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Hyper-Converged Infrastructure: A Modern Approach to Empowering Users and IT with VDI

Hyper-converged infrastructure has quickly become a favored deployment model for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) projects. The virtualized storage technology in HCI addresses VDI capacity and performance challenges, such as boot storms, that legacy physical SANs simply can’t meet.

In addition, HCI solutions are cost-efficient, reliable and simple to deploy, manage and scale. HCI can be used to get pilot projects off the ground quickly and can expand easily when new users are added—a scale-as-you-go approach. HCI also provides an efficient, cost-effective and future-proof upgrade path to all-flash storage.

VDI use cases are driving big increases in HCI demand. “Hyper-converged infrastructure is extensively used in mid- and large-size enterprises for VDI projects, largely due to its ability to eradicate the complexity during implementation and issues regarding SAN-based storage solutions,” says a study by Grand View Research.1

According to the TechTarget Research Data Center Market Landscape Study, about one-third of HCI deployments are already supporting VDI. In addition, 20% of IT decision-makers who are planning to deploy HCI will be using it for VDI workloads, the study shows.

Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Workloads (13 in total studied)

  In Use Planned
Virtual desktop 33% 20%

Source: TechTarget Research Data Center Market Landscape Study, July 2016

Enabling VDI with hyper-converged infrastructure
Organizations across all industries are replacing existing physical SAN infrastructures with modern HCI solutions. The benefits to the business can be dramatic, as can be seen from the results achieved by the following organizations.

Rent-A-Center is a Fortune 1000 company that offers rent-to-own appliances and furniture. The company has nearly 20,000 employees in more than 3,000 locations across North America. Employees have access to virtual desktops, applications and online services through a single workspace.

The company used VMware VxRail, which is powered by VMware vSAN, for its HCI platform, in conjunction with VMware solutions such as vSphere and Horizon to maximize performance and simplify management. By tightly integrating the compute, storage, networking and virtualization infrastructure, Rent-A-Center benefits from improved efficiencies. “It dramatically reduces our administrative overhead,” says Mike Conroy, director of IT operations. “I can run this infrastructure with one person.”

Cost savings were another important factor in choosing the VMware and Dell EMC solution. Conroy says it is “far and away the most mature technology in the space,” delivering a very economical and predictable per-user cost. “More importantly, it is sustainable going forward. I have a repeatable process where I know exactly how much it’s going to cost, and exactly how long it’s going to take.”

   

Chambre des notaires du Quebec is a professional association with 4,000 members who are notaries in Quebec, handling real estate transactions, legal guardianship and the drafting of other legal documents. The organization had been supporting its VDI environment with a traditional SAN but was facing challenges in both management and data availability.

The company decided to upgrade to vSAN, and the improvements were immediate and dramatic. “The new vSAN accelerated both the speed of provisioning desktops and the speed of user applications,” says Luc Phaneuf, chef de service infrastructure. “On the first day it was deployed, VDI users were reporting a big improvement in performance.”

Management is also much simpler. Spinning up new VDI pools takes just seconds now. “With VMware vSAN, it’s easier for team members with basic skills to configure and manage the system,” Phaneuf says. “Plus, having the vSAN in place helps us build apps and deploy systems faster.”

Cost savings were another big advantage. “The purchase was CA$40,000 less” than upgrading the traditional SAN, Phaneuf says. “We also evaluated the administration and manageability of the technology, and additional savings accrue from ease of use.”

ATS Automation is a manufacturing company based in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, providing advanced factory automation solutions to companies in life sciences, energy, transportation, consumer products, computer, electronics and other industries. ATS has 70 sites, 30 data centers and more than 4,500 IT users globally.

ATS Automation has an extended workforce of remote employees and contractors. The company was using VMware Horizon to securely connect these remote workers to the company’s IT systems, using a traditional SAN. Upgrading existing storage would have been expensive. In addition, a physical SAN could not have delivered the level of performance required to support high-end workstation users doing 3D CAD design workloads at an affordable cost.

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The company knew it needed to move to hyper-converged infrastructure and chose VMware vSAN. The cost was one-fifth of comparable solutions. “If we hadn’t moved to VMware vSAN, we’d have to decommission our VDI,” recalls Drew Kemp, senior systems administrator.

The shift to HCI has had a major impact on the workplace. “From no one wanting to use VDI, we’ve evolved to now everyone wants it, and they are happy.”

Remote workers now effectively use 3D CAD decision programs with VDI, which has improved worker productivity and collaboration. “It enabled our remote workers to do something they couldn’t reliably do before,” Kemp says. “It really improved their ability to work with performance-hungry apps.”

Conclusion
Physical SANs were a stumbling block for many early VDI pilot programs. As some organizations learned the hard way, VDI presents performance, capacity and scalability challenges that require modern virtualized storage solutions. With companies increasingly embracing VDI to address security, productivity and other concerns, they are also turning to hyper-converged infrastructure as a go-to technology platform. HCI not only delivers the performance VDI needs, but also brings a host of other benefits, including lower costs, accelerated speed to market and reduced complexity.

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1Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Market Worth $13.96 Billion by 2024,” Grand View Research, August 2016

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