Parallels has announced new virtualisation software that can consolidate several workstations into one physical system. The tool could save users such as graphics professionals the expense of having to run two or more costly systems for high-end applications.
Available within six weeks, Parallels Workstation Extreme (PWE) makes use of features in Intel's new Nehalem-based Xeon chips to deliver a dedicated graphics adapter to each virtual machine in a workstation, allowing demanding applications to run without any compromise on performance, according to Parallels.
Developed in partnership with Intel, Nvidia and HP, the tool is aimed at professionals working with visualisation applications, such as geophysical simulation, digital content creation and financial analysis, who often have several systems under their desk, each running a different application.
"They might have a car designed on one workstation, but need to move the 3D model to another running a different application and operating system to simulate airflow," said Bryan Goode, vice president of business development and alliances at Parallels.
While virtualisation is already widely used in server environments to consolidate several systems into one physical box, this approach has proved impractical for workstations because graphics performance has been an issue.
PWE solves this by using Intel Virtualisation Technology for Directed I/O, an enhanced feature in Intel's new Nehalem Xeon chips. This enables specific hardware resources in the host system to be dedicated to a particular machine. In this case, each virtual workstation can be mapped to a separate Nvidia graphics accelerator.
Parallels said that the FastLane Architecture in its software provides low latency and high bandwidth, and showed performance test results indicating that applications such as Autodesk, UGS NX and Dassault's SolidWorks all run at close to native performance under PWE.
"In every case, graphics performance in the virtual machine is the same as running the application natively on the host," said Goode, adding that "these tests would not even run in a virtual machine" without PWE.
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