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Creating a Graphics Workload for VDI

Creating a Graphics Workload for VDI

A recent trend in desktop virtualization and application virtualization is to extend virtual desktop environments to a new set of users—those who work with graphics-intensive applications. Large manufacturing, architecture, industrial engineering, entertainment and creative industries lend especially well to deploying GPUs as part of their virtual desktop environment. Like any other end user, the graphics-intensive worker expects great performance. However, for the IT department, introducing heavy graphics users creates a lot of unknowns in when it comes to planning, managing and testing performance.

One size does not fit all

With Login VSI's experience pioneering industry standards for virtual desktop load and stress testing, we thoroughly understand how to conduct tests and how environments should react to stress. We also know workloads. The first matter to address when it comes to performance testing environments with graphics-intensive users is to determine the right workload. Out-of-the box Login VSI workloads assume the user works with standard applications such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Internet Explorer. But what are the standard applications used by those who work with heavy graphics?

We see that each industry moving GPUs into their centralized virtualized desktop environment uses its own graphical applications, such as AutoCAD, Siemens NX or Catia. What’s more, even within the same enterprise, there is variability among workers in the applications they use and how they use them.

Different models, for example architectural models versus industrial designs, have different visualization styles. Variation in frame rate requirements makes it difficult to create a standardized graphics workload.

vdi graphics different applications autocad siemens nx catia

Every company uses different graphical applications

Finding the similarities

While there are a lot of differences in testing performance for graphics users versus regular office workers, there are, of course, similarities. As in all virtual desktop environments, end user experience is critical. The key performance indicator for professional graphical applications is frame rate. Even though different use cases have different frame rate requirements, the way of measuring frame rate is similar for every end user.

In addition to frame rate, the common performance metrics used for standard workloads are the same for GPU-enabled virtual desktop deployments. These metrics include performance indicators like CPU utilization, memory usage and disk I/O. Using graphics intensive applications introduces new important performance indicators like GPU utilization, network usage and CPU utilization on the endpoint device.

Graphical workloads

Because of the many complexities, we decided not to create a graphical workload, but to instead provide a customizable graphical testing framework which can use any graphical application with different visualization modes, models and frame rate requirements.

By providing a “template” graphics workload--which contains only the basic workload commands to get started--it is easy to incorporate the graphics application of the end user. As long as the application supports some kind of automation (for example, using an API, keystrokes or a macro), it can be used in the Graphics Framework.

Analyzing data

Some applications, like AutoCAD, can report the frame rate for certain actions (like spinning a model) by itself. But not all applications will allow generating a file with frame rate. For this we rely on an external application called FRAPS. In addition to frame rate on the application level, another important frame rate metric is the frame rate on the protocol level (for example over HDX or PCoIP). This is what the end user will actually see. A high frame rate within the application will not matter if the frame rate forwarded by the protocol is too low. The Login VSI Graphics Framework includes a flexible data collector to gather data on protocol level and generates CSV files which can be parsed by the Graphics Analyzer.

The Login VSI Graphics Framework is very dynamic, meaning that the data gathered during tests will be different per customer. We rewrote the Login VSI Analyzer to report on any data gathered during tests. As long as the data is formatted in Login VSI format, a chart will be generated for each collected dataset.

One big difference between the regular Login VSI Analyzer and the Graphics Analyzer is that the Graphics Analyzer will not report on a VSImax (which the regular Login VSI Analyzer does). This is because the frame rate requirement is different for different uses. You will be able to decide yourself which frame rate suits best for your end users and scale your virtual desktop environment accordingly.

Since gathering data on the host-level is separate from the regular test results, the Graphics Analyzer supports importing of external data (CSV format). By combining data from the guest level (gathered by the Login VSI Graphics Framework) with the host level data and endpoint device level performance metrics (which can be imported in the Graphics Analyzer), full insight can be generated about the performance from end to end.

graphics workload vdi analyzer

Login VSI GFX Workload Analyzer - Framerate (FPS)

graphics workload vdi analyzer external data

Login VSI GFX Workload Analyzer - External Data


With the Login VSI Graphics Framework, we’ve created a highly dynamic framework which can be customized to every end-user’s needs. By combining the end-user’s application, models and visualization styles, any scenario can be tested in a GPU-enabled virtual desktop environment.

Interested in trying out the new Graphics Framework? Contact us for more information.

About the author

Floris van der Ploeg (@fvdploeg) was an R&D engineer at Login VSI where he researched and developed product innovations. In addition to finding out more about the company roadmap, you can also ask Floris about snowboarding, wind surfing and ice hockey.

Tags: Features, Login VSI, Graphics Framework, Workloads, Product Updates

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