GPU teleportation: 2018’s first virtual pissing match

Citrix and VMware are both close to allowing live migration of NVIDIA-powered VMs

The wonderful world of x86 server virtualization is so settled that analyst firm Gartner last year decided it no longer needed to bother with a magic quadrant comparing the handful of remaining suppliers. But the big players are still finding a few ways to advance their wares and niggle each other at the same time, and 2018’s kicked off with a little battle around moving VMs that use NVIDIA GPUs.

As Reg readers are doubtless aware, GPUs speed things up nicely in lots of applications. Virtualization vendors have of late therefore made it possible to virtualize GPUs, sharing them out among several VMs.

The virtualization community is aware that another reason users like its wares is the ability to move workloads among different pools of infrastructure, so has developed software that allows “motion” of a VM to different hardware, for resource management, performance or disaster recovery purposes. Such moves are akin to teleportation: VMs disappear from one host and appear on another. If all goes well it happens instantly, non-disruptively and without disturbing connections to things like shared storage.

And soon such moves will officially become possible to do so for VMs that use NVIDIA GPUs.

Citrix last week revealed that its efforts at live motion for GPU-powered VMs has reached tech preview with real live customers.

The company’s claimed it’s the only entity capable of making that happen, which isn’t quite true as VMware showed off the same trick at September 2017’s VMworld conference.

Citrix may be ahead inasmuch as its code is running on customer kit, while VMware has only demoed its gear.

The semantics of who’s really first don’t matter as much as the applications this will enable. GPU-equipped virtual desktops are increasingly popular, so this will make them more flexible and resilient, and also easier for service providers to deliver.

GPUs also remain expensive, so enterprises that have some in play will doubtless enjoy the chance to move workloads to under-utilised machines. And then there’s the HPC crowd, which adores GPUs and has always scheduled workloads.

The Register’s virtualization desk will keep its eye on vendors as they formalise this tech and release it into the wild. ®

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