Today we’re delving into an exciting development at the University of Southern California. They’ve embarked on a journey towards sustainable cloud computing for their Unreal courses by switching to Virtual Studio cloud workstations powered by renewable energy.
We chatted with Sanjay Madhav, an Associate Professor of Practice at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering and a seasoned video game programmer with 15 years of experience at USC.
Sanjay, can you start by telling us about the specific data center GPU requirements and features of the virtual workstations your Unreal class uses?
Of course, for our Unreal Engine programming course, we needed machines with at least 8 CPU cores, a high-performing discrete GPU, ample RAM, and high-speed SSDs.
Switching to cloud-based virtual workstations must have come with its set of challenges. Can you share some of the hurdles you encountered?
Absolutely, this was the third time I taught the course, so I expected some initial setup challenges for students, such as logging into their VMs and navigating Parsec, a remote desktop software. It’s typical to face these bumps at the start of each semester.
Why did you opt for cloud-based virtual workstations over traditional physical ones?
Well, the decision to use virtual machines was driven by the fact that, while many students have laptops, not all can effectively run Unreal Engine. Virtual Machines offer the advantage of accessibility from anywhere and are a more cost-effective alternative to purchasing expensive physical machines. With Parsec and quality VMs, latency hasn’t been a significant issue.
What led you to choose renewable-powered CenterGrid Virtual Studio cloud workstations over other virtual workstation options?
In prior years, I used a different VM provider, which served its purpose. However, I was on the lookout for superior VMs and services that align with data center sustainability and data center energy efficiency. My encounter with Eric and the CenterGrid team at SIGGRAPH 2023 sparked my interest, and after discussions with their team members, it seemed like an excellent fit for our needs.
Could you share your experience collaborating with the CenterGrid Virtual Studio team in ensuring data center energy efficiency and remote desktop services?
The team at CenterGrid has been a pleasure to work with. They promptly set up over 30 VMs tailored to our specifications in just a matter of days, right before the semester began. We did encounter some connectivity issues initially with on-campus Wi-Fi, but Greg from CenterGrid invested considerable time troubleshooting. Once we identified a solution, he even conducted individual video calls with students to resolve any remaining issues.
It’s great to hear that. How have the green data center features of CenterGrid impacted the progression of your classes this semester?
Once we got past the initial connectivity hiccups, everything has been running smoothly. The VMs from CenterGrid have proven to be more reliable and high-performing than our previous solution. Moreover, CenterGrid met our pricing requirements. Overall, I’m pleased with how this partnership has unfolded, and I certainly intend to continue using CenterGrid in future semesters. Their commitment to a green data center certainly aligns with our focus on sustainable technology.