How Dell Can Help You Work from Home
Michael Alba posted on May 06, 2020 |
A look at Dell Precision mobile workstations and desktop PCoIP solutions.
Dell has sponsored this post.
(Image courtesy of Dell.)
(Image courtesy of Dell.)

The world is stuck at home, but the work must go on. Fortunately, in this modern technological age many engineers are able to perform some or all of their work remotely—all they need are the proper tools.

Workstations remain the powerhouse of an engineer’s arsenal, but with that powerhouse stuck in the office and the engineer stuck at home, mobile workstations are rising to the occasion. And mobile workstations have indeed risen over the last several years. Today’s best mobile workstations are on par with the best desktop workstations of five years ago.

In 2015, the best Dell workstation on offer was the Dell Precision Tower 7910. A typical configuration boasted an Intel Xeon E5-2687W v3, a server class CPU with 10 cores and a 25MB cache; an AMD FirePro W5100 GPU with 4GB of GDDR5 VRAM; up to 64GB of memory; and a 500GB hard drive.

Released in 2019, the Dell Precision 7740 mobile workstation packs an Intel Xeon E2286M with 8 cores and a 16MB cache, an NVIDIA Quadro RTX 5000 with 16GB of GDDR6 VRAM, up to 128GB of memory, and up to 2TB of SSD storage. In many ways, the mobile workstation from 2019 is better than the desktop workstation from 2015.

While today’s mobile workstations have reached a level of performance that enables engineers to perform actual engineering work, they aren’t the only solution for engineers cruelly separated from their desktops. Remote access solutions like PC-over-IP allow engineers to access their desktops from anywhere. In this article, we’ll look at these two solutions for how Dell is enabling engineers to work from home.

Dell Precision Mobile Workstations

The Dell Precision lineup of mobile workstations is divided into three main categories: the 3000, 5000 and 7000 series. In general, the higher the number, the better the performance. However, all Dell Precision mobile workstations adhere to a unifying design philosophy, according to Chris Ramirez, Dell Industry Strategist for Precision Workstations in Engineering and Manufacturing.

“The thing that drives us in all workstations comes down to three core tenets,” said Ramirez. “Intelligent performance, mission critical reliability, and immersive productivity.”

The Precision 3000 series is Dell’s entry-level lineup consisting of affordable 15” mobile workstations. “If you need a system that is certified for your CAD package at the minimum price, the Precision 3000 series is going to be where it's at,” Ramirez said. You can read engineering.com’s review of the Dell Precision 3540 here.

The Dell Precision 3541. (Image courtesy of Dell.)
The Dell Precision 3541. (Image courtesy of Dell.)

One rung up the ladder is the Precision 5000 series, aimed at managers and executives. These mobile workstations are packed with enough power to run engineering applications while being wrapped in Dell’s thinnest and lightest 15” form factor.

The Dell Precision 5540. (Image courtesy of Dell.)
The Dell Precision 5540. (Image courtesy of Dell.)

Finally, at the top of the line is the Precision 7000 series, designed for power users. Available in both 15” and 17” form factors, the Precision 7000 series offer powerful specs including Intel Core i9 and Xeon processors, NVIDIA RTX 5000 graphics cards and 128GB of ECC memory. “The Precision 7000 series are the most powerful mobile workstations in the world,” Ramirez said. You can read engineering.com’s review of the Dell Precision 7530 here.

According to Ramirez, one of the standout features of the 7000 series is its thermal design. Powerful specs like RTX 5000 graphics aren’t exclusive to the Precision 7000 series, but as Ramirez says, only the Precision 7000 series can make the most of them.

“The time and effort we've taken to develop our thermal cooling solution allows us to run our GPUs at 10 watts higher than the competition, so 80 watts for the 15” and 110 watts for the 17” 7000 series,” he explained. “So you're going to see a much better performance in most typical use cases, because we're feeding our GPU with more power because we've spent the time to design the internal cooling such that we can verify it's going to work on a 24/7 duty cycle without having to throttle down its performance.”

The Dell Precision 7540. (Image courtesy of Dell.)
The Dell Precision 7540. (Image courtesy of Dell.)

Another highlight of the Precision 7000 series is that both models—the Precision 7540 and Precision 7740—are certified as NVIDIA NGC-Ready for GPU-optimized data science applications. “NGC-Ready certified means it is deemed suitable by NVIDIA for heavy AI workloads, the type that are required when developing Machine Leaning and Deep Learning models on unstructured datasets large or small,” explained Kyle Harper, Director of Artificial Intelligence Strategy for Dell Precision.

