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VMware, NVIDIA Add Graphic Punch To Cloud Chromebooks

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Google Chromebooks will soon have powerful graphics capabilities for businesses seeking high performance virtual desktops

Cloud desktops will soon benefit from a collaborative effort just announced by VMware, NVIDIA and Google.

The effort will see high-performance virtual desktops, as well as workstation-class graphics capabilities, migrated onto the humble Google Chromebook.

More Grunt

The collaborative effort builds on the relationship between virtualisation vendor VMware and Google, which was revealed in February this year.

Back then the two firms had partnered up to make it easier for all businesses to deploy Chromebooks to their staff. Essentially, that deal allowed for critical legacy Windows applications to be hosted and delivered via the cloud thanks to VMware’s Horizon in the data centre. This meant that Chromebook users could access those Windows applications via their Web browsers.

And now the NVIDIA GRID vGPU, coupled with VMware Blast Performance technology, will supply the graphical grunt needed to boost the performance of these cloud desktops. It will also help optimise the graphics and CPU utilisation, so as to allow more desktops and applications to be deployed on a single server.

nVidia logo“We are breaking down traditional barriers to adopting virtual desktops and offering new economics for the delivery of graphics-intensive applications through the power of the cloud,” said Sanjay Poonen, executive VP and general manager, End-User Computing, VMware. “Organisations of all industries and requirements will soon be able to embrace the mobile-cloud using a solution that offers a new way to work from three proven, industry leaders.”

According to the companies, the VMware BLAST Performance technology resides in the Chromebook firmware. It will allow Chromebook users, for example, to make use of graphic-intensive products such as Adobe Illustrator CC and Autodesk AutoCAD, as well as more mundane programmes such as Microsoft Office. The NVIDIA Tegra decode technologies will also apparently help extend battery life by up to 50 percent.

“This collaboration will offer customers all the performance, stability and compatibility of NVIDIA hardware-accelerated graphics, with the added flexibility, mobility and security of a virtual environment,” said Jeff Brown, VP and general manager, Professional Solutions Business, NVIDIA.

“Chromebooks were designed to bring a new approach to many of the problems with traditional computers,” said Caesar Sengupta, VP of product management, Google. “We’re excited about what this collaboration means for our customers and what it can enable them to do. Imagine manufacturers designing complex 3D models and sharing them with engineers around the globe, or physicians taking medical imaging out into the community, rather than being tethered to high end workstations.”

The programme will be available for select NVIDIA and VMware customers in Q4 2014. Customers who want to try out VMware products with the Nvidia Grid vGPU can register here for early access.

Business Push

There is little doubt that Google hopes this development will help convince corporate IT managers of the enterprise suitability of Chromebooks. In the past, access to Windows-based applications was an issue, but it remained a key requirement for business users, if the Chromebook was to expand significantly beyond its education heartland.

Some business users have been moving to the cloud and the Chromebook platform over the past couple of years, but they still required support for their critical or legacy applications. Thus with the VMware, NVIDIA collaborative effort, Google hopes to win over more enterprise customers.

Chromebooks were first introduced in 2009, but sold poorly as users were concerned about the need to stay connected in order to use many of the Chrome OS features. Google overhauled the platform in 2012 and sales have since steadily increased.

Analysts at Forrester said last year that Chromebooks have a place in the enterprise, although they admitted the cloud-based computers were not suitable for every worker or every scenario.

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