VMware Horizon

In-Depth: NVIDIA GRID vGPU with VMware Horizon 6.1

In February, VMware announced that NVIDIA GRID vGPU on VMware vSphere 6 with VMware Horizon 6 was coming soon and now the software is available for download!

VMware Horizon 6.1 and vSphere 6 with NVIDIA GRID vGPU enables designers, architects and engineers to run the most advanced, graphics-rich applications in a remote desktop—using NVIDIA professional 3D graphics and certified application drivers. This brings workstation-class performance to remote and mobile workers more affordably than ever before, even over high-latency networks.

Let’s get into the details of what is NVIDIA GRID vGPU and how it works with Horizon to deliver scalable, high performance VDI.


NVIDIA GRID vGPU software, combined with NVIDIA GRID K1 and K2 graphics adapters, offers a platform that delivers true GPU hardware acceleration shared between multiple virtual desktops.  NVIDIA GRID vGPU sharing is accomplished with different GPU profiles that each enable a dedicated amount of video memory appropriate for different use cases just like different physical graphics adapters.

NVIDIA GRID Graphics Board

Virtual GPU Profile

Graphics Memory

Max Displays Per User

Max Resolution Per Display

Max Users Per Graphics Board

Recommended Use Case



4 GB 4 2560×1600




2 GB 4 2560×1600 4

Designer/Power User


1 GB 2 2560×1600 8

Designer/Power User


512 MB 2 2560×1600 16

Designer/Power User



4 GB 4 2560×1600 4

Entry Designer


2 GB 4 2560×1600 8

Power User


1 GB 2 2560×1600 16

Power User


512 MB 2 2560×1600 32

Power User

 The “Q” in the vGPU profile names mean NVIDIA vGPU Profiles undergo the same rigorous application certification process as NVIDIA’s Quadro workstation-class processors and drivers, which insures that high performance virtual desktop graphics users get the same experience as they would expect from a physical workstation.

How Does NVIDIA GRID vGPU and Horizon 6.1 Work Together?

The goal of NVIDIA GRID vGPU with Horizon is to enable the scalable rollout of graphics-rich 2D and 3D desktops across an enterprise.  This is accomplished by combining the high performance and scalability of GRID vGPU with flexibility, security and manageability of Horizon. Let’s see how that works.

First, the NVIDIA GRID vGPU Manager is the key component installed on each GRID enabled server and works with vSphere 6 to enable the selection and management of GPU profiles assigned to each user based on the available physical GRID graphics adapter.

Second, vSphere 6 manages the placement of GRID enabled virtual machines on an individual GRID enabled server. vSphere 6 will maximize the performance of each virtual machine by distributing virtual machines across different GPUs when possible.

0 - vGPU Diagram

Next, Horizon works with vSphere 6 to further extend performance by effectively managing the placement of desktops across a complete cluster of multiple GRID enabled servers.  While vSphere 6 manages placement of desktops on an individual GRID enabled server, that isn’t scalable when you need to deploy 500 or 5000 3D desktops. Horizon works with available GRID vGPU enabled servers across an entire vSphere cluster to efficiently place 3D desktops as needed on the appropriate GPU.

Finally, Horizon uses the NVIDIA GRID SDK to setup virtual displays to match the setup of the end user’s client machine, and to efficiently capture the 3D displays. Horizon then encodes the 3D displays using the PCoIP or Blast remoting protocols based on the Horizon client used.  This enables users to access rich, immersive graphics on any device, anywhere, while server admins gain the security, flexibility and manageability of moving graphics workstations into the data center.

Adding NVIDIA GRID vGPU VMs to Your Horizon Deployment

There are two key requirements to add NVIDIA GRID vGPU 3D VMs to your Horizon environment.

First, you need NVIDIA GRID K1 or K2 cards installed in GRID compatible servers, which must be certified and listed on both the VMware vSphere 6 hardware compatibility list and on the NVIDIA GRID certified server list. It is HIGHLY recommended you acquire the servers with the GPUs preinstalled with the correct cooling and power setup by the server vendor.

Second, NVIDIA GRID vGPU desktops require Horizon 6.1, which includes vSphere 6 and vCenter 6. Once you have installed or upgraded to vSphere 6, vCenter 6, and the Horizon 6.1 releases, you can add GRID VGPU desktops to your Horizon deployment.

Once you have the necessary GRID GPU enabled servers and vCenter 6 and Horizon 6.1 installed, here is the high level summary of what you need to do to get up and running to deploy a large number of 3D desktops:

1)   Install vSphere 6 and the NVIDIA GRID vGPU Manager on each GRID enabled server

1 - Install vSphere 6

2)   In vCenter, create a cluster and add the GRID enabled servers to that cluster

2 - Create a Cluser

3)   Create the master Windows virtual machine with the desired GRID vGPU profile and install the NVIDIA Windows drivers and the Horizon agent.

3 - GPU Profile

4)   Make that master virtual machine into a template virtual machine

4 - Make a Template

5)   Create a Horizon pool, choosing the GRID backed template virtual machine, and use the GRID enabled cluster as the destination for your desktop pool. Horizon will automatically manage the placement of the virtual machines across the GRID cluster

3 - Choose VGPU Profile

6)   Access your 3D virtual machine from the Horizon Client

6a - View 3D in Horizon Client

Need More Details? Watch High Performance Graphics for VDI Bootcamp

You don’t need to go away for eight weeks for intensive training, just go to YouTube and watch this great presentation from VMware experts that covers High Performance VDI with NVIDIA GRID vGPU in more detail.


Need Even More Details? Download the NVIDIA GRID vGPU Deployment Guide for Horizon

VMware collaborated with NVIDIA to create the NVIDIA GRID vGPU Deployment Guide for Horizon. The deployment guide takes you through the step-by-step details of setting up a proof of concept from scratch.

If you have never deployed vSphere, vCenter, or Horizon before and are interested in NVIDIA GRID vGPU on Horizon, or just want every detail, the NVIDIA GRID vGPU Deployment Guide for Horizon will make it easy.

Download the NVIDIA GRID vGPU Deployment Guide for VMware Horizon here.

Delivering High Performance Desktops Is Easy with NVIDIA GRID vGPU and Horizon

Together, NVIDIA GRID vGPU with VMware vSphere 6 and Horizon 6.1 make it easy to deploy scalable, high performance 3D desktops across the entire enterprise.

Built on the rock solid, enterprise proven foundation of vSphere, NVIDIA GRID vGPU with Horizon 6.1 delivers immersive 3D graphics, with greater security for mission-critical data, highly scalable performance, improved manageability, more flexibility, better collaboration, in a cost effective solution.

Many organizations just like yours have already started experiencing the business impact of this solution, as shared with us in our Early Access Program.  These participants expect to tap into the power of GRID-powered Horizon desktops and apps to:

  • Dramatically reduce workflow cycle time
  • Centralize workstation operating images
  • Bring geographically distributed design teams closer together
  • Realize major design/development cost savings

Clearly, there has never been a better time than now to deploy high performance virtual desktops with Horizon with NVIDIA GRID vGPU.

Interested in accelerating your deployment of scalable high-performance virtual desktops, powered by Horizon and GRID vGPU?  Check out our Direct Access program here.

For more information about Horizon with GRID vGPU, please visit: http://www.vmware.com/products/horizon-view/features/vGPU.html

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By Pat Lee (@patlee), Sr. Director of Remote Experience, VMware End-User Computing