Remote Workstations Change the Game

I venture to say that nearly everyone uses one or more remote applications right now. And in most companies, from small to large, the company server installation gives access to safe, secure workflows running in the data center.

But this has not been true for engineering, design, and other graphics-intensive domains. The performance was not acceptable, and the user experience was poor.

PTC changed that with certification of the first remote graphics workstation solution for PTC Creo.

Watch this video for more on PTC and remote workstations:

Remote and virtual workstations open new horizons.

While servers and the virtualization of computing resources has been useful for many years, this only became relevant for design professionals and for their workstation resources in the last year. Until now, PTC Creo customers could choose between a desktop workstation or a powerful mobile workstation.

For CAD customers, the problem with a remote or virtual workstation has been the demands on 3D performance. The solutions were not capable of delivering the same level of user-experience from a remote workstation that engineers could get from their desktop workstation. In June 2013, PTC announced the first certified remote workstation for PTC Creo software.

The technology allows direct access to the full power of the remote workstation. PTC Creo customers now have essentially the same user experience running on a remote workstation as when running on a local workstation.

There are numerous advantages for engineers and for IT managers. If the remote workstation running PTC Creo is running next to PTC Windchill servers, the interactive performance of the two programs is increased. The customer’s data is better protected because – unlike an office workstation and especially a mobile workstation – the design data remains protected in the data center.

The company resources can be better utilized as well. Grouping computing resources lowers costs for maintenance and backup when compared to workstations distributed throughout the facility. Virtual and remote workstations can also be better utilized since each workstation can support more than one engineer in more than one location.

And, not to be overlooked, is improving productivity by improving work processes. With a remote workstation, a designer has access to his work system from essentially any location. Whether traveling to another office, working on-site with a customer, from a company conference room, or just working from a home-office, a remote and virtual workstation configuration running PTC Creo software gives companies the freedom to adapt and improve work processes which can make designers more efficient and more productive.

Engineers also have a choice of client devices. A remote workstation session can be run from thin-clients, remote desktop computers, notebook computers, and hand-held devices like tablets and smart phones. Each device has unique advantages, depending on the task at hand, which provides greater flexibility in adapting work processes.

The possibilities provided by remote workstations allow PTC customers to reap efficiencies and cost savings. More importantly, customers are free to adapt their processes and, potentially, to transform their business results.

How does this work?

So, how does the server/client model, that has been available for years, differ from the remote workstation configuration as certified by PTC? The big difference is direct access to graphics hardware.

Acceptable graphics performance means that virtualization companies like Citrix must open a pipe to the GPU in their platform. When a virtual workstation session has full, direct, and exclusive access to the graphics, this is referred to as graphics-pass-through. As the name implies, the remote workstation user gets the full graphics performance on the remote device and is subjected only to the limits of compressing, streaming to the remote device, and then decompressing the graphics output.

The second factor for a good user experience is efficient compression and decompression. This is handled through different means. AMD remote workstation graphics uses Teradici technology for compression and decompression. Citrix has implemented efficient decompression techniques for handheld devices like tablets and smartphones. NVIDIA utilizes a GPU-based solution.

With graphics-pass-through, one GPU is dedicated to one virtual session. In December 2013, NVIDIA and Citrix announced a solution that allows one GPU to be shared by up to eight virtual sessions. This permits use of a single, shared resource among additional users.

Remote and virtual workstation technologies provide not only cost savings and better resource utilization, but also allow for higher productivity through the improved work processes which are possible with an updated, remote workstation infrastructure. Companies which innovate and experiment with new computing capabilities have the possibility of transforming their processes and transforming their business results.