How flash can pump up performance of virtual desktops


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Best apps for VDI + SSD

The best targets for using SSD to improve VDI performance will be collaborative applications. Some examples

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include reference materials that don’t change over time, yet users may frequently access them. Wikis, reference documents, legal materials and the like could benefit from the fast access of SSD. Similar to OS images, having these materials loaded into logical devices will make better use of the SSD than front-ending the storage array with an SSD tier 0.

Another way to look at targeted use cases will be situations where data is common to many users. Informational databases are an obvious target, because VDI users will be accessing the data repeatedly, with little new data entry or modification. Although this use case doesn’t differ from normal computing in the broadest sense, specific applications will benefit in particular. For example, a sales-force automation application will have supporting file systems, databases or both. The sales force will have a common system image, making it a great fit for VDI. At the same time, the sales force will need access to the same sales support information, which may change infrequently -- also a solid use case for SSD in a VDI environment.

In an extension of the sales-force example above, business-to-business support can similarly benefit from VDI and SSD. Business partners can log into a standardized application environment from almost any device and access common information. Examples might include insurance applications, where numerous independent agents need access to specific portals and information.

Data warehouses or analytical databases are repositories of static information, but may or may not benefit from SSD. The data in data warehouses isn’t usually dynamic and analytics may be limited by the I/O performance more than the processor, so SSD could reduce the I/O bottleneck to significantly improve analytical speed. However, data warehouse analysis may not be time-sensitive in the real-time computing sense, so the cost to load a data warehouse into SSD is justifiable only if real-time analytics are needed.

VDI + SSD + Cloud

VDI fits well into a private cloud strategy because clouds are inherently centralized points of service. A private cloud is also an ideal target for SSD, either as a tier 0 or for pre-positioning data near the data consumer. So, VDI and SSD would seem to find a nexus in private cloud. However, the VDI deployment risk for IT organizations with private clouds is the possibility that VDI will be lumped in with all the other applications. If this becomes the case, then VDI won’t benefit from the tier 0 performance for the reasons described earlier.

Strategic deployments

The same care must be taken in deploying VDI in all environments, whether an isolated platform in the data center or a service from a private cloud. Storage architects should also bear in mind that SSD solves the I/O latency problem, not the network latency problem. VDI deployments might suffer from network latency, but the solution is independent from those described here.

There’s no question that SSD devices can significantly improve service delivery in VDI environments -- assuming judicious deployment. Generalized implementation may not yield the desired results and could actually create a costly bottleneck. Architecting from the frame of reference of an end user, rather than from data center system considerations, will help to target the appropriate location of an SSD device. If the SSD deployment would make sense for a single PC, then it will make sense for VDI.

BIO: Phil Goodwin is a storage consultant and freelance writer.

This was first published in July 2012

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