How Automakers Are Retaking the Fast Lane with GPU Horsepower

by Andrew Cresci

There’s no room for error in the fast lane.

For automakers—with tens of thousands of employees, multinational production facilities and vehicles crafted for an international clientele—the stakes are high.

Finding ways to fine tune their operations is as skilled as Steve McQueen knowing when to switch gears and take a street corner in “Bullitt.”

After a decade marked by global recession, declining sales and severe supply issues, automakers have been recalibrating every aspect of their operations for top efficiency. That includes increasing worker mobility and enhancing data security.

PSA Peugeot Citroen
PSA Peugeot Citroen accelerates design with NVIDIA GRID and virtualized workspaces

This inspired Tofas Fiat and PSA Peugeot Citroën to turn to NVIDIA GRID-powered virtual desktops. Fueled by powerful graphics, these unify data-intensive operations and give designers and others working from remote locations greater mobility, without compromising computing performance.

Big Needs, Big Horsepower

Tofas Fiat may be smaller than many of its auto peers, but its needs are the same: it wants to offer its designers flexibility and mobility.

Formerly, its designers were tied to their desks using two computers—one to access graphics-intensive applications such as Siemens NX and Autodesk AutoCAD, and a second to handle general office work. Laptops were available, but their computer-assisted design (CAD) performance was weak. And any hardware or software failure left employees unable to complete their tasks.

So, Tofas Fiat shifted to virtual desktops supported by GRID technology with a VMware vSphere hypervisor. This allowed its designers to use their most sophisticated apps securely from the data center. And with top performance on apps from whatever device they were using, it left traditional VDI setups in the rear-view mirror.

The technology also could be deployed to suit Tofas Fiat’s workforce, with NVIDIA GRID K2 GPUs available to power users, while others use pooled GPUs for less graphics-intense tasks. Tapping applications remotely from the data center simplifies resource management and enables capacity to be scaled up or down as smoothly as shifting an automatic transmission, without a costly investment in hardware.

Powerful Processing Performance

Tofas Fiat
Tofas Fiat rendered car: slice of digital auto design

PSA Peugeot Citroën, with a presence in 160 countries, has a complex network of operations. It uses 85,000 computers spread across numerous sites running everything from standard office applications to high-end 3D graphics, such as Dassault Systems Catia. Maintaining this infrastructure is no small task.

The automaker wanted a centralized virtual desktop offering that could span the entire product life cycle and offer its widely distributed workforce high-end 3D graphics and processing power. With an eye on keeping costs down, PSA kicked off a 3D virtualization project using GRID technology and Citrix XenServer hypervisor to provide its designers direct access to high-performance workspaces in any location.

Compressing design cycles and reducing unit costs are crucial for maintaining the competitiveness of an automobile manufacturer. Efficiency informs each choice much as every second of choreography does in an action-packed movie car chase.

GRID allows remote PSA workers to run graphics intensive software packages on devices anywhere with increased image quality and frame rates that were previously only achievable on workstations. Latency was also reduced even at distances of up to 500 kilometers from PSA’s Paris data center. In fact, even users in China (19,000 kilometers from Paris) also enjoyed less latency.

Per-user costs dropped while productivity increased. While the upfront per-user costs of a virtual desktop are similar to a traditional workstation, energy savings are significant as a single workstation draws almost as much power as a server shared by many people.

Now PSA, which sold 2.8 million vehicles last year, is planning its next GRID-enabled VDI deployment.

Find out more about NVIDIA GRID.