New agent software combined with Symantec Workspace Virtualization reduces VDI memory and disk footprints, addresses I/O bottlenecks, and centralizes management.
Scalability, cost, and management are all three major roadblocks to mainstream adoption of VDI in the enterprise. Everyone is sold on the idea, sold on the paradigm shift, and sold on the concept, but when it comes to medium to large scale production deployments (+/-1000 clients)…. You can count the global functional installations on two hands.
We recently had the opportunity to deep dive into a new VDI enabler named VirtualStorm that is aiming to change that, here and now.
The underlying technical challenges of VDI lie in the same technical challenges of most significant virtualized environments. Aggregate I/O as we scale out limits the maximum densities we can achieve in these environments while still providing responsible and predictable performance to the virtual hosts. In VDI, the problem is complicated further by the massive amounts of common OS and unique user data (Storage Requirements), management challenges, and, probably most daunting – a paradigm shift that in most cases involves a completely separate environment, separate design, and separate (usually multiple)management interfaces. In most cases this duality means your historic traditional computing users can’t leverage ANY of the benefits of next-generation virtualization, and it becomes an all or nothing.
Complicate those technical issues by the frantic and noisy VDI space filled with vendors clamoring for your attention claiming to have the “complete” VDI “stack solution” for the future….. and consumers just ain’t buying! And rightly so, at times like this it’s usually better to duck and cover, emerging with budget dollars after the smoke clears and at least a short-list of vendors remain with duct taped, but functional, implementations.
Superior Data Solutions, (a young company known for finding and evangelizing solutions before they are “Mainstream”) just completed a deep dive demonstration with us of their newest product. They’ve partnered their IO expertise with a company in the Netherlands (DinamiQs )that built an agent to simplify and solve all the issues of large scale VDI. They’ve developed an extremely smart VDI package that hits all the key roadblocks and delivers what might just be the silver bullet to large VDI adoption challenges. Dubbed “VirtualStorm”, this VDI software agent claims to deliver on scalability, drastic reductions in storage and servers, and central management of ALL your end points – not just your shiny new VDI users. To achieve this they had to work around I/O roadblocks, enable and centralize industrial application virtualization, and find a way to address hardware scaling and cost requirements…. All this elegantly enough to support the old, the now, and the new end-point technologies.
As VirtualStorm observed the challenges discussed above they realized there were key ways to make a difference. We’ll briefly touch on their innovative approach and we’ll report more as we observe the technology in production in the field.
1. Density: VirtualStorm claims at minimum 3x’s the VM density per server as compared to any other VDI solution. They are recommending 150-225 VMs per dual socket quad core server with 64GB of RAM. This is with a moderate to heavy load (40- 60 processes running per VM and all 150-225 VMs running concurrently). How do they do it? First of all they use significantly less RAM per VM (only 384MB) and secondly they reduce CPU utilization by removing the overhead created by serving applications over the network interface. The I/O requirements of highly virtualized environments ping the host CPU due to network processing requirements. In traditional and scalable environments this I/O was disk based, and VirtualStorm returns this traffic to disk based by offloading this processing to the more than capable Fibre Channel interfaces and off the host CPU. VirtualStorm leverages a proprietary I/O Driver that allows for instantaneous direction of an application directly from a fast disk repository to the VM over Fiber Channel. They plug into a Symantec Workspace Virtualization repository and enhance the existing redirection functionality. This effectively routes the host OS I/O directly to the application store via fibre channel, instead of streaming it over the network path. By moving traffic off of the NIC, they reduce CPU overhead, this reduction, combined with the reduced RAM/VM allows for 3X the #of VMs per server. With consistent hardware and load server CPU utilizations dive from high 90% down to sub 30% leaving the host hardware to scale out density with much more predictability. Very impressive!
2. Hardware Requirements: Cost runs rampant due to hosted OS memory requirements, image size requirements, and user profile sprawl. Memory and disk requirements per user are minimized by VirtualStorm through efficient design and common data across OS, user, and application is centralized. To achieve this VirtualStorm delivers several technical breakthroughs. First, mentioned above, a memory reduction per host from 1.5gb down to 384mb, second a static host image size of 1.2gb that centralizes and abstracts all common OS data and a small page swap area. VirtualStorms “MES” Memory Enhancement Stack allows you to plan on a fixed 2.2GB image regardless of how large the image actually is. The user thinks everything is local on their “D” drive, but it is not. VirtualStorm simply points the user to a seamless central repository of applications – again leveraging Symantec Workspace Virtualization. This last piece is so powerful because it can be leveraged across all existing end-points as well. This provides for immediate renewed savings and ROI on your existing environment.VirtualStorm has done a terrific job of isolating the static and common data that makes up an end-point.Abstracted from the user experience, VirtualStorm is only delivering unique data to the user, and common OS, Application, and Profile data is served from a central location, again drastically reducing hardware sprawl and increasing efficiency and scalability across the enterprise.
3. Management: One management interface for historic, current, and future end-point users and computing would speed adoption of VDI and application virtualization by reducing TCO, removing migration pain, and providing a plausible end-point roadmap. VirtualStorm integrates directly into Active Directory to provide any AD end-point or user with application and infrastructure resources. One interface provides for all end-point and application access, enablement, patching, and deployment. This is no small task when we consider that all the tier one VDI Stacks still require over three or four interfaces to do similar!
VirtualStorm has delivered a terrific solution to enterprises faced with existing VDI implementation challenges or those gun-shy to begin leveraging these empowering virtualization techniques. They’ve correctly identified several of the key technical bottlenecks to VDI and packaged intelligent technical solutions in a one-of-a-kind central management interface that supports multiple hypervisors, multiple end-points, and both streaming and redirection methodologies.
If you’re considering VDI or currently having a challenge with it, we would highly recommend piloting their software solution. If you’re working with Symantec’s Workspace Virtualization and application virtualization technology base already, you would be remiss to not overlay it with this well designed and complimentary feature-set.