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Feb 05 2014

Virtualization Meets High-End Graphics: the Fujitsu CELSIUS Workstation R930

Virtualization has been a main driver of the IT market for at least a decade. During that time, it evolved from a key technology for data centers into one that is practically ubiquitous – today we use it at the office or on the go without even thinking about it. But it also fits with much more challenging applications such as 3D animation, medical imaging, ray tracing, or CAD/CAE. Fujitsu's new CELSIUS R930 workstation is just the right powerhouse for such usage scenarios.

Despite a massive capability boost in recent years, many of us still associate virtualization with sluggish performance and poor rendering qualities – characteristics you would grudgingly accept in a dumb terminal if at all. Fujitsu now proves that this preconception is not only outdated, but downright unjustified by fusing the power of high-end computer graphics with the economic advantages of virtualization in our unique CELSIUS R930 workstation.

Performance Galore
To reach this goal, Fujitsu has equipped the CELSIUS R930 with a host of best-in-class hardware components to ensure there's enough power to run even the most demanding, data- and compute-intensive applications, such as biomedical research and 3D animation:

  • For a start, customers can choose between different processor models from Intel's Xeon E5-2600 v2 product family with up to 12 cores and maximum clock speeds of 3.7 GHz. All of these CPUs come with vPro™ technology, which means they're hardened against potential attacks and comfortable to manage. Each CELSIUS R930 features up to two processors that are backed by up to 512 GB of RAM.
  • For graphics virtualization, the CELSIUS R930 uses the NVIDIA GRID™ cards described below. Alternatively, users can opt for Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors to massively speed up parallel computing. Or they may pick other configuration options, suitable for varied usage scenarios from entry-level CAD to weather/climate modeling.
  • Regarding internal storage, CELSIUS R930 models are available in various configurations comprising either 2.5 inch or 3.5 inch HDDs or a mix of both. Storage capacities vary accordingly, reaching a maximum of 8 TB in the 2.5 inch, 16 TB in the 3.5 inch, and 10 TB in the mixed configuration. In addition, each model includes an SSD to store the OS and applications.

To round out the offering, the CELSIUS R930 also features a choice of (optional) controllers, drives, and interfaces, e.g. 6 Gbit/s SAS RAID 5/6 controllers, BD writers, PCIe, Dual 10 Gigabit Ethernet, and the like. With these characteristics, the new model certainly is no 'regular' high-end workstation to begin with. But what truly sets the machine apart from competing models are its graphics virtualization capabilities.

The Power of the GRID
Graphics virtualization is a relatively new concept that was first introduced at NVIDIA's GPU Technology Conference in May 2012. Until then intricate hardware layouts and the weight of massively parallel workloads made GPU virtualization orders of magnitude more complex than the CPU equivalent, so that bluntly put their rendering capabilities could not be shared among multiple users. But the NVIDIA GRID™ graphics cards revealed at the show proved to be a real game changer.

Originally designed for cloud servers, these cards – or rather: boards – are based on NVIDIA's Kepler GPU architecture that introduced features like Dynamic Parallelism and Hyper-Q, which allowed for adaptive launching of workloads and using multiple simultaneous, hardware-managed connections between CPUs and graphics cards. Building on these technologies, the NVIDIA GRID K1 and K2 boards provide hardware virtualization of the GPU. Effectively, this means that the physical GPU can be split up into as many as 8 virtual GPUs, each of which is assigned to exactly one VM, whose graphics commands are transmitted directly to the GPU, without taking a detour through the hypervisor. As a result, they provide maximum shared performance and a graphics experience comparable to the one users would enjoy with a dedicated GPU/graphics card.

For the CELSIUS R930, Fujitsu follows a performance-optimized approach that uses three NVIDIA GRID boards, each of which can be accessed by two VMs/users. Since this setup would normally be used in server environments, we've developed an attachable cooling solution with fans to reduce the temperatures of the graphics cards/coprocessors. Thanks to this combination of passive and active cooling, which is unique on the market (patent pending), up to six CGI artists may use a single workstation to create 3D content – where each of them would formerly need a dedicated system. Along with this economical resource sharing, the CELSIUS R930 provides ergonomic and security benefits: both the tower and the rackmount version can be easily moved to the data center and accessed remotely. That way, creative teams no longer need to worry about aspects like data theft, heat or noise emissions – and can come up with even more stunning animations and effects instead.

Availability and Pricing
The CELSIUS workstation R930 is available globally. It is sold directly and via Fujitsu channel partners. Prices vary according to region and configuration.

Questions to Discuss
In your opinion: How important is Workstation virtualization?
Is it a technology which fits to your application fields?

 

Nadin Spang

 

About the Author:

Nadin Spang

Nadin Spang is a Product Marketing Manager Workplace Systems at Fujitsu Technology Solutions.

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