Nvidia thus far hasn’t allowed for any kind of hands-on tests with GRID, their video streaming technology that gives you a full desktop workspace that is virtualised, hosted up in the cloud somewhere on a server equipped with Nvidia Quadro or Tesla GPUs. These are typically all fitted into a single 2U rackmount server and deployed into a network that has users that either require complete desktop virtualisation or hosted 3D applications, which can be used to save some companies on license fees, energy requirements and desktop space.
But GRID has so many possible applications that it’s mind-boggling how much you can do in this one demo. The server instance that hosts Nvidia’s free GRID demo is on Amazon’s Web Services and the client to access it is designed by VMWare. Instances are limited 24 hours per instance, but you can have multiple goes at it to get an idea if it’ll do anything for you or not. Hit the jump to find out more.
The Cloud, really, is probably the biggest change to the internet that I’ve seen since I was first allowed to hop in to a web browser in 2001. Instead of the separate, user-centric market that we’ve become accustomed to with every device having the hardware you need for work activities, we’re moving progressively backwards to a mainframe model, where our stored data, hosted applications and crunching hardware are all hosted on a remote server, with a virtualised instance allowing you your own space on the server and almost – but not quite – giving you the full desktop experience you’re usually used to.
Nvidia reckons there’s a pretty big market for GRID-powered applications (so do AMD and even ARM). The server market today usually benefits what Nvidia calls “Task workers,” employees in a company that are sat down in front of a computer and do things like answer the phones in a call center, process the customers dialling into the center, filing out reports and generating new customer data and so on – more or less equitable to a single-threaded task, if you will, because juggling different customers at the same time is a no-no.
The new markets are for knowledge workers, power users and people like designers and artists, inventors and architects. Hosted software and services is a market so potentially enormous that Microsoft’s head of the division that dealt with monetising it, Satya Nadalla, is the company’s CEO today. Amazon picked up on this years back and is now one of the biggest companies offering virtualised software on the internet through any web browser to do any number of things you can think of, including hosting your own websites.
Adobe and Microsoft were two of the biggest companies who together took the first steps forward to offer productivity software as a service – Adobe Creative Cloud now offers users a subscription to Adobe’s software or a hosted instance on the internet. Office 365 is an all-in-one solution available on the web from any device that has an internet connection.
And that’s the kind of market Nvidia is tapping into here.
The GRID desktop is just that – a regular desktop. The virtual resolution is limited to 1366 x 768 for now, but that will change in the future into a maximum resolution of 2560 x 1600 and up to four monitors in a extended workspace. There are a couple of demos that are available to try out, including Nvidia’s Digital Ira showcase, some HTML applications to show off how well web applications would be served over the net, a full Office productivity suite and some Autocad demos as well.
The GRID software also works particularly well on Windows tablets because it’s a full-screen application. It would be easy to leave a GRID instance signed in on your tablet and minimise it, switching to something else on your lunch break or while in a meeting. The important thing to note is that this also will be available across a range of devices and operating systems – the teaser image shows a GRID instance running on a desktop computer, a Apple Macbook, a tablet of unknown origin and a HTC Android smartphone. There’s no logical reason why, for example, a GRID client won’t appear for Linux operating systems as well.
Instead of having Nvidia come to your premises and installing GRID hardware for a demonstration of how it can benefit you as a consumer or a company, the demo works pretty well and is definitely cool. I don’t expect it to take of well with users that prefer having their desktop experience more local, without the laggy interface over the internet or the threat of not being able to do work without an internet connection. It won’t benefit very small companies either because they typically don’t need anything of the scale that a GRID server could provide and transitioning to a mainframe model wouldn’t benefit them too much.
For larger businesses that require real-time data analysis, or working with large 3D projects, or those who just need a render farm available at the click of a button, this works pretty well in those cases. One benefit that would be more tangible would be that you could have multiple desktops virtualised on one or two GRID servers in your network, with the desktops themselves using low-power processors, enough memory and SSDs to lower the energy requirements.
If you’re just looking to fool around with the possibilities presented here, the 24-hour time limit affords even the most curious of users the chance to explore every way in which this could be of use. Also, it is possible to play games on it, so I guess you could use it for that if you don’t already have Steam In-Home Streaming working on your network.