Virtualizing Graphics Desktops: Customer Perspectives

This blog was written by Chhandomay Mandal, Solutions Marketing Director for XtremIO

Last week Josh blogged about XtremIO reaching zero to $1 billion revenue in record six quarters. He also talked about us providing lots more detail about how organizations of all sizes are using XtremIO to achieve data center agility in ways never thought possible before in the coming days. Here is the first installment.

In my last post, we talked about the challenges of virtualizing graphics desktops and how XtremIO is enabling this next frontier of desktop virtualization. In this post, we are going to take a look at how XtremIO customers are benefiting from the end-to-end solution combing VDI platform’s highly efficient remote rendering protocols, NVIDIA GRID technology and XtremIO All-flash array.

First, let’s talk about a Federal Agency of a foreign government. We can’t name them for security reasons, but they presented all of these findings below in their Desktop Virtualization session at last EMC World. You can get more details from this published case study as well.

The agency originally equipped its analysts with powerful – and costly – HP workstations to run high-resolution 3D graphics applications built on top of Google Earth that could pinpoint potential threats. As missions expanded and additional staff came onboard, the amount of highly sensitive data on the physical workstations grew dramatically. This raised concerns that the data was vulnerable to theft. After all, someone could easily copy confidential files onto a USB drive and walk away with state secrets.

To address this concern, the department virtualized its desktops and centralized control of data on secure servers. When the department tried to run VDI with their existing non-EMC storage, the infrastructure could not handle the high I/O and low latency requirements of the high-resolution 3D graphics applications.

After evaluating several alternatives, the agency chose XtremIO to run its VDI and graphics-intensive applications. With XtremIO, the department replaced dedicated workstations with high-performance virtual desktops that strengthened security while delivering a better 3D graphics experience for analysts.


Data security was of utmost concern to the agency, and they leveraged VNX arrays for secure delivery of application & user data. Data Domain was the core engine for transparently delivering policy-based data retention. And finally, they consolidated the environment on VCE Vblocks achieving significant CapEx and OpEx savings.



A small part of their users are on thin clients with shared graphics or vSGA on NVIDIA GRID K2 cards with 2-12 users per NVIDIA GRID K2. However, most of their users are on zero clients with dedicated graphics acceleration or vDGA on NVIDIA GRID K2, with 2 users per NVIDIA GRID K2. They haven’t yet deployed GPU virtualization or vGPU as this is a fairly new technology, but they are actively investigating this option.


XtremIO provided very high performance with extremely low latency in our environment. They have seen the array delivering closer to 200K IOPS with sub-millisecond latency during boot storms. The virtualized graphics desktops create 1,500 IOPS per VM at steady state, and XtremIO handles the total load very well. The array is very easy to manage overall with no tuning needed – they can deploy desktops quite fast and have seen 12:1 data reductions in their environment. Overall, the cost of a virtualized graphics desktop was much lower than its graphics workstation counterpart.

As for how the virtual desktops performed, let’s see that ourselves. The agency ran the demonstration during EMC World, and it is now available in YouTube.

The demonstration compares fully rendered graphics in real time on four VDI VMs and a physical high-end workstation with the same Unigine Valley benchmark. The video below shows two zero clients displaying the results of two of these four VMs. At the end, the video also shows the results of the same graphics benchmark running on the physical workstation. VDI VMs delivered greater than 40 FPS outperforming the physical graphics workstation.

The agency has seen great results in their environments. Their boot times have gone down to 5 seconds from north of 3 minutes, and they can replace $10K graphics workstations with $300 thin clients, thanks to XtremIO. They now have vastly improved storage usage and growth planning with XtremIO for VM data, VNX for user data and Data Domain managing the retention needs.

Lastly, virtualizing the desktop solved a lot of their data security issues and the complete solution gave the real economic benefits to the order that they never imagined when they started the project.


“Because of consistent performance and low latency we’re getting from XtremIO, our 3D graphics power users have snappy virtual desktops that help them do their jobs faster and more efficiently. User satisfaction has gone up across the board,” commented the senior system architect presenting at EMC World.

Check out the details of this Federal Agency from this published case study.

We have many other customers happily running graphics-intensive applications in a VDI environment. Let me close out this post with the example of Georgia Institute of Technology. Georgia Tech is one of the top engineering colleges and their world-renowned engineering lab needed to virtualize desktops running the complete set of CAD/CAM design applications like CATIA, SolidWorks, PTC and Autodesk.


At Citrix Synergy this past May, Didier Contis from Georgia Tech recounted how XtremIO has been a game changer for his VDI infrastructure supporting performance-intensive engineering applications like MATLAB, AutoCAD, and CATIA. A quote from him from that Synergy session (# SYN249): “Before XtremIO, it took several minutes for his graphics applications to launch. With XtremIO, it came down to 20-30 seconds.

The Georgia Tech case study details are available here.

Finally, check out additional details here about how XtremIO can transform your business beyond VDI – with storage consolidation for many tier-1 and virtualized workloads.

About the Author: Chhandomay Mandal

Dr. Chhandomay Mandal is the Director of Solutions Marketing at Dell Technologies. He leads solutions across artificial intelligence, analytics, business applications, VDI and HPC as well as industry-specific solutions for healthcare, media & entertainment, semiconductors and smart manufacturing. Prior to his current role, he led Dell’s all-flash storage solutions marketing efforts for desktop virtualization, server virtualization and private cloud. Dr. Mandal has been awarded 13 patents. He has a PhD from University of Florida, MBA from Indiana University, and BTech from Indian Institute of Technology.