While most of the world has quickly adapted to a remote working model based on the cloud, professionals in the field of creative, design, and graphics work are yet to make the transition, as they are still tied to their high-end workstations with specialised graphics cards for rendering and creating complex images or videos. In this ‘work from anywhere’ scenario, graphic design professionals strongly require the facility of collaborating in real-time on large or complex projects. However, this is very difficult in the current setup, as user files are typically stored locally on workstations.
Graphics workstations are extremely expensive to operate as they require specialised hardware. For example, graphic design software is usually a graphics processing unit (GPU) intensive and hence, one would need workstations that have faster processors. One also needs huge amounts of RAM, to run graphics-intensive tools smoothly. Scaling up this infrastructure is not easy, as it is costly and complex requiring hardware to be configured right from the processor speed, screen resolution, and even hard disk speed.
As image or video files are mostly large in size, uploading and downloading them to a common repository is a major challenge. Performing such a task consumes not only huge amounts of time but also a lot of network bandwidth, often resulting in projects being delayed.
Virtual workstations are equipped with remote display technologies to facilitate the delivery of rendered, encrypted pixels from data center to remote client.
Also, many a time, users are unable to access applications and files from a remote site or home, which negatively impacts productivity. Interrupted workflows associated with network latency and lengthy cycle time for remote file access or editing are the typical issues encountered by graphic designers, especially in a situation where multiple users work on the same project file on central storage. From an infrastructure perspective, the constant cycle of hardware upgrades due to evolving technology makes existing hardware obsolete within a short period of time. There is also an additional risk of theft of an intellectual property design that is left unsecured on an individual’s workstation.
The promise of virtual workstations
Virtual workstations can address the challenges discussed above by providing access and computing power from the data center. These workstations are powered by GPUs that enhance the user experience by offloading tasks from the CPU. Virtual workstations can include many cores, with the GPU memory going up to 256GB, starting from 16GB. Each workstation can be shared among multiple users or a pool can be created to deploy identical applications to a specific group of users and automate workstation provisioning. As the software applications run on servers inside the data center, including real-time 3D graphics rendering, the client device does not need to be very powerful. It can run on any operating system and users can access their software applications and content on low-cost PCs, laptops, zero clients, tablets, and even smartphones using standard browsers and a normal internet connection.
These workstations are also equipped with remote display technologies to facilitate the delivery of rendered, encrypted pixels from the data center to the remote client. The graphics commands of each virtual machine are passed directly to the GPU, without translation by the hypervisor. This allows the GPU hardware to be allocated to each user to deliver the ultimate virtualised graphics performance. Moreover, actual data never leave the controlled environment of the data center. This ensures that the company’s sensitive data cannot fall into the wrong hands through misplaced or insecure laptops. Data remains in the data center and cannot be copied to laptops or USB drives.
While this is an exciting technology, not every organisation is equipped to efficiently tap the potential of virtual workstations. Like any other technology, there are the usual challenges of cost of deployment, management, and capacity upgrades. When more apps or services are added, many organisations face difficulty in delivering a consistent user experience. As the number of users increases, organisations experience scalability issues in maintaining the quality of service.
Today, graphic design professionals need world-class graphics workstations in a pay-per-use consumption-based model, equipped with reliable support.
Graphics Workstation-as-a-Service model
Today, more than ever, graphic design professionals need world-class graphics workstations in a pay-per-use consumption-based model, equipped with reliable support. A managed service provider can ensure the expected performance and resolve issues quickly by delivering a consistent user experience on any device while protecting user application and content.
If this is offered in a Graphics Workstation-as-a-Service model, users can experience a physical workstation-like visual using any device in a cost-effective manner. This opens up a host of possibilities, from the use of intensive 3D CAD software to a design project where multiple engineers across different remote locations work on the same design file simultaneously.
Graphics Workstation-as-a-Service model has many benefits: enhanced productivity, remote collaboration, intellectual property protection, and cost savings.
Managed service providers also enable users to choose the devices that are right for them and their work style with a universal client who works natively on the broadest range of desktops, laptops, thin clients, tablets, and smartphones. The service can be accessed from any browser or device supporting remote visualisation.
Today, graphic designers can choose from a variety of GPU-supported applications. Some of the popular ones include Adobe After Effects CC that supports motion graphics and effects; Autodesk AutoCAD for 2D and 3D CAD design, drafting, modeling, and architectural drawings; NVIDIA Iray that offers photorealistic rendering solutions; and Autodesk Maya, the 3D modeling, animation, and rendering tool.
The role of managed service providers
As managed service providers work with the latest technologies, they are best equipped to provide the optimum price-performance ratio. For example, they use the adaptive H.265-based Deep Compression Technology, which enables optimal performance on WAN and wireless networks, while giving access to sharp, responsive 3D graphics applications from anywhere. Similarly, HDX 3D Pro can offer a CPU-based lossless codec to support applications where pixel-perfect graphics are required.
The Graphics Workstation-as-a-Service model can provide a range of benefits.
- Enhanced productivity is achieved due to the ability to deliver superior graphics performance with the same responsive experience as a physical workstation.
- Collaboration from anywhere is possible as professionals can use the device of their choice to access fully 3D-capable virtual workstations from anywhere.
- Protection of intellectual property is ensured as new employees and contractors can be onboarded while ensuring the security of protected files in the data center.
- Lower TCO is incurred as organisations can opt for OPEX-based plans instead of committing capital upfront.
- Quicker provisioning is realised as managed service providers can quickly provide the required infrastructure on demand.
- Organisations save on hardware refresh costs as all infrastructure is provided by the managed service provider.
Other benefits include improved disaster recovery and business continuity; fewer IT helpdesk calls; reduction in unplanned downtime; and better user experience, productivity, and management.
Undoubtedly, Graphics Workstation-as-a-Service is now a necessity. Looking at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the huge changes in the way we work, it is high time that organisations start leveraging the significant benefits of virtual workstations and unleash the imagination of creative professionals by unfastening them from the traditional IT infrastructure.
By Sashishekhar Panda, Head of Products & Services, Yotta