FlexDisk to deliver personalized desktops with stateless VMware VDI

With Liquidware's FlexDisk, apps can now be connected directly to users at login, creating personalized virtual desktops in nonpersistent View shops.

VDI shops that want to deliver persistent virtual desktops but need to maintain a stateless VMware virtual desktop environment will soon have a way to do it.

Liquidware Labs Inc. will release in the fourth quarter a persistent, follow-me user virtual machine disk (VMDK) called FlexDisk for stateless VMware Inc. VDI pools.

In persistent virtual desktop environments, each virtual desktop runs from a separate disk image -- a one-to-one user-to-data disk ratio. That increases the cost of VDI by using a lot of storage and image management.

By contrast, FlexDisks are assigned and unassigned when users log on and off, so there is a one-disk-to-many-users ratio resulting in reduced data storage space requirements, said Jason Mattox, Liquidware Labs' chief technology officer.

"Having a VMDK that uses the VMware View snapshot technology means you can have an Office snapshot shareable among hundreds of users," Mattox said. "We can take that storage layer and add [ThinApp] applications as well, so you can get better performance."

FlexDisk provisions flexible user VMDKs on a virtual machine file system (VMFS) to eliminate the streaming of apps and data over the network. It connects applications and data directly to floating pool users at login. Each user's FlexDisk is hot-added from the VMFS to the virtual machine.

The technology is unique in how it is delivered -- the storage layer, rather than the Windows image layer -- which is the approach that Unidesk Corp. and other profile-layering companies use to deliver persistent desktops, said Gunnar Berger, a Gartner Inc. research director. It is also unique in that the data disk is implemented upon logon, he said.

The only other company with a similar approach is CloudVolumes.

FlexDisk could boost performance, reduce login times

One IT services provider with a large number of past VMware VDI deployments said FlexDisk will be tremendously useful for its clients. Many of its customers use Liquidware Labs' ProfileUnity management software with FlexApp. Combining that with FlexDisk will result in a performance boost and speedier logons.

"The login times are painful on traditional desktops, sometimes taking 10 minutes," said Vince Catanzaro, senior solutions architect at Alternative Information Systems, an IT services provider based in Buffalo, N.Y. "With ProfileUnity, we are down to 10 seconds, and with FlexDisk we can virtualize more apps [with FlexApp] without giving up login time."

Each time FlexApp delivers an application, it adds about five seconds to the login time, he said. But with FlexDisk, applications are self-contained within each VMDK and connected to the user's desktop when provisioned by View. It can connect up to 54 applications to a user. Additionally, FlexApp and FlexDisk together can provision and deliver a single copy of an application to hundreds of users, the company said.

More on persistent and nonpersistent VDI

Explaining persistent vs. nonpersistent VDI

Why you should choose persistent desktops

Getting nonpersistent desktops with Deep Freeze

Liquidware Labs had supported nonpersistent user data disks using Microsoft VHD to store user data and applications. FlexDisks' use of VMDK is better because it provisions flexible user disks on a VMFS to eliminate streaming over the network.

Applications and the Windows OS can reside on separate VMDKs, allowing for I/O "steering" to designated storage. This leaves the core Windows session with low I/O requirements while reducing storage, network and CPU overhead, according to Liquidware.

IT can set FlexDisks to be automatically provisioned to end users from a central management console based on context-aware filters such as a Microsoft Active Directory Group or an organizational unit.

Pricing is not available yet but it is anticipated that FlexDisk technology will be part of Liquidware Labs' product bundles and that the cost will be incidental to the purchase.

Plus, Liquidware Labs will update its persona management software ProfileUnity to version 5.6, with improvements and new features that include built-in Guided Configuration templates, which allow administrators to point and click on an ideal configuration to move large batches of users for desktop OS migrations from one VDI platform to another.

In addition, ProfileUnity support for Windows 8 is in beta and is expected to be available in the coming months.

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