Virtual sanity: What if GreenBytes just DUMPED its hardware?
In theory, software-only could work just fine, argues Chris Mellor
Analysis Should GreenBytes separate its hardware and software? The storage firm sells an IO Offload Engine  which stores deduplicated virty desktop images in its own flash hardware and ships them out to client devices. It's essentially a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) accelerator for storage arrays that runs alongside them and solves the VDI problem with persistent, or full-fat, clones that are larger than the bare bones, can't-be-altered linked clones.
Well, it is a virtual world out there. But suppose GreenBytes made its IO Offload Engine software separately available and partners could pair it with whatever flash hardware they wanted. You could use it just to dedupe VMware View desktop images on disk and ship 'em out to clients from disk, but that seems a waste of fine software.
Let's hypothesise that we could take the IO Offload Engine SW and run it as a software IO Offload Engine using third-party flash, in whatever instantation we fancied. It could use PCIe flash cards, SSDs or proprietary flash modules. We could envisage, say, a Dell or HP or IBM server, loaded up with a STEC PCIe flash card, or anyone else's PCIe card, running the GreenBytes software, and becoming an instant super stud at storing and pumping out VDI images.
Any supplier's PCIe cards would do - Fusion-io, EMC's VFCache, LSI, Micron, IBM TMS, etc. Flash is just flash as far as the GreenBytes software is concerned and it could take the basic undeduped persistent clone seats supported by such a flash card, say 10 for example, run its claimed 97 per cent dedupe effect and run far, far more VDI seats off the card.
The server could have a shared flash array alongside, one from Pure Storage, Skyera, IBM TMS or Whiptail, and have the GreenBytes software use that as its flash resource, accelerating its ability to ship out VDI clones and enabling it to support far more of them.
The same thing could be done with hybrid disk/flash arrays like those from Nimble, Tegile and Tintri, and again, supercharge their VDI performance.
We could envisage a DataDirect Networks array, with flash, running the GreenBytes software in the array - a perfect example of compute coming to storage, and pumping out VDI images like there's no tomorrow. Any supplier's shared SAN flash storage with spare app or system software compute engines in the storage, in theory, could do this. Compute-in-storage is the direction EMC is going with Isilon, VMAX and VNX. Violin Memory is taking that route also.
All of this makes sense, particularly if we think that virtual desktops are just that, virtual, and surely the system that distributes them to clients should be virtual too - as in separate from hardware? VDI users, what do you think? ®