I/O Is Front and Center in Virtual Environments

Arthur Cole
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When Is It Right for a Business to Consider Desktop Virtualization?

Tips for determining whether desktop virtualization is right for your business.

It's been known for a while now that virtualization is a two-edged sword. True, it reduces your server infrastructure, but it places enormous pressure on storage and networking.

This imbalance is the primary obstacle in virtual deployments today, whether it's the virtual stall hitting many enterprises or the continued lackluster embrace of desktop virtualization.

Storage, of course, is a fixed asset. Data reduction and other techniques can help reduce loads, but in the end storage can only hold a set amount of data at any one time. If you need more, there's no choice but to provision it.

On the networking side, however, there is a tremendous amount of flexibility when it comes to shuttling data from place to place, and it's here that the lion's share of development is taking place to accommodate rapidly increasing virtual environments, particularly those seeking to embrace virtual desktops.

A number of these advances are designed for quick integration into legacy environments. NextIO, for example, just rolled out the vCORE Express 2070Q appliance aimed at optimizing Microsoft desktop virtualization solutions. The device features advanced graphics processing to enable multiple users to tap into the Microsoft RemoteFX VDI solution, enabling rich media and other data-intensive applications across centralized Hyper-V environments.

Meanwhile, Virtual Bridges has already upped the ante with its recently released VERDE system, adding a new cache I/O storage system that significantly scales back the upfront costs of VDI deployment. By reducing the number of IOPS needed to support virtual desktop environments, enterprises can reduce the amount of additional storage that usually accompanies VDI rollouts, which in many cases stretches into the terabyte level. The system also leverages local disks for read/write copy functions, further reducing the strain on centralized storage.

And earlier this month, Oracle released the newest version of its Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (3.3), featuring asynchronous I/O capability that increases throughput for individual virtual machines. The technique is similar to that used on UNIX and Linux systems in which central processing continues while I/O requests are pending. This helps keep data flowing even in high-traffic situations.

Even traditional storage vendors are outfitting their newest storage arrays with high-performance I/O modules in an effort to streamline virtual infrastructure. Nimble Storage has loaded its new entry-level CS210 platform with a mixture of flash memory and high-capacity disk drives to deliver up to 8 TB of storage and enough throughput to handle desktop virtualization, disaster recovery and other high-I/O applications.

As I said a few days ago, networking is king in the virtual age. When server and storage resources can be scaled to your heart's desire at the click of a mouse, networking infrastructure still carries the primary role of getting data to where it needs to be. And that, more than anything else in the data center, will be that difference between success and failure going forward.

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