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 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.
More on virtualized GPU technology
NVIDIA GPU technology brings speed to VDI
How virtualized GPU technology works
Ways to run graphics-heavy apps on VDI
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 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!
This was first published in December 2013