Hewlett-Packard is teaming
up with Parallels on a high-end
workstation virtualization solution that offers engineers near-native
performance for resource-hungry applications like MCAD and CAE.
While virtualization technologies are all the rage on the
server side, vendors have been hamstrung from delivering the performance and
graphics acceleration in a virtual machine necessary for resource-intensive
design tool applications, according to Bruce Blaho, an HP fellow and chief
technologist for HP's workstation line. "You could virtualize, but it took an
order of magnitude performance hit if you tried to run anything graphically
intensive," Blaho says. "That essentially ruled out a virtual machine for
CAD and CAE â it was a non-starter."
Having a virtual machine capable of running multiple
applications simultaneously has enormous appeal to engineers and designers,
according to Blaho. For highly technical users, the ability to run two application
stacks and environments at once means they could run an MCAD program in
Windows while a CAE analysis application churns away on Linux running on the
same physical hardware. "An engineer could be preparing a part in an MCAD
system and then hand off the part to an analysis application running on the
workstation in a virtual machine and start working on the next part while that
analysis is crunching," he says. "By ping-ponging back and forth, you could
double the productivity of mechanical analysis."
A number of new technology platforms have coalesced to make
this kind of virtualization possible on a workstation. Intel's new Xeon
5500 series processor in concert with the Parallels Workstation 4.0
Extreme workstation virtualization solution and NVIDIA
SLI Multi-OS-enabled Quadro FX graphics boards are the technology building
blocks along with HP's new top-of-the-line Z800 workstation. The system
leverages key virtualization technologies from Intel, including VT-x for
accelerated virtual CPU performance, VT-d for direct high performance NVIDIA FX
graphics card and NIC assignment and Extended Page Tables (EPT) for improved
performance in memory management.
The HP Z800 Workstation with NVIDIA Quadro FX 3800s and
Parallels Workstation 4.0 Extreme is available now; a version with Quadro FX
4800s and FX 5800s graphics boards will follow next month.