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Graphics and Virtual Desktops

Increasingly businesses and education are seeing the benefits of virtualization for all employees, and I don't mean for servers. When you buy a desktop PC you have an integrated GPU on the processor (physical hardware) but with traditional virtual desktops, graphics are performed by software.

When people talk about graphics they think about a spotty teanager playing games or a professional that produces photos, drawings etc but what most people don't realise is that internet browsers, Office and other products that most people use actually utilise this technology.

Blue Sky Systems have been using the NVIDIA Grid K1 cards now as the defacto standard for our hosted and on-premise VDI solutions. This has enabled the use of Photoshop, Minecraft, and solid works to name a few, but also for the average user enhances their experience for normal use. The technology used for this purpose was VMware's vSGA with either AMD or NVIDIA hardware and drivers, however there is something new on the ground. NVIDIA have been investing their efforts into allowing a graphics card to be shared like any other hardware, like a network card, CPU etc. The issue with vSGA, while for most applications it is suitable it did have some drawbacks such being limited to older instructions and didn't cater for the newer standards.

Intoducing vGPU...........

vGPU is about offering the full functionality that is delivered with a physical machine (graphics-wise), in a virtual environment. Fundamentally the latest instruction sets are supported such as Direct X 12, opening up support for the ever progressing world of IT. So where vSGA delivered, vGPU provides an even smoother and better user experience.

Source: NVIDIA

The diagram above compares the difference between software in grey vs hardware (NVIDIA M10 GPU card) graphics in green. As you can see the Tesla M10 significantly improves performance across applications, including streaming video, webGL and graphical web apps, compared to CPU-only systems. In addition, it reduces CPU usage up to 18%, freeing up resources for other tasks.

Overall putting on hardware graphics does have a cost as there is no such thing in this world as a "free lunch", however when you look at the increase in user density per physical server and the smoother user experience why would you not? The densities we at Blue Sky Systems are seeing are around ~70 desktops per server in commercial use and ~100 desktops in education when using hardware graphics for all virtual desktops.