Consolidating Your Engineering Environment with Remote Access
Michael Alba posted on November 12, 2019 |

With remote access software such as OpenText Exceed TurboX, graphically intensive engineering software can be streamed from a centralized data center. (Image courtesy of OpenText.)

With remote access software such as OpenText Exceed TurboX, graphically intensive engineering software can be streamed from a centralized data center. (Image courtesy of OpenText.)

The idea of desktop virtualization is not new, but it may be gaining new traction. The concept is straightforward. A desktop environment runs on a server in one location, and a user accesses that environment from another location. The hardware that runs applications is different than the hardware that displays those applications to the user. In essence, it’s putting your entire desktop on the cloud.

Companies like VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft have been developing tools for desktop virtualization for nearly two decades. However, these tools have been limited. Engineers, for example, often use graphically intensive applications like CAD and simulation. Virtualizing these workflows effectively has not been historically possible.

“Centralization of your IT environment has been going on for 10 to 15 years,” said Kris Mills, director of Product Marketing at OpenText. “People have been moving to data centers and trying to reduce the number of data centers. But until recently, high-end graphics applications that require a responsive and stable user experience have lagged behind.”

Now the technology has advanced to the point where hosting desktops in the datacenter for 3D applications is becoming very feasible, according to Mills. OpenText develops desktop virtualization software called Exceed TurboX, and over the last few years the company has started to see a dramatic uptick in adoption of the technology.

“Now is the time that people are finally starting to do it,” Mills said. “Some very forward thinking. Leading engineering companies have started to move to this environment.”

The Benefits of Remote Access

To understand why the tide is changing, let’s break down the benefits of desktop virtualization, aka remote access. If you’ve ever used cloud-based software (and chances are high that you have), you already have a feel for these benefits: convenience, collaboration, and accessibility, to name but a few. And when you move your entire desktop to the cloud, these benefits are magnified.

(Image courtesy of OpenText.)
(Image courtesy of OpenText.)

For workflows that depend on multiple applications and many global players, remote access provides a central muster point of productivity.

“The entire engineering and design process is quite long,” Mills explained. “It moves from group to group. The drawings evolve. And there are different aspects of engineering, whether it’s designing the chip or doing the packaging. All those are different steps in the project. By putting all those steps in a centralized environment, we’re removing those bottlenecks of moving it from one stage to the next.”

Different groups of engineers, perhaps in different parts of the globe, don’t have to waste any time uploading or downloading CAD files and simulation data. When all engineers have remote access to the centralized servers, it becomes much easier to pass product documents between them. This fosters better collaboration.

“Not only collaboration in that the CAD files and simulation data are centrally located, but even being able to collaborate where two people can work on a single file at the same time. That’s a key feature of Exceed TurboX, and one of the reasons why we see a lot of the engineering firms moving to our product,” Mills added.

Two users sharing a screen in Exceed TurboX. (Image courtesy of OpenText.)
Two users sharing a screen in Exceed TurboX. (Image courtesy of OpenText.)

In the same way that multiple users of Google Docs can edit a text file, multiple users of remote access software can share their screens and work on the same engineering models concurrently. This eliminates yet more bottlenecks as users can give and receive feedback in real time.

“For a lot of our customers this is their primary goal: how can I reduce the time to market, how can I eliminate the bottleneck of moving those files up and down the chain?” Mills said.

It’s not just the users who benefit from remote access. It’s also a big win for the IT crowd.

“Maintaining a data center instead of individual workstations is a huge advantage for IT support, IT security, providing access, setting up environments, and updating environments,” Mills said. “All of that can now be done centrally instead of remotely for each and every workstation.”

Rather than go to every engineer and manage his or her personal desktop workstation, remote access enables IT staff to oversee a single server farm. Updates are rolled out to all users at the same time. Security can be more tightly controlled. New users can be provisioned immediately, with no need to invest in expensive workstation hardware.

Speaking of expensive workstation hardware, another major benefit of remote access is cost reduction. Since every user is now tapping into a centralized data center, they don’t need their own very expensive engineering workstation. They just need a computer powerful enough to run the thin remote access client.

Though the servers themselves remain an expensive hardware investment, they can be utilized much more efficiently than individual workstations. Engineers on opposite sides of the world can both access the same hardware resources during their respective days, meaning the chips are never sitting idle. In addition, both of those engineers could be using the exact same software license, cutting in half the number of license seats a company must purchase.

Why Remote Access Is Ready for Engineering

Engineers can benefit in many ways from remote access, but they’ve historically been held back by limitations of the technology. The disadvantages have outweighed the many benefits. But now the scales are tipping.

“Our product has more relevancy today with engineering than it has ever had,” Mills asserted.

Running Cadence on OpenText Exceed TurboX remote access software. (Image courtesy of OpenText.)
Running Cadence on OpenText Exceed TurboX remote access software. (Image courtesy of OpenText.)

One of the reasons for this, according to Mills, is that WAN network speed and bandwidth are improving dramatically. In the past, in order to keep latency to an acceptable level, users and servers had to be relatively close to one another. Instead of a single centralized server farm, a company needed a data center in every building, city or country in which it operated. Now, with improvements to networks, along with better remote access protocols, servers and users can be a world away without any noticeable latency. True centralization is now available.

Another big improvement comes by way of graphics processing units, or GPUs. The power of these chips, as well as the power to link them together, is ever increasing.

“It’s exponentially improving as far as what [GPUs] can do,” Mills said. “And now with GPU grids, we’ve got a consolidated resource of GPUs that all users can benefit from. Instead of having a very high-end single user GPU, I can now go to a grid. So, when I need higher performance beyond a single GPU, it can allocate those resources as needed. That’s an important part of going to a centralized environment.”

Many parts of the engineering workflow can greatly benefit from this enhanced graphical power.

“When you’re doing something like 3D modeling, or rendering, or engineering simulation, those sometimes take 14 or 15 hours,” Mills continued. “They’re normally done in that centralized environment, through the centralized servers. So, the same place you’re doing your engineering is the same place that you can now run those simulations and speed up that process.”

The convergence of network improvements, better graphics cards, and increasing globalization has made remote access a viable option for engineers. (Image courtesy of OpenText.)
The convergence of network improvements, better graphics cards, and increasing globalization has made remote access a viable option for engineers. (Image courtesy of OpenText.)

OpenText Exceed TurboX

With better networks, more efficient protocols, improved graphics cards, and the many benefits of virtualization, OpenText is confident that remote access is ready for engineers. Many large engineering companies are already using OpenText Exceed TurboX, including metallurgy firm SMS Group and semiconductor manufacturers Micronas and Inphi.

In a future article, we’ll take a closer look at the specifics of Exceed TurboX to demonstrate the benefits of remote access for engineers. Until then, you can learn more about Exceed TurboX on the OpenText website.


OpenText has sponsored this post.  All opinions are mine.  --Michael Alba

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