Decisions, decisions: VDI storage considerations and choices
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In addition to new products from Citrix, VMware and Microsoft, 2014 was a year that saw a lot of progress in application management.
Companies such as CloudVolumes (later acquired by VMware and renamed AppVolumes) and FSLogix arrived on the scene with innovative ways to deploy and manage applications.
AppVolumes works by creating application-specific virtual disk files and attaching them to running instances of Windows as needed. FSLogix has admins install all of their applications into the base image and uses something called a File System Filter Driver to hide the applications from Windows until IT turns them on. These two products, plus other options from companies such as Unidesk, AppSense Inc., RES Software and Liquidware Labs Inc. have made it much easier to manage nonpersistent VDI desktops.
When you combine those advances with the ones made in storage optimization in 2013, VDI is done. The major technical VDI problems for the past seven years have been solved. That's not to say that everyone should be using VDI all the time, but there more use cases than ever in organizations where both persistent and nonpersistent VDI can be effective. 2014 was a great year for VDI.
Keep one eye on Moonshot
Of course, if VDI still isn't your cup of tea, there is another technology that sticks out when I look back over the year that was: HP's Moonshot.
HP Moonshot is the anti-VDI, and you could even go so far as to call it "physicalization" as opposed to "virtualization." In one 4.3u chassis, you can install 45 cartridges. Each cartridge contains four completely isolated PCs with their own CPU/GPU, memory, storage and networking, which means you can support 180 users in a single 4.3u chassis that has all the redundancy built in that you could ever want.
There's no virtualization involved with Moonshot, just good, old imaging. The reference architecture uses Citrix Provisioning Server to stream disk images down to each PC's solid state drive -- 64 GB of storage for each one -- and the users access the desktops on a 1:1 basis, just as if they were under their desk via Citrix RemotePC tied to a XenDesktop connection broker. XenDesktop, yes. Virtualization, no.
Moonshot removes what some people see as a major VDI problem: the challenges of supporting all the back-end plumbing that goes into supporting VDI. Instead, Moonshot goes back to basics with a modern flare. It's the most promising technology to come out of 2014, and with the upcoming release of server-based cards that support running XenApp (imagine how many users you could support with 45 XenApp servers in a chassis), the sky is the limit.
Keep an eye on Moonshot in 2015 for what I expect to be great things, but don't take your eye off of VDI or DaaS. We should see more crossover than ever between desktops and the cloud, and though we might not see a mass migration to any one platform in the coming year, there will surely be a lot of innovation to set us up for the future.