Virtualized GPUs to boost desktop virtualization, games

Nvidia's Kepler-based graphics chips will expand existing desktop virtualization capabilities so more mobile workers can benefit, while cloud-based games can now be delivered to devices without GPUs too, CEO states.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

SAN JOSE--Nvidia believes that its virtualized GPU (graphics processing unit) will further drive the adoption of desktop virtualization, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend as well as online games, according to the company's CEO.

Huang Jen-Hsun said in his keynote at the chipmaker's GPU Technology Conference here on Wednesday that the company's Kepler architecture is the world's first graphics chip designed for the cloud. Previously, only the central processing unit (CPU) can be virtualized as it has a memory management unit (MMU) to translate virtual to physical addresses.

With its Kepler-based GPUs, these chips can now do the same virtual to physical address translation and understand which virtual machine (VM) has delivered a graphics command, he explained.

In turn, he believes Nvidia's chips would boost the desktop virtualization market through its VGX platform. The CEO pointed out that the problem with existing virtualized desktop infrastructure (VDI) technology was that the graphics could only be processed using software that uses up CPU processing power in the backend.

To address this, Huang revealed that Nvidia has worked with virtualization vendor Citrix Systems to create hypervisors that allows the VM to recognize the chipmaker's virtualized GPU as its processor.

Sumit Dhawan, group vice president and general manager at Citrix, who also presented at the Conference, said that with Nvidia's latest graphic chips, more mobile workers can stand to benefit from desktop virtualization. Designers and power users who need dedicated GPU computing power can now have better graphics capabilities delivered to them via different devices such as mobile PCs and tablets, he said.

This does not mean that PCs will be replaced, but it provides the convenience of mobility for designers who want to bring their work to clients and be able to change the design on the spot, Huang elaborated.

Better graphics, capacity for online games
The Nvidia CEO also noted during his keynote address that its GeForce GRID platform would allow companies to deliver games through the cloud to any device, even those that do not have GPUs built in.

Its Kepler-based graphics chips will also be able to increase the number of concurrent users per processor, noted Derek Chim, executive vice president and chief product officer at Taipei-based cloud games provider Ubitus.

He said during a separate interview session that a typical cloud-based game would support about two to three concurrent users, but with Nvidia's latest chips, this figure can increase to "about 10 times the industry standard".

That said, Chim said it is not enough to rely solely on virtualized GPUs to deliver their games through cloud, and Ubitus has to virtualize its services and applications as well to ensure low latency for gamers.

The company has tested Nvidia's Kepler GPUs in live data centers but has yet to deliver its games using the platform, he said.

Liau Yun Qing of ZDNet Asia reported from Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, United States.

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