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Rise of the graphics-intensive mainstream apps

VDI shops can no longer assume mainstream apps, such as Microsoft Office, do not require GPUs. This type of app, as well as websites and more, are increasingly graphics-intensive.

With VDI, the rule of thumb has long been that, if end users do not work with computer-aided design applications...

or other graphics-intensive tools, then graphics processing units are not necessary.

But as organizations move to newer OSes and newer versions of enterprise applications, IT must rethink that approach. Just surfing the web these days requires graphics intensity, and many mainstream apps, including Microsoft Office, are becoming more graphics-heavy.

In addition to the apps themselves demanding more graphics resources, users expect to be able to view videos and large images without a problem, even if they are accessing them through VDI. As a matter of fact, users are already working with graphics processing units (GPUs) in their devices today often without knowing it.

Graphics-intensive is already here

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End users have already adapted to using graphics acceleration. Smartphones, PCs and tablets all have GPUs and provide users with graphics enhancements, which changes the demand they have for their experiences.

Companies are also releasing applications with the latest graphics advancements and acceleration options enabled to deliver the best possible user experience. Adobe programs, for example, often use Flash for graphics acceleration. Adobe is on most systems, and users install Flash as needed. VDI shops must know how users are working with this software.

IT may need to plan for one GPU per user to support the end-user experience within VDI deployments.

Applications that were not graphics-intensive before, such as Office 2013 and 2016, use graphics acceleration by default now, too. Even though IT professionals can disable graphics acceleration, performance and functionality within the application suite diminishes without graphics acceleration, which decreases user productivity. As a result, many applications that VDI shops used to consider as task worker-based and not requiring high graphics now do.

Websites themselves are more graphics-intensive than ever and will continue to evolve. Modern websites include large images and video, and if they don't render properly, the web browsing experience can be frustrating.

Effect on virtualization

For organizations that use virtualization, graphics intensity changes the way IT makes decisions around how it designs its VDI deployment. Past methods are not necessarily viable anymore, and with each step toward the future, VDI requirements continue to increase.

IT may need to plan for one GPU per user to support the end-user experience within VDI deployments. So, even though this challenges the established mindset, IT pros must be adaptive and receptive to technological advancements to properly support the organizations they work for.

What should IT do?

Know the deployment: When IT updates its applications, it must also update the infrastructure.

Be open to new hardware options: IT can use GPUs and other technologies to support its virtualized deployments. Some organizations have hard guidelines on the hardware they use, which can be restricting, so it's good to be open to change.

Test everything: IT pros should test everything, including the infrastructure, endpoints and apps, before they buy anything. Doing so goes a long way toward ensuring that they choose the right hardware for their organization. Not all software performs the same in every enterprise because every enterprise is slightly different.

Next Steps

Complete guide to GPU virtualization

How to choose a virtual GPU

Make graphics rendering easier with VDI

This was last published in August 2017

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