Nvidia's Grid VGX software boost graphics performance of virtual desktops and PCs

Dell, HP and IBM are offering customzed servers while Nvidia has introduced its own appliance

With its new Grid VGX software, Nvidia is aiming to tear down the performance barrier that keeps graphics-intensive applications from running on virtual desktops.

The company detailed how it plans make its mark on running graphics remotely in the data center at the GPU Technology Conference, which takes place this week in San Jose. It's working with partners such as Hewlett-Packard and VMware on the effort.

At the heart of this push is the company's Grid VGX software, which is a suite of technologies that enables improved graphics performance in virtualized systems. The software, for example, enables virtual desktop solutions to capture and encode remote streams directly on its Kepler-based Grid K1 and K2 graphics boards, which were first announced last year.

On Tuesday, the company said the cards will be used in servers customized for hosting virtual desktops such as the Dell PowerEdge R720; the iDataPlex dx360 M4 from IBM; and the eighth generation of Hewlett-Packard's ProLiant WS460c. On the software side, Nvidia is working with Citrix Systems, Microsoft and VMware.

The K1 is designed to host up to 100 concurrent users with virtual desktops, while the K2 offers better performance for graphics-heavy applications running remotely in the data center.

For companies that aren't ready to take the leap to virtual desktops, Nvidia has launched the Grid Visual Computing Appliance (VCA), which is also based on the Grid VGX software. It allows small and medium-sized companies that use graphics-heavy applications to offer employees better performance without having to buy them all expensive workstations.

The Grid VCA appliance is compatible with Windows, Linux and Mac desktops and can handle the graphics part of applications from Adobe Systems, Autodesk and Dassault Systèmes for up to 16 concurrent users. Graphics are processed on the appliance and the output is sent over the network to be displayed on a client computer.

This isn't a new concept; vendors such as HP offer blade workstations that sit in the data center instead of under the user's desk. But Nvidia integrates the functionality into a 4U box, instead of having separate blades for each concurrent user.

By clicking on an icon, employees can create a virtual machine called a workspace. The workspace is then dedicated for that user, and can be added and deleted as needed, Nvidia said. The extra performance can be used when transcoding video files, which converts a file from one format to another, or when creating high-quality 3D models, for example.

Nvidia didn't give much detail on the appliance's performance, only saying that each user will get "Quadro-class graphics performance." The Quadro family of graphics cards is what Nvidia offers for professional workstations.

The Grid VCA appliance will be available with either 8 or 16 GPUs, with prices starting at US$24,900, plus an annual software license of $2,400. The maximum number of concurrent users they can handle are the same as the number of GPUs.

The larger configuration has 64GB of GPU memory and 384GB of storage, while the 8 GPU version offers half of those capacities. The appliance will start shipping in the U.S. in May. The company didn't provide information about availability in other parts of the world.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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Mikael Ricknäs

IDG News Service
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