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Cadalyst

CAD Tech News (#127)

21 May, 2020 By: Cadalyst Staff


Herrera on Hardware: Boxx Expands into Remote Workstations with Help from Cirrascale

With many employees forced to work from home, remote datacenter workstations make more sense than ever — and the arrival of Boxx Cloud Services couldn't be more timely.

By Alex Herrera

It makes perfect sense: A respected provider of performance-oriented workstations for CAD markets, Boxx has gotten itself into the business of providing rent-as-you-go remote workstations. An offshoot business enabled by its acquisition of Cirrascale, Boxx's move is a logical extension of its business model. The company positions itself as a provider excelling at high-performance machines, optimized for CAD and digital media entertainment (DME) applications, and delivered with top-end support and reliability. With the business already marketing workstation models for the datacenter, creating its own remote workstation service fits right in.

Boxx Cloud Services has initially been deployed in two US-based Cirrascale datacenters, one on each coast: San Diego and Charlotte, North Carolina, the combination covering all of the US as well as most of Canada and Mexico. Sign up to lease remote workstations from Boxx Cloud Services, and you'll be provisioned your own dedicated Boxx workstation, housed in a rack in one (most likely the closer) of those datacenters, ready to be outfitted with your own applications and run your own workflow, just as you would on a traditional desk- or lap-bound Windows workstation.

These Boxx Cloud Services nodes might not look like your deskside workstation, but both are built from the same components and deliver the same computing throughput.
These Boxx Cloud Services nodes might not look like your deskside workstation, but both are built from the same components and deliver the same computing throughput.

Centralized Computing Offers Aid in Good Times and Bad

As this column has touched on several times in the past several years (for example here and here), the idea of a centralized, remotely accessed, datacenter-resident workstation is drawing a lot of attention. And for good reason, as such solutions address some of today's most pressing IT challenges: How to deliver 24/7 access to an increasingly scattered workforce that needs to share and collaborate on datasets exploding in size, while maintaining best-possible practices for IT security and robustness. With a centralized computing model, users don't have to be in their offices — or even on the same continent. By storing models in one place and avoiding costly copying, centralized computing can make the "big data" problem far less burdensome. And since the source content doesn't leave the pre-defined cloud boundaries, it's far more secure, and less vulnerable to an IT outage at any one staff site.

Last, but given today's situation, absolutely not least: remote computing models offer effective mitigation of employee displacement due to disaster. While the advantage of 24/7 access from anywhere — home or office — applies well in normal work environments and normal times, the COVID-19 pandemic showcases how that capability can help alleviate the consequences of having to close the main office, with its traditional workstations placed by each desk. With a remote solution, staff can stay at home and access the same machine they did when sitting in their cubicles. One Boxx client, for example, was just wrapping up its proof-of-concept (POC) phase when the pandemic response began ramping up fast, evolving into stay-at-home orders. That company was able to get its staff outfitted and working at home quickly — a transition that would have been far more problematic in a traditional client-focused IT environment.

A remote cloud-hosted workstation topology.
A remote cloud-hosted workstation topology.

Read more »

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Alex Herrera is a consultant focusing on high-performance graphics and workstations.

AMD Challenges NVIDIA with CAE-Capable GPU at Sub-2K Price Point

With a launch price of $1,899, the new Radeon Pro VII workstation graphics card is positioned as a more-affordable option for professionals working in design simulation, broadcast media, and HPC applications.

By Cadalyst Staff

AMD announced the Radeon Pro VII workstation graphics processing unit (GPU) last week, challenging NVIDIA's Quadro RTX 5000 and Quadro GV100 — $2,299 and $8,999, respectively, when launched in 2018 — with its lower launch price of $1,899. "All of the main competitor cards ... are simply more expensive," said Jamie Gwilliam, AMD senior market development manager, during a briefing on the new release. "This card has all the latest hardware on it, all the latest performance enhancements that really make the [independent software vendor] ISV software fly, but it's at a [price] point that makes it available to everybody. It's absolutely reducing the barrier of entry to these very complex workflows."

Unlike the Radeon VII, which is a gaming-focused GPU, the Radeon Pro VII is tailored for professional applications. The new GPU was designed "from the ground up" for three core application areas, Gwilliam explained: design simulation/computer-aided engineering (CAE); broadcast and media, including TV and film editing and post-processing; and high-performance computing (HPC)/machine learning workload development.

"We see a huge amount of interest from academia ... the schools that are teaching the engineers of the future ... right up to the expert, enterprise-level product designers ... design teams who are working with extremely complex design simulations, and those design simulations are only getting more and more complex," Gwilliam said. "Those cards [from NVIDIA] are simply out of the price range of many users, but budget-friendliness is absolutely critical to these users." Read more »

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About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff