Earlier this year, AMD released their answer to NVIDIA’s GRID vGPU after what seems like a long wait. Their platform, dubbed MxGPU (for Multiuser GPU), is a hardware-based offering that does all the virtualization on the card itself and has no licenses to buy.
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Since AMD does the virtualization in the hardware via SR-IOV (as opposed to NVIDIA, which relies on the driver to do the slicing of GPU resources), users get direct access to the GPU along with the benefit of being able to use the native driver to support the new hardware. OpenGL, OpenCL, and DirectX are all supported. AMD claims that since they’re doing more work in the hardware, MxGPU could perform better, at least in theory, than GRID, but I’d need to see data before I made that call. (It’s one of the things I’m hoping to find out at BriForum during one of our graphics sessions)
The cards themselves are available through server OEMs right now, namely HP, Dell, and SuperMico. There are three models:
- S7150 ($2,399) – Maximum of 16 users per card, 2048 Stream Processors, 8GB GDDR5 VRAM, 150W power consumption.
- S7150 x2 ($3,999) – Basically twice the resources of the S7150. 4096 Stream Processors, 16GB GDDR5 VRAM, to support 32 users per card. Power draw is a little less than double the S7150 at 265W.
- S7100X ($1,925) – An MXM card that is essentially the S7150 in terms of specs. It was just released this week (and I can’t find a link for it!)
The maximum number of users per card is a physical cap related to the amount of VRAM dedicated to each user. AMD’s guidelines for the S7150 card are that it can be split between 2-6 users with Design or Engineering use cases, 6-10 users with advanced use cases that consume high-end graphics but aren’t creating them, or up to 16 users that are typical knowledge workers. Of course your mileage might vary, but those numbers are a good place to start.
The cards currently only support VDI environments built upon vSphere/ESXi 6.x, though XenServer support is in the works. Linux interest is at an all-time high these days, so AMD is also considering adding support for the KVM hypervisor and client OSes.
I’m not about to jump out and say one product is better than another, especially without seeing the comparison data, but I can say that I’m thrilled that there are now options in virtual graphics for desktop virtualization. This competition between AMD and NVIDIA will surely result in more capabilities over the next year, and we’ll likely see costs driven down to where there’s no question about whether or not it’s worth it to add this to your environment.