NVIDIA Virtual GPU Brings Autodesk Around the World in Minutes

by Karen Xia

Mary Poppins might’ve been able to fit a coat rack, wall mirror and potted plant in her handbag. You’d have to be just as magical to try packing up a workstation and transporting it across the country.

Until now, developers at Autodesk, whose software is used by 200 million customers to design virtually everything, have had to grapple with a similar problem.

With more than 200 million customers — including design professionals, engineers, architects, digital artists, and students — Autodesk develops software for people who make things. However, to support rigorous testing requirements across a variety of operating systems and product versions, many developers needed up to three workstations under their desks.

Now, with NVIDIA’s virtual GPUs, Autodesk’s developers and sales technicians can access all their applications and products anywhere in the world, thousands of miles from where code might be housed, in just minutes.

Optimizing Resources

A look into Autodesk’s resource usage statistics show that developers only used 50 percent of their graphics resources in their development cycle. Workstations for high-end rendering and graphics testing often sat idle for weeks at a time.

Before adopting NVIDIA GPUs, sales technicians had to carry two expensive, heavy laptops, each with an integrated graphics card, just to be able to run Autodesk software. Even then, the graphics cards didn’t support the best experience on a laptop, so the second laptop served as a backup in case the first didn’t work.

Searching for a fix, the team turned to NVIDIA to better optimize the use of their resources by setting up a virtual desktop infrastructure. Depending on developers’ workflows, their graphics requirements for storage differed. With NVIDIA vGPU management and monitoring capabilities, Autodesk could assign computing resources based on differing compute and graphics requirements.

Due to scalability problems and long wait times for hardware, Autodesk also hoped to test a cloud-deployed virtualized solution — the Mary Poppins bag for applications. This led to CloudPC, which uses both Quadro vDWS and NVIDIA GRID to create a virtualized environment that allows developers to access applications the moment they get to their desktops.

Code that used to take up to 12 hours to access now only takes minutes to download. Support engineers, who are often on the road, can connect and resolve issues from anywhere.

“The biggest value NVIDIA brings to Autodesk is the ability to resolve and share access to the right compute resources,” said Rachel O’Gorman, leader of the Desktop Virtualization Services team for Autodesk’s CloudPC.

Autodesk developers report having the same capabilities on virtual desktops as they did with workstations, but now have increased accessibility to software.

“The virtualized desktops not only replace and augment the physical workstations,” said O’Gorman. “The VDI environment lets us optimize resource consumption, reduce maintenance and management work, and increase productivity for our developers and technical sales teams.”