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Pure Storage to VDI players: Flash array trounces the platter

5,000 virty desktops with cheap(er) flash tech

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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. ®

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