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Creating a Virtualized Workstation Server

  • Virtualization
  • Workstations
  • Servers
  • Business Computing
Last response: in Business Computing
November 8, 2012 2:47:27 PM

Tl;DR at the bottom :) 

I work for a small organization and I am tasked with expanding our video production department from one graphics designer to 5+ designers with scalability (along with video equipment, but that's a different issue). My concern is that i don't want to buy a workstation for each of the graphic designers if i can have them all working on a server with virtual machines. The server would allow for cost efficient scalability if we found the need for say 10 graphics designers soon after. I don't know much about building a server at all. It was always my understanding that servers were mostly for data organizing, storing, and the such; not so much using adobe production premium and rendering. I read about nvidia's VGX card, which seems like its what i'd need to do this (also seems like it doesn't get released until Q1 2013) but there's not a lot of info on it, or at least not much that i understand. I realize i'm asking a lot, but a detailed list of what id need would be phenomenal. I've been researching this for the past couple weeks and i cant seem to find much information regarding a graphics based server for multiple users.

TL;DR - I need help building a server that 5+ people can access at the same time and each run Adobe after effects, premier, Photoshop, illustrator, etc.

Any help is greatly appreciated, even a general, /point in the right direction :) 

More about : creating virtualized workstation server

November 8, 2012 4:33:03 PM

My father owns a graphics design company and I have done all of their design systems, networking, and server systems. They work a lot with Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and similar 2D design work, and I've personally done some work with Premeire and the likes.

I can tell you right now that it's going to cost you FAR more to build a server capable of virtualizing five desktops for people to run at even a fraction of the performance that you are going to get with just using stand-alone desktops for this type of work. Anyone that's trying to do media and content creation work should not be trying to do so on a virtual desktop environment. It is very complex to do and yes, it's going to be a whole lot more expensive.

It's also not near as flexible as you might think. You can build a server to run five virtual desktops for designers. Yes, you can, but it's not going to be very pretty or cheap either. But building one to accommodate twice that number IF you need it in the next two or three years is downright expensive. You're better off running a limited number of virtual desktops on a set of several servers.

When you are looking at content creation tasks like you are talking about here, you are going to be far better off flexibility, performance, and cost wise to just get stand-alone desktop computers. The story might be different if you have ten, twenty, or thirty basic virtual machines you need just for people to access a web browser or type an occasional document in Word. The resources you will be needing to work efficiently and the type of responsiveness that you are going to need will not really be feasible in a single server.

I'd recommend looking into the HP Z-Series (like the Z220 Workstation) for some really great flexible workstation-class computers for your designers. The Dell Precision line is also a great workhorse computer. The great thing about it is if you need to hire another designer you just add another workstation. You don't have to over-build a single server and have a single point of failure to accommodate possible future growth.
November 8, 2012 5:36:55 PM

I understand, this makes sense. My train of thought was why buy 5 computers for x price if i can get 1 "super computer" for half the price without sacrificing performance. But seeing as how none of what i was thinking is true.... lol thank you for your help, you covered all my questions definitively :) 
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November 8, 2012 6:20:57 PM

Your train of thought wasn't really wrong, it just works better in theory than what it does in reality. We looked into this very thing as a possibility the last time we replaced computers at one of their shop offices. It took quite a bit of work just to get things actually working, and even then the performance was abysmal once you compared it to spending the same amount of money on individual desktop computers.

Again, for a basic computer system virtualized desktop environments may be great for but for the kind of content creation production work you are talking about, it's going to be much more economical and efficient to just stay with standard workstation computers for each person.
November 8, 2012 10:34:10 PM

Not to mention that having all the desktops virtualised on one server will give you zero redundancy, if that server fails everyone grinds to a halt.