Page 18 - Campus Technology, January/February 2018
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Virtualizing graphics acceleration conveys several benefits to engineering curriculums.
FOR INSTITUTIONS ALREADY familiar with the con- cept of virtualization, virtual graphics acceleration should make sense fairly quickly. Essentially, it’s a relatively straightforward and inexpensive way to boost the power of virtualization.
Virtual graphics acceleration does away with performance problems on client devices and lets remote students using any device to run highly demanding graphics-intensive appli- cations remotely. That includes programs such as AutoCAD, Cadence, SOLIDWORKS, and MATLAB. It can even accel- erate Windows 10 performance, with its increase in graph- ics calls just to display the desktop. With GPU technology, graphic intensive programs that might otherwise be too slow to be useable by a remote user can run seamlessly anywhere.
As with any powerful technology, adopting virtual GPU technology is a complex move that shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. Here are some of the performance benefits virtual GPU technology can deliver:
1. Virtualization is already a proven technology on many campuses, and is familiar to IT staff, who often use server and storage virtualization. Some have tried desktop virtual-
ization installations in labs via VDI or desktop-as-a-service (DaaS). Virtual graphics acceleration takes virtualization a step further, addressing power and performance issues that often occur with graphics-intensive applications.
2. If you have a distance learning program that requires student access to high-compute applications, or assumes client devices are equipped with a graphics accelerator, a virtual GPU system can eliminate performance issues. It can deliver the quality of an on-campus, in-lab learning ex- perience to students anywhere, including residence halls, off-campus areas, and even overseas campuses.
3. On campus, graphics virtualization lets students run high-end applications right in class, or in the li- brary, residence hall or anywhere—instead of heading to the lab after class to compete for limited seats.
4. With the advent of bring-your-own-devices, this technol- ogy can ease the burden on IT by making it far easier to sup- port a wide range of devices. Application are virtually streamed to client devices, instead of directly downloaded. Students can use iPads, smartphones, tablets, and thin clients.
5. One appeal of virtualization is increased simplicity, since IT doesn’t have to regularly provision and update student-owned laptops. Instead, all software manage- ment comes from the datacenter. Supported by a virtual infrastructure, low-end workstations or thin clients work as student computing devices in classrooms and labs, re- ducing the need for expensive workstations.
6. Students no longer need to purchase high-end lap- tops to access graphics-intensive applications. This can be a big draw for institutions competing for students, since it makes engineering programs, for example, much more accessible.
7. Graphics virtualization is highly secure because it essentially only exchanges pixels with user desktops, en- hancing security with little effort on the part of IT.
For IT leaders who have been hesitant to embrace desktop virtualization because of performance concerns, graphics accelerated VDI ensures remote students, even elsewhere in the world, have the same computing experi- ence as their counterparts in the classroom or lab.

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