Workstation for virtualization of OpenCL workload ?

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Workstation for virtualization of OpenCL workload ?

Unread postby escimo » Fri Dec 22, 2017 10:00 am

Hi folks,

today I have a special request: I need some tips about virtualizing OpenCL workloads

#1 workload (70% of the time): multiple "mini"-clusters for provisioning and failure tests; software development / cross-compiling with GNU/Linux distro ; and all day regular usage for office/internet stuff
#2 workload (30% of the time): dedicated application usage with Capture One Pro under Windows 10 guest OS (digital postprocessing/darkroom)

I know virtualization only from VMware workstation, VirtualBox onto which I'm rely on since 2011.
It would be fine to let OpenCL API calls passed-through directly to the the GP/GPU hardware resources.
I bought a lic for a higher version of COP which has now - of course - higher requirements in comparison a much better feature set.
Actually using an Apple MBP8.2 (year 2011) which is capable of running macOS 10.12 (Sierra) and COP11 together but in "slug" mode.

I'm in planing to buy in mid 2018 a preconfigured single socket, x86_64-based system with >=10C/20T_VCPU, =>128GiB RAM, NVMe Boot mirror and SSD boundary as secondary storage, 10gbps network infra and >= 1 OpenCL enabled graphics board with >= 4GB on-board memory, 27" UHD enabled graphics monitor (color space). Price tag around 10k EUR

Anyone knows what Hypervisor options are suiteable to fulfill my requirements?
Requirements only for Capture One Pro...
Recommended system requirements
If working with high-resolution images and doing calculation-heavy adjustments we
recommend the following:
• Intel CPU with 4+ cores
• 16+ GB of RAM
• Solid State Disk (SSD)
• Dual (matching) Graphics card from NVIDIA or AMD with 4GB+ RAM per card
Note: Due to the signifi cant additional calculation overhead, systems using 4k/5k monitors
will require additional resources in addition to the above recommended spec (both in
GPU and CPU power). For a Professional experience we recommend at least doubling the
specifi cation above for these confi gurations.

Is Xen still in use today and/or state-of-the-art?
Is ESXi w/ free lic for GPU passthrough an valuable option, maybe with business lic?
More alternatives or experiences?

Thanks, escimo
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Re: Workstation for virtualization of OpenCL workload ?

Unread postby jpstewart » Fri Jan 19, 2018 12:32 pm

Well, nobody else has replied yet so I'll toss out an opinion....

Xen can definitely do the graphics pass-through, but you'd need two graphics cards: one for the host (dom0 in Xen terminology) and another to dedicate to your Win10 guest (domU to Xen). You can't share a graphics card in pass-through mode. The other card can probably be much lower-spec and cheaper than the 4GB card you need for your specialized Win10 environment. You don't need two identical cards. See the Xen Wiki for more information about pass-through. I personally have only used Xen for headless servers (so far) so I don't (yet) have experience with graphics pass-through. (Although it is one of my goals to replace VMware Workstation with Xen for all my virtualization needs.) I have been quite happy with Xen so far for the way I'm currently using it.

I know VMware Workstation cannot do graphics pass-through. I've been using VMware Workstation since version 2.0, and have been unimpressed with its declining quality lately. It's getting harder to recommend it.

I have no experience with ESXi, so can't comment on its ability to do pass-through (although a quick check of the docs does show some info for what they call VMDirectPath I/O) or its current quality. It's certainly worth looking into if it turns out that Xen doesn't meet your needs.
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