Nvidia Delivers Workstation Graphics Experience to the Network

Nvidia on Wednesday debuted its GRID Visual Computing Appliance, a device that lets businesses deliver ultra-fast GPU performance to any Windows, Linux or Mac client on their network.


Nvidia GRIDVisual Computing Appliance

The GRID VCA is a GPU-based system that allows complex applications, sending graphics output to the network and enabling it to be displayed on a client machine. It provides remote GPU acceleration, giving the user on the client machine the same rich graphics experience available from an expensive dedicated PC workstation.

Business End of Graphics

The GRID Visual Computing Appliance starts at US$24,900 and requires an annual software license of $2,400.

“The company is going after the commercial visualization/graphics market, particularly among smaller companies and independent design firms that leverage high-end graphics applications from Adobe, Autodesk and Dessault,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“There’s no shortage of hardware solutions designed for this space,” King told TechNewsWorld, “but so far as I know, Nvidia is the first vendor to deliver a system architecture based primarily on GPU technologies. The new appliance comes with up to 16 GPUs. Other visualization solutions typically mix conventional CUs with GPUs.”

Creative Process

Nvidia’s VCA includes 16 Nvidia GPUs as well as GRID VGX software and graphics performance.

“This is a system supporting eight high-performance graphics cards and providing service for up to 16 simultaneous graphics sessions,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

It is “ideal for collaborative projects, or projects that people want to access while on mobile devices. This also places the graphics resource in close proximity to the storage that uses it,” he pointed out.

The GRID VCA is meant to provide greater flexibility to small to medium-sized businesses that have limited IT infrastructure. It could allow a startup to create on the scale of a larger, more established production facility. At present, Nvidia has 20 gaming trials for GRID, along with 75 enterprise trials and 15 pilots for the VCA appliance.

Will the next Pixar jump on board with this technology?

“Nvidia’s pitch is that the new appliances deliver better, more seamless graphics than other solutions, but the jury’s going to be out on that for a while,” King added.

“I understand the company’s desire to expand into new areas, especially given the continuing decline in many traditional gaming markets, and enterprise graphics should be a relatively natural fit,” he said.

Still, Nvidia is “going up against players and platforms with years or even decades of experience,” King observed. “They and their longtime customers won’t rollover quickly or quietly.”

Graphics Overload

Nvidia could still shake things up, however, as this technology could allow small entities to do more on basic machines. It can enhance the design experience of many applications from any PC or Mac. Also, by providing centralized access to fast GPUs, it could help alleviate some of the workload in creating high-quality 3D models.

“Graphics projects use massive files, and moving those files between remote systems can add significantly to the production time — particularly for the many projects that require multiple simultaneous creators like movies or complex designs,” noted Enderle.

“I/O, Security, and network speed often significantly increase the time needed to get the project done,” he explained, “and the GRID VCA addresses all three problems elegantly.”

It could also ensure that leaks of code, animations or other files don’t become an issue.

“Security is the forgotten benefit, because the file never has to leave a secure environment even when being accessed for viewing or minor edits from a tablet,” said Enderle. “Other approaches that are similar consist of rack-mounting workstations, but [that] creates a lot of unneeded redundancy, takes up to eight times the space, and isn’t as optimized for cost or collaboration.”

Nvidia did not respond to our request to comment for this story.

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