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How to Reduce VDI Storage Costs and Challenges

For years we’ve watched and waited for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to ‘take off.’ The idea of having instant access to your data and personalized desktop from anywhere and any device at anytime—without today’s security risks—is a very compelling solution.

In the IT industry, we find ourselves asking the same question every year: are virtual desktops finally cheaper than physical desktops? Is this the year of VDI?

My answer: maybe. What I do know is that Storage infrastructure is always a key factor when discussing those questions with end users and industry analysts. VDI relies on shared storage, which has historically been significantly more expensive than a consumer-grade hard drive (or hopefully an SSD for anyone doing more than email) thrown in a laptop.

In this post, I’ll focus on the following 3 ways that VMware has made significant progress in reducing the traditional storage costs related to VDI, and how you can reduce VDI storage costs and challenges:

  1. Simplify storage and eliminate complex hardware
  2. Deploy VDI with building-block storage that scales on demand
  3. Deliver exceptional performance without breaking the budget

Simplify storage and eliminate complex hardware

Traditional shared storage was key to the growth of server virtualization adoption and benefits years ago; however, those benefits came at the cost of complex storage management and specialized, purpose-built hardware. We are discovering that for VDI to be equally successful, that traditional storage model will not work. An evolution of shared storage is needed: one that still delivers enterprise-class performance and reliability but greatly simplifies the management and hardware infrastructure. It needs to be ‘PC simple’ to help with broad adoption.

VMware Hyper-Converged Infrastructure, built on industry-standard x86 servers running vSphere and Virtual SAN, is delivering that evolution.

  • Reduced Hardware Infrastructure: For VDI, you need compute (i.e. x86 servers) to run the desktops; that’s a fixed cost. Extending that to be a VMware Hyper-Converged Infrastructure solution is as simple as adding some additional disks (SSDs and HDDs, for hybrid) and possibly a controller. The storage infrastructure needed is dramatically reduced: you no longer need a purpose-built storage system, FC switches, HBAs/CNAs, etc…


  • Simplified Storage Management: Being uniquely embedded in the vSphere hypervisor means Virtual SAN is integrated into the vCenter workflows you already use today. Virtual SAN was designed for anyone to be able to use it quickly with almost no learning curve. Storage management and provisioning can now happen with just a few clicks in a tool you already know.

Deploy VDI with building-block storage that scales on demand

Another ongoing struggle with deploying VDI on traditional storage is sizing the storage correctly. How many IOPs are required? What types of users are there? How many disks are needed? What kind of disks? With desktops and laptops, none of those questions and challenges exist, so how can we make it that easy for IT administrators considering virtual desktops?

By delivering both compute and storage in a single x86 server that scales out linearly, IT administrators eliminate key hurdles that have existed with storage in the past.

  • Budget friendly – No large up-front storage investments or costly upgrades. VDI storage is deployed on industry-standard servers that cost less and easier to secure budget for when needed.
  • Granular scaling – You can add servers as you need to add more users, just like you would purchase a batch of new desktops or laptops as your workforce grows.


Deliver exceptional performance without breaking the budget

Despite the need for simple, low cost storage, you cannot sacrifice performance or user experience. VDI is a challenging workload, IOP intensive, and can go from being write-heavy to read-heavy as users move from steady state to login/logoff storms. We can thank advances in both processor technology and flash technology for helping enable a software-defined storage solution that can address the unique VDI performance needs. At VMware, we are able to combine those advances with our unique, hypervisor-embedded storage solution (Virtual SAN) to deliver extremely efficient IO paths, memory usage and CPU usage.

Whether you are using a hybrid or all-flash Virtual SAN configuration as the foundation for your Hyper-Converged Infrastructure, you can rest better knowing that the IOPS needed for VDI are available, without worrying about the N+1 user slowing down every user. The N+1 problem is a common issue with traditional storage where as soon as you exceed the ideal user limits of the system by possibly just one user, then every user faces major performance challenges.

Because Virtual SAN is kernel-embedded, it delivers greater performance while using significantly less CPU and memory resources then other hyper-converged solutions based on a virtual appliance. In an all-flash architecture, VMware Virtual SAN can deliver over 90K IOPS per host, with sub-millisecond latencies. As a result, we can deliver extremely low $/IOPS, providing the right performance and cost balance desired in any VDI project.



Maybe there won’t be a single ‘year of VDI,’ but as the demands for mobility and security continue to grow, I expect us to wake up one day and realize we are all accessing our data and desktops through the cloud like with VDI. As we march towards that end, VMware Hyper-Converged Infrastructure—built on vSphere and VMware Virtual SAN—provides the evolution to storage to provide the simplicity, scale and performance needed for a successful VDI implementation today.

Want to model out VMware Virtual SAN storage for you next VDI project today? Visit the online Virtual SAN TCO and Sizing tool today and choose desktop virtualization!

If you are just not sure if VMware Virtual SAN would be a good fit, Sign up here for your free VSAN Assessment!


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