIA, the primary provider of virtualized GPU technology. They would hit users that have these graphics needs, and they weren t able to fully meet those needs, he said. To keep up with the increasing needs of power users, desktop virtualization providers have jumped at the chance to support NVIDIA s GRID technology. Citrix recently added hardware GPU sharing to XenDesktop 7, and VMware introduced the virtual dedicated graphics acceleration feature in View 5.3, both based on GRID. Plus, Amazon Web Services in November released a G2 instance of its Elastic Compute Cloud with support for GRID, to enable GPU acceleration in the cloud. VIRTUALIZED GPU TECHNOLOGY USES Florida Atlantic University s IT department began using VDI four years ago in an attempt to provide remote access to 3-D apps for students and professors in graphics and game programming classes a group that makes up nearly 30% of its user base. They installed physical workstations with ATI graphics cards and Teradici Hardware Accelerator chips but it wasn t enough, said Mahesh Neelakanta, a director of technical services at FAU. That setup caused a high physical footprint and only allowed for a one-to-one connection between user PAGE 4 OF 14

5 and machine. GPU virtualization is changing all that, Neelakanta said. The university installed NVIDIA K1 and K2 boards earlier this year, which provide more flexibility and consolidation by allowing IT to run about 8 to 12 users per shared GPU board. We ve been able to lower our own IT requirement because we re able to deploy the image using VDI and provide virtual desktops with 3-D acceleration to those students regardless of where they are, Neelakanta said. With virtualized GPUs bringing desktop virtualization to more users, VDI could see higher adoption in the coming years. Still, companies must make sure that GPU virtualization will provide them benefits. For example, if you re delivering video, you may simply need remote display protocol optimization instead, Knapp said. PAGE 5 OF 14

6 NVIDIA ANNOUNCES NEW VIRTUALIZEABLE GPU TO POWER HIGH GRAPHICS VDI Last November I wrote an article about NVIDIA s Monterey project where they were researching how they could use GPUs to enhance the VDI remoting experience. They talked about multiple goals, including (1) using GPUs to do super fast, high quality, hardware-based encoding of the remoting protocols for general desktop users, and (2) providing real GPUs to VDI virtual machines so users can use any app that requires a GPU. Fast forward to this week at NVIDIA s GPU Technology Conference (that Jack attended) NVIDIA announced the results of this effort, to be known as the VGX platform. At it s most basic level, VGX is two things: A physical plug-in card for servers with a new GPU called Kepler A hypervisor software component that will plug into Xen and vsphere, and (eventually) Hyper-V PAGE 6 OF 14

7 NVIDIA ultimately believes this can help deliver better remoting experience to all users, but initially they re going to target it towards high end workers designers for whom VDI was never an option in the past. They re not going to build their own protocol, rather they re creating an H.264-based pixel stream that would be transmitted via HDX or PCoIP. (Citrix s Derek Thorslund blogged about how this will work with XenDesktop.) The VGX plug-in card (above) has four of the new Kepler GPUs (which allows them to maximize the memory they can use for the frame buffer which is their current performance limitation). This board only consumes 150W (compared to the Tesla which is 225W). Each of the GPUs has 32 work queues which is how they can support up to 128 VMs per card previous GPUs only had a single queue which is why only one VM could use the GPU at a time. Then in the hypervisor, NVIDIA is working with the hypervisor vendors to write a GPU component that will make a real GPU visible to each VM. NVIDIA will also supplies the graphics drivers that run in the guest of each VM, much like how they provide the graphics drivers for Windows on physical hardware today. (This alone is a pretty cool thing, because today s HDX & PCoIP have drivers written by small teams at Citrix, VMware, and Teradici. And while those teams have done a great job, NVIDIA has thousands of employees PAGE 7 OF 14

8 working on this.) Another interesting thing about the GPU access from the VM is that you ll be able to load different types of drivers to do different things with the GPU. For example, a knowledge worker who mostly uses Office and web browsers doesn t need the same type of GPU power as someone who s working in Photoshop all day. With the NVIDIA VGX card, those users will be able to sit side-by-side on the same VDI server, with the graphics drivers in the Photoshop users VM getting access to a different GPU personality than the regular worker. (I assume they ll be able to integrate with the connection broker to use this information when load balancing, etc.) In terms of numbers of users per card, they re not ready to share specifics, though we know the work queue limit means that they can get a maximum of 128 VMs per card. They re thinking they ll probably have about 100 users for regular knowledge worker VDI (which again is limited by the amount of memory on the card). For intense graphics designers, that might be more like 4-8 per card. (But again, it depends on the app, the number of displays, etc. Basically you have to consider that this card has four GPUs. How many Photoshop users do you want to put on a single GPU? Maybe only one? Two?) The bottom line with this VGX platform is that NVIDIA is looking to offload PAGE 8 OF 14

