AMD, NVIDIA competition heats up as Citrix adds MxGPU support to XenDesktop

Until now, NVIDIA has been king of the hill when it comes to virtualized GPUs in VDI. AMD's MxGPU is now supported in Citrix XenDesktop, and that changes things.

It was about a year ago that I caught up with AMD with regards to their MxGPU platform. MxGPU competes directly against NVIDIA GRID (at least in desktop virtualization. It might be a different discussion with the GPU Computing people), though it’s only been available to VMware View customers. Last week, Citrix announced that it had added MxGPU support to XenDesktop 7.13.

If you think it took a while, you’re not alone. It was September 2015 when we first heard about MxGPU, and by the time I covered them in May AMD was generating quite a buzz around their pricing and performance claims, especially when compared to the existing NVIDIA Tesla M60 and GRID 2.0 pricing. In response, NVIDIA released their Tesla M10 card that compares more accurately with the offering from AMD. Since then, though, AMD has been relatively silent.

Despite the market heating up (especially when you add in the Intel Iris Pro with GVT-g), AMD was at huge competitive disadvantage because there was no MxGPU support for XenDesktop and XenApp. That means that if you talked to someone who says they’ve run MxGPU in their Citrix environment, they’re probably lying. It also means that NVIDIA has enjoyed a huge advantage by being the only platform supported by all desktop virtualization platforms.

With AMD’s newfound Citrix support the playing field is level, so we can finally see how this shakes out. We should begin to see more AMD-based deployments in the wild, too, since the number of potential customers has at least doubled. I suspect it won’t be long until we get a look at real-world, independent comparison between the platforms, too.

Also, let’s not forget about Intel. While Iris Pro with GVT-g is currently limited in terms of the number of virtual machines it can support per-card, they’re surely not done evolving the platform. Intel continues to receive a lot of attention because if you have the right combination of hypervisor and processor family (which right now is XenServer and Broadwell/Haswell) you “just get” virtualized GPU.

Bottom line: Pay attention to this space as we ramp up for Citrix Synergy and the rest of Conference Season 2017. We should see a lot of interesting announcement and comparisons.

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