Editor’s Note: Q&A with CADspeed answers CAD hardware questions from our readers. This question was a response to Tony DeYoung’s recent blog series about remote graphics.
Could you explain the difference between remote graphics and hosting a virtual desktop by running a VM session from a server with MS server 2008 and RDP or Citrix? It seems exactly the same. This also seems similar to the way Onlive gaming works — just the graphics are being sent. Another question you might be able to answer: can the RAM & graphics card be dynamically shared or are they allotted and dedicated to the VM session?
The quick answer is the FirePro remote graphics solution can be used in either a 1-1 remoted solution (e.g., one remote workstation running AutoCAD with a FirePro card providing graphics to one user) or a 1-N multiple VMs remoted solution (e.g., one server workstation running two copies of AutoCAD each in a VM, with two FirePro cards providing high performance 3D graphics to two users).
The card does not virtualize it’s own 3D driver, so it can’t dynamically allocate some computing to one user and leftover computing ability to another (which is what Microsoft does with RDP for non-3D graphics).
The real advantage of remote graphics is that you can have one workstation “server” rather than four individual workstations (or workstation laptops). And, of course, the security of having all data remote.
Author: Tony DeYoung
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
We’re talking about remote graphics in this series. We’ve outlined the potential benefits for CAD users and the reduced hardware costs, and now we’re going talk about the benefits for the heavy-duty 3D users.
Why Would You Need Remote Graphics for Heavy Duty 3D CAD?
In a word: security. With remote graphics solutions that include hardware accelerated PCoIP technologies (like the RG220), all transmissions are encrypted 128-bit AES. The data resides on the server and graphics card and never is at risk for theft (inadvertent or intentional) from the local machine. If the projects your company handles are super top secret, the IT admin can enable user authentication and peripheral (USB) authorization or even opt for zero clients without USB ports.
Think about engineering companies who do projects for government or large defense manufacturers. These sites might have hundreds of user and security truly matters. Remote graphics give high performance, but eliminates many security issues.
For highest performance, one remote graphics card is mapped to one thin client. The levels of performance in this kind of 1:1 scenario is basically about 90% what you can do on a FirePro V7800 (the pre-Cayman architecture). So to be realistic about expectations, this is not top of the line performance, but it is more than adequate for many 3D projects. The big gain is security.
Reduce Time Servicing and Managing Systems
Imagine you have 100 employees doing basic CAD. With remote graphics, from a central location you can push out software updates, even while employees are working on the system.
For example, there is oil and gas company in Canada using the FirePro RG220 to push out computing set ups to remote oil prospecting sites up to 100 miles away. Because the cards use full PCoIP hardware display compression/security encryption, they provide fast connections with minimal latency that can tackle moderately complex 3D designs/GIS analyses.
In our final post, we’ll discuss sustainability advantages with remote graphics.
Author: Tony DeYoung
We’re talking about remote graphics in this series. We’ve outlined the potential benefits for CAD users, and now we’re going to get more specific.
The Remote Graphics 4:1 Advantage
Many companies are looking for ways to cut back on their IT spend and want to purchase hardware and software solutions that allowed them to do more with less. By implementing a remote graphics solution that is capable of supporting more than one user on zero clients, that’s fewer workstations and graphic cards you have to buy and support.
The FirePro RG220 Remote Graphics card for example, supports hardware-accelerated PCoIP compression and is capable of supporting up to four users on thin clients with a single professional graphics card and at least one quad-core CPU server running the Parallels Workstation Extreme 4.0 hypervisor.
At each users desk, in addition to keyboard, display and mouse, there is just a PCoIP-supporting thin or zero client that is mapped to the graphics card. And it doesn’t matter where these four individuals sit (well they do need to be within 100 miles). As long as they have a 10+ MB/sec network connection (sorry your 3G MiFi card won’t do the trick), they can use the remote computing solution. For more complex modeling a 20-50MB connection is recommended (i.e., a standard office Ethernet LAN, Verizon Fios connection, or even my high-speed Comcast line).
Now obviously we aren’t talking about four users manipulating multi-million polygon 3D models and rendering. That can tax a single high-end FirePro or Quadro card. But in many engineering/CAD firms, many users are working on 2D AutoCAD DWG drawings or are working on medium-complexity 3D projects that would generally require the resources of a low-end 3D graphics card like the FirePro V4800.
Next up, we’ll outline the benefits for the heavy-duty 3D CAD user.
Author: Tony DeYoung
There is a growing demand for portability, energy conversation and cost savings in the CAD world — hence the movement to small form factor devices use of the cloud for review and commenting. But there still remains the need for complex 3D graphics, security and high performance computation. Hence killer workstations and professional graphics cards like the FirePro or Quadro.
So how do you get the best of both? Is it even possible and under what conditions? This thought was exciting to me as I read all of the press releases talking about new remote graphics solutions tapping into professional workstation graphics cards. So I decided to do some research beyond the marketing brochures in order to find out what is real today for remote graphics as a high performance and viable solution for professional CAD firms.
What is Remote Graphics for CAD?
In a nutshell remote graphics is the ability to have a full CAD computing experience — with display, keyboard and mouse — but the actual 2D/3D computing is done on a device that sits in the data center. The experience can be virtually (no pun intended) equivalent to a regular desktop workstation. In fact if you just sat down and started doing some basic CATIA work on one of these systems, you probably wouldn’t realize the workstation was missing from your desk until you went to power off the system, charge your phone or save files to a USB thumb drive.
When Would You Really Want/Benefit from Remote Graphics?
If you are truly a 3D power user or if money, desktop space, green-ness and security are total non-issues for you, then don’t even think about remote graphics. It is not for you.
But as a CTO or IT manager responsible for outfitting several employees who work on less complex designs and models, or outfitting employees/contractors working on sensitive projects (at any level of complexity), current remote graphics solutions can help to:
- Support more CAD employees with less equipment
- Keep security tight on sensitive 3D/2D CAD projects
- Reduce time spent servicing and managing systems
- Reduce power and cooling costs
Sounds interesting, huh? Next we’ll discuss these benefits in more detail.
Author: Tony DeYoung