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high-performance computing ➤


moving data. Our offering is that you can have all your HPC activity, and at some point you can jump off the batch into the interactive system from the portal with just a couple of clicks.’ Nice demonstrated its Desktop Cloud Visualisation (DCV) 2014 technology at the AWS re:Invent conference late last year. DCV 2014 needs from between three to 10 times less bandwidth than its predecessor as well as offering improved latency mitigation. Penguin’s solution, Scyld Cloud Workstation, is easily accessible from the Penguin public cloud, with both a Linux and a Windows version available within a couple of clicks. However, according to Tom Coull: ‘It can be delivered independently of our public cloud. A couple of commercial customers are doing pilots with it right now where they have on-premise solutions.’


Overcoming the constraints Although Penguin’s mobile phone visualisation is a striking instance, it neatly exemplifies the constraints that have to be overcome in providing the infrastructure on top of which scientists and engineers can run their applications to get insight via remote visualisation. Bandwidth is the first issue – particularly so for Penguin’s mobile phone example. Coull said that previously 20 to 30 Mb/s were required to deliver a high fidelity, high frame-rate display. Te second issue is security: ‘Many organisations in the commercial world don’t want you to poke additional holes through their firewall by opening non-standard ports. It’s difficult to get IT organisations to modify their firewall rules just for remote visualisation. So we wanted to have something that ran over the standard ports that would be open to https.’ Te third constraint for Penguin was to


be able to do this without installing a client. Coull said: ‘Installing a client can violate the rules within an organisation. Tey don’t want a third-party product behind their firewall that’s connected out to the internet. Browsers are okay. Tey trust Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari. So we wanted to have it entirely in a browser, using only JavaScript, and be able to connect to your server in the cloud.’


Graphics processors Te Penguin system is built on Nvidia Grid technology and, according to Coull, produces a reasonable resolution at 1400 by 900 with broadcast quality using H.264 as the protocol. It runs at 25 to 30 frames per second, with very high image quality. ‘We brought it out first with Nvidia’s K2 Grid card,’ he said. ‘Tere are certain things that you want to do on the graphics processor in hardware that reduce the latencies in delivering a nice stream out to the client.


22 SCIENTIFIC COMPUTING WORLD The geology of New Zealand’s Taranaki Basin as rendered by IndeX, Nvidia’s software solution for geo-data


Tose have to do with delivering an H.264 coder on the GPU and being able to read out the GPU’s memory directly to the client so you minimise transferring things between the GPU and CPU. Te Grid card is a great product for that and Nvidia has a library associated with it.’ Steve Parker also highlighted the centrality of


Nvidia’s Grid technology, saying that at its core lay ‘some key technologies for video streaming and we tie that with virtualisation. Te Grid


BANDWIDTH IS THE


FIRST ISSUE... FOR PENGUIN’S MOBILE PHONE EXAMPLE


platform allows us to run any application and stream it across the internet. We have hardware coders on the GPU that can compress and scan the frame at low latency – in many cases lower than a connected display. It’s transmitted over some secure link to a remote desktop. Tat allows us to place a grid server in a machine somewhere with a connection to an HPC data store and transmit the video stream over the internet – which is much smaller amount of data’.


Virtualisation as part of visualisation Although, as a soſtware company Nice is ‘brand agnostic in terms of the overall box. We work with SGI or Dell or HP or Lenovo, or whoever,’ according to Rodolico, but he highlighted the importance of GPUs for 3D visualisation performance: ‘What matters to us is to have the proper GPU on it. We only support Nvidia GPUs because they are the dominant player in


the data centre. In particular, on Windows we can work with the Quadro cards or the Grid cards. We are very excited about their Grid cards because they also provide virtualisation – vGPU capabilities – which is something we see customers are really fond of.’ He pointed to the announcement by


VMware, about a year ago, that it would offer Nvidia vGPU support, opening up the possibility of having one GPU shared across multiple virtual machines. ‘Tey are the leader in virtualisation in corporate industry, so that has been great news, a great boost. A lot of our customers are asking us to leverage VMware infrastructure for visualisation technology and so far we have been limited by the lack of support for vGPUs in their offering.’ Demand will start to rise this year, he thinks, ‘but the market acceleration is something we will see next year.’ Both Nice and Penguin offer support for


Linux and for Windows. According to Coull: ‘You need to have both. Tere is a higher cost for the Windows because of the licences involved, whereas for Linux you don’t have that cost’. But companies using workstations tend to be running Windows – most desktop users have a Windows environment, he said. Tere is comparatively little overhead in providing the two ‘flavours’ – it takes about a month to port code from one to the other platform. For Andrea Rodolico, open source access to


remote visualisation tends mostly to be Linux- based and is seen more in academic research. As with Penguin, the commercial users – in automotive and manufacturing – tend to opt for a mix of Linux and Windows. ‘So we see open source as a great way for users to start engaging with the remote 3D concept, and


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