XenServer 5.6 includes a tech preview feature for Multi-GPU Passthrough that I think is going to be a winner with customers using XenDesktop HDX 3D Pro Graphics. Until now, multi-user hypervisors have not offered GPU access. As a result, there has been no choice but to use physical machines to deliver 3D professional graphics applications that demand the hardware acceleration of a graphics card to efficiently render very large models (millions of vertices) like airplanes and automobiles or a CT scan of the human body. While this approach has provided the outstanding performance that power users require, it gets expensive since you need one physical data center workstation (typically a blade or rack workstation) per concurrent user. That’s where Multi-GPU Passthrough comes in. Now you can share that host workstation across multiple users, one per GPU card. Since high-end CAD/CAM, GIS and Medical Imaging applications often do most of their processing on the GPU, there’s generally plenty of CPU to go around on a multi-core processor, not only for the 3D graphics users but also for regular XenDesktop office workers. So, a host workstation with four GPUs could serve four simultaneous 3D graphics power users and also, if desired, some number of regular knowledge workers who don’t need expensive server-side graphics hardware acceleration. Pretty cool, huh?

If you’d be interested in evaluating this new capability, please email me and I can send you a soon-to-be-published Tech Note on this topic.

Derek Thorslund
Citrix Product Strategist, HDX