VDI has been steadily gaining adoption in the IT marketplace, offering advantages to both IT staff (security, manageability, and lower desktop operational costs) as well as end-users (multi-device computing, location flexibility, and improved reliability).  But for every “VDI changed my life” glory story you hear from IT organizations, you hear two or three VDI horror stories: surprisingly high costs, poor end-user experiences, and administrative pain.  More times that not these VDI horror stories boil-down to a common denominator: legacy disk-based storage arrays.

Traditional enterprise disk arrays were designed to handle traditional enterprise applications: modest read-centric IO rates with predictable IO behaviors.  VDI, unfortunately, represents the polar-opposite workload: very high IO needs (10Ks-100Ks of IOPS), write-centric, random, variable, and highly unpredictable.  The net result is that traditional disk arrays must be retrofit with many disk spindles and large flash caches to even modestly handle the IO workload of hundreds of VDI desktops, and often fail completely to scale to 1,000s of desktops.

And to make matters worse, VDI is very cost-sensitive – it is ultimately being measured against the cost of delivering users commodity desktop or laptop PCs.  If a traditional virtual desktop deployment costs anywhere between $1,000-$2,000/desktop, storage often makes up 50% of the infrastructure cost, and the expensive retrofits discussed above to make legacy disk storage perform reasonably balloon that cost even further.

As an added twist, the VDI market and use cases are evolving, making the load on storage even worse.  Typical call center VDI 1.0 deployments, which relied solely on stateless desktops are giving way to VDI 2.0 deployments.  In the VDI 2.0 world, VDI desktops are being given to productivity users and executives, and the model is shifting to a mix of stateless linked clone and persistent full-clone desktops.  This has new requirements on the storage: it must be higher-performance, higher-scale, fully-HA, higher-capacity to deal with the full clones….yet it must remain cost-effective as not to burst the VDI ROI bubble.


Pure Storage – The Ultimate Storage for VDI

Today Pure Storage is announcing two new innovations for the VDI market:

  1. The Pure Storage All-Flash VDI Reference Architecture.   Pure Storage has done extensive lab and customer testing to validate a new all-flash reference architecture for VDI storage – one that delivers predictable all-flash performance for under $100/desktop in most configurations.
  2. An Expandable VDI Starter Kit.  Pure Storage has created a new entry-level VDI starter kit, enabling organizations to start their all-flash VDI pilots affordably, and then scale seamlessly and online to 1,000s of users.

These new announcements underscore a realization that all-flash storage is really the perfect storage platform to deal with the performance challenges of VDI, and that Pure Storage’s FlashArray is unique in its ability to make all-flash VDI affordable.

The Pure Storage FlashArray has four unique advantages in VDI deployments:

  1. The All-Flash End User Experience.  VDI success or failure is ultimately measured by end-user happiness.  All-flash VDI removes the performance risk of disk or hybrid flash/disk caching architectures, and ensures that end users experience better performance than stand alone laptops with SSDs.
  2. All-Flash VDI for < $100/desktop.  The FlashArray’s integrated deduplication and compression enable the space reduction of both stateless linked clone desktops as well as persistent full clone desktops – enabling administrators to freely mix the two without worrying about capacity overhead.  The FlashArray delivers 5-10x data reduction for the VDI workload, resulting in <$100/desktop costs for all-flash storage in most configurations.
  3. Scale and Resiliency.  As you scale from pilot to 1,000s of users, the storage platform’s ability to scale-up to meet the performance demands of the environment is key.  The FlashArray provides scale for 5,000+ users, and is fully highly available (HA) ensuring no desktop downtime for the organization.
  4. Administrative Simplicity.  While VDI admin’s lives are hopelessly intertwined with storage – the last thing they want to be are storage admins.  Pure Storage has worked hard to make FlashArray the simplest storage array on the planet – 15-minute configuration, no complex tiering to monkey with, and complete management within VMware vSphere.


Validated Reference Configurations

Pure Storage has created a set of FlashArray configurations that are designed to start small and scale with your VDI deployment as it grows.  Scaling in-place is important – as it allows customers to start with a few 100 users in a pilot, and seamlessly expand online to 1,000s of users as the environment grows, all without downtime or forklift hardware upgrades.

These FlashArray configurations deliver all-flash VDI storage for less that $100/desktop in most VDI deployments and use cases (although final cost will depend on many VDI configuration and environmental variables).


Inline Data Reduction: Make Full Clones Looked Like Linked Clones

Key to the FlashArray’s ability to make all-flash VDI affordable is data reduction: inline deduplication, compression, and thin provisioning.  It turns out that VDI is one of the most reducible workloads on the planet.  We find that the FlashArray typically reduces database workloads about 4-to-1 and VM server workloads about 5-to-1, but VDI can often reduce anywhere between 5-to-1 for stateless (linked clone) desktop environments or over 10-to-1 for persistent (full clone) desktop environments.  The figure below shows the GUI of a Pure Storage array that is holding 2,000 desktops – 1,000 linked clones, and 1,000 31GB full persistent clones.

The full clones alone would have typically consumed over 31TB of disk space on a traditional disk array, but all the desktops here are stored in under 1TB of space on the FlashArray (or 1.2TB of space including RAID protection).  This yields dramatic space savings, but also operational flexibility – admins are now free to choose between stateless or persistent desktops, or migrate users between them as user roles and requirements evolve.


VMware Rapid Desktop Certification

As part of this testing effort Pure Storage was certified on the VMware HCL for the VMware View 5.0 Rapid Desktop Program. This program gives customers confidence in choosing a hardware platform for their VMware View implementations that has been certified by the vendor and VMware for interoperability and performance at a given scale. The certified solutions have gone through rigorous testing using the VMware View Planner tool to simulate VDI user interactions and response times at a very large scale of desktops (1,000 full clone and 1,000 linked clone desktops in our case), ensuring a good end-user VDI experience.


Dive Deep and Lean More

Want to learn more about affordable all-flash VDI on Pure Storage?  We’ve got a ton of content help you start your all-flash VDI journey.

Understand the VDI market, challenges, and basic benefits of Pure Storage:

Learn more about the Pure Storage VDI Reference Architecture:

And if you’d like to skip all this and get to the really good stuff, contact Pure Storage to schedule an in-person briefing.