IBM FlashSystem in a Virtual Desktop Environment Solution Guide

IBM Redbooks Solution Guide

Abstract

This Solution Guide provides an overview of IBM® FlashSystem™ running in a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment. We describe the benefits that are gained from running a VDI environment with the low latency response times that FlashSystem provides, with a focus on business productivity and mitigating boot storms.

Updated as of July 15 to include latest IBM product functionality.

Contents


Today, IT staffs are faced with ever-rising costs, the increased complexity of maintaining remote user workstations, growing needs to avoid security exposures such as virus attacks, the lack of centralized management, and the need for flexibility and global availability of compute resources. Running a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in an IBM® FlashSystem™ storage environment unlocks users' productivity by serving their compute needs regardless of physical location or connection device. This Solution Guide describes the benefits of the IBM FlashSystem solution for VDI.

VDI coupled with FlashSystem storage helps solve the above described business problems. Figure 1 illustrates the applications that benefit from the low latency provided by FlashSystem. This Solution Guide focuses on the value that FlashSystem brings to a VDI.


Figure 1. FlashSystem focus areas - virtual desktop is key

The IBM SmartCloud® Desktop infrastructure uses a VDI approach that runs on IBM Flex System™ or on IBM System x® and simplifies IT manageability and control. It delivers high fidelity user experiences across devices and networks. Features in SmartCloud Desktop Software offerings such as VMware View provide enhanced security, high availability, centralized management and control, and scalability.


Did you know?

FlashSystem architecture is designed with IBM® MicroLatency™ to speed up critical business application response time. Providing up to 1.1 million I/O per second (IOPS), IBM FlashSystem products increase business productivity and decrease the cost of production by mitigating boot storms in a VDI environment.

IBM has invested one billion dollars and established worldwide Flash Centers of Competency to help customers architect and implement flash-based solutions. Flash technology has transformed storage, enabling enterprises to extract extraordinary value and derive greater efficiencies from their high velocity, high volume data streams. Additionally, IBM FlashSystem Enterprise Performance Solutions provide a wide range of enterprise grade management and feature-rich storage services deeply integrated with the underlying hardware architecture to eliminate unacceptable latency penalties. Together, IBM FlashSystem platforms offer multiple options for enterprises seeking to attack high velocity data requirements, increase system efficiency, lower IT costs, and improve the user experience.

For the latest FlashSystem product details, see the IBM FlashSystem family product page at: http://www.ibm.com/storage/flash.

Business value

The IBM FlashSystem family is an enterprise class all-flash storage platform that is ideal for delivering the low latency and high bandwidth demanded by VDI environments. The FlashSystem portfolio of storage products extends the leadership of IBM in flash optimized storage infrastructures. FlashSystem storage is designed to increase the performance, efficiency, and reliability of enterprise storage while lowering overall IT costs. With FlashSystem storage, there are no spinning disks and therefore much less I/O latency. Users do not have to wait on virtual desktop boot times during peak community login windows, month-end billing cycles, or any time.

The FlashSystem Enterprise Performance Solutions add advanced storage functionality to the extreme performance of FlashSystem storage, such as Thin Provisioning, IBM Easy Tier® for storage efficiency, IBM FlashCopy® for point-in-time copies, and Mirroring/Copy services for data replication and protection.

Traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) are optimized for high-capacity, modest performance, and sequential workloads. HDDs tend to be too slow to effectively respond to the I/O profile of VDI, which generates a heavy workload of random reads and writes that are prone to intense bursts of activity. These I/O characteristics manifest themselves in the form of latency (the time it takes an I/O request to be fulfilled by the storage subsystem). VDI deployments have previously experienced some deployment challenges caused by latency issues and the subsequent high cost of adding spindle count to increase performance. These storage performance and cost issues initially dampened the rate of VDI adoption.

The FlashSystem portfolio of FlashSystem storage systems delivers high performance, efficiency, and reliability for shared enterprise storage environments, helping customers around the world address performance and cost issues with their most important applications and infrastructure. FlashSystem storage can either complement or replace traditional hard disk drive arrays in many applications, including VDIs.

As standard shared primary data storage devices, FlashSystem storage can deliver performance beyond that of traditional arrays, even those that incorporate solid state drives (SSD) or other flash technology. FlashSystem can also be used as the top tier of storage alongside traditional arrays in tiered storage architectures, such as the IBM Easy Tier functionality, which is available in IBM FlashSystem Enterprise Performance Solutions or IBM Storwize® V7000 storage virtualization platforms.

FlashSystem products have the following advantages over other forms of storage:
  • FlashSystem products accelerate applications at least an order of magnitude.
  • Writes are microsecond (µs) fast because they land on DRAMs before being optimized for flash. Reads complete at nearly 100 µs.
  • Highly available FlashSystem products offer dozens of usable TB in a few rack units of space.
  • FlashSystem products offer industry leading bandwidth.
  • They provide Fibre Channel, FC over Ethernet, iSCSI, and InfiniBand connections.
  • FlashSystem employs Variable Stripe RAID to keep bad flash chips from causing field failures and incorporates 2D Flash RAID data protection to provide enhanced system-level reliability.
  • FlashSystem products have a hardware-only data path with ultra-low latency. Custom FPGA-based data movement decreases latency versus software.

Figure 2 explains that both performance and economics drive customer deployments of IBM FlashSystem.


Figure 2. FlashSystem drives new business opportunities.


