Three years ago, one of our premier customers came to us and asked us to build a platform that would allow them to deliver 3D applications remotely. There were a few products in the market at that time, both software and hardware based, that could support remote access for 3D graphics. But all of them required at least 5Mbps and latencies below 75 milliseconds. The customer’s requirement was for us to build a solution that provided a usable experience with 2Mbps of bandwidth and tolerate up to 150ms round trip latency. Thus began our journey to create the best 3D virtualization platform. The project has had many names over the years: Pictor, Apollo and Prism. We have invested hundreds of man-years of effort and filed multiple patents. Today I am proud to say that we have accomplished what we set out to do three years ago. We have created XenDesktop 4 - a breakthrough desktop virtualization platform for 3D graphics.
3D graphical applications, like CATIA, Pro/ENGINEER, Autodesk, etc. are used daily by CAD/CAM designers in the manufacturing sector. Research scientists use 3D graphical applications for oil exploration in Oil and Natural Gas companies. These are computationally challenging applications that need high end GPUs (graphical processing units) manufactured by companies like nVIDIA and AMD. These applications often require the most advanced workstations – fastest possible CPU and GPU and the largest amount of memory.
3D applications are difficult to virtualize because performance is key in these applications. The CPU-GPU interaction has been designed to optimally deliver the highest number of frames per second (fps). Any software that is inserted in the middle can reduce the fps delivered to the user and cause a poor user experience. For example, for some complex models with hundreds of thousands of rendering triangles the workstation may create 2-3 frames per second. If the virtualization platform reduces the display rate to 1-2 fps, the difference is perceptible, and the end user will not want to use the application.
In XenDesktop 4, we have extended the latency tolerance optimizations already presented in our HDX technology and added a few new compression algorithms, including some that use the GPU itself to do compression. The result is a 3D virtualization platform that meets the market requirements and delivers the best possible user experience. On the LAN, our solution can perform even better than locally installed applications, because server side GPUs can be more powerful than desktop GPUs. On the WAN there is no other solution that can deliver a usable experience at 2Mbps with 150 ms round trip latency.
You will see this technology platform bear fruit in other areas that affect larger numbers of users. The new Microsoft OS – Windows 7 - leverages the GPU to deliver cool 3D graphical user interfaces. Our experience with high-end 3D graphics will help us effectively solve these problems for millions of users as they migrate to Windows 7. Stay tuned.