For automotive power users like design engineers and 3D modelers, proximity used to be the key to performance. Their physical workstations had to be close to their large product lifecycle management (PLM) databases so they could quickly upload and download images and engineering models as they worked. This highly interactive process was enabled by powerful computers equipped with accelerated graphics cards.
But now, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has eliminated the need for proximity. Power users can work in virtual desktop environments on any endpoint device, such as a laptop or tablet. The demanding compute processes are performed on a centralized server that’s located either on premises or in the cloud. VDI enables resource-intensive 3D modeling and computer aided design at high performance levels from any screen with internet access.
When the pandemic hit, automotive employees who weren’t needed on the shop floor were sent home. Companies that hadn’t already switched to virtual workstations were forced to move their power users’ applications to the cloud, while the PLM database remained on premises. Without the physical proximity between the database and workstation, upload and download times became painfully slow.
Fortunately, VDI preserves the responsive experience of physical workstations. Both the applications and the PLM database are hosted in the same virtualized environment, and the only thing sent to the user’s screen is the pixels. There are no additional charges for moving data, and there’s no extra waiting time.
Once it’s safe to return to the office, companies and workers will have the option to decide how they want to structure their work environment. Because they can work on site or at home with the same effectiveness, they can create a hybrid arrangement that suits them and their team. They can also work with external partners and customers more easily. Freedom of location protects employee health during crises like COVID-19 while also creating more options for work-life balance without compromising productivity.
VDI offers several other important benefits beyond location flexibility that make it even more advantageous.
With physical workstations, the costs are fixed. The hardware is paid for up front, and the asset is uniquely allocated to an individual and can’t be shared. So capacity can’t be scaled back when an employee is sick or on vacation, and the systems typically have excess capacity whose value can’t be recouped. If a company has 50 power users, they have to buy 50 expensive individual workstations.
However, VDI is consolidated and therefore scalable. Of those 50 users, perhaps only 25 or 30 are working concurrently, and they’re probably not working on weekends. Therefore the infrastructure can be right-sized to fit the fluctuating requirements, and companies pay only for what they use.
A centralized infrastructure is also simpler to maintain. Software can be upgraded once instead of 50 times over in 50 locations.
The scalability of VDI has a bonus for power users too. If one user requires a big ramp-up for a high-end model, that capacity can be supplied efficiently for the one user who needs it. Premium performance is available to the few because it doesn’t have to be purchased for the many.
With data and models in physical workstations, backup and disaster recovery were a problem. Teams would lose control over version management on individual workstations, unable to track who was doing what.
With VDI, which includes access to faster bandwidth and storage, companies can run backup and recovery services every night without having to pull large databases from individual workstations across a network. Repeating datasets make backup more efficient because only the incremental changes need to be copied. This approach leads to large reductions in recovery point objective and recovery time objective while increasing the availability of the whole solution.
NetApp provides an all-in-one virtualization solution for distributed teams at automotive manufacturers. The NetApp® portfolio of cloud and on-premises solutions gives engineers and other power users the performance, speed, and security they need, along with reduced operating costs.
To learn more, explore other resources on removing the challenges of working remotely. This includes NetApp Virtual Desktop Service (VDS) solution and Spot PC, a perfect solution for enabling and accelerating the adoption of cloud desktops.
Christian Ott is NetApp’s CTO Industry Solutions. Industry solutions lie at the heart of NetApp’s industry-focused cloud solutions strategy, that empower customers to envision new opportunities and reach their transformation goals, across global industries. These include automotive, financial services, energy, healthcare, life sciences, manufacturing and more. During his 10+ years at NetApp, Chris has held several positions in technical sales and management and was responsible for various customers in the semiconductor, manufacturing and automotive industries. In his free time Chris likes to swim, bike and run but it’s not enough for triathlon, yet.
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