Ever since Microsoft’s introduction of its new NVv4 instances in Microsoft Azure, a lot of attention has been rightly focused on the underlying technology. And to be sure, the 2nd Gen AMD EPYC processors and AMD Radeon Instinct GPUs underpinning the NVv4 physical platform enable state-of-the-art virtualization solutions for GPU-accelerated workloads in the public cloud.
But while everybody has been busy looking at the “speeds and feeds”, I think the experiences and functionality made possible by NVv4 are more interesting to talk about. With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to begin a series of blogs to help answer the questions, “what can you do with NVv4,” and “what does that experience look like,” from the perspective of end-users; the workers, makers, do-ers, and creators who will most directly make daily use of the offering.
To be clear, GPU acceleration in the cloud is not new, however, NVv4 rewrites the rules in substantial ways. With the arrival of NVv4, GPU acceleration (and virtualization!) in the public cloud is finally coming of age. NVv4 allows for fine-grained provisioning of virtual machines in a golden zone of matched price and performance across the broadest range of requirements for cloud-based Windows 10 desktops, as well as interactive and immersive applications. In short, NVv4 is the multitool of the modern visual cloud.
In the past, GPUs in the cloud were limited to one GPU to one user, and they were dang expensive! While it was possible to provide GPU support this way, an enterprise had to pay quite a bit to reserve the needed cloud resources. NVv4 is different because it enables one to right-size cloud-based GPU capacity and performance to fit the job. This flexibility makes a wider range of options feasible to better support both office productivity and power users.
Why does GPU support matter?
One of the challenges for cloud-based operations has been the fact that many, and frankly most, modern applications require GPU acceleration to run smoothly and effectively. That goes not only for high-end design software. The everyday business productivity applications used by millions of workers need GPU support too including applications such as Microsoft Office, word processing, spreadsheets, Microsoft PowerPoint, and video conferencing.
Added to that, many offices have a population of power users who need to work with media, from a bit of light video/photo editing to desktop design. They expect the application experience to be snappy. In fact, application responsiveness is vital for people to stay in their creative flow, whether that is crunching numbers, drafting a document, or designing a newsletter. GPU support is the secret ingredient that can make sure they all enjoy a great user experience, which leads to better productivity and happy workers.
What is a great user experience?
In the context of the Cloud, a great user experience is one that is comparable to a modern local desktop experience. Of course, that starts with basic application responsiveness. But it also refers to must-have capabilities such as support for high-resolution monitors, multiple monitors, and rich multimedia capabilities. Simply put, when the work moves to the Cloud, users should not be asked to make tradeoffs to get there.
How does NVv4 deliver?
To support workers from the cloud, NVv4 for Azure uses Windows Virtual Desktop. Since the applications used are not going to demand all the resources of a high-performance GPU, the platform is designed so that a number of people can happily share the resources of a single CPU and a single GPU. This session-based, desktop as a service (DaaS) solution is well suited to supporting large numbers of workers while making efficient use of processing resources and, therefore, budgets.
NVv4 would be compelling even if it only migrated existing office workflows to the Cloud. Not only can this approach deliver a great experience to the worker’s desktop, but it opens remarkable opportunities for flexibility and mobility. No longer needing a high-powered desktop or laptop, NVv4 desktop virtualization combined with ubiquitous access to broadband services at home and on the road, means more people can be as productive away from their desks as they’ve been in the office.
Things are a lot different today than they were even a year ago in terms of options, pricing, and capabilities for virtualized environments for the majority of office work. Ultimately NVv4 presents an opportunity to revisit and challenge our preconceptions about what is possible for GPU accelerated DaaS from the Cloud.
Side by side comparision of a session-based deployment - with and without GPU enabled
In future blogs, we will dig more deeply into both the user experience and the IT management considerations. In particular, I am excited to explore how NVv4 and its AMD-powered GPU support can solve challenges for workers in different industries such as design, manufacturing, architecture, engineering, construction, finance, and others. The opportunities extend far and wide!
Other resources to consider:
Adam Glick is a Technical Marketing Manager for AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied. Use of third-party marks / logos/ products is for informational purposes only and no endorsement of or by AMD is intended or implied.