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Cost-effective solid-state storage devices jumpstart VDI

More solid-state storage offerings came out of the woodwork this year, lending a hand to common VDI performance problems.

Although the "year of VDI" never really came about, the desktop virtualization industry has seen a lot of changes over the past year. Cloud computing, the consumerization of IT and improved graphics delivery have all contributed to a better virtual desktop experience -- making virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) viable in more organizations.

To help you get a handle on the big picture of VDI, we posed this question to five desktop virtualization experts:

What technologies or trends had the biggest impact on VDI in 2013?

Alastair Cooke: This is the year when the storage performance problems that have been common to VDI started to get new solutions. Most often, if there is a problem with a VDI deployment, it is the storage; high-performance storage is expensive, so organizations cut corners, leading to degraded performance and unhappy users.

There has been a huge trend toward solid-state storage devices for VDI this year. Shared storage with solid state, whether mixed with spinning disk or alone, has become common and cost effective. Some of these arrays provide hundreds of IOPS per user, meaning better disk performance than users' old PCs. "Better than before" should always be the aim of a new system; better disk performance translates into a desktop responding faster, and it helps to get more work done.

In the second half of the year, we saw the emergence of more offerings to bring solid-state storage closer to the hypervisor. PernixData and Infinio released caching products that fit into the VMware ESXi server and take some of the difficult loads off the shared storage. These tools have a distributed architecture that scales well with increasing user numbers; having more users means more ESXi hosts and more local cache. You can add these cacheing tools to an existing VDI deployment that has storage performance problems or design them into new deployments, allowing the use of lower-cost shared storage.

The next phase will be when the innovations that are developed by startups become sufficiently compelling and accepted so that the larger storage companies take notice. By either buying the startups or developing similar offerings, larger vendors with an investment in large storage arrays can enable customers to use these arrays with their VDI deployments. Large enterprises like to buy from large suppliers that will be around in the future and provide support around the clock and around the globe.

Stay tuned for more responses to this question as we determine the biggest trends of the year.

This was first published in December 2013

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