XenServer 6.0 Multi-GPU Passthrough

By Hank Smith
Posted in Virtualization
On March 30, 2012

XenServer 6.0 provides many new features. One feature I want to focus on is multi-GPU passthrough. This is a huge enhancement for XenDesktop and XenApp environments. What is a GPU? A GPU is a graphics processing unit utilized for 3D rendering, typically required for CAD/CAM software.

In the past, CAD/CAM remote application access was not possible on XenApp due to the graphics requirements of such applications. XenDesktop provided this functionality by utilizing blade PCs or physical workstations. A 1:1 ratio between the user and blade PC/physical desktop had to be configured. The only real benefit this provided was the ability to utilize CAD/CAM applications remotely. However the blade PC/physical desktop located in the datacenter was still a very high cost considering the graphics requirements.

This now changes with multi-GPU passthrough that XenServer 6.0 provides. With the multi-GPU passthrough provided by XenServer 6.0, a virtual desktop or XenApp session can utilize a bank of GPUs within the XenServer blade. Instead of 1:1 ratio of user to blade PC/physical desktop, now we have a 1:1 ratio of user to GPU. Many GPUs can be added to the XenServer and now we get the benefit of the user utilizing a virtual desktop or XenApp session.

One item to note is that there is a strict hardware compatibility list (HCL) that Citrix has provided for use with multi-GPU passthrough: http://hcl.xensource.com/GPUPass-throughDeviceList.aspx.

In summary, the multi-GPU passthrough now provides CAD/CAM functionality for remote users at a better price.

Hank Smith

Hank Smith

Hank is an expert in the design, development, and delivery of cost-effective, high-performance technology solutions. As manager of Gotham’s Virtualization practice, Hank builds motivated, productive teams for Gotham’s large-scale networking and infrastructure engagements, develops implementation standards and methodologies around virtualization technologies, and manages overall design and implementation of multiple infrastructure projects.