Is Cloud-Based CAD Ready for Prime Time? Part 130 May, 2014 By: Alex Herrera
Herrera on Hardware: Centralized, server-side graphical computing technology is on the upswing. Should you care where your computer is?
More sensible allocation of computing resources for big-data applications. The benefits of centralizing data in workstation applications are many, particularly as the sheer volume of visual computing data continues to explode. In the world of digital media, just a few minutes of a Hollywood-caliber scene shot in 4K and captured raw can exceed 100 GB. And in CAD, model sizes can range from under 1 GB for a modest consumer product to 25 GB or more for a detailed aircraft design.
Storing and transferring raw data of that magnitude from workstation to workstation can chew up hours, shrink productivity, and open the door to security breaches. By retaining the data in one central location instead, where it is accessible by client computers located on- or offsite, a wSBC solution eliminates the complexity and overhead (storage and bandwidth) of copying databases.
A client-agnostic approach and a tool for managing BYOD. In addition to the maximum-security zero client, compatible clients include OS X Macs and Windows PCs running PCoIP software clients. Typically designed to be client-agnostic, wSBC solutions are an effective tool to address bring-your-own-device (BYOD) issues in the enterprise today, while providing an infrastructure that can adapt with an evolving, heterogeneous computing landscape.
The promise of workstation-caliber SBC: visual data accessible anywhere, anytime, and on (virtually) any device. Image courtesy of Nvidia.
Simplified IT management. SBC solutions can ease the burden and complexity of IT management in more ways than one. Keeping traditional clients up-to-date with consistent configurations and resolving hardware/software issues has become a productivity-robbing time sink. Leveraging a centralized architecture can ease deployment, updates, and upgrades. IT personnel can deploy, monitor, and manage devices individually, or broadcast settings to large groups for fast and consistent configuration, security settings, firmware, backups ... even remote power management.
CAD Professionals Won’t Be Left Behind This Time
While it would be a stretch to state that SBC has become any kind of dominant computing model, it has absolutely gained a foothold in the enterprise with VDI. And that foothold is steadily expanding, buoyed by compelling and timely benefits for users of simpler desktops, composed primarily of basic 2D graphics and text.
Unfortunately, despite all the goodness SBC offers, its benefits have so far completely eluded one key computing contingent. Professionals engaged in high-performance visualization — particularly those plying their trade in CAD — have been insulated from the prevailing winds pushing computation back to the datacenter. Rather, professional-grade visual computing today universally relies on highly equipped mobile and deskside workstations to carry the bulk of the workload.
But that may all be changing, because that current client-heavy computing paradigm is once again being challenged by SBC proponents, armed with a slew of new products and technology from vendors like Citrix, VMware, Intel, Nvidia, AMD, HP, Dell, Fujitsu, and Teradici. And this time, those vendors are promising that professionals engaged in workstation-caliber computing in spaces like CAD aren't going to be left behind.
Technical Challenges of an Effective SBC Model
With so much going for it, you might be wondering why the SBC approach hasn’t already taken over the computing landscape. Why isn’t everyone running CAD in the cloud today, having traded in their bulky, hot, and noisy deskside towers for relatively svelte and innocuous thin clients?
Well, the lack of the technology's theoretical advantages has never been the problem; everyone's sold on those. What's proven difficult is demonstrating that the theory can translate to reality. For many reasons — both technical and not — previous-generation SBC architectures simply could not deliver the high-performance visual experience CAD users have come to expect from their traditional, trusted workstations.
I'll get to those reasons in the next part of this series on CAD in the cloud. And in Part Three, we'll take a look at a new generation of SBC solutions designed to address those issues, and weigh in on whether it will finally deliver on that ultimate goal of a workstation-caliber visual computing experience for CAD.
Read "Is Cloud-Based CAD Ready for Prime Time? Part 2" here.