Take Five With Tom Fenton

VDI Benefits for CAD Environments

Computer-aided drawing used to be way too taxing for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) software. Those days are gone.

TAKE 1
Save money through sharing graphic cards. Top-of-the-line graphic cards by NVIDIA, AMD and Intel are so advanced that during a normal CAD work session they'll only consume a fraction of their resources. These cards aren't inexpensive; using VDI allows them to be shared among many different users. VMware and Citrix offer Virtual GPU (vGPU) technologies that allow the sharing of a single graphic card among multiple users.

TAKE 2
Save money -- again -- through sharing servers and software. Like graphics cards, CAD-capable workstations and CAD software can be very expensive. But by putting these resources in a shared pool, they can be more effectively and efficiently used, reducing the cost per user.

TAKE 3
Mobility. CAD models can be huge. If workers are working remotely and without VDI, the engineer will need to download CAD files to his local system. It takes a considerable amount of time to transfer files to a remote workstation. With VDI, most of the data is stored relatively close to the computer resource; and these files won't need to be transferred to a local server.

CAD applications are some of the most demanding workloads you can run; it takes millions of GPU and CPU cycles to complete the complex calculations needed to work with CAD models.

Until recently, the only way to deliver that much power was for each engineer to have his own local workstation. This approach prohibited organizations from gaining the benefits that VDI can provide. But with some of the recent advancements in VDI, these prohibitions are no longer valid. There are many benefits to running CAD on a virtual desktop, but five of the most important ones are performance of graphics, shared resources, mobility, survivability and security. Here's a closer look at each.

TAKE 4
Survivability. If an engineer is working on a CAD model on a local system and a catastrophic event happens, those models will probably be lost. The associated cost of time lost in the recreation of models can be very high. With VDI, CAD models are stored on enterprise storage and protected using enterprise best practices; thus, the likelihood of losing data is greatly reduced.

TAKE 5
Security. The U.S. space shuttle program was among the first cases of Internet espionage. Thousands of documents and engineering drawings found their way into unauthorized users' hands. By using VDI CAD models, engineering drawings and other documents are stored in the datacenter, making them much more secure than having them stored outside the datacenter.

There used to be significant barriers that prevented VDI from being a practical solution for CAD applications, but in recent years many of these barriers have collapsed. The benefits of VDI are many, so if your company uses CAD applications you should take a look and see if VDI could be a valid solution.

About the Author

Tom Fenton works in VMware's Education department as a Senior Course Developer. He has a wealth of hands-on IT experience gained over the past 20 years in a variety of technologies, with the past 10 years focused on virtualization and storage. Before re-joining VMware, Tom was a Senior Validation Engineer with The Taneja Group, were he headed their Validation Service Lab and was instrumental in starting up its vSphere Virtual Volumes practice. He's on Twitter @vDoppler.

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