TechSpot: GPU-Accelerated Virtual Desktops: The Future of Computing?

In the early computing days, companies usually relied on a central mainframe that had all of the computing power and users accessed this through what is called a thin client. However, as hardware became faster, cheaper, and smaller, thin clients largely gave way to individual PCs that each user had sitting at their desk. Interestingly, in some niche areas of computing where it makes sense, we are seeing a push to go back to using a variation of thin clients.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI for short, is an incredibly complex topic once you get into the fine details, so we will largely be avoiding the in-depth technicalities. Instead, let's discuss the major VDI solutions that are currently available and how Nvidia GRID works to add GPU acceleration to a VDI.

We'll also look at some of the more common advantages and disadvantages of virtual desktops, offer our general impressions on using them for a variety of tasks, and make some educated guesses as to whether virtual desktops truly are the future of computing or if they will likely remain a niche technology.

Read: GPU-Accelerated Virtual Desktops: The Future of Computing?
This article is brought to you in partnership with TechSpot

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Son discovers deceased father's ghost car on 2002 Xbox game

Next Story

Specs Appeal: Comparing the Nokia Lumia 530 and Lumia 630

20 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

My company is deep in the planning stages of rolling out VDI for our call center staff.

This will reduce capital costs over the years as we replace workstations with thin clients.
Support and maintenance due to user error on the local workstations will also be reduced with thin clients that remain effectively static.

VDI has its place.

There are benefits to both. With power (CPU), graphics (GPU) and memory now so inexpensive, it doesn't make sense to offload the desktop to a remote Cloud - and have to micro-pay your ISP every time you move your mouse. Then there's the issue of security. Most people prefer to have all their information and processing stored locally in their own device. Until the NSA issue is resolved this is unlikely to change.

Where Virtual Desktops make sense is in thin-client environments. Mobile phones and tablets, for example, benefit from not having to cart around a big battery to do local calculations that can be offloaded. See Cortana. But even this division is beginning to blur. I regularly use Adobe After Effects on a Surface Pro 2 with excellent results. This, of course, would be impossible on an iPad or Android device. But how many iPad or Android users would ever want or need that kind of power?

With Windows 8, the desktop itself is under threat and I like the way Microsoft are changing the old UI paradigms. The desktop is going the way of the CLI.

There are other new and exciting technologies coming down the road that will change the way devices are designed in the future. Using RDMA it will soon be faster to store your data in the Cloud than it is to store it on your local hard drive. That will change everything we think about terminal devices far more than a virtual desktop. A fart in a hurricane.

Kaze23 said,
Flat is preferable to something superfluous like eye-popping effects on a desktop.

By that logic, we might as well make the OS UI all in extended ASCII also... honestly, if you have the ability, use it! don't squander the ability to do something just because it's the new trend...

neufuse said,

By that logic, we might as well make the OS UI all in extended ASCII also... honestly, if you have the ability, use it! don't squander the ability to do something just because it's the new trend...

You know the anti skuemorphism crowd admits Metro and flat 72 px fonts are not perfect, but somehow a leather binder is all too evil in an Apple addressbook so all of this must be a must.

Shoot IOS 8 has no buttons just text??! This is ridiculous and tries to solve a problem that doesn't exist invented by art professors

I tested the latest HyperV 2012 R2 with NVIDIA GTX 670 with 32GB of RAM, and Windows 8 accelerated as a guest, and connected to it from a remote machine on a local network, and on the console as well, and it is nice but unpractical.

+ Tons of limitations, missing OpenGL support, etc.

Who knows, perhaps one day, but for not it does not look like we are there yet

Isn't the lack of OpenGL support more an OS problem, as opposed to a VDI-specific problem? (OpenGL on Windows - not just 8 - is problematical at best, and so far, still requires specialized/niche support; Quadro/GRID Workspace CAN do it, for example.)

PGHammer said,
Isn't the lack of OpenGL support more an OS problem, as opposed to a VDI-specific problem? (OpenGL on Windows - not just 8 - is problematical at best, and so far, still requires specialized/niche support; Quadro/GRID Workspace CAN do it, for example.)

OpenGL is just one of the issues, smooth performance with Direct X (on the same machine, not even going to the network) is the main issue

What I wanted to say, the HyperV is a nice idea, but it is not able to give good 3d even on the same machine.

I think it will steadily gain more traction. It has a huge number of benefits for business, especially where you just have carbon copy desktops for hundreds of users.

We've been trialling an limited VDI deployment at work actually for system admins like myself. Benefits include being able to remotely access administrative tools out of hours to fix problems, being able to get the same consistent desktop across multiple platforms and indeed being able to just suspend work midway through then just reconnect to the same session from a different location. It's extremely useful and you do get used to the convenience.

I guess the only show stopper at least in VMware's case is that they price their solutions just so that the cost comparison against the traditional solution is only ever JUST compelling enough to make it worth looking at - it's never a total "no brainer".

But yeah - we love it, and I can see us rolling it out wider within the establishment.

Ever since I got into virtualisation back in 1999 I have always dreamed of having GPU acceleration but here we are 15 years later and while things are better they still suck compared to the progress we have made in every other category.

With RemoteFX Microsoft did some great things for high performance graphics over the wire so I really hope in the next 3-5 years we see big steps taken by Nvidia and AMD to really push for a solid virtualisation extension to their graphics products.

bithush said,
Ever since I got into virtualisation back in 1999 I have always dreamed of having GPU acceleration but here we are 15 years later and while things are better they still suck compared to the progress we have made in every other category.

With RemoteFX Microsoft did some great things for high performance graphics over the wire so I really hope in the next 3-5 years we see big steps taken by Nvidia and AMD to really push for a solid virtualisation extension to their graphics products.

Glad to see someone else mention RemoteFX so that I don't have to come on here and say GPU accelerated virtual desktops have been available for years already. :)

Indeed, RemoteAPP on Server 2012 is quite fast -- even without it (for normal desktop applications and even Store apps).

Agreed, with 2012, Windows 8, and RemoteFX even non-GPU assisted performance would probably shock most who have not experienced it. We were going to get a few GRIDs but performance without it was so good, right now those who need true workstation class performance will just stay with dedicated machines.

MFH said,
RemoteFX is pretty cool, but the big problem is that MS has limited it to Windows Server…

Limited how? Are you saying they should port it to Linux? Or are you talking about workstations?

Forjo said,

Limited how? Are you saying they should port it to Linux? Or are you talking about workstations?

I would assume he means it would be cool to have RemoteFX support on 7 and 8 clients in Hyper-V too.

bithush said,

I would assume he means it would be cool to have RemoteFX support on 7 and 8 clients in Hyper-V too.


This!
Actually it would be even cooler if they added RemoteFX support for traditional RDP connections. (Working with OpenGL through RDP is a mess…)

MFH said,

This!
Actually it would be even cooler if they added RemoteFX support for traditional RDP connections. (Working with OpenGL through RDP is a mess…)

So you mean client to client connections, or Windows 8 running as a HyperV VM? I ask because I thought that RemoteFX supports Windows 8 guests.

Forjo said,

So you mean client to client connections, or Windows 8 running as a HyperV VM? I ask because I thought that RemoteFX supports Windows 8 guests.

Client-to-Client or Client-to-Server (btw RemoteFX was introduced in Server 2008 R2) should make no difference IMHO. At work I have to test some of our applications via RDP, but due to the (since the release of RemoteFX apparently arbitrary) limitations in RDP that part of work is a major PIA.