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Nvidia touts virtual graphics for enterprise with GRID platform

Nvidia made a big splash at the 2012 GPU Technology Conference with talk of emerging "virtualized graphics" technology that could deliver all the performance of a powerhouse graphics workstation through servers, hypervisors, and networked thin clients.

A year later, the graphics chip maker is delivering on that promise with an assembly of hardware and software delivering "graphics accelerated virtual desktops and applications," a platform it calls GRID.

Nvidia this week showcased its GRID Visual Computing Appliance (VCA), a 4U system for smaller organisations which uses 16 Kepler-class GPUs to deliver full virtual graphics performance to up to 16 Windows, Linux, or Mac clients on business networks. The company has also been developing GRID Cloud Gaming, a platform for video game-streaming companies to deliver full-throated graphics across the cloud.

But the crown jewel in the emerging GRID arena is the new enterprise-class platform Nvidia is developing with some of the top server makers and developers of virtualisation software in the world.

"IT departments face a growing challenge—employees increasingly bring their own devices to work, and expect mobility and a great experience. Virtualization enables them to provide secure, consistent access to company resources, but at the expense of performance and features. GRID eliminates this compromise," Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said.

GRID-based servers are now being offered to enterprises by Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM. Combined with Nvidia's own GRID VGX software and virtualisation solutions from Citrix, VMware, and Microsoft, these GRID servers can help businesses "realize the benefits of virtualization—security, manageability and flexibility—while delivering the full PC experience that users expect," the graphics chip maker said.

Nvidia's GRID VGX software is "a complete stack of GPU virtualization, remoting, and management libraries" which unlocks the virtualization and remoting capabilities of NVIDIA GRID GPUs. Licensing is available for Citrix XenDesktop, XenApp, and XenServer; VMware vSphere and Horizon View; and Microsoft RemoteFX.

On the server side, systems built around Nvidia's GRID K1 boards feature four Kepler-generation GPUs and 16GB of memory, delivering full graphic-accelerated computing to multiple users. The company's GRID K2 boards sport a pair of high-end Kepler GPUs and 8GB of memory on a platform designed to deliver graphics-intensive application virtualizaton.

GRID servers which are currently available include Dell's PowerEdge R720, HP's ProLiant WS460c Gen8 and ProLiant SL250 Gen8, and IBM's iDataPlex dx360 M4.