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Flash-forward for virty desktops... Jeez, why didn't WE think of that?

Fusion-io rolls out me-too cache-me-if-you-can software

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Fusion-io appears to have noticed that competitors are using flash to accelerate virtual desktops and decided it wants a piece of that action too. It has tweaked its acquired ioTurbine flash caching software to produce ioVDI – and get those virtual desktop doggies rolling.

The ioTurbine software provides a cached area of flash for virtual machines (VMs) so that a host ESXi server can run more VMs. Similarly ioVDI software provides VDI-aware (virtual desktop infrastructure) flash capabilities so an ESXi host can run more virtual desktops and run them faster.

The main idea is to avoid data access IO to shared drive array storage where possible. Vikram Joshi, a Fusion-io VP and its chief technologist, provided some canned quotery about it: "Writing data creates a storage bottleneck in virtual desktop infrastructure that is … solved by ioVDI software. He added: "ioVDI fetches data from server-side flash … offloading most reads and up to 80 per cent of the writes from primary storage."

He claims ioVDI-aided VDI can be just as responsive as physical hardware and enables "hundreds of desktops to be hosted on a single server without compromising end-user experience". Fusion-io claims its software delivers "delivers persistent desktop performance at a cost similar to stateless desktops".

There are three sub-technologies mentioned:

  • Transparent File Sharing – Inline file deduplication to reduce VM disk reads over 95 per cent. It can reduce "boot times by 5x or more, enabling a fully loaded server with 200 running VMs to reboot in 8-12 seconds. Even if an entire server fails, all 200 users will be restarted automatically with no user intervention or scripting."
  • Write Vectoring – Stores non-critical transient data on server-side flash rather than on shared storage. "Unlike a write-back cache that sends all writes eventually to shared storage, write vectoring recognises the existence of transient desktop writes that never need persistence, including page file I/O, temporary files, and browser temp data." This can reduce write workloads on shared storage by up to 80 per cent, according to the vendor.
  • Dynamic Flash Allocation – If virtual desktops "are migrated across physical servers, ioVDI dynamically reallocates flash on both the primary and secondary server" to keep virtual desktops running at top speed.

The ioVDI software supports vMotion, vSphere High Availability, VMware Dynamic Resource Scheduler (DRS) and Site Recovery Manage (SRM). Virtual desktops are managed using Horizon View and vCenter Server, with event monitoring and customisable email alerts provided through vCenter.

There are several server VDI acceleration products using flash, including software from Greenbytes; hybrid arrays from Tintri and Tegile; all-flash arrays from Pure Storage, Violin Memory and others; as well as VMware's Virtual SAN, which will be available as a kind of VDI edition. Which is best for you?

Making this simple decision has now become a complicated comparison of features and benefits, limitations, scalability, ownership costs, etc.

ioVDI will be available as standalone software or from Fusion-io OEMs as an integrated VDI-running server set-up. Potential beta testers can contact Fusion-io online. ®

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