Giving Boxx’s Pro VDI a test drive
Business executives and IT administrators alike have long been enamored with platform virtualization technology, and rightfully so. the advantages of hosting virtual desktops remotely in the data center are well-known and precisely the reason VDI — Virtual Deskstop Infrastructure (VDI), one but not the only example of hosted virtual desktops — has grown from nothing to a near $6 billion dollar business.
With the relatively recent advent of GPU-accelerated server-hosted virtual machines, businesses that rely on traditional workstations (deskside towers and mobile laptops) can finally join the virtual hosting opportunity. Many are in the process now of evaluating virtual workstation solutions to determine if they might replace or complement a business’s existing traditional workstation infrastructure.
But users don’t have the same interests and computing environments that executives and administrators do. Whereas the latter are concerned with security, cost, management and other business issues, the former’s concerns are only about doing their jobs effectively and efficently. And that means running their critical applications and workflow as effectively on a remotely hosted virtual machine as they’ve done it with traditional physical machines at their desk. If they can do that, great. But if they can’t, then all those promised benefits of virtualization are moot.
And that’s why we were intrigued to test a new product from Boxx Technologies, a server optimized to host virtual workstations to serve professional-caliber, graphics-intensive applications. Could it deliver a workstation experience comparable to traditional deskside machines?
Boxx aggressively exploring virtual workstation technology with multiple hardware options
A respected long-time vendor of high-performance workstations for CAD and Media/Entertainment applications, Boxx has flourished in the face of Tier 1 workstation competition (i.e. HP, Dell and Lenovo) by pushing the envelope on technologies and new computing approaches. On the latter front, the company is leaving no stone unturned in its attempt to be a leader in the emerging arena of virtual workstations.
The company has introduced not one but two Boxx-branded server lines equipped with GPU accelerators and optimized for virtual workstation hosting: Pro VDI and GRID. The GRID brand product delivers an official Nvidia GRID vGPU solution running on Tesla GPU-based boards, while Pro VDI products a built on Quadro professional graphics boards. Why both a GRID compliant and non-GRID product line? Well, the answer is two-fold. Some feel that dedicating a physical GPU to a virtual machine (VM; i.e. vDGA) performs better than a VM with GRID vGPU running a dedicated (single-user) profile.
The second answer is likely the more important one: Nvidia GRID licensing. Running an official GRID solution on top of Tesla M-series GPUs (and future GPUs, presumably) requires one of three GRID license options. The appropriate license for professional applications is the Virtual Workstation license, and that’s substantially more expensive — expensive enough for many to pass on GRID and stick with the existing vDGA solutions running on Quadro or AMD Radeon Pro boards.