Discussions are once again heating up around the possibility that this may, finally, be the year of desktop virtualization. What's different this year from last -- or the year before that, when similar predictions were made?
Software and hardware companies have been addressing many of the challenges associated with desktop virtualization technology. But one of the major hurdles in any virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment has been the issue of storage -- more specifically, the cost and storage-related IO bottleneck (or IOPS) problems. Let's be honest: Currently deployed enterprise storage wasn't designed to deal with the types of load coming from a VDI-equipped data center. This has caused many VDI initiatives to either stall or completely fail.
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One of the answers to this challenge has been to replace traditional spinning media with flash arrays. While that would certainly drive enough IOPS to address many storage issues currently found within a VDI deployment, it would also be fairly expensive to purchase this type of flash storage in the large quantities needed.
That's where a company like GreenBytes might come in handy. The company's IO Offload Engine is a dedicated solid-state disk array that was designed from the ground up as a desktop virtualization appliance. It integrates at the hypervisor level and manages specific data stores: the golden images (provisioning), replica datastore (boot), and linked clone area (swap).
The platform's secret sauce is the combination of massive bandwidth, patented low-latency high-IO inline deduplication (removing redundant data before or as it is being written to a storage device) and compression. It diverts OS and swap disk activity away from primary storage (SAN) to high-speed flash, solving the performance and latency problems and poor user experience that occur during peak usage.
Instead of throwing high-performance flash-based storage at the problem, GreenBytes says it zero latency inline deduplication process reduces the amount of flash storage space required by as much as 97 percent.
GreenBytes also makes a point of saying it can support both persistent or full virtual desktops (which change state as the user makes updates, keeping configurations and personalizations from session to session) as well as linked clones (which do not store and maintain user changes) or some mixture of both types. The company's inline deduplication technology adds value to all types of deployment scenarios and gives virtual desktop architects the flexibility to choose based on real business needs.
What happens when you've already invested in local SSD, a PCIe-based flash card or a flash-based storage controller and external flash storage for your VDI environment? In that case, GreenBytes has split out its IO Offload Engine's software from the hardware appliance, making it available for use with other flash storage vendor platforms. This new virtual storage appliance is called the vIO (pronounced "vee-oh").
According to the company, the vIO enables consistent and persistent virtual desktops with the infrastructure and architecture already in place, at a market-leading price point -- although as of this writing, pricing was not disclosed.
"It is the simplest way to deploy desktop virtualization, from departmental to cloud-scale," said Steve O'Donnell, chairman and CEO, GreenBytes. "All the cost, performance, and user experience advantages of the IO Offload Engine are now available to smaller enterprises, cloud-scale service providers and OEMs with the vIO."
The vIO was designed to be cloud-scalable, meaning it can easily be expanded to handle future virtual desktop growth by simply adding another vIO instance to the mix. The company said a single vIO is designed to provide enough IO offload for around 100 or more persistent or nonpersistent virtual desktops. But if an organization plans for a 1,000-plus virtual desktop deployment, it should consider going with a preconfigured IO Offload Engine hardware appliance, which can support up to 4,500 persistent desktops over 10GbE iSCSI or 8Gb or 16Gb Fibre Channel.
The GreenBytes vIO virtual storage appliance will be generally available on March 1.
Is a solution like this the answer to your VDI concerns? Will this storage and IOPS offering be enough to finally make your company pull the trigger on a virtual desktop strategy? If not, what else is holding you back? What's missing?
This article, "GreenBytes attacks storage costs and IO bottlenecks within VDI," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in virtualization and cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.