Bringing New Meaning to “Mission-Critical” – Powered by VMware Horizon and NVIDIA GRID – part 2

Sep 22, 2015
Tony Paikeday


Tony Paikeday is a former senior product line marketing manager for VMware EUC, including VMware Horizon, as well as key enabling technologies including GPU virtualization and the software-defined data center.

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In our last post, we introduced how VMware Horizon with NVIDIA GRID is enabling the delivery of “serious workloads” like battlespace simulations that train civilian and military personnel, and the rise of Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) solutions to deliver this capability.

An example of a lower cost COTS solution is the widely deployed Bohemia Interactive Simulations Virtual Battlespace 3 (VBS3). This product is used across many countries to ensure civilian and military personnel can train on virtual equipment, vehicles and scenarios. It also allows different organizations to participate in joint large-scale virtual scenarios. This approach to training and simulation is often referred to as “Serious Games”, leveraging common consumer gaming technology to provide professional simulation solutions.

Using VMware Horizon 6 and NVIDIA GRID-enabled vSphere 6.0 servers, VMware and NVIDIA tested Bohemia Interactive Simulation’s Virtual Battlespace 3 (VBS3). In our tests we discovered that out of the box (without optimization) the virtual desktop performed as well if not better than a physical counterpart. Our test results are covered in more detail later in this blog–however, here’s a video that demonstrates our tests in action.

Horizon 6 – Secure, Mobile, Easy to Manage and now 3D enabled

Horizon 6 is the platform that provides the virtual desktop infrastructure, delivering organizations a more secure, mobile and easier to manage simulation solution. Not only are mission-critical simulations and data secured in the data center, but trainees can also access these simulations via a plethora of mobile devices. With a virtual desktop solution, customers realize the benefits of ease of management; for example, virtual desktops can be provisioned or patched in seconds rather than hours.

With NVIDIA GRID vGPU built into VMware’s platform, virtual desktops can now share and access physical GPU technology. This is the enabler to running 3D applications on a virtual desktop.


The architecture to support such a solution is based on an NVIDIA GRID Certified Server that acts as the VMware vSphere 6.0 host for VMware Horizon 6 virtual desktops. A range of laptop, thin, zero or even mobile clients can access the platform via an industry leading remote display protocol in PCoIP. In fact, Amulet Hotkey even offer a security accredited PCoIP Zero Client that supports our solution today.

vgpu pcoip

Training and Simulation Test Results

So, what did we test?

  • Application: Bohemia Interactive Simulations Virtual Battlespace 3.6
  • Virtual Desktop Solution: VMware Horizon 6 v6.1 and vSphere 6.0
  • vSphere Host: HP DL380 with 2 x NVIDIA GRID K2 cards (4 GPUs in total), 2 x 12 core 2.7Ghz CPUs and SSD backed storage array
  • Virtual Desktops: 4 vCPU, 8GB vRAM and NVIDIA GRID K260Q vGPU profile
  • Display Resolution: 1920×1080, 32 bit color
  • Clients: Apple MacBook Pro with OSX, Apple MacBook Pro with Win10, Teradici Tera2 Zero Client, Repurposed PC as Thin Client.
  • Client Software: VMware Horizon Client 3.4, Teradici Zero Client
  • Consolidation: We ran 4 virtual desktops on a single NVIDIA GRID K2 graphics card (2 desktops per GPU). We could have run up to 8 desktops on the server.

We compared our virtual desktop performance to 2 physical workstation configurations. The physical desktops tested do not represent the optimal specification for VBS3, but do represent typical workstations in wide use.

In both physical and virtual desktop testing, we used out of the box configuration without tuning for best performance. With tuning and an optimal configuration, it is expected VBS3 delivers 40-60FPS, depending on the scenario.

The first physical desktop tested was a 2.53Ghz CPU with 4 cores and 4GB RAM. The second was a 2Ghz CPU with 8 cores and 16GB RAM. Both PCs had an NVIDIA Quadro K4000 – a professional workstation GPU.

We took the best results between the two physical configurations. We then compared these results to 4 virtual desktops running concurrently on our VMware vSphere server.

We tested how long it took to load the VBS3 application, the frames per second (FPS) on average while using the editor, the average FPS for an automated scenario and the average FPS for an interactive scenario. The FPS measure is critical for user experience. For virtual desktops, we ran 4 desktops concurrently across two GPU’s to ensure we represented a fully loaded NVIDIA GRID card at the expected consolidation ratios.

Screenshot 2015-09-21 16.33.07

The slight FPS difference in two of the tests was not noticeable for users either in the rendering of graphics or interaction. The results clearly show that the virtual desktop is on par with the physical desktop. In fact, we believe that if we had used a higher frequency CPU (3.1Ghz rather than 2.7Ghz) in our server we would have exceeded the performance of the physical desktop. Application load times and network performance were significantly improved in the virtual desktop as it benefitted from SSD backed storage and 1-10GbE networking in the datacenter.

Growing Market

It’s estimated that there are over 400M users with a 3D graphics requirement for their workspace and applications. Now VMware customers can be secure in the knowledge that even the most demanding applications can be virtualized. With a growing market there are already established partners offering training and simulation in the cloud with VMware. Globally and in the US, partners such as General Dynamics work closely with VMware in the Federal and Defense sectors. In Europe, Prolinx is an experienced partner in the defense industry based out of the United Kingdom. Eurosimtec specialize in delivering VBS3 and other simulation workloads via the cloud and are based in Germany. Another example is Novatech, a UK based partner that specializes in training and simulation solutions in the defense industry.

Now more than ever, mission-critical applications can be virtualized on the VMware platform, supported by an ecosystem of software vendors and services/system integration partners.

VMware would like to thank Oliver Arup (Bohemia Interactive Simulations) and Mike Walsh (NVIDIA) for their assistance in virtualizing VBS3.


By Tony Paikeday and Matt Coppinger