Remote Graphics and the Professional CAD Workstation, Part 4: Sustainability
We’re talking about remote graphics in this series. We’ve outlined the potential benefits for CAD users, the reduced hardware costs and the security advantages. This post will wrap up this discussion with some details about sustainability as well as some final comments.
Remote Graphics = Greener and More Sustainable
Ever notice the noise and heat in an office with just 5-10 CAD workstations? Imagine a big CAD firm running 100 workstations? Using remote graphics you replace the energy-hungry, heat-producing, noise-polluting workstations with quiet, cool thin zero clients. That translates to reduced AC costs and reduced stress in the workplace. Moreover since you can now use one rack-mounted workstation/graphics card for every 4 workers, you also reduce overall power consumption and costs. That is what sustainability is all about.
What About Microsoft’s RemoteFX?
You would think that with all of the marketing hype around RemoteFX (e.g., the FirePro 7900P/9800P and Nvidia Quadro/Tesla), that this would be a great solution for the CAD user — with claims of support for up to 25 users! But alas, this is not a CAD solution. Because the RemoteFX 3D display adapter driver in the virtual desktop is based on DirectX, it will not support OpenGL or OpenCL, so that eliminates most professional CAD/CAE applications. Even for the AutoDesk DirectX-accelerated apps, the hypervisor creates a virtual graphics driver. This means there are none of the CAD-specific optimizations typical in certified FirePro or Quadro drivers.
So while a great solution for general office use, full-motion video and very basic DirectX 3D apps, RemoteFX is not a viable solution for the professional CAD 2D or 3D market.
Remote Graphics Will Not Replace Your High-End Professional Workstation — Yet
I started this blog with somewhat of a strawman idea about using remote graphics to replace professional CAD workstations.
The real question is not if you should replace all of your high end workstations, but rather to examine when and where it makes economic and performance sense.
For the true CAD power user, remote graphics is not there yet in terms of matching performance with a dedicated local workstation with a top-of-the-line FirePro or Quadro-based graphics card.
But for users working on 2D drawings or moderate complexity 3D models:
- If you are a large company about to install new workstations or replace end-of-life existing workstations, you should carefully look at remote graphics as a way to significantly reduce costs and improve the ambient work environment.
- If you have real IP security issues where you need to tightly control what CAD information leaves the office, then PCoIP hardware on the remote graphics card and the zero client translates to heightened security for all users. For the user who works with moderately complex CAD, a 1:1 remote graphics setup will not save costs, but it will increase security.
Author: Tony DeYoung