Pure Storage to VDI players: Flash array trounces the platter
5,000 virty desktops with cheap(er) flash tech
Pure Storage has announced its FlashArray is ready and waiting to accelerate virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) applications at scale, ready to support thousands of skinny and full-fat desktops. It also join the rest of the flash start-up brigade - Greenbytes, Nimble Storage, Tintri, Tegile, Violin Memory and Whiptail - in saying flash acceleration makes VDI at scale possible, desirable, and compelling. What are you waiting for? Rip and replace those horrible desktop PCs with virtual ones.
What's Pure Storage bringing to the VDI party?
It has a VMware-certified VDI reference architecture and a VDI starter kit, using its FlashArray, which it says is the first "production-hardened" (whatever that means) all-flash array to have a lower cost than the spinning disk, with the help of in-line dedupe shrinking VDI images to between a fifth and a tenth of their raw size. Pure claims: "FlashArray makes it affordable for every enterprise to offer their users the best all-flash VDI experience."
It says spinning disk-based VDI costs $300-$500 per desktop: "Rel[ies] heavily on stateless images to constrain storage growth, fails to scale past 100s of users and ultimately eliminates the overall ROI of VDI due to exorbitant storage costs." The FlashArray with its inline dedupe brings the cost to less than $100/desktop, "less expensive than putting an SSD in a user’s laptop," Pure claims.
It also says hybrid disk/flash VDI systems can have variable performance due to caching constriants.
The VDI starter kit, which installs in 15 minutes and comes in high-availability (HA) and non-HA configs, supports hundreds of users and can be expanded in increments to a fully configured FlashArray supporting 5,000 or more VDI users, both stateless and persistent. The system can be managed from vSphere.
The VDI reference architecture is actually two: one for VMware, compatible with VMware View 5, and one for Citrix XenDesktop. FlashArray is an approved Rapid Desktop configuration. The Pure Storage VDI starter kit is available now and - according to Pure's VP Products, Matt Kixmoeller - "has an unprecedentedly low point of entry that easily fits within existing IT budgets” - meaning a street price well under $100,000, depending on its configuration. The All-Flash VDI Reference Architecture is available for download today from purestorage.com.
How does this compare to competing products?
Tintri has one user running 800 desktops off its 540 3U hybrid flash/disk system of eight 3TB disk drives and eight 300GB solid state drives costing somewhere around $75,000.
Nimble Storage, a hybrid disk drive/flash array start-up, produced a VDI reference architecture with Cisco in October. It supports 1,000 VDI uses with a 3U enclosure, a Nimble CS220G-X2 array with twelve 1TB hard disk drives and four 160GB flash SSDs, costing $43,000.
This is small potatoes compared to Greenbytes, whose 4TB Offload Engine can support 5,000 fat VDI clones each 40GB in size and with 2GB of swap space. Greenbytes uses deduplication and compression to get the nominal 210TB of storage needed down to 4TB.
Violin Memory has a 6,000 VDI system at NATS in the UK.
Whiptail says its all-flash INVICTA array can boot 600 VDI seats in three minutes and 47 seconds while doing other work as well. It's all-flash ACCELA arrays are being used by a Netherlands government department in a 20,000-seat VDI deployment with expansion to 40,000 seats coming. ACCELA costs $49,000 per TB suggested retail price level. A 2-node INVICTA has a $250,000 suggested price, while a fully loaded 72TB 6-node INVICTA will set you back $1.8m.
It looks at first glance as if Greenbytes, Violin Memory and Pure Storage are three all-flash array players in the same VDI scale ballpark. Have at it guys - may the best product, support and service player win. ®
OK – so the VDI market space is definitely moving at a break neck pace. We are in the midst of a perfect storm of data center compute solutions, storage performance with flash technology and user access and mobility with the BYOD revolution. Seems like we are already at VDI 2.0 and most of the implementations I run into are already behind the curve at version 1.0 or nothing at all – or are they?
Pure all flash storage solutions definitely seem to have a good corner case fit for this workload – or at least part of it. The desktop itself – the core OS image and application(s) layer seem to fit well into the all flash and deduplication methods of the all flash solutions. However, I think this comes at a cost – the true cost of capacity for the users behind the desktops.
If you have already migrated all of the user data out of the desktop image leaving only the profile/persona behind, then thin (Linked Clone or PVS) or fat (Full) desktops can be traded off by how you want to manage OS and application updates and pools of desktops. Stateless or Persistent desktops don’t impose that much impact on the infrastructure – but they do affect the user experience.
Question: Do I need to have distinctly different storage platforms for the different parts of my virtualization infrastructure or is there a better, easier to manage model. Traditional spinning disk only solutions have obvious drawbacks of size, cost, and complexity even if the performance measure is easy – just add more spindles and capacity increases too. All flash solutions make performance measures easy – they are fast – all fast – just get enough space to support the workload. How much space that is depends on a lot of variables – namely deduplication and thin provisioning methods and frequency and uniformity of data updates.
I think hybrid solutions provide the best of both technologies. Performance and capacity sizing is still required and although this is a new type of sizing exercise for many storage admins, it is not rocket science. With this hybrid storage (flash + disk) approach you can get the performance (maybe not at screaming levels) needed to support the active workload and the capacity (definitely not at screaming prices) to store the rest of the less-used infrastructure data.
My bet is that all flash solutions will allow IT teams to deploy some interesting VDI solutions, but be prepared for the added cost – the per desktop OS/application layer will be higher than hybrid solutions and there will likely be another storage requirement somewhere else in the picture to hold the user data that lies somewhere between the desktop background image and the corporate file share repository.
The Price is Right???
With all this hoopla over performance by these arrays, the element of cost per desktop seems to have gotten lost. Some of the other commentators have picked up on this, too.
With appliances costing over $100K/TB, the economics seem a bit strained. Remember, what is being replaced is a $300 notebook. Given a raw but stingy 20GB per desktop equivalent, at $50K/TB for an Accela flash array this alone is $1,000 per seat. Add in the VMWare, amortize the large server running the VDI, and provide a thin desktop, and the economics are really strange. Of course, thin provisioning and dedupe help a lot, but the numbers are still upside down.
I agree about the need for 1 storage solution, but based on what I know the world has to move toward a linked virtual disk model with as users data and other pieces stored separately.
Can we get a story on that... Citrix ? VMware ?