For many traditional CAD, CAE and PLM based industries with rigorous product lifecycle control such as Automotive and Aerospace, virtualisation has been approached with caution. CAD moves slowly and the cost of change is large and concerns over network speed, security and the maturity of solutions meant many held off, surveying the Cloud and virtualisation from afar, waiting to see if the benefits outweighed the risks.

This week, with a tech preview of GPU hardware sharing for VDI; Citrix and NVIDIA introduced another piece to what is now a very compelling portfolio that delivers all the elements needed to virtualise CAD and PLM on large scales. Citrix XenServer and XenDesktop really have become the natural CAD and PLM platform.

vGPU – True hardware GPU sharing

Complementing Citrix’s existing GPU passthrough and GPU hardware sharing for Windows Server workloads,this new technology enables the benefits of GPU acceleration to be exploited at lower costs. GPU passthrough has been in use for a while, enabling designers like those at Boeing to work using applications such as Dassault CATIA remotely. Our existing software GPU sharing technologies have proved great at delivering graphically intensive applications such as Dassault SolidWorks, Ansys Workbench and Fluent and Autodesk Applications. By offering the full portfolio of GPU passthrough and true hardware shared GPUs via vGPU, Citrix’s portfolio offers organisations the best possible flexibility to optimise their usage of GPU technologies. Mayunk has detailed the options available and I’d recommend his blog post and guides to explore the options.

We’ve been working not only with NVIDIA on their newest GRID cards but also the major server vendors such as HP, Dell, Cisco, IBM and Supermicro to ensure these technologies are fine tuned for the XenServer Hypervisor to maximise performance with the NVIDIA GPUs. HP themselves have produced an insightful guide on the benefits of vGPU over other technologies.

Those who work in CAD know that for every designer designing that screw, there are 100s of users of the PDM and PLM systems such as Siemens PLM Teamcenter or Dassault’s Enovia – viewing that screw, tracking it on the BoM (Bill of Materials) etc. GPU virtualisation offers the opportunity make it practical and cost-effective for these workers to work more effectively with responsive high-definition applications.


Citrix XenDesktop allows you to deliver desktops and applications to employees freeing them from traditional workstations. XenDesktop allows you to centrally standardise, upgrade and backup those desktops. In industries that handle a lot of proprietary data and 3-D models this means you can guarantee backups and anti-virus are run across the whole company. Data is retained safe in a secure datacenter and in the event of a disaster such as the Japanese tsunami or Colarado Floods workers can regain access to that stored data easily and rapidly.

Centralising and tracking parts becomes easier ensuring duplication or forked development doesn’t occur, confidential data is protected because it hasn’t been downloaded onto a thousand workstations by CAD designers.

Netscaler and CloudBridge Branch Repeater

Citrix doesn’t just do server virtualisation but is the leader in networking infrastructure technologies needed to allow virtualisation to scale. Products like Netscaler increase performance whilst reducing and balancing network load to reduce costs and reduce latency. This is key to ensuring responsiveness for designers and knowledge workers handling 3-D or highly visual remotely.

Citrix Netscaler SDX runs XenServer itself ensuring coherence through out a virtualisation deployment, allowing the flexibility and applications to be run on the Netscaler itself. It’s been a few years since the power and automation technology group ABB made user workstations with worldwide distributed CAD applications available as virtual desktops via XenDesktop leveraging CloudBridge Branch Repeater to eliminate latency obstacles to deliver applications such as Siemens SolidEdge to engineers in India without the models leaving the datacenter in Switzerland. With the Citrix-NVIDIA portfolio of GPU technologies those desktops can now go turbo!

Citrix GoToMeeting

CAD/CAE and PLM are all about design and collaboration, recently the CAD industry DesignNews listed GoToMeeting as one of the top 4 tools for designer productivity. Solidworks have already deployed Citrix GoToMeeting to their own R&D team and other employees at the company. Allowing Dassault’s employees to share and debug projects remotely with those vital responsive visuals and without part data leaving the datacenter.

Citrix Receiver

Citrix is the mobility virtualisation company. We don’t just do server virtualisation but the whole stack of mobility solutions that allow you to deliver visualisation to any device anywhere. Key to delivering this is Citrix Receiver, a software client that lets you access your applications, desktops and data easily and securely from any device, including smartphones, tablets, PCs and Macs. Under-the-hood Receiver has some phenomenal compression techniques to support the kind of high quality, high definition, responsive experience that CAD and CAE designers need and are used to.

This is exciting as it means rather than being tied to their workstations CAD users can take the data and work in new ways, an engineer can reference parts on a tablet (e.g. an iPad) down on the production line. Ship builders on site can reference vast plans and assemblies back in the data center on a mobile phone.


Citrix offers secure file and data sharing for those who want enterprise level file-sharing and want to avoid insecure options such as Dropbox. Citrix ShareFile is an enterprise follow-me data solution that enables IT to deliver a robust data sharing and sync service that meets the mobility and collaboration needs of users and the data security requirements faced by most CAD users. No more emailed parts or lost memory sticks!

Experience in large scale deployments

Citrix has a wealth of experience in large scale enterprise deployments but also in Cloud. Industries such as Automotive, Automation, Aerospace and ship-building include vast organisations and multiple geographic sites with complex and varied server rooms, processes and legacy baggage.
XenServer is a commercial product based upon the open source Xen hypervisor that powers the Amazon EC2 Cloud, with the associated scalability. Rackspace use XenServer to deploy one of the world’s largest clouds. In Enterprise Virtualisation XenServer’s experience with large diverse organisations such as Tesco, SK Telecom and Disney mean we really understand the challenges of scales that CAD, CAE and PLM face.

Security in Virtualisation

Virtualisation offers huge benefits for data protection and security. As a hypervisor XenServer has worked with Intel to ensure we integrate with their new secure boot technology and full Intel TXT secure boot support is already available. XenDesktop allows administrators to ensure backup and anti-virus software is centrally controlled, updated and orchestrated to minimise network load. XenServer also has a long history in US government and federal deployments.

Virtualisation doesn’t have to mean public cloud, but it can if that is appropriate to reduce costs. In practice we expect to see a mixture of secure private enterprise server virtualisation and private cloud augmented by the flexibility and services public cloud can offer.

Virtualisation addresses legacy constraints

XenServer is a hypervisor and acts as a layer that abstracts the user and operating system from physical hardware it running on. This means you can run multiple OSs, both Linux and Windows on the same hardware, XenServer’s Virtual Machine Guide details the numerous OSs supported. This is perfect for CAD and PLM where version-up tests and regression testing run millions of tests. This also enables industries with long support cycles to maintain legacy operating systems and software.

The software vendors are convinced

CAD, CAE and PLM vendors also seem convinced that virtualisation is now inevitable, with the familiar names investing heavily in virtualisation and GPU enablement, alongside a clutch of hotshots.

Update: I’ve written a newer blog, specific to the demands of PLM based on a joint collaboration between PLM analysts CIMdata, IBM, Citrix and NVIDIA.

Update: If you found this post of interest please come to our webinar on 11th December 2013, register here.

For those wanting to learn more XenDesktop have a whitepaper available elaborating on some of the topics touched upon. If you want to try it for yourself please do visit our vGPU tech preview page.  Please note that you will need a valid MyCitrix login, and active XenDesktop Subscription Advantage to access this content.