Solving the VDI deployment nightmare

Back in 2009, Gartner predicted there would be 49 million VDI users by the end of 2013.[1] From what we've noticed at Tintri, VDI deployments are constantly on the rise as more customers recognise the advantages of VDI every day. The advantages of VDI are clear - Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) promises much for organisations seeking to deliver secure, cost effective remote access to desktops and applications. It can lower the cost of connecting clients to desktop and mobile devices, make desktop maintenance easier and improve the overall IT performance. A good VDI environment offers agility for desktop services and applications, better security and compliance, standardisation and better management.

But the reality of VDI deployments can be very different with the potential often stymied by storage performance, complexity and cost. Storage is at the centre of VDI deployments but it is often a performance bottleneck for concentrated workloads on hundreds of virtual desktops. Small random-write workloads, boot storms and antivirus scans can cripple legacy storage systems in environments with hundreds of virtual machines (VMs).

In many instances, existing systems cannot isolate or monitor VM performance, making it difficult to identify and correct performance problems. And while over-provisioning storage is often a necessary evil, it can drive up costs significantly, increasing management, space, power and cooling expenses.

As a consequence, many enterprises have been forced to either scale back or abandon their VDI deployments altogether. But it doesn't have to be this way. Let's take a step back and look at how to address these difficulties.

VDI needs application-aware storage

The solution lies in deploying application-aware products that help organisations to conquer the barriers to successful VDI deployments. Appliances are available that can provide the capacity and performance to support large numbers of VMs (as many as 1,000), dramatically reducing operational and capital costs, while reducing the need for rack space, power and cooling.

Flash technology can address performance issues by significantly increasing write and read speeds and delivering consistent performance to meet peak and unanticipated I/O workloads. Smart storage eradicates the complexity attached to deploying, managing and scaling storage for VDI because it manages at the VM and vDisk level. There are no LUNs, volumes or other storage objects to manage.

Storage scalability is another issue that inhibits VDI deployments. Many VDI deployments are constrained because traditional storage architectures do not scale easily. Deployment architectures designed for a 500 seat VDI pilot using legacy modular storage systems won't work for a 5,000 seat production environment. Maintenance and management of traditional storage arrays is often complex and makes scaling VDI cumbersome. But application-aware storage can scale easily to support thousands of users by VMstore appliances in the same way that compute resources are scaled by adding ESX hosts in a VM environment.

Legacy storage systems fall short

Architecting, provisioning and maintaining VDI solutions with legacy storage systems requires many hours of administration. Using traditional SAN or NAS with VDI storage architectures requires multiple datastores for storing base and replica images, OS disk, persistent disk and disposable disk on different storage tiers. This complexity makes the process error-prone. Provisioning and maintenance, such as creating clone VMs, require careful orchestration to ensure storage resources are not overrun. With smart storage, each VMstore appliance appears as a single datastore with intelligent automatic data placement, eliminating the need for multiple datastores.

Data protection is a major consideration in VDI but storage architectures designed for physical workloads with volume-level snapshots suffer from cumbersome recovery procedures for a single VM. They are also inefficient because they snapshot hundreds of VMs in a volume. VMstore appliances provide automated data protection using per-VM space-efficient snapshots with no performance impact.

Over-provisioning and the deployment of separate storage systems for different workloads can be expensive and inefficient. Smart storage provides performance isolation and QoS on a per-virtual disk and per-VM basis to prevent spikes from a handful of VMs causing disruptions. Application-aware intelligence enables organisations to consolidate storage for various use cases — such as VDI, infrastructure VMs and databases — to reduce costs and provide the best ROI possible.

Application-aware storage for a VDI world

The limitations of legacy storage systems and architectures make it difficult, if not impossible, for organisations to implement and deploy VDI successfully. Instead, they need to plan and implement a storage solution that has been developed to operate in a virtual environment and deliver the appropriate performance.

Application-aware storage brings the same level of intelligence, scalability, performance, flexibility, simplicity and capacity that already exists for compute resources in a VM environment. Those organisations that understand the benefits of application-aware storage will be in a very strong position to deliver on the promise of VDI. Believe it or not it is actually possible to have a VDI deployment without the traditional nightmare. Leading subject experts Tintri will be on hand at IP EXPO Europe to demonstrate the advantages of smart storage that sees, learns, and adapts. At stand EE18 Tintri will be demonstrating the benefits of VDI and how to eliminate its complex problems with high VM-level visibility, control and agility.

[1] http://www.brianmadden.com/blogs/gabeknuth/archive/2009/04/15/gartner-predicts-65-7-billion-in-vdi-revenue-and-49-million-users-in-2013.aspx

Mark Young is systems engineering manager, EMEA, Tintri.