Though the Precision 7540 and 7740 aren’t the only mobile workstations with an NGC-Ready designation, the series’ thermal design is once again a distinguishing factor, according to Harper.

“AI workloads are notorious for requiring maximum performance from whatever underlying hardware it finds itself running on. [Dell NGC-Ready mobile workstations] never run lower than their rated full speed performance, even when running these heavy AI workloads. The competition’s solutions cannot do the same. The user gets through their AI runs faster on a Dell NGC-Ready Data Science Workstation mobile than on either of the competitions’ NGC-Ready mobiles,” said Harper.

The Precision 7000 series is also Dell VR-Ready, replete with the necessary specs to accommodate demanding virtual reality applications. When coupled with an HTC Vive Focus headset, Precision 7000 mobile workstations using AMD graphics cards support wireless VR through AMD’s Radeon ReLive for VR streaming software. NVIDIA currently has a wireless VR solution in the works called CloudXR, but the technology is still in beta.

(Image courtesy of Dell.)
(Image courtesy of Dell.)

“Between data science and VR, those are the things that typically most people don't think that a laptop's capable of,” commented Ramirez.

Working Remotely on a Dell Desktop

While powerful mobile workstations are a saviour when working from home, some users will still need access to their desktop workstation. Dell’s rack and tower workstations offer this capability thanks to a partnership with PC-over-IP (PCoIP) technology provider Teradici. These workstations can be optionally configured with Teradici’s remote workstation access host cards, which plug directly into the GPU to offer lossless streaming, according to Gary Radburn, Director of Workstation Virtualization at Dell.

“Other tech uses inherent hardware encoders in the GPU which are not lossless,” Radburn explained. “[Teradici] gives the best picture for our customers, equivalent to near workstation, and they have a hardware-based solution so you don’t rob the workstation of CPU cycles.”

The PCoIP remote access cards offer several benefits for engineers looking to tap into their office workstations. The desktop streaming data can be accessed either through software (on the Teradici software client running on the user’s laptop) or through hardware (on a thin or zero client such as the Dell Wyse series). In either case, the desktop’s data never leaves the office—only the raw pixels are streamed, and those are encrypted with AES-256 and NSA Suite B cryptography.

The Dell 7920 Rack. (Image courtesy of Dell.)
The Dell 7920 Rack. (Image courtesy of Dell.)

The biggest drawback of the PCoIP host card is that streaming resolution is limited to 2560x1600. However, Teradici offers a software host solution that can run up to 4K resolution if the client supports it. In this case, the software host must tap into the workstations’ CPU resources, whereas the physical host card does not.

Illustration of remote access with a PCoIP host card. The host card can also be replaced with a software host at the cost of CPU resources. (Image courtesy of Dell.)
Illustration of remote access with a PCoIP host card. The host card can also be replaced with a software host at the cost of CPU resources. (Image courtesy of Dell.)

If you’re trying to access a desktop that doesn’t have a PCoIP host installed, there may be a way to do so without having to go to the office.

“The best you could hope for would be a group policy to turn on remote access (RDP) in the desktop and reboot all the machines – if you have a vPro environment then you could potentially do that from a sys admin point of view,” Radburn explained. “Otherwise you need to be able to physically access the machine to get a workstation class remoting solution installed.”

Preparing to Work from Home

Most of us were caught off guard by the seemingly overnight switch to working from home. Now, many are scrambling to catch up, and Dell is doing its best to help. Dell’s Precision mobile workstations can provide power away from the office, and although shipping capabilities have been impacted by the pandemic, Dell presents accurate timelines on all mobile workstation orders. Depending on the configuration, Precision mobile workstations are shipping in as little as a few days up to a few weeks. Remote desktop access is also an enticing option for Dell users, though depending on their specific work environment, remote access may or may not be a possibility.

One of the lessons of this pandemic is the need to better prepare for remote work. In the future, another option to enable working from home is data center virtualization. Though harder to spin up in the middle of a crisis, virtualization has many benefits, and Dell is actively developing virtualization solutions.

Engineering.com wishes the best of luck to all of those whose work has been affected by the pandemic. To learn more about Dell and the company’s solutions for remote work, visit Dell.com.


Recommended For You