Siggraph Briefings

Enabling workstation virtualization in the entertainment industry

Read all the SIGGRAPH position papers HERE

From video editing to animation to VFX design, media and entertainment professionals are working on projects with ever-increasing size and complexity, and are experiencing the need to be more mobile than ever before. With this comes the need for the flexibility to access workstation projects remotely, and, as a result, the notion of the fixed location-based workstation is changing. The industry is witnessing a shift as technology is now able to virtualize data and graphics intensive application workloads securely outside of the office.

Desktop virtualization has long been gaining popularity in the enterprise as a means to securely deploy applications to users both in the office and working remotely, but until very recently it wasn’t possible to virtualize a workstation and maintain the same high-quality experience demanded by end users.  With Dell’s announcement earlier this year of the Dell Wyse Datacenter for Virtual Workstations, the idea of virtualization is now beginning to take hold within media and entertainment and other industries that require graphic and compute-intensive workflows. Capable of addressing key pain points of workstation customers, including securing sensitive data, offering high performance and scalability, and enabling greater efficiencies for the workforce and IT, the Dell Wyse Datacenter for Virtual Workstations is the first end-to-end, independent software vendor (ISV) certified virtualized workstation solution that offers support through a single vendor.

courtesy of Marvel Studios and Framestore

Now, employees running demanding workloads can virtualize their workstations and benefit from increased geographic flexibility, resulting in improved workflows as well as significant time savings. With a centrally hosted and managed graphics environment, IT managers are able to more efficiently deploy high-end workloads and use IT resources more effectively while ensuring data integrity and efficient failover. Users can also share a centralized data set, enabling greater productivity as well as secure collaboration with third parties, as users from across the globe can remotely access the same data and applications on an as-needed basis. The ability to virtualize workstations also opens up many end users to company BYOD programs, where this may have never been possible before.

To help customers move faster, Dell announced the Dell Workstation Virtualization Center of Excellence (CoE) at Dell headquarters in Round Rock, Texas in March, and recently expanded by opening a new CoE in Dell’s Solution Center in Limerick, Ireland. The CoE helps customers and partners evaluate the best way to virtualize in their environment. Customers can receive advice from experts on the best way to architect a virtualized workstation solution and test it without any fiscal outlay or workflow disruption, while independent software vendors can use the CoE to perform compatibility tests and certify existing applications for virtual workstation environments, as well as evolve their offerings to better leverage the benefits of the new technology.

Especially for companies with security concerns and global collaboration needs, the benefits of virtualization, which include better manageability, risk reduction, energy efficiency, data centralization and deployment agility, can often outweigh the initial investment. Workstation virtualization is on the rise in film, broadcast and among digital content creation professionals due to increased competition, higher audience expectations, and pressure to produce break-through output in less time than ever before.

It is increasingly common for teams to be distributed across multiple locations, often across the globe. For example, Pixomondo, the studio behind visual effects in “Game of Thrones” and “Star Trek Into Darkness”, has offices in Stuttgart, Los Angeles, Frankfurt, Beijing, Toronto, and Shanghai and relies on Dell technology to work on projects 24/7 from around the world and within many different departments. Dell workstation solutions allow Pixomondo to collaborate in real-time without missing a beat. Another example is Framestore, the Academy Award-winning company behind the visual effects in blockbusters like “Gravity” and Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”. Framestore recently established a new office in Montreal and turned to Dell to provide the secure, remote access necessary to connect its team in London with the over 150 new artists, producers, software developers and engineers working out of Montreal.

Dell at SIGGRAPH 2014
Dell is announcing additions to its comprehensive line of workstation solutions with a new set of tower and rack workstations designed to address the critical requirements of customers in compute-intensive fields where performance and reliability are paramount. Additionally, Dell will be expanding its partnership with Teradici with the announcement of a new end-to-end software solution enabling customers to access Dell workstations from remote locations.

Dell will be providing media and analysts attending SIGGRAPH in Vancouver, Canada with a sneak peek at the new systems during an exclusive event on Monday, August 11 featuring a presentation from Framestore on how Dell technology helped power the visual effects in the new film “Guardians of the Galaxy”. Dell’s new offerings will also be on display at NVIDIA’s Limelight event on Tuesday, August 12 and during the JPR Press Luncheon on Wednesday, August 13.