With the recent introduction of XenDesktop 5.5, our HDX 3D Pro technology for delivering professional graphics has taken another giant step forward. 3D Pro led the way in remoting high-end OpenGL and DirectX applications when it was released two years ago. We focused first on building an architecture capable of efficiently rendering very large and complex 3D models (hundreds of thousands or even millions of vertices), with broad app compatibility. And we introduced a GPU-based technology for deep compression that made it possible to deliver CAD/CAM and other 3D applications over long haul networks to engineers and designers half way around the world. This helped many organizations leverage the global talent pool while keeping their intellectual property safe in the confines of the data center. And it eliminated the long delays that used to result from transferring huge files around the planet.

Now we’re pleased to offer several very important enhancements to HDX 3D Pro:

  • Unified software installation and upgrade of the Virtual Desktop Agent
  • Support for GPU-accelerated deep compression with NVIDIA Fermi cards
  • Access from all Citrix Receivers
  • Multi-monitor support
  • Multi-GPU Passthrough with XenServer 6
  • Administrator policies for bandwidth and image quality control

First, we’ve integrated HDX 3D Pro into the standard XenDesktop Virtual Desktop Agent (VDA), whereas it used to be a separate add-on VDA. This has helped to simplify installation and upgrades.

Secondly, we’ve updated our deep compression codec so that it can be used with NVIDIA’s latest graphics cards. The new Fermi architecture cards from NVIDIA such as the Q2000/4000/5000/6000 and M2070Q offer outstanding performance, with many more CUDA cores than previous generation cards at the same price point.

Next, we’ve added automatic fallback to basic CPU-based compression when connecting from a Citrix Receiver that doesn’t yet support our advanced HDX 3D Pro codecs. This greatly broadens the range of devices that can be used with this technology. As long as the device has a fast CPU and you have adequate network bandwidth, you can use any Citrix Receiver to view 3D drawings delivered by HDX 3D Pro. It’s a very useful enhancement for an engineer on the shop floor who needs to view a drawing on his iPad 2 or Android tablet without returning to his desk.

Our most requested 3D Pro enhancement has been support for dual or multiple monitors. Beyond the original remote access use case, multi-monitor support now opens up the opportunity to use HDX 3D Pro as a workstation replacement solution. Organizations can simplify the hardware at each user’s desk, keeping all graphics processing hardware in the data center. Of course, the user device must have enough processing power to handle the extra load of a multi-monitor data stream; a dual monitor configuration requires a dual core CPU. Multi-monitor support has been implemented with careful regard to bandwidth efficiency, so using two monitors doesn’t mean double the bandwidth consumption. And special performance optimizations have been implemented for Windows 7 virtual desktops, providing the best multi-monitor user experience in LAN and WAN environments.

Perhaps the most noteworthy leap forward is support for XenServer 6 Multi-GPU Passthrough. Combine the management flexibility of VM-based virtual desktops with the performance of a local GPU and you have Multi-GPU Passthrough. Mix and match desktop workloads on the hypervisor, combining standard virtual desktops and GPU-accelerated 3D Pro desktops for maximum server scalability. We’ve tested HDX 3D Pro extensively with the Release Candidate build of XenServer 6 and we were pleased to see performance very close to bare metal. Over time, more and more hardware platforms and graphics cards will be tested with XenServer 6, but we’re off to a great start with successful results on the HP ws460c blade workstation, the Dell Precision R5500 rack workstation and the IBM HS22 with the BladeCenter GPU Expansion Blade. By the way, XenServer Multi-GPU Passthrough also works great with XenApp HDX 3D, which provides hardware acceleration of DirectX based 3D applications and has the added benefit that each graphics card can be shared by multiple users.

As an administrator, you may have wanted to put some limits on how much bandwidth users consume with 3D Pro. New policy settings allow you to disable lossless compression in environments where it isn’t legitimately needed; lossless is necessary only in specialized applications such as PACS medical imaging, where pixel-perfect image quality is mandatory. For most users, modest use of lossy compression provides a visually lossless picture while conserving network bandwidth. 3D Pro can use more aggressive compression while images are in motion so that movement remains responsive even on 2 Mbps connections, followed by visually lossless or true lossless compression when images become stationary. Administrators can also control the quality range offered in the image quality control tool by configuring a policy in the broker.

Many design engineers use a 3D SpaceMouse to manipulate objects easily. XenDesktop HDX 3D Pro supports the SpaceMouse and other similar devices via USB redirection over the CTXGUSB virtual channel. Since engineers demand high responsiveness and interactivity when using a SpaceMouse, it is common to adjust the priority of the USB virtual channel to 0 to best support these workers. With XenDesktop 5.5 you can now, if desired, further ensure the responsiveness of the SpaceMouse by routing USB traffic over a separate TCP stream, thanks to our new Multi-Stream ICA feature. This gives you full QoS control over ICA USB traffic on your network, in the same way as you can prioritize real-time audio traffic.

Finally, XenDesktop HDX 3D Pro now leverages our latest VM Hosted Apps technology from XenApp to improve the seamless delivery of individual 3D applications into a user’s local desktop, for customers who prefer not to deliver a full virtual desktop. This feature allows multiple applications to be hosted on the same Windows desktop and they can share the same session. With seamless app delivery, hosted 3D graphics applications appear just like local applications on the user’s local desktop.

So, whether you’re about to design the replacement to the Space Shuttle or solve one of the mysteries of the human body, Citrix’s graphics delivery technology can help you work from anywhere even on the most complex 3D models.

Derek Thorslund
Director of Product Management
Citrix Product Strategist for HDX