Sun’s Visualization System and HP’s Remote Graphics

HP was first to grab the reins in late 2004, pushing remote rendering back to the forefront with its Remote Graphics software. And just last month, Sun introduced its solution for centralized visualization, simply called the Sun Visualization System.

Similar in concept to SGI’s old centralized visualization approach, Sun’s Visualization System consists of a central, high-performance visualization server and remote – on-campus or across the country – satellite viewing installations.

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In a typical configuration, Sun’s servers - armed with high-end Nvidia Quadro FX (and other) graphics – act as hubs, and Gigabit Ethernet and Infiniband provide the high-capacity interconnect. Rather than simply being a front-end compute engine, the server performs all stages of visualization, including rendering. HP’s Remote Graphics Software (RGS) operates in a similar manner.

Like Sun’s solution, RGS reads each image from frame buffer of the source renderer, compresses the data with a new and powerful codec, and ships it over the IP network to a workstation acting as a display device, located either across campus or even across the globe. The remote system decodes the stream, displaying the same image seen at the source.

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By keeping more of the processing hardware in the datacenter, both HP and Sun’s solutions are going to ease an IT manager’s security concerns. Even the pixels that are transmitted from the backroom to the user’s desk are secure, as HP’s software implements 256-bit encryption on the streaming data.

Neither HP nor Sun divulged much about the guts of its compression algorithm, but we can guess that it looks quite a bit different than the typical algorithms for video. Computer graphics often produces output (smooth-shaded polygons, for example) which don’t compress as well as natural video with conventional codecs like MPEG and H.264. So if you were to implement a proprietary scheme optimized for CGI, you’ll probably take a different approach. No doubt, there’s some secret sauce in both technologies.