It used to be that when Citrix admins heard the term “GPU” along with XenApp/XenDesktop, many would just think of high-end professional graphics.

After all, Citrix pioneered this type of graphics delivery with Boeing back in 2006, which led to the release of HDX 3D Pro technology to the industry in 2009.  Delivering AutoDesk, CATIA and other intensive, 3D apps no longer required local hardware and physical location restrictions. These workloads could be delivered to designers just about anywhere in the world on practically any kind of device.

Now, at the end of 2015, GPUs are ready to prove themselves in primetime everyday workloads with XenApp/XenDesktop.

A web browser is one of the most commonly published applications around (largely to ensure proper compatibility, compliance, etc. with corporate web apps). Today’s Internet/Intranet content often contains many high-res images and videos that need to be rendered.

Regular office applications can now benefit hugely from GPU acceleration, including:

  • Web browsers
  • Microsoft Office applications
  • Unified communication applications – Skype for Business, Lync, etc.

Understanding deeper – some data

Respected Citrix experts, Magnar Johnsen and Thomas Poppelgaard, recently posted the results of tests on a number of browsers, including Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox, which concludes adding a GPU to a system hosting a server-based VDA can save a lot of CPU cycles on the host and improve the user experience.

This is a relatively cost-effective way to ensure server scalability while also providing a great user experience. It’s an interesting read, as Magnar explains how:

  • Browsers are evolving at different rates to leverage GPUs
  • How various specific user workflows such as scrolling can be optimized by browsers and other applications

It’s just common sense.

You don’t need to delve into the test data though to realize it all makes sense. Regular desktop users in mainstream offices are simply becoming graphical users in recent years:

  • 20 years ago to learn something you’d have to pick up a paper training manual; 10 years ago it was probably a Word doc, HTML page or PDF file. Now, if you want to learn how to do something you are likely to take an online training course or watch a how-to-guide on YouTube!
  • Information is simply becoming more graphical and users expect this having become used to high quality imagery in films, games and on web pages – you rarely see an HTML page these days that is only text-based!
  • Companies regularly broadcast meetings and announcements by video or conferencing software
  • Skype for Business, Lync and Jabber are becoming standard. All that rich audio data once in the phone network is now on the LAN/WAN along with video data as well!

A Growing Trend

Recently we have seen a sharp rise in the number of people taking up our XenApp GPU sharing solutions for AMD and NVIDIA, as well as the XenDesktop NVIDIA GRID vGPU features for their regular office workers and not just their top 10-20% of high-end designers.

Are you one of them?

Looking ahead to 2016, it is very clear that virtualized graphics technology will become even more mainstream. GPU vendors with their large existing base of 3D customers have also turned their attention to this huge market – Victoria Rege from NVIDIA GRID solutions posted about just this recently. She says that as the global workforce continues to become more mobile, the ability to enable graphics-rich workloads will prove more accessible as barriers are reduced and benefits quickly realized.

I’d love to hear your thoughts below in the comments:

  • Are your end users consuming more graphical content?
  • How are graphics and 3D affecting your hardware needs?
  • How will your company benefit from GPU-enabled workloads?