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VMware & Riverbed – Branch Office Virtual Desktops Faster than the Speed of Light

by Eric Carter, Director of Product Marketing, Riverbed Technology

When it comes to delivering applications over the wide area network (WAN), bandwidth is a key factor in performance, but just as critical is network latency. Yes, as fast as it is, the speed of light imposes a speed limit. Data can only move so fast over distance and through devices that connect point A to point B. The reality of physics takes its toll especially on interactive applications such as desktop virtualization. The good news is that technology innovation now makes it possible to overcome the speed of light issue – not necessarily bending the laws of physics – rather providing a new way to negate the effects of the WAN to deliver local “edge” performance from the data center even over thousands of miles.

Riverbed Technology designed its Granite product to present data-center-managed storage, servers, and applications as if they’re local in remote locations. As customers continue to invest in VMware Horizon View and extend desktop as a service to end user communities that work from branch offices, the unique capabilities of Granite with the Horizon Branch Office Desktop solution helps IT organizations preserve what they want – data center-based provisioning, management and security – while also providing users what they want – a high-performance, reliable desktop experience.

A bit of the Granite + Horizon View “how to”

The joint solution, previewed in 2012, was officially announced at VMware PEX 2013. As Robert Baesman, Director of Product Management for End User Computing at VMware related in a February blog, the distributed desktop architecture for VDI with Granite + Horizon View model, maintains management components like vCenter and Horizon View Connection Server in the data center yet branch users can directly access their desktops on the local LAN instead of over the WAN. Branch desktop pools are actually provisioned on the customer’s block storage solution in the data center (EMC, NetApp, IBM, Dell, etc.) and projected out to remote sites using a central Granite Core appliance.  A Granite Edge appliance presents the desktop pool on the branch LAN which is utilized with local execution either by the integrated vSphere capability on the Granite appliance itself, or on a local stateless vSphere host.

The choice of architecture, appliance size, and configuration is determined by a number of factors including the number of virtual desktops running at the branch, the storage IOPS requirements for boot and day-to-day operations, the need for disconnected operations (to stay connected and productive during a WAN outage), and whether linked-cloned desktops are utilized. The solution is designed to serve branch office locations with up to approximately 100 users each. You can review detailed design recommendations in a deployment guide on the Riverbed Splash community site.

There are a few other key aspects of the solution that provide value even beyond the local experience.

  • Disaster recovery – because production data lives in the central data center, offsite disaster recovery is effectively built in. If something bad happens at the branch, re-projecting and restoring from the data center is a simplified proposition.
  • Reduced central storage costs – the Granite appliance at the branch absorbs peak IOPS, offloading a huge amount of the performance burden from storage in the data center. Testing has shown an average 7x reduction in central storage IOPS requirements!
  • Application acceleration – WAN optimization and quality of service (QoS) are inherent parts of the Granite solution care of the integrated Steelhead component, accelerating business applications hosted centrally, e.g., email, file shares, and video content, giving edge users the best overall experience.

An opportunity to learn more

VMware and Riverbed are hitting the road to bring information about the joint solution directly to you. In a series of VDI Roadshow events, we will present a half day seminar intended to provide a deep dive on the solution components, the new architectural approach, detailed design considerations – and lunch! If you live in the Chicago, DC, NYC, or Atlanta areas, you can register now by clicking one of the links below:

We hope to see you in person in May!  Join us on Twitter and Facebook!