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The reason why your SBC or VDI users prefer their laptops

The reason why your SBC or VDI users prefer their laptops

Users are becoming more resource intensive when it comes to graphically rich media and you’ve seen it with many web applications, Microsoft PowerPoint, rich-media websites built with HTML 5, and even other business critical applications like radiology applications. These are all apps you’d expect to see at some point in a modern workspace, virtual or not.

Giving the graphics a boost

As personal devices become more and more equipped with hardware that can offload the main processor from the tasks of rendering all this beautiful imagery, the applications that leverage that compute power will only continue to demand more. As you move into the enterprise, those workspaces will likely be centralized, but the expectations of the end users will not change. If they can get a better experience from their physical gear, that is where they will prefer to work from. If they can get an equal or, ideally, better experience from the hosted application or desktop, then you will find your solutions to be popular and productive with the end-user community.

This hardware that offloads the graphics processing from the central CPU is called a Graphics Processing Unit or GPU. GPUs are awesome, but in some cases you have to tell the operating environment to take advantage of that GPU. See below for some examples of how hardware acceleration is enabled by default on your favorite apps to take advantage of the GPU hardware when available.

1. Google Chrome setting for hardware acceleration

Google Chrome hardware acceleration

2. Microsoft Office 2016 setting for hardware acceleration

Microsoft office 2016

3. Microsoft Internet Explorer setting for hardware acceleration. Fun fact: Did you know that Internet Explorer is consistently the Top CPU consuming processes (total impact) in the VDI Like a Pro Survey?

IE hardware acceleration

The latest VDI Like a Pro survey revealed that 56% of respondents think the CPU can handle the activities now designed for GPUs and therefore don’t use GPUs. Despite this feedback, the usage of GPU, and NVIDIA GRID specifically, grew from 6% in 2014 to 25% in 2017, while “No GPU” declined from 78% in 2014 to 56% in 2017. When asked what the most important Workspace/EUC initiatives for 2017/2018 were, the 3rd most important was GPU Tech in VDI/SBC.

Would you like to know how GPUs can benefit your specific solutions?

So, let’s say that you are providing published applications or virtual desktops, and you want to make sure that your users are feeling that ‘flow’ or great responsiveness AT SCALE. You are probably asking yourself how GPUs would factor into your existing or new hosted solutions. The answer… “it depends”. There are plenty of different mechanisms you can invoke to get the desired behaviour and efficiency from the system, and the results may surprise you as the relationship between the CPU, GPU and applications can sometimes do what we expect, and other times give you results you didn’t.

Well, we’ve done some testing and here is what our Multimedia Workload showed us when running XenDesktop on XenServer with NVIDIA GRID M60 vGPUs.

When using the Multimedia Workload we could see the virtual machines immediately hand over the cycles from the CPU to the vGPU, that also came with a corresponding increase in framerate (FPS) and decrease in CPU utilization. Here’s what the virtual user was watching.

Multimedia workload

In this scenario an HTML 5 3D video plays at different resolutions within Google Chrome while the framerate is boosted, it still appears to be throttled by either the protocol or the GRID card.

graphic image 1

Conversely, when we tested without a vGPU enabled virtual machine, the use of software rendering by the CPU shows a maxed out processor that corresponds to a much lower framerate.

graphic image 2

Note: The Multimedia Workload does not capture virtual machine performance data by default. Our professional services team can work with you to instrument your workload to capture data like protocol framerate, application framerate and processor utilization. If you really want to know what is going on in a system like this, capturing host data, GPU data and virtual machine data is going to help you know exactly what is going on in the system.

Perhaps you’d like to do some testing yourself. If you are not already a Login VSI customer please go HERE for a free trial. If you are a Login VSI customer then you can go get the new workload here.

About the author

Blair Parkhill (@SANspyder) joined Login VSI in the summer of 2015 as the director of products. Blair has been a marketing leader, avid architect and supporter of customer-focused technology solutions and technical marketing since the late 1990s. Residing in Colorado Springs, he spends much of his time playing music, doing yoga, hiking in the mountains and geeking out with the latest tech.