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Addition by Subtraction: Boosting VDI Performance by Eliminating the Disk; Interview with Atlantis Computing CEO Part I

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is a hot topic among DCIG readers. That’s because VDI offers a number of desirable benefits for desktop deployments, including centralized management, lower management costs, and an enhanced ability to rapidly provision computing resources to end users. However, the storage infrastructure required of VDI can push the costs of a conventional VDI environment way beyond that of a physical PC environment.

To overcome this inconvenient snafu in the utility of VDI, a new version of software coupled with the right hardware is helping to lower the cost of virtual desktops to below that of physical PCs while speeding performance without compromising security. In the first of a multi-part interview series with Atlantis Computing CEO Bernard Harguindeguy, we get a taste of how an intriguing new version of a VDI storage optimization solution takes VDI to the next level of usefulness–by actually eliminating the need for conventional disk storage.

Ben: Bernard, greetings and thanks for your time today. Many of our DCIG readers are buzzing about VDI. Tell us what’s new with your VDI storage solution, Atlantis ILIO, and how it helps organizations fully leverage the potential of VDI.

Bernard: Thanks, Ben. I’m happy to discuss this with you. We’re getting a lot of really rave reviews of Atlantis ILIO. It’s a completely new way to do a VDI architecture.

Atlantis ILIO, in general, is VDI storage performance optimization software. We’ve been shipping this product for several years. It works with existing storage from EMC or NetApp or 3PAR or whatever the backend storage might be, or with Dell.

This reduces the amount of IOPS going to the backend storage by about 90 percent and reduces the amount of capacity consumed by anywhere from 90 to 99 percent, depending on how big your image is to start with.

Now, what we’ve released is an extension of the product that creates a completely new VDI architecture. It’s the first time that a customer can deploy VDI with no traditional storage.

So no disks, no SAN, no SSDs for the virtual desktop images. What we’re doing instead is optimizing those VDI images to such a small size that they can run on the local server memory itself.

Ben: The VDI images on the local server memory itself? Please go over the benefits of that setup.

Bernard: 
It has three kinds of dramatic benefits. One is from a cost perspective: You’re eliminating the cost of all the storage you have to buy, both from a CAPEX and an OPEX perspective. So, you can do things like get below $200 per desktop for all your server and Atlantis ILIO licenses.

Second, because you’re serving all of the I/O for the operating system out of local memory–obviously the fastest possible, even faster than the fastest SSDs, with no latency because you’re on the same server–you get things like 12-second boot times, which are not possible with any other VDI architecture.

Third, a really big benefit is the density. We’re doing a lot of activities with Cisco on this because they have a very nice platform called Cisco UCS servers with extended memory technology. It allows you to get a large amount of memory on a single blade at a lower cost. So they expand the number of disk slots that you have per processor.

Take the example of Cisco B230 M2 blades. With those blades [and Atlantis ILIO] you can get 160 virtual desktops per blade. And then each blade has eight servers in a very small 6U chassis. So you can get 1,280 virtual desktops per chassis. And then you can fit five chassis into a single rack. So you can run a very large company’s VDI deployment on a single rack of servers with no storage.

So like I said, you have the low CAPEX cost combined with orders of magnitude better I/O performance, and you can get under $200 per desktop for the server compute and Atlantis ILIO software. Instead of the 10 or 20 IOPS per desktop you might size the shared storage array for, you’re getting 300-plus IOPS per desktop. And that’s what creates this better performance.

So it’s kind of like switching from a slow IDE hard drive of a physical PC to a really fast SSD drive. Windows boots really fast, applications launch instantly, and you’re never waiting on a disk for the operating system to do any of your operations.

In Part II of this interview series with Atlantis Computing’s CEO Bernard Harguindeguy, we will take a deeper look at the workings of VDI storage optimization as well as reveal which architecture setup, according to testing with Cisco, delivers the best cost-performance results.

In Part III of this interview series with Atlantis Computing’s CEO Bernard Harguindeguy, we will go in depth by examining a case study of a large telecom firm using diskless VDI to enhance performance, lower capex and opex costs, provide endpoint device options, and more quickly integrate new employees and acquired companies.

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