Using ArcGIS Pro on a MacBook Pro

Pro on Pro (on Pro)

I've committed to learning Esri's ArcGIS Pro. Problem is, I use a Apple MacBook as my primary GIS machine and most software from Esri only runs on Windows. Up to this point, this is no big deal because ArcMap is 32-bit and not very memory intensive. It's been running on Parallels for Mac just fine for 2 1/2 years. Things change. 

ArcGIS Pro Running on Parallels for Mac in 3D

I had played with the Beta a while ago, and it didn't run too well on my current system. The display flickered & stuttered quite a lot and seemed to be constantly loading something. In anticipation for full release of ArcGIS Pro v1.0, I upgraded to the most current version of Parallels (10) and doubled my RAM to 16GB. Unfortunately, these easy answers didn't help with the display, I was still getting jumpy navigation and 3D felt like it was on Windows 2000. Great. Felt like i just blew $200 in upgrades. :-/

Last week during the Esri Business Partner Conference I spoke to a few virtualization experts who were demonstrating  ArcGIS Pro on a virtual machine. (it seemed like they were there waiting just for me!) We spoke about my set up, there was a bit of nose-wrinkling but I looked around and pointed out about a dozen or so Macs throughout the Expo center. You have to do this when you talk about Esri software running on a Mac. Do I even need top point out how Apple was the only PC maker to have double digit growth in the past year?  Point is there will be a lot of people trying to figure out how to run ArcGIS Pro on their MacBooks and the folks at the conference helped me out so I pass along that info to you: 

Very UnOfficial Benchmark Testing In ArcGIS Pro in Parallels and VMware Fusion
  • Don't use open source virtualization. Virtual Box is nice if you aren't doing anything serious but doesn't have the options or horsepower that a production machine requires. VM Ware Fusion and Parallels are virtually identical in benchmark testing with ArcGIS Pro. 
  • Do upgrade your RAM. I moved from 8 to 16 and dedicate a full 8 GB to my virtual machine. Parallels allows me do shave off another 2GB to the Video Memory still leaving 6 GB to run the MacBook. 
  • Do use DirectX9 instead of 10. I know this is counterintuitive but the virtualization experts told me that ArcGIS Pro uses DirectX11 by default if it's available then jumps down to DirectX9. There is some compatibility issue with DirectX10. Parallels has options for OpenGL, DirectX10 and DirectX9. My video stuttering problems STOPPED when I chose DirectX9. 
  • Do change ArcGIS Pro Display Options. Go ahead and monkey with the settings a little. Make sure your 3D accelerator matches your VM host. Enable Vertical Synchronization, and test the Speed --|-- Quality slider. I also set my system to delete the cache after I close the project. 
  • Do use a host machine with a Nvidia Graphics card. MacBooks with Retina displays usually have one of these but you can check to make sure. Unfortunately, I do not. Download the 'Clear Sailing' Nvidia demo to test your system. 


Final Notes:

Every system is a bit different. ArcGIS Pro is programmed to use a GPU if it's available. My Expert friends inform me that VMware Fusion leverages the GPU for 3D acceleration, but does not support GPU true pass-through. Parallels tries to create a virtual GPU by assigning RAM directly to 3D acceleration but it's not a direct GPU either. Look for this technology to keep advancing. I an a firm believer in SSD drives. I have two right now, one is completely for the Windows VM.