HP Claims World First with ZCentral Remote Workstation Solution19 Nov, 2019 By: Cadalyst Staff
The centralized workstation solution, which combines new and existing HP offerings, reportedly delivers up to 33% higher performance than a virtualized workstation approach — at a lower cost.
HP has announced what it calls “the world’s first single-sourced remote workstation solution”: HP ZCentral, which centralizes data storage and high-end compute power in a single physical location. The new solution targets professional users who work with large files in graphics-intensive applications, including architecture and product development, performing tasks such as 3D modeling and 4K video editing. According to HP, ZCentral offers 16–33% higher performance than a virtualized workstation solution, at 59–72% of the cost.
The ZCentral solution combines the following existing and new HP offerings:
- Z by HP rack-mountable workstations;
- ZCentral Remote Boost, an updated and expanded version of the software formerly known as RGS (Remote Graphics Software); and
- the new ZCentral Connect application.
“We offer a complete turnkey solution, from the hardware to the software, with one place to go for service and support,” said Anu Herranen, director of new product introduction for Z by HP Workstations, during a press briefing.
Image source: HP
“We do acknowledge there are other ways to do centralization,” Herranen said. “However, our customers have shared with us some major issues related to these options,” including complex implementation, hidden costs, and latency, she reported. The ZCentral solution attempts to address many of these issues that concern IT and CAD managers, in the following areas:
Computing performance. According to HP, ZCentral offers 16%–33% higher performance than a virtualized workstation solution. “We actually deliver that performance through dedicated CPU and GPU resources … each remote user gets access to the entire workstation,” Herranen explained.
By keeping all processing and data storage hardware on site, companies can minimize the latency problems that can dog remote setups. That’s especially important when dealing with large files, and “within these customer segments, file size has increased exponentially,” Herranen pointed out.
With the ZCentral Remote Boost application, “our customers can access workstation power as if they were local,” said Herranen. “It’s the same software [as Remote Graphics Software, HP’s remote desktop connection protocol], but now we provide that with much more capabilities,” she explained, including support for Windows 10 touch gestures and specialized hardware; real-time collaboration; and local resizing of the remote display. “It automatically adapts to the receiver’s resolution,” Herranen noted. Remote Boost works with Windows-, Linux-, or MacOS-based devices, and performance is independent of the operating system.
Flexible workforces, workplaces, and work styles. HP is “extremely observant” of how its customers’ needs are changing, said Herranen, and the company has observed several flexibility-centered trends driving the adoption of remote workflows. First, companies are seeking out employees around the globe, in response to a shortage of workers with specialized high-tech skills. “The talent required becomes a scarce resource … these IT managers, they must find solutions to empower [employees] with specialized tools.”
Also, IT managers must scale resources up and down as work group sizes and needs change. According to Herranen, ZCentral can provide “a major cost saving” when particular users only need powerful workstations part of the time: “Maybe it’s just three weeks out of the month, not every single day; the rest of the time all this amazing graphics and extra power will be idle,” she said.
Workers who access the system from outside the office may be far from the physical site of their data and compute resources, but HP maintains that they will see efficiency gains from the short load times for large projects in remote locations (a result of data and compute resources residing in the same location).
Another trend is a movement away from the desk “on all fronts” as more employees work remotely and meetings convene in huddle spaces instead of meeting rooms, Herranen said. Workflows that demand high-performance computing “anywhere on any device, not just the workstation,” are well served by ZCentral’s GPU acceleration, she explained. “With this solution, we don’t only liberate the IT department, but also the power users … [with the] freedom for them to work wherever they want, with the full power of the Z workstations.”
End-user devices. Computing capability is not dependent on the endpoint device, so IT staff can use a variety of devices — choosing inexpensive options to save money, or accommodating bring-your-own-device requests from users as “BYOD” workplace policies become more common. “[IT managers] can equip end users with almost any device … we don’t limit our customers to HP-only,” said Herranen.
IT management. Rather than individually managing users’ desktop machines, IT personnel can collectively manage, monitor, and assign dedicated remote workstations on a secure private network with ZCentral Connect, HP reports. IT managers can remotely manage the system through “just one simple interface,” Herranen said, assigning individual machines to particular users, or creating pools of machines for workgroups to share. And setup is “almost as simple as setting up a workstation on your desk,” she said. “It’s extremely easy to use.”
Security. Because data is stored and processed on-site in the company’s own physically secured hardware — not in the cloud or on user-controlled devices — and only encrypted pixels are sent over the network, IT managers can breathe easier about the specters of misplaced or stolen laptops, employees absconding with intellectual property on removable drives, and cloud security breaches.
“Security is a major driver for our IT customers,” Herranen confirmed. (To drive home the importance of preventing data losses, HP cites a Ponemon Institute study indicating that the average cost of a data breach was $3.6 million in 2018.) Cloud data storage brings with it “an added risk of leaks of proprietary information,” Herranen warned. With ZCentral, in contrast to cloud-based solutions, “all the critical data will stay on site, on the premises of the company.”
Rack-mountable Z by HP desktop workstations are currently available. HP expects that ZCentral Connect software and the updated ZCentral Remote Boost will be available in early 2020, and beta versions are already available for current customers; pricing has not yet been announced.