• United States
by AMD

To CAD and Beyond

Apr 03, 20208 mins
Cloud Computing

Extending the reach of workstations in product design and manufacturing with Microsoft Azure® GPU-accelerated virtual machines powered by AMD technology.

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Credit: gorodenkoff

In product design and manufacturing, it’s not just users of Computer Aided Design (CAD) or other 3D software that need GPU-accelerated workstations. Extended design, engineering, manufacturing and marketing teams can also benefit from powerful machines to access rich 3D product models.

The challenge for product design and manufacturing organizations is how to provide teams with appropriate hardware. Viewing a complex 3D mechanical assembly on a PC, laptop or a standard Virtual Machine (VM) without GPU acceleration can result in a very poor experience. Basic view operations such as pan, zoom and rotate become choppy and it can be very hard to position the model on screen.

GPU-accelerated workstations are specifically designed to handle complex 3D datasets, but manufacturing firms can find it hard to justify their cost for wider teams, especially when they might only be needed on occasion.

A GPU-accelerated virtual desktop, delivered via the cloud through the AMD-powered Microsoft Azure NVv4, offers the perfect solution for both full time CAD users and part time consumers of 3D models – be that a manufacturing engineer, supplier or product manager.

Power of the Cloud

Delivering GPU-accelerated virtual desktops via the cloud offers additional benefits. Providing there is a high-bandwidth, low latency Internet connection in place, 3D applications can be accessed from anywhere, on any supported device. With Microsoft Azure NVv4, you can stream 3D applications to a tablet on the shop floor, or a home

PC to support flexible working – even a laptop in a different country.

The other benefit of VMs in the cloud is that applications run on Microsoft Azure servers, right next to your data, and only encrypted pixels are streamed to the end device. It means users can get rapid access to up-to-date product development data and do not have to wait for huge CAD models to download or sync. Storing all product data in the cloud and not on users’ personal workstations also offers big benefits for collaboration and revision control.


Product development data is extremely sensitive but often needs to be shared with multiple partners. Keeping Intellectual Property (IP) secure in the supply chain can be a major challenge. Breaches in security can mean competitive advantage through years of R&D is lost. With Microsoft Azure, firms can retain much tighter control over who can access data. And even then, CAD data never leaves the datacenter, only encrypted pixels giving “snap shots” of a design.

Complete flexibility

In the same way that a personal workstation can be configured with different CPUs, GPUs, memory and storage, Microsoft Azure offers a range of VMs to suit different workflows. These are known as “instances.”

The beauty of the new GPU-accelerated Microsoft Azure NVv4 instances is that they are designed specifically to cater to a variety of 3D workflows. The instances are powered by 2nd gen AMD EPYC™ processors and AMD Radeon Instinct™ GPUs.

Previous GPU-accelerated Microsoft Azure VMs could only be configured with a full GPU, but this meant customers could end up paying for resources they did not need. While most CAD-centric workflows require some form of 3D graphics acceleration, many do not need such high levels of 3D performance.

By using AMD Radeon Instinct™ MI25 GPUs, Microsoft Azure NVv4 instances offer huge flexibility. Customers can choose from four different VMs, including one with 1/8th of a GPU, which might be suitable for viewing a small CAD assembly in a PLM system, all the way up to one with a full GPU that could handle a rich 3D model for design visualization.

Matching instances more closely to workflows can make GPU-accelerated virtual desktops much more cost-effective than ever before. AMD-powered NVv4 instances are billed by the hour, so customers can also scale resources up and down to support the everchanging needs of projects over time.

Four ways product development and manufacturing firms can benefit from Microsoft Azure NVv4

1. On demand design and engineering – NVv4 gives the performance needed by 3D CAD professionals.

A Microsoft Azure NVv4-series VM instance offers the same experience as a desktop workstation, so the technology is ideal for designers and engineers that use 3D CAD. Teams can be scaled up and down quickly and contractors brought online instantly, without having to procure, configure, license and manage physical workstations. This can significantly reduce IT admin costs.

When 3D data is stored in Microsoft Azure in a Product Data Management (PDM) or Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system, large 3D assemblies will load much quicker as they do not have to be copied from the cloud to the local desktop – only encrypted pixels are streamed on demand. What’s more, design and engineering teams do not have to be in the same office, and can even be in different countries, supporting “follow the sun” workflows for global product development.

2. Real-time collaboration – NVv4 delivers fast data-synchronization of large datasets.

Collaborative design can become much more efficient with Microsoft Azure NVv4. Teams can collaborate on the same 3D model from multiple locations, instantly, without having to sync up large datasets before a design / review session.

In addition, as design / review is often infrequent, it’s well suited to the flexible, per hour charging model of Microsoft Azure NVv4. It means any team member, and not just CAD users, can have access to a powerful GPU accelerated workstation as and when needed. And with everyone able to view a fully interactive 3D model without lag, it provides a platform for better decision making.

Most importantly, participants are not tied to their desks. Even huge 3D assemblies can be viewed anywhere, anytime on multiple devices, supporting travelling managers and flexible workers.

3. Beyond the design team – NVv4 enables fast collaboration on designs across the organization.

Cloud-based PLM systems are on the rise with several leading platforms now available on Microsoft Azure. With Azure NVv4 VMs, 3D models can be made accessible to anyone that needs them throughout the product lifecycle. An engineering manager, for example, could monitor design and manufacturing progress using live 3D data.

But 3D data is not just for design, engineering and manufacturing; increasingly, it’s also needed by those in procurement, sales, marketing, operations and maintenance to help drive smarter decisions or to generate 3D assets.

4. Industrial strength – NVv4 enables flexible device choice in unfavorable environments

In industrial environments workstations often need to be located next to equipment such as CNC machines, industrial 3D printers, laser scanners and coordinate measuring machines (CMMs). But conditions can be harsh and airborne particles including dust, fiber or metal present a real risk to physical workstations, which can slow down or fail when fans get clogged up.

With Microsoft Azure NVv4-series instances, as all the heavy processing is done in the cloud, VMs can run on passively cooled thin clients or a tablet. With no moving parts, these are much less prone to failure and much easier and cheaper to replace.

AMD technology changing the rules for GPU-accelerated VMs

The introduction of AMD-powered NVv4 instances is shifting the expectations for VM deployments and is sure to have IT managers taking note. What’s new? Well, The NVv4 instance is the first VM on Microsoft Azure to take advantage of SR-IOV technology (single-root input/output virtualization), which supports GPU partitioning through AMD MxGPU GPU sharing technology, which is built into the AMD Radeon Instinct MI25 GPU.

For customers, this means greater flexibility, enabling the entire enterprise and not just the CAD users, to enjoy dedicated GPU-accelerated Virtual Machines (VMs), delivering the best application experience regardless of the workloads.

Customers have four distinct NVv4 instance options to choose from, scaled to share a single GPU’s resources among as many as eight VMs. Alternatively, IT managers can maximize the user density of NVv4 with Windows 10 multi-sessions, supported by Windows Virtual Desktop with available plug-ins from Citrix and Teradici.

SR-IOV technology plays a very important role when it comes to security. It allows the isolation of PCI Express resources between different users. It is already the standard used to share networking resources (NICs) and secure network traffic. Each resource has Virtual Functions (VF) associated and each VM can only access the physical resource via its own allocated VF. This helps ensure that each VM is isolated from others e.g. memory is secured and not shared.

NVv4 Virtual Machines will initially be available in the South Central US and West Europe Azure regions and will be available in additional regions soon thereafter.