Dan's Take

Optimizing Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

A PernixData case study.

PernixData and I have been acquainted for awhile now. They are one of a number of really interesting suppliers of storage virtualization and intelligent storage technology. Recently, I read how PernixData and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering were working together to address the challenges of limited classroom space and hardware in each location.

An FVP Overview
I've learned through many discussions with the PernixData folks that their FVP is a software-based storage virtualization product that drops right into a working environment and accelerates it without the necessity for the enterprise to make changes to either the applications or other systems software. It analyzes ongoing IO traffic and offers a number of optimizations that improve application performance. FVP happily works with solid-state or rotating media, understands the difference and offers different types of optimization based upon the type of media in use.

The USC Viterbi School of Engineering
The USC Viterbi School of Engineering has deployed a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment based on VMware Horizon running on Dell PowerEdge servers with local SSDs to host "non-persistent linked clones." This approach makes it possible for the school to use the same lab space to support the needs of many different classes without having to face extensive software configuration management and administration issues.

The school considered replacing its hybrid array with an all-flash array (AFA), but ultimately decided on trying PernixData FVP software, which promised to deliver better performance at a better price. PernixData's FVP helped support this agile teaching environment by offloading key VDI functions from Viterbi's existing Dell EqualLogic hybrid arrays, which are used to store student data, and offering an accelerated teaching environment.

Here's how it happened, according to a PernixData press release:

"FVP was installed inside the school's hypervisor with no changes made to existing servers, storage or virtual desktops. With FVP, the school expects to create a low latency, fault tolerant I/O acceleration tier across servers using RAM – a concept known as infrastructure level in-memory computing. This would enable storage read/writes to be handled inside the hosts, minimizing VDI latency and ensuring seamless scale-out growth."

Today, the school has deployed 600 virtual desktops and expects PernixData to help them support a great deal of expansion for other workloads, including database servers, e-mail servers, file servers, Web servers, desktop streaming servers, and other future requirements.

Dan's Take: One Size Doesn't Fit All
PernixData is a supplier of several interesting products, including PernixData Architect, a  software platform for holistic data center design, deployment, operations and optimization; and PernixData FVP software, which creates low latency, fault tolerant I/O acceleration using high-speed server media, such as Flash and/or RAM.

One of the distinguishing features of FVP is that it works well regardless of the type of media, and it has the ability to change the optimization utilized for each application. This is good, because some applications need heavy optimization and others don't. PernixData clearly understands that one size doesn't fit all when it comes to storage virtualization.

PernixData, along with suppliers of other storage virtualization and intelligent storage software such as DataCore, Citrix Sanbolic, and a few others, should be considered as part of enterprise virtual computing environments. In these computing environments, storage should be as agile as processing, and each of these suppliers offers interesting capabilities that can make storage as agile as virtual servers, and improve levels of performance and availability.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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