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Does VDI fit this use case? (Emulating a DLPAR on commodity hardware?)
We're a small office of 6 people working with CAD and Photoshop software. Although we're small, our projects tend to be high scale and our current workstations are unsatisfactory. Looking for options here, understanding the many headaches and overhead of VDI, but perhaps it could work.
I'm the head of technology and we currently have modern workstations based on AMD Ryzen 2nd gen. processors and NVIDIA GTX 1660 Ti equivalent performance in graphics. Most of the workstations are 6-core, have 16GB RAM, and a 256GB SSD.
Not all workstations are used all the time. Especially due to COVID-19, sometimes we only have 2 people at the office, other times it's the whole lot. Working hours are also flexible so having all 6 workstations used at the same time is rare.
Here's the issue: most of the projects currently being worked on take way too long to render. This is a CPU limitation and software limitation, as unbiased rendering on GPU is not supported by this particular CAD vendor. Some projects could easily take 10-18 hours to finish.
Furthermore, for people working from home, we have a VPN, but it's a little hit and miss as the software used for the projects relies on dongle hardware for licensing. Using something like VirtualHere has proven very unreliable. It's also a heavy burden to install and maintain software on the employee's personal laptops, as we have yet to come to a conclusion on how to manage everything.
There's currently no AD or anything fancy. Every workstation is a separate Windows 10 install, as running through updates on all 6 workstations is still relatively easy over Remote Desktop. So, now it's really come down to budget:
- We build 6 new workstations with greatly increased performance. When I built the 6 current workstations, it was not expected for the scale of the projects to grow as quickly as it did in the past year, so here we would be looking at something like HEDT right out of the gate.
- Employees get company provided laptops, something with proper specifications and Windows 10 Pro licenses for RDP and possibility of joining to AD. Also, new license dongles would be provided for the employees to use from home.
- We go for a single monstrosity of a machine that virtualizes all 6 workstations and we get to keep the current workstations as the "thin clients". Something that would provide "DLPAR" type of functionality, such that if only 1 person is using a workstation at the office, he/she would benefit from the enirety of the performance provided by the server machine. If another person logs into their workstation, the VDI implementation would dynamically split the resources of the server effectively in half. This way we could get some beefy graphics accelerators and whenever someone is rendering, they would benefit from dynamically allocated resources.
- Employees get to keep their personal laptops and could just log into the VDI over VPN without having to worry about updates or licenses. As the CAD vendor has provided licenses that are tied to physical machines with no clauses prohibiting virtual machine deployments, we would be saving tons of money as we could forego the current 6 dongles to just have 1 dongle for the server machine. Each dongle represents a perpetual license with a serious yearly cost, so the cost of a VDI implementation might be easily offset in the savings with the dongles.
- A "render farm" type of feature has been promised by the CAD vendor for some time, but is currently unsupported. Moving a project from one workstation to another is a hassle, as lots of user settings are key to displaying and rendering the projects in the first place. So building one "super workstation" to use periodically by employees wouldn't help. Besides, we often have 2-3 projects rendering at the same time, while other workstations are left unused, so maximizing the use of resources is what we are after.
- Different type of licensing, such as network licensing, is available from the vendor, but only for larger scale businesses so we'd end up having to buy 20 licenses worth just to get that option and this would be in excess of 100000 Euros annually, so definitely not an option.
- Any type of acceleration would be greatly helpful, so the workstations themselves need to provide a good experience without the typical lag of a Remote Desktop session, but again when needing to render projects, it would be ideal to have the "entire office" at our disposal in terms of performance. So if VDI isn't the answer, but something else provides this, then that's what I'm looking for.
submitted by Magalainen