Desktop Virtualization for Power Users
May 8, 2014
As I mentioned in a recent post (http://ht.ly/wTPYS) new technologies and software techniques are making the benefits of Virtual Desktop (improved security, operational stability, and possible cost reduction) available to a broader range of users. This time around I want to look at the needs of the serious power user, and to show that even the high-end graphics designer or GeoScientist can be delivered the tools they need via a managed, centralized remote desktop function.
The key enabling technologies for this approach comes from the software virtualization world. Tools like HP’s RGS, Microsoft RDP, VMware’s vDGA and Citrix HDX 3D Pro all provide some mechanism allowing a data-centre hosted graphical resource to be accessed remotely from a desktop, tablet or other display device. Depending on the specific technique and needs of the user, this might facilitate the sharing of a single graphics processor and server among multiple users, or could scale to the point where a server and high-end graphics processor are dedicated to a single user. Either way, both the computational and graphical ‘heavy lifting’ is done in a dense, managed, data centre server, with the display output sent remotely to the user.
This has powerful implications for both IT and the end-user. Imagine a situation where complex, up-to-date schematic and blueprint data is delivered to a field worker across a cellular connection, or 3D seismic interpretations delivered live to a driller. In the office the benefits can be significant, allowing the use of older or lower cost desktops for day-to-day office applications, supplemented with powerful graphics capabilities as needed. Some companies are using this remote graphical desktop capability to get around data location issues – parking the high-end workstation capability next to the multi-terabyte analysis data, and remoting the output to the user. This offers a significant advantage over trying to move large seismic or engineering files around the globe, giving workers with valuable skills access to the data they need for decision making regardless of location of their data. Finally, this technique has been used to allow so-called chasing-the-sun licensing, where an expensive licensed application is used by a worker in Aberdeen for eight hours, then handed off to a worker in Calgary, who hands it off to her counterpart in Singapore at the end of a working day. The data, the server, the graphics card and the license all stay in place – the only things that move are the displayed output.