9 a bunch of stuff that s currently done on the CPU and with system memory. They mentioned again how fast everything is with the VGX hardware. (In fact they said that they can actually get the H.264 encoded pixels to the NIC faster than a typical GPU gets the pixels to the DVI cable in a traditional desktop.) The Kepler GPU is 28nm, and it has twice the performance per watt versus the previous generation GPUs. Everything NVIDIA told us about this looks cool except for one thing in addition to buying the hardware, they will also have a per-user, per-year license to use it, AND they re creating a f*ing license server to manage this!?!?! Seriously??? First, it s too bad that this is going to be another cost on top of everything else. But I guess that s what the free market is for. (So I m upset about that part but I understand.) But for the license server? Oh man!! IT pros have never liked license servers. It just makes us feel like criminals until we prove we re innocent. But even worse is that license servers can be single points of failure. Remember the recent problem with Citrix s VDI-in-a-Box? Or when you couldn t reboot ESX servers for two days because VMware had some expired license key? Seriously, I get why they want to charge per user per year. (Well, actually PAGE 9 OF 14

10 that sucks too, but I get it. They have dollar signs for eyes.) But the license server? Ugg!! #fail Moving on, I guess all that happens now is we wait for the products to come out. NVIDIA said that Citrix would be first to market with this, followed by VMware. As for Microsoft, who knows? (Though they mentioned that Microsoft is excited about this. They were initially worried they d see this as a competitor to RemoteFX.) The Kepler plug in card will be available this year, they should have beta versions of the hypervisor components late this year, with everything shipping in PAGE 10 OF 14

11 FIRSTHAND LOOK AT NVIDIA VIRTUALIZED GPU TECHNOLOGY IN ACTION I was recently able to view a live demo of AutoDesk Inventor running on NVIDIA GRID -- my first real-world exposure to the virtualized graphics processing unit (GPU) technology. The demo, which you can see in Brian Madden s blog post, is from Mainframe2. Mainframe2 s application-centric cloud tool is something like Applications as a Service, because it s focused entirely on delivering single applications to people. You can go from non-customer to deploying desktops in about 10 minutes. (This fits right in with my prediction of Windows future as middleware.) There are two interesting aspects to this demo. One is to see how easy it is to access the application; it almost looks like a video player from YouTube. I m sure there are other delivery mechanisms, but from a user experience standpoint, they ll know exactly what to do. It uses an HTML 5 client, but viewing AutoDesk Inventor, you wouldn t know that. Other application experiences might vary, but if we re just looking at clicking, typing and graphics, it works PAGE 11 OF 14

12 great. VIRTUALIZED GPU TECHNOLOGY IS LOOKIN GOOD Most importantly, it s also taking advantage of NVIDIA GRID. The company s virtualized GPU technology, GRID is all about shared GPUs for use with desktop virtualization. Almost everyone has seen that SolidWorks demo with the Sea-Doo Dolphin Sea Scooter; it s the go-to demo anytime a vendor comes out with an offering that supports 3-D graphics. You see it working, moving around on a Z-axis, and you think, Bingo! Problem solved. What you don t notice is that details, lighting, shading and pretty much everything else that 3-D designers need has been stripped away to support 3-D graphics. When administrators proudly bring this to end users to show how great they are at getting applications to work, the users will laugh them off and go back to their high-end workstations. GRID addresses this by dedicating GPU cores to virtual desktop sessions, which means that now designers have full GPU power to do the things they need to do. That s why this online, quick demo is so interesting to me. Try it and you ll see that the last big hurdle of virtual desktop graphics is solved. AutoDesk Inventor fires up in seconds, and you re presented with a beautifully PAGE 12 OF 14

13 remoted 3-D application experience. Since this is running on the West Coast, you can even see how the performance will be over a distance if you re located elsewhere. For me, it was 1,400 miles, and the experience was stellar. At the very least, you should come away with some level of comfort with GRID s ability to address your workloads, but Mainframe2 is also enabling this with its back end. The future where Windows apps are used only as needed actually looks pretty great! PAGE 13 OF 14

14 FREE RESOURCES FOR TECHNOLOGY PROFESSIONALS TechTarget publishes targeted technology media that address your need for information and resources for researching products, developing strategy and making cost-effective purchase decisions. Our network of technology-specific Web sites gives you access to industry experts, independent content and analysis and the Web s largest library of vendor-provided white papers, webcasts, podcasts, videos, virtual trade shows, research reports and more drawing on the rich R&D resources of technology providers to address market trends, challenges and solutions. Our live events and virtual seminars give you access to vendor neutral, expert commentary and advice on the issues and challenges you face daily. Our social community IT Knowledge Exchange allows you to share real world information in real time with peers and experts. WHAT MAKES TECHTARGET UNIQUE? TechTarget is squarely focused on the enterprise IT space. Our team of editors and network of industry experts provide the richest, most relevant content to IT professionals and management. We leverage the immediacy of the Web, the networking and face-to-face opportunities of events and virtual events, and the ability to interact with peers all to create compelling and able information for enterprise IT professionals across all industries and markets. PAGE 14 OF 14

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