Nvidia brings its Grid virtual desktop to the masses

Nvidia says its virtual desktop products will start at $2 per user, per month

Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang

Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang at the GTC conference on April 5, 2016

Credit: Nvidia

Nvidia is introducing a new graphics card option for its Grid virtual desktop system, promising to cut the costs of streaming graphics-intensive applications to employees.

The new card, the Tesla M10, includes 4 GPUs and 32GB of memory, or enough compute power to stream desktop apps to 64 end users, according to Nvidia.

Customers buy the graphics hardware in Grid servers from partners such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Dell, Cisco Systems and Nutanix, along with virtualization software such as VMware Horizon, Citrix XenApp and Citrix XenDesktop.

Tesla M10 Nvidia

Proponents say running apps centrally and streaming them to end users can reduce hardware and management costs. Users can get by with cheaper PCs that don't have enough compute power to run graphics-heavy programs. It can also make workers more mobile, because the streamed apps can be accessed from anywhere and on almost any client, including a tablet.

The most obvious use case for Nvidia Grid is demanding applications like those used in engineering and video production. That's where Nvidia's existing Tesla M60 is targeted. It supports a smaller number of users running applications that need the highest levels of graphics performance.

With the new M10 cards, Nvidia wants to branch out into the broader market for office workers, or what it calls knowledge workers. Whether businesses will agree that those workers need a powerful GPU to run their applications on the back-end remains to be seen.

Nvidia Tesla Nvidia

John Fanelli, Nvidia vice president in charge of the Grid products, says knowledge workers need more and more graphics performance every day. "Every marketing person I know uses Photoshop or Illustrator, so these apps are becoming more widely used," he said.

Even Windows 10 and the latest Office applications require a solid graphics engine to run smoothly, he says.

Server makers can put two M10s in a single Grid system, meaning businesses will be able to stream apps to more than 120 workers per server. Nvidia claims that will be the highest density per server in the industry.

Nvidia also sells Grid Virtual Applications, which is software for streaming individual apps, and Grid Virtual Desktop, for streaming an entire desktop environment. (Grid Virtual Workstation is a higher end product for engineers)

The company sells the Grid software by subscription or perpetual license. If customers sign up for a three-year subscription, Fanelli says they'll pay $2 per user, per month, for Grid Virtual Applications and $6 per user, per month, for Grid Virtual Desktop.

That includes the price of the Tesla M10, but it doesn't include the rest of the server hardware. Grid servers cost about $20,000 on average, Fanelli said.

Vendors will start to offer the M10 in servers starting in August, he said.

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