Nvidia Grid gets real

Amazon makes Nvidia’s Grid visual computing technology widely available

By Kathleen Maher

Although Nvidia’s Grid was an­nounced over a year ago at GTC 2012 and has seen some customer adoption and important partner­ships with HP and Dell, among oth­ers, Nvidia put more meat on the bone with the Kepler rolled out last spring. Kepler is Nvidia’s first chip that has integrated support for remote computing. At Nvidia’s GTC devel­oper conference this year, the company in­troduced the Visual Computing Appliance (VCA), a compact, low-cost 2U appliance that enables small companies to take advantage of Nvid­ia’s Grid technology. And Amazon has put the icing on the cake by providing access to Nvidia’s GPUs via its EC2, Elastic Com­pute Cloud web ser­vice available through Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Using the hypervisors such as those offered by VMWare, Citrix, Microsoft, or the open source Zen hypervisor offered by Amazon, devices can access a wealth of resources in the cloud. (Source: VMWare)

Using the hypervisors such as those offered by VMWare, Citrix, Microsoft, or the open source Zen hypervisor offered by Amazon, devices can access a wealth of resources in the cloud. (Source: VMWare)

So far, GPU re­sources are available in two instance types, G2 and CG1; both include Intel Xeon processors and Nvidia GPUs, which can be used for graphics applications or GPGPU com­pute applications. The G2 includes ac­cess to Nvidia Grid GPUs via the Kepler GK104 including 4 GB of video memory and the GPU’s on-board hardware video encoder. The CG1 instances offer Nvid­ia’s Tesla M2050 GPUs (Fermi GF100).

Amazon says the initial driver release for the G2 includes support for OpenGL 4.3, DirectX 11, CUDA 5.5, and Open­CL 1.1. The CG1 drivers offer support for CUDA 5.5, OpenCL 1.1, and Direct­Compute. Both options provide access to the Grid SDK. Amazon says the pop­ular use cases for G2 will be service-side graphics applications including game streaming and 3D application stream­ing. The CG1 offers capabilities on the GPGPU compute side including mas­sively parallel tasks like computational chemistry, rendering, financial model­ing, and engineering design.

Now that major puzzle pieces are in place, announcements are starting to flow, and they are coming first for G2 applications:

  • Otoy announces its Orbx middleware software for streaming applications through the browser.
  • Autodesk announces a relationship with Otoy to enable streaming work­station apps. Playcast deployed its cloud gam­ing system and demonstrated War­ner Brothers Batman: Arkham City video game streamed to smart TVs.
  • Mainframe2 demonstrated Adobe Photoshop running streamed to a browser.
  • Argawi announced will take advan­tage of Amazon’s EC2 for GPUs to stream games and apps to mobile devices.
  • Amazon announced AppStream, an in-house software for streaming apps.

The addition of GPU power to the Amazon web, says Amazon and Nvidia, expands the use of the Cloud from basic storage, data processing, and 2D appli­cations to 3D, fully GPU-accelerated, interactive consumer and professional applications. The access GPU makes a software-as-service (SaaS) option avail­able to vendors who might want to lease time on their software in addition to or instead of selling outright with a per­petual license.

Otoy and Autodesk team up to stream workstation apps

It won’t come as a surprise to any­one who is even mildly paying attention to this space that Autodesk has been among the first to stand up and raise its hand to declare itself fully prepared to take advantage of this opportunity.

Autodesk has collaborated with Otoy and Mozilla on ORBX.js. A JavaScript framework, ORBX.js enables 1080p60 cloud streaming to all HTML5 brows­ers without the use of plug-ins, browser-specific video codecs, thin-client installa­tions, or native code dependencies. To dem­onstrate the potential of app streaming on Nvidia Grid, Otoy and Autodesk are col­laborating on technol­ogy that offers Au­todesk’s most popular design applications, including 3DS Max, Maya, and Inventor available through any modern web brows­er via an Otoy AMI. Otoy has also demon­strated Photoshop CS6 and games from Valve running in the browser.

To make it easy for software com­panies to deploy applications onto G2 instances, Otoy has enabled a Win­dows- and Linux-based Amazon Ma­chine Image (AMI) with Otoy’s Orbx middleware. SaaS companies can install their applications into Otoy’s AMI and begin streaming to web browsers within minutes. In their press release, Nvidia praises Otoy’s Orbx AMI as the easi­est way for software-as-a-service companies to access the video-streaming capabilities in Nvidia Grid.

Mainframe2 is another company taking advantage of Amazon’s G2 instances to stream appli­cations. Currently it is demonstrating its product using Photoshop, but the company is very interested in also of­fering workstation apps for design and engineering. The company says their approach is notable because it is very easy and fast to access an app and get to work. Nvidia’s Phil Eisler singled out Mainframe2’s Photoshop implementa­tion in his blog post, and Mainframe CEO Nikola Bozinovic says ISVs will have a likewise easy-to-use path to put­ting their software on Mainframe2 and making it available.

Nvidia is also talking about  Playcast Media, which is taking advantage of the Amazon AWS G2 option to stream games. CEO Guy de Beer is taking a different route to his customers, he’s going where they live—the living room. Playcast is making-triple-A-class games accessible to gamers in the US and targeting their TV. The Playcast service has been avail­able as a streaming service in Europe and Asia for three years and it already has enabled more than 650,000 gamers to play Batman Arkham City, Street Fighter Versus Tekken, and Sonic Gen­erations. The company partners with service providers and lets them brand the streaming game service. Gamers can use existing connected devices and a generic game controller. Games are available as a monthly subscription at prices ranging from $7 to $13.

“Gamers are getting ready to spend billions on dedicated hardware and phys­ical discs,” said de Beer. “That’s several hundred dollars per gamer. Our service takes advantage of the AWS cloud, as well as existing networks and devices, to stream the best games to consumer households via our media partners at a fraction of that cost and those savings can be passed down to the consumer.” Playcast Media is used by Bouygues in France and CJ in Korea, and is expected to be available for North American con­sumers via US media brands by the sec­ond quarter of 2014.

The new C3 lineup available at AWS. Amazon uses ECUs (elastic compute units) as a relative measure of performance. One ECU provides the CPU power of a 1.0- to 1.2-CGZ 2007n Opteron or 2007 Xeon processor. (Source: Amazon)

The new C3 lineup available at AWS. Amazon uses ECUs (elastic compute units) as a relative measure of performance. One ECU provides the CPU power of a 1.0- to 1.2-CGZ 2007n Opteron or 2007 Xeon processor. (Source: Amazon)

 

More to come

Amazon has figured out how to package its cloud services so that ven­dors can create products on Amazon’s infrastructure. This is just the first flush of applications announcing prod­ucts, and we haven’t seen much on the GPGPU front yet either.

 

Posted in: BIZ, HWD, News Watch

About the Author:

Kathleen is the editor-in-chief of GraphicSpeak and a senior analyst at Jon Peddie Research. She has been writing about design, movies, music, art, and technology for almost all of her working life.

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