ArcGIS Pro in VMWare Horizon View

Pro in VMWare Horizon View

Desktop virtualization is increasing and will continue as more physical desktops are moved to VDI solutions and delivered from servers in a datacenter, either on premise or cloud based (DaaS).

Esri is committed to testing and benchmarking ArcGIS Pro performance, scalability, density and user experience in virtualization platforms. We have great collaborative relationships with the virtualization vendors that are most heavily used and that are delivering the best user experiences for our users.

An important note for our users that are already using ArcGIS Desktop in VDI or application virtualization environments, ArcMap and Pro virtualize differently. ArcGIS Pro is a state of the art, industrial -grade GIS software package with a new DirectX/OpenGL based rendering engine. This rendering engine allows Pro to deliver 2D and 3D data visualization along with spatial analysis that users expect of the top tier GIS application.  The user experience delivered by this rendering engine is incredible, for both 2D and 3D data.

The ArcGIS Pro rendering engine benefits from a shareable GPU that resides on the machine with the hypervisor. We use Nvidia GRID K1 and K2 cards in our test environment. They are designed exclusively for virtualization environments. For a production environment serving many users a normal graphics card won’t do. The K1 and K2 cards have multiple GPUs that can be –shared- by multiple VMs. The sharing is controlled/managed by GRID vGPU profiles. This controls how many VMs share a GPU, the graphics memory available to a VM, and therefore the VM/GPU density.

But the question “can Pro be virtualized successfully?” is often asked.

The answer is an emphatic – Yes.

The great user experience that Pro is becoming known for is attainable in virtualized environments.

We have tested ArcGIS Pro in multiple virtualization environments using our standardized Pro rendering benchmarks across all the platforms. These standardized benchmarks allow us to get a good idea of the user experience that can be expected. It also allows us to optimize Pro for these environments, as well as work with the virtualization vendors to work on their tier of the technology stack. The rendering benchmarks are executed by a Pro add-in that is designed specifically for this task. That add-in also returns and logs key indicators that can be used to help determine user experience. Some of those metrics are:

These metrics provide a good sense of the user experience an individual is seeing. The minimum FPS and average FPS when used together can show the fluctuation in frame rate delivery. When minimum FPS and average FPS are relatively close that shows a consistent user experience. When there is frequent and large deltas between those two metrics that is a sign of jerkiness, thus a degraded user experience.

Using this method of testing we have seen a range of performance, scalability and user experience from the virtualization vendors. Keep in mind, delivering a great user experience for a high-end graphics application, in a VDI or application streaming environment, across a wide range of network bandwidths and at great geographic distances is obviously not easy.

In our most recent tests we benchmarked a single VMWare Horizon View VM with Pro. The host had ESXi 6.0, managed from a vSphere Web Client 6.0. During those tests we found VMWare Horizon View delivered a fantastic user experience. The FPS are consistently 25-30+, minimum FPS are in the lower 20’s. More importantly, watching the screen showed smooth fluid rendering and very responsive mouse and keyboard interaction.

On the hypervisor the GPU utilization was averaging ~25% for this demanding rendering test. And GPU memory utilization was ~15%. This gives an indication of the scalability of Pro in this environment, as well as VM/GPU density that the Horizon View platform delivers.

VMWare Horizon View delivered such a great user experience, several testers said it was as good a user experience as that delivered from a physical machine with a discrete GPU.

We will be completing our multiple VM scalability tests of ArcGIS Pro in VMWare Horizon View shortly and will publish a “first look” at those results in another blog.

Virtualization Island at EPC/DevSummit

There is a Virtualization Island at the Esri EPC and Dev Summit this week (March 9 – March 12) in Palm Springs. Stop by and try ArcGIS Pro in VMWare Horizon View, Citrix XenDesktop & XenApp. We can discuss requirements and considerations when virtualizing ArcGIS Pro, as well as our test environment and your production environment.

About the author

Performance Engineering Team Lead. Esri SW Product Engineering Redlands, CA

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