When Will VMware Instant Clones Support High-End 3D Graphics?

Angela Ge

Author:Angela Ge

Angela Ge is product line manager, desktop solutions, for VMware End-User Computing.

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New in VMware Horizon 7.1: Instant Clones & NVIDIA GRID vGPU

“When will VMware Instant Clones support high-end 3D graphics?”

This is the most frequently asked question I got from customers after we launched VMware Instant Clones in VMware Horizon 7. VMware VDI customers had to choose between either having high-end, hardware-accelerated graphics support or Instant Clones. With the release of Horizon 7.1, that is no longer the case. Customers can now enjoy the best of both worlds: the ability to create a pool of Instant Clones backed by NVIDIA GRID vGPU.

Interested in learning more? Register here for our NVIDIA & VMware Community Tech Webinar on What’s New with Horizon 7.1 and NVIDIA GRID on March 21.

Instant Clones technology from VMware allows administrators to rapidly clone and deploy a space-efficient virtual machine. It is part of Horizon 7 Enterprise Edition and significantly accelerates the process of provisioning virtual desktops over the previous View Composer Linked Clone technology. In addition, Instant Clones is easier to manage and update, because the desktop deletes when the user logs out. A new desktop is created using the latest master image. The rolling update minimizes desktop maintenance window.

NVIDIA GRID vGPU enables multiple VMs to have simultaneous, direct access to a single physical GPU, using the same NVIDIA graphics drivers deployed on non-virtualized operating systems. This gives VMs unparalleled graphics performance and application compatibility, together with cost effectiveness and scalability brought about by sharing a GPU among multiple workloads.

Plenty has been written about the merits and inner workings of vGPU and Instant Clones, so I will not go into more details. Here are a couple of good guides that I encourage you to check out:

Neither guide is updated with Horizon 7.1 yet, but I find the content very useful, nonetheless. In this post, let me walk you through how to provision a pool of Instant Clones with vGPU configured with Horizon 7.1.

Before you start to provision your pool, you must first create a master VM in your vCenter. Then, follow these steps to enable NVIDIA support:

  • Add NVIDIA GRID vGPU device, and select the GPU configuration in your master VM. Be sure to remember which profile you selected, as you will need this information later on when you provision the Instant Clone pool in Horizon Administrator console.
  • Start the master VM, and install the NVIDIA driver.
  • Connect to the master VM, and verify settings.
  • A more detailed step-by-step can be found in the NVIDIA GRID vGPU Deployment Guide for VMware Horizon 6.1.

Once you verify that your master VM configured correctly, take a snapshot in vCenter.

Go to the Horizon Admin Console, and click on Add Desktop Pool to bring up the pool creation wizard:

  • On the Type panel, select Automated Desktop Pool. Click on Next.
  • On the User Assignment panel, select Floating and click on Next. Dedicated user assignment currently is unsupported for Instant Clones.

Instant Clones with NVIDIA GRID 1

  • On the vCenter Server panel, select Instant Clones and then select the desired vCenter Server. Click on Next.
  • The Desktop Pool Identification panel does not contain any specific settings for this feature. So, populate fields as you normally would, and click Next.
  • On the Desktop Pool Setting panel under the Remote Display Protocol section, keep the Default display protocol selection on VMware Blast. PCoIP currently is unsupported with vGPU for Instant Clone pools. Select NVIDIA GRID vGPU in the 3D Renderer drop down. Be sure to select “No” in the Allow users to choose protocol field. You do not want your user to accidentally choose PCoIP. Populate the remaining fields on this panel as desired. Click on Next.
  • Fill in the Provisioning Settings and Storage Optimization panels as you normally would. There are no specific settings for this feature on these panels. Click on Next.
  • On the vCenter Settings panel, fill in the ParentVM field with the Master VM you created in vCenter and fill in the Snapshot field with the snapshot you created. Select the desired VM folder location, Cluster, Resource Pool and Datastores. In the vGPU Profile field, you must select the vGPU profile that matches the profile in the master VM, or the pool creation will fail. Note also that only one vGPU profile is allowed per ESXi cluster. Click on Next. If the vGPU Profile field is absent on this page, it may be that the ESXi cluster you selected does not have vGPU cards.

Instant Clones with NVIDIA GRID 2

  • Fill in the Guest Customization panel. Click on Next.
  • Verify your configuration on the Ready to Complete summary panel, and click on Finish.

You just created a pool of vGPU-enabled Instant Clones!

Together with NVIDIA, we conducted scalability validation. We had a goal of testing 500 VMs. Here is the test environment we built:

  • Horizon 7.1, Horizon Client 4.4, vSphere / ESXi 6.5 EP1
  • 5 HP Proliant DL 380 servers with Xeon CPU with a total of 96 cores across the servers, 2 M10 GRID vGPU cards per server
  • Master VM: 2 vCPU, 2GB RAM, M10-0B profile, Win 7 SP1 x64

With this setup, we provisioned and then connected to 550 Instant Clone desktops.  Excluding image priming, it took 44 minutes to create the pool of fully customized and powered on Instant Clones. That is 4.8 seconds per clone on average. We are looking to reduce that time even further in the future. Currently, an Instant Clone with a vGPU driver requires a reboot, but we are looking to remove that with future changes in the vSphere layer.

Interested in learning more? Register here for our NVIDIA & VMware Community Tech Webinar on What’s New with Horizon 7.1 and NVIDIA GRID on March 21.

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