ArcGIS Pro users can create and share realistic 2D and 3D visualizations that are highly interactive and support informed decision making. Rendering a high-resolution experience for ArcGIS Pro is relatively easy on a GPU-enabled Windows desktop or laptop, but what about delivering ArcGIS Pro in a virtualized environment that takes advantage of security, centralized administration, scalable delivery, and portability of Pro? What are some of the considerations when architecting a virtualized environment with high resolution displays? Let’s explore some of the challenges to using high-resolution displays in general and then apply it to virtualized environments running ArcGIS Pro.
In the above example 1-1, we see the different resolutions that monitors on the market today are capable of. The most commonly used resolutions fall in the range between 720P and 2K, but recently there have been advancements and user interest in 4K monitors. While physical workstations and GPUs can support 8K resolution, virtualized environments are only capable of delivering a maximum resolution of 4K, so we will not discuss 8K.
Resolution is defined by the number of pixels that can be displayed on a screen. For example, a 2K resolution is 2048 pixels in width by 1080 pixels in height. The larger the physical screen, the larger each pixel will be if the resolution stays the same between physical monitors. A higher resolution for larger monitors is desirable. Aspect ratio is the proportional relationship between the width and height of the physical screen. As resolution changes on a screen, so can the aspect ratio. Some combinations of resolution and aspect ratios can make the image on the screen appear stretched or elongated or cause the image to be scrolled across, which is undesirable. Most wide screen monitors use a 16:9 aspect ratio where older square monitors use the 4:3 aspect ratio. Refresh rate or FPS (Frames Per Second) is how fast the pixels are updated in the screen. The faster the refresh rate, the more fluid the image movement on the screen. A higher refresh rate is desirable.
Considerations When Delivering High Resolution Applications
There are 7 components to consider when delivering ArcGIS Pro virtually in high resolution. This set of considerations are necessary when architecting a successful high-resolution VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) solution.
- Classifying your users – Classifying your users into the below groups will help you determine what type of physical video card(s) you will need to achieve the desired resolution / experience and ultimately help you decide what kind and how many physical GPUs you will need to successfully deploy your high resolution VDI solution.
- Designer– Engineers that utilize high-end 3D visualization as well as advanced data analysis. This group also uses the standard PC applications, browsers, & multimedia.
- Power User / Designer – Power users that need 2D and 3D visualization and standard PC applications, browsers, & multimedia.
- Knowledge workers / Virtual Application User – An end user that opens ArcGIS Pro as an application and primarily functions as a consumer of data and may perform data input. ESRI does not recommend deploying ArcGIS Pro in an RDSH (Remote Desktop Session Host) environment, see our system requirements page http://pro.arcgis.com/en/pro-app/get-started/arcgis-pro-system-requirements.htm for more information
- The Quantity and Resolution of the Physical Monitor– Talk to your end-users, collect information on the type of monitor they are using now and determine if there is a need for the user to have multiple monitors. Ensure that the users physical monitor has the capability of the desired resolution.
- The Physical Connector – The physical connector matters in the delivery of the video signal. Ensure that the monitor, cable type and PC/Thin Client support the desired connector.
- VGA – Capable of 640X480 (Analog signal) / Not recommended for high resolution applications.
- HDMI 1.4 – Capable of 3820X2160 @ 30FPS
- HDMI 2.0 – Capable of 4K (4096×2160) at 60FPS
- DVI – Nearly Identical in resolution as HDMI, but does not carry audio.
- Display Port – Capable of 3840X2160 @ 60FPS – Can carry audio
- The vGPU Technology: NVIDIA GRID provides virtual GPU technology that enables very good VM/server density, improved user experience, business mobility and security. Depending on the use case and class type of your users, there is an NVIDIA GRID card for each use case. These GPU card(s) will be placed inside of the physical server and will provide a “dedicated piece of framebuffer” of that GPU or assigned vGPU profile from the NVIDIA vGPU manager to each of the virtual machines that require a GPU. For more information on Virtual GPU Types and how to determine the profile that each virtual machine will receive based on the resolution and number of monitors, see section 1.3.1 on http://docs.nvidia.com/grid/latest/grid-vgpu-user-guide/index.html#virtual-gpu-types-grid
- For users classified as “Designer”, Use NVIDIA QUADRO vDWS (NVIDIA Quadro Virtual Data Center Workstation) https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/design-visualization/quadro-vdws/
- For users classified as “Power Users / Designer”, Use NVIDIA GRID Virtual PC https://www.nvidia.com/content/dam/en-zz/Solutions/design-visualization/documents/186850_NVIDIA_GRID_vPC_SolutionOverview_NV_US_WEB.pdf
- For users classified as “Knowledge Workers / Virtual Application Users”, Use NVIDIA GRID for Virtual Apps https://www.nvidia.com/content/dam/en-zz/Solutions/design-visualization/documents/186850_NVIDIA_GRID_vPC_SolutionOverview_NV_US_WEB.pdf
- The Software Application– Make sure that the application that is being virtualized supports the desired resolution. ArcGIS Pro is designed on both the graphics tier and app framework to run and scale with any scaling/DPI resolution values. If ArcGIS Pro needs to be virtualized, ESRI advocates publishing ArcGIS Pro in a VDI environment.
- The Operating System: We understand that not every IT department has deployed Windows 10 as a VDI solution, however, there are large benefits to deploying a high-resolution Windows desktop in Windows 10, specifically speaking to the latest Windows 10 Anniversary Update. See the latest from Microsoft here on DPI Scaling and 4K improvements. https://blogs.windows.com/buildingapps/2017/04/04/high-dpi-scaling-improvements-desktop-applications-windows-10-creators-update/#sUvqAEDhSzvOdyLk.97 Many advancements have been made in Windows 10 to quell multi-monitor scaling issues and fix high resolution bugs.
- The Client – Ensure that the software client that you are using on your desktop, laptop or thin client can deliver 4K resolution – Utilizing the latest client components such as Citrix Receiver (4.11), VMware Horizon Client (4.7), or Microsoft RDP client (v10.0.14393) or later are all suitable choices for a 4K experience.
Bringing it All Together
Creating a high-resolution virtualized solution can be a daunting task if you are new to virtualization. After gathering the requirements from the above 7 components, present these findings to your virtualization vendor and NVIDIA reps. In my experience, they are eager to assist you in getting your environment running if you will be purchasing new licensing, hardware, and/or have and existing support contract. Don’t forget to setup a proof of concept of the new environment and present it to your users. Get the users feedback in form of a survey so that you can successfully measure your success on your latest ArcGIS Pro project.