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Unsung hero: Why the storage behind your virtual desktop matters [Dell]

Client Computing | Posted on December 13, 2011 by Softchoice Advisor

What would Sherlock Holmes be without Watson? Captain Kirk without Spock? Fred without Barney? The same can be said about desktop virtualization. Why? it turns out that virtual desktops technology isn’t worth a hill of beans without the proper storage infrastructure supporting it in the background.

Organizations making the shift to a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) want to ensure implementations don’t get bogged down in inadequate performance, a poor user experience, costly deployments or complex management. It turns out reliable storage is a core component of an efficient VDI environment and choosing the right storage solution is a key pillar in your VDI deployment’s success.

The top three features to look for in your VDI storage sidekick include:

  1. Hybrid storage arrays with automated tiering to optimize your cost-performance ratio
  2. Tight integration with desktop virtualization solutions to simplify deployment and management and improve performance
  3. An architecture that’s easy to scale as your organization grows, the number of applications you delivers grows, or as data requirements grow (or a combination of all three!)

1. Hybrid arrays for finding the cost/performance sweet spot
Hybrid arrays allow you to balance the performance requirements needed to mitigate I/O storms (see the accompanying sidebar on some VDI challenges) and the desire to keep costs in check. Dell EqualLogic hybrid storage arrays, for instance, feature solid-state disk (SSD) drives and serial-attached SCSI (SAS) drives within a single enclosure, coupled with automated tiering. The arrays intelligently monitor I/O patterns and move frequently accessed data pages to high-performance SSD drives automatically. By incorporating both kinds of drives in a hybrid enclosure, the arrays effectively mitigate I/O storms while avoiding the need to over-provision storage.

2. Tight integration for simple management and improved performance
Dell EqualLogic arrays are designed to be fully VMware virtualization-aware, enabling automation and optimization. For example, Dell EqualLogic arrays offer comprehensive integration with VMware vStorage APIs for Array Integration (VAAI). This tight integration enables the VMware vSphere virtualization platform to offload tasks such as hardware-assisted locking, full copy and block zeroing the arrays. The advantages of delegating these tasks to the SAN layer include quick deployment of virtual machines, reduced SAN traffic and lower host compute overheads.

As a result of this kind of tight integration, organizations can ensure a successful VDI rollout with up to 95% lower SAN traffic, up to 75% reduction in host compute overheads and speeding of VM provisioning by up to 72%. And while we’re talking about rollouts, Dell EqualLogic iSCSI SANs are designed to be installed, configured and serving storage within an hour. Management doesn’t get much simpler than that.

3. Simplifying scaling storage with virtualized storage architecture
The virtualized storage architecture of SAN arrays, like the Dell EqualLogic iSCSI, can help administrators scale storage easily. That’s because when a new array is added to an existing sister SAN, pre-existing volumes are automatically and non-disruptively distributed across the expanded storage pool. Because each array includes its own processing power, cache memory and network controller resources, organizations can scale performance and throughput along with storage capacity – without downtime. This virtualized scale-out architecture is of particular benefit to VDI deployments since most are rolled out in phases. As your organization moves from pilot deployments to more widespread VDI projects, you can scale your storage without sacrificing performance.

VDI with the right storage platform simplifies IT complexity
At a time when businesses are striving to become more agile and responsive to the needs of employees and customers, VDI offers the potential of a new desktop paradigm that can ensure security and compliance while simplifying IT complexity. For many organizations, the potential benefits of VDI are too compelling to pass up if they are able to deliver on the performance promises – while lowering storage costs.

By implementing a cost-efficient VDI strategy using Dell EqualLogic and VMware View, organizations can achieve optimal performance, lower costs and simplify storage management in virtual desktop environments.

In the eye of the storm: the challenges of VDI
Because VDI involves consolidating large amounts of inexpensive client-device-attached hard disk drives into a centralized, enterprise-class data center storage environment there is an I/O performance risk. If the storage supporting the VDI environment isn’t able to service large amounts of data being accessed simultaneously – for instance a large number of client device boots, log ons, virus scans or log offs — so called I/O storms can ensue and client devices experience delays and the user experience is compromised.

IT can mitigate the effects of these storms by allocating a larger number of disks to the storage infrastructure, but doing so results in over-provisioning of capacity – read: $$$. At a time when IT is trying to consolidate resources and minimize costs, simply throwing more disks at the problem is not necessarily the optimal solution.

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