Why Aren’t More Companies using PCoIP for High-End Workstations?
I recently had the opportunity to deliver a really cool evaluation demo of our High Performance Workstations to a well known movie studio famous for their animated movies. The evaluation was received so well by both the IT department and end-users (artists) that I had to wonder why more companies which need to consolidate HPWs aren’t taking advantage of the PCoIP® (PC-over-IP) technology that our partner Teradici® introduced over 8 years ago. The only thing I can figure is that it must just be new tech reluctance-itis.
If you know any IT directors or operations managers, they may have shared with you the pain points of welcoming new technology in to their datacenters, as it will often require more resources to administer, cause security problems and take time to train staff in handling issues that will inevitably come up. These teams are responsible for providing the tools for the animation artists, securing the assets of the company from unauthorized access, and providing the networking and software environment to enable the artists to work on their next blockbuster animated movie. So when I arrived with a new black box of unknown headaches at their office I knew that I’d have to be as little trouble as possible to my hosts.
So there I was, with this pretty cool little workstation: Dual Intel® Xeon™ E5-2680 CPUs with 128GB RAM, NVIDIA® Quadro® K6000, and a 120GB SSD for Linux (RHEL 6.3). This machine was what every artist would want to have under their desk to use in creating the next great animated masterpiece (queue: angel chorus). However, this was a little different because…
…this artist’s workstation is NOT under their desk!
Nope, instead, I put the workstation in the DATACENTER! “What!?, how is this possible?” you say. It’s because we were going to deploy it using Teradici’s PCoIP technology in order to get the video out of this very nice (read $$$) video card and analyze the pixel display command that would normally go to a monitor and send those commands (securely and efficiently compressed) to a small zero client sitting a cubicle. Even better, it was with a 2560X1600 monitor, and a Wacomm tablet that is also a 1600×1200 monitor. Wait, high-def over IP with no latency? Yup!
Interested? Thought so… here’s the story.
I had shipped a crate with a Cirrascale rack mountable Modular Blade Chassis (MBC) to San Jose earlier the week before, and it had arrived and was mounted with the workstation blade in a standard 19” rack before I got there. I did some minor testing, had to change a few configuration items, worked with their networking people to allow this foreign PC onto the network without sending “Alert, the network has been compromised” alarms. After an hour or so it was up and running on my test zero client I had brought with me. Since it was getting late on a Friday, and my host wanted to get a jump-start on the afternoon traffic we left.
On Tuesday, I was back at the customer’s offices, but in a different building this time, and went to see one of the artists that had been selected to test out the system. He showed me the 30” monitor as well as the tablet setup at a second desk in his office and I showed him how the zero client he would be using worked. 2 DVI, 2 USB (mouse and keyboard), power, and an audio jack was plugged in and the zero client was powered up (Quick note: I keep saying zero client instead of thin client because the zero client has no native OS like a thin client’s embedding Linux or windows CE running on a system-on-chip (SOC)).
I walked him through the different menus and we confirmed with the network security folks that the new MAC address they had detected was legit. We received an IP address and then connected to the workstation in the datacenter. I was very happy (and a little relieved to see the connection establish) as the artist wasted no time in firing up the applications that he needed to see and was pleased by the performance of the system. We had essentially extended the DVI cables over Ethernet from his NVIDIA K6000 to his two monitors and he was seeing NO lag, crisp mouse performance, 2 stunningly high-resolution monitors and his normal working environment. What he wasn’t seeing was a big tower PC under the desk, he wasn’t feeling the 2000W of heat on his legs, nor was he hearing the 3-4 fans the system would have been using to keep cool. All he had was a small (book sized) box connected to his monitors and accessories. He got to use a workstation that would be the envy of his co-workers and get access to that workstation from his office, the lab, the conference room, the auditorium, wherever a small black zero client had been setup. He was pretty pleased.
Guess who else was pleased? The IT staff. I didn’t give them anything they didn’t know how to rack and stack. The only entry into their secure network was for 2 MAC addresses. They did see the network traffic for the port PCoIP uses, but were quick to prioritize that over the network just like they do VOIP calls.
I just kept thinking… Why aren’t more companies using PCoIP for high end workstations?
For those who may want to know, I did have a couple of items that I discussed with the IT crew that I thought I’d point out.
POWER: Although, I had only one of these HPWs in the evaluation, they could quickly see how if told to deploy a traditional tower workstation using 2000W under 50 artists’ desks, they would have had to figure out how to supply an additional 100,000W of power of single phase AC to the cubical farms where the artists are stationed. But using the PCoIP solution, that’s not the case. I mentioned in passing that I could house those same 50 workstations in less than two racks and power it up with 3-phase 208V 50A circuits. They were suitably impressed.
SUPPORT and SECURITY: Also I asked, what happens when their current workstations have issues? Don’t they hate going to the cubicle area to crawl around under a desk to pull the tower out and move it to the technical area to be repaired? Yup, was the response. I said now that the HPW are already in the datacenter they never have to crawl around under a desk to work on the user’s systems and they’re secure too. That had not occurred to them and now I was no longer a problem in their eyes but a solution. It was pretty cool to see them considering that if a user had a problem with a system, a single press of the disconnect button on the zero client would release that machine and they could then re-connect to a working system (in about 15 seconds!). They loved the fact that the system needing help was ALREADY in their datacenter, and as a bonus it was secured against tampering or theft. They wouldn’t have to fly up to Burbank to work on the system or have someone ship it to them. They thought that was totally worth it.
DISTANCE: Oh, sorry, I said San Jose before, right? Yeah, that’s not a mistake… the building where the artist works isn’t in San Jose. I had to do the installation of the HPW there, but the artist is actually in BURBANK! The DVI over Ethernet solution was spanning 350 MILES and that was why everyone was so impressed. The evaluation was to see how well a building full of artists could see workstations in another building (the datacenter) in the same city and we suggested San Jose to Burbank as an extreme test case. Sweet!
Man, PCoIP is truly amazing. And I want to get the message out to every CTO/CIO and Director of IT. If you’re struggling with supplying High Performance Workstations to your top Artists, Engineers, Architects, Analysts, or anyone in your organization that MUST have GPU connected workstations to do their jobs, then you NEED to explore PCoIP as a fundamental game changer for deploying expensive assets to employees that can’t do their jobs without them.
If you need more information, or want to learn more about our high performance workstations featuring PCoIP solutions from Teradici, you can call us at (858) 874-3800 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.