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VMware View for Virtual Desktops - Additional Focus on Storage

Level 9

VMware view has been a major topic at VMWorld 2012 and one of the key issue issues that even VMware is acknowledging is that the infrastructure costs are still a barrier for broader adoption of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).  In particular the unpredictability of the storage IOps and the differences between peak activities and steady state makes sizing and purchasing storage for VDI very difficult.  Essentially, sizing for peak storage loads resulting from boot storms or upgrade, antivirus or other change operations can make the storage bill too expensive to make VDI practical for many companies.  On the other hand, undersizing the storage capacity can quickly result in a poor user experience and rapid dissatisfaction, especially in the adoption phase.   Caught between these two problems VMware has put some additional focus on bringing down the infrastructure cost barrier with two features – View Storage Accelerator and View Composer Array Integration (VCAI).  These enhancements will reduce some of the key problems customers see with doing VMware performance monitoring to achieve holistic VMware monitoring for their VDI environment.

View storage accelerator is a capability that is focused on acceleration of the read process for VDI. Essentially they put in-memory cache of between 400 MB and 2 GB of RAM in a host based solution in front of the disk-based storage.  The cache will hold the primary storage bits that the virtual desktops are accessing from a read point of view and takes that load off of the disks in the infrastructure.  Depending on what operations or scenarios were looked at the capability showed SAN performance management improvements for peak read IOPs by up to 80% and average IOPs by 45%.  Different scenarios resulted in smaller reductions but were still substantial. That change can really make a substantial reduction in the required storage capacity and capital cost making it easier VMware performance monitoring.

The second capability they have added is called View Composer Array Integration (VCAI). Essentially this is a different strategy that offloads much of the workload from the virtual system to the storage array where the cloning and snapshot technology can be very efficient. View can then access those newly created images to rapidly deliver services to the end users.  VCAI is part of View Composer and integrates with NAS storage partners using the vStorage APIs for Array Integration (VAAI).  EMC and NetApp are the only partners that currently provide this capability but they expect more to participate in the future.

With these enhancements VMware is addressing probably the biggest infrastructure hurdle people encounter when they move to VDI but they recognize that other challenges remain. When you reduce the storage IOPs as your primary bottleneck in these operations, that often exposes the next bottleneck, often CPU.  Additionally, while read IOPs storms are probably the most common, this won’t help with operations that are write intensive.  While there are more things needed to reduce the infrastructure costs, these enhancements should help VDI infrastructure budget requests make it past the laugh test. VMware troubleshooting simplified!

About the Author
Currently Director of Business Strategy for SolarWinds focused on Virtualization and Storage. Previously worked at IBM and an Austin Startup in product management and strategy.