Most important in addressing the ever escalating VDI demands for better user experiences, FlashSystem architecture is designed with IBM® MicroLatency™ to speed response times, delivering reads and writes in the hundred microsecond range. In addition to an obsession with low latency, IBM FlashSystem engineers also optimized IOPS and bandwidth. The resulting extreme performance ensures that as VDI workloads increase, FlashSystem continues to scale performance without latency degradation. Also, FlashSystem delivers macro efficiency, with compact physical capacity, low energy consumption, and greater utilization of existing resources. Another key element is enterprise reliability and serviceability. The all-flash array employs eMLC NAND flash plus two RAID dimensions, resulting in more data protection levels than are available from competing systems. FlashSystem design allows for rapid servicing because all hot swappable and redundant components (including flash modules, power supplies, fans, batteries, and canisters) are accessible from the front or back of the system.

IBM FlashSystem lowers total storage costs and enables the greater compute system efficiencies and agility that VDI demands through two crucial advantages. First, FlashSystem offers a full set of advanced storage services such as snapshots, data compression, and replication that enable the system to be deployed as either a pool of extremely fast storage or as the foundational component of an entire enterprise storage virtualization solution. With the full spectrum of data management capabilities, FlashSystem Enterprise Performance Solution can function as the entire virtualized storage layer, dynamically managing data to lower costs and increase efficiencies while integrating seamlessly within heterogeneous vendor environments and disaster recovery solutions.

Second, FlashSystem’s million IOPS extreme performance capabilities and dozens of terabytes of capacity enable the agility to innovate, implement new features and customer services, and scale outwards and upwards without storage becoming the limiting factor.


VDI concepts

VDI is an enterprise architecture that stores user data, user profiles, and application data files on centralized servers. These servers are in data centers, so this approach extends data center security and manageability to user resources. Additionally, VDI provides users with anywhere, anytime, secure access to data and applications from any device. This includes mobile devices such as tablets and cell phones, essentially -- Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).

The advantages of a VDI approach to enterprise desktop management running on centralized servers attached to FlashSystem storage (compared to traditional desktop environments) include the following items:
  • Rapid desktop deployment, including updates, patches, and security enhancements
  • Overall cost savings in desktop support, a centralized approach to client OS management, and reduced client machine energy consumption
  • Unified management and reporting through a single administrator console
  • Easy accessibility through various endpoint devices (notebooks, tablets, and thin clients)
  • User and application virtualization that disaggregates resources for balanced network workloads while it maintains a consistent look and feel for the user
  • Ability to use centralized data center resources and processes for backup and recovery
  • Horizontal scalability; up to tens of thousands of endpoint devices can be handled through a central point
  • Improved data security through centralization of sensitive data behind data center firewalls and security protection
  • Compliance with regulatory standards for information protection (such as HIPAA and Sarbanes Oxley).

In essence, VDI is composed of server hosted virtual machines (VM) that are running desktop operating systems in a central data center location, which delivers a graphical representation (screen updates) to remotely connected users, allowing local user input (keyboard/mouse/touch) to their virtual desktops.

In a traditional desktop model, users have the entire compute environment (OS, processing power, memory, and hard disk) placed in front of them. In the case of VDI, users employ lightweight endpoint devices with minimal need for processing power and little or no storage to access the their desktops, which are processed on remote hardware.

As noted above, traditional VDI implementations suffer from storage performance and cost issues that hard disk drives cannot solve. But IBM FlashSystem can.


Solution overview

The concept of VDI with management efficiencies, such as speed of deployment, ease of maintenance activities (patch updates), and an excellent user experience through performance and flexibility is now a reality. The high performance and flexibility of VDI is being realized with the recent availability of x86 virtualization, increasingly larger amounts of CPU power, centralized memory, and FlashSystem storage. Deploying FlashSystem into the VDI introduces unparalleled reliability, capacity density, and the fastest response times.

Create a VDI that unlocks staff productivity by servicing their compute needs regardless of physical location or connection device. Virtualized servers and VDI push conventional storage systems to their performance limits, which results in poor application response times and a bad customer experience.

IBM SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure, running VMware View with IBM FlashSystem, offers the following advantages:
  • Simplifies desktop administration
  • Speeds up applications
  • Decreases cost of production by mitigating boot storms
  • Improves availability and reliability
  • Enables users to work anytime, anywhere quickly and easily regardless of the device that is used.
  • Better supports growth initiatives for mobility and flexible work locations
  • Enhances security and compliance management.
Running your VDI in a FlashSystem storage environment addresses the challenge of sporadic VDI workload that is encountered throughout the day, from the morning boot, to afternoon productivity time, to evening maintenance. FlashSystem can provide over one million IOPS, ample performance to keep your VDI running smoothly throughout the day. Solving latency issues by deploying FlashSystem storage is crucial to the successful deployment of VDI.


Solution architecture

Figure 3 provides an architectural overview of a VDI solution utilizing FlashSystem storage, with VDI software running on IBM Flex System and IBM System x servers. Information, such as virtual machine images, is stored on shared storage (FlashSystem) and the VDI servers actively work with the storage.


Figure 3. Architectural overview of a VDI running with IBM FlashSystem and IBM Flex System


The IBM SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure solution with VMware View on IBM Flex System includes the following components:
  • User access devices
    • Desktop PCs
    • Thin clients
    • Notebooks
    • Other handheld mobile devices.
  • Virtual infrastructure software
    • VMware View.
  • Hardware platform
    • IBM Flex System
    • IBM System Storage: FlashSystem running behind with SAN Volume Controller.

Solution building blocks

FlashSystem

Introducing FlashSystem in to the IBM SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure can result in faster response times for the most common virtualized applications. You can couple this performance to the "log on" or "boot storm" and make your system productive again.

FlashSystem storage accomplishes the following tasks:
  • Eliminates I/O density and hot spot issues that are common to highly virtualized environments
  • Controls and mitigates log on or boot storm performance issues
  • Delivers storage consolidation without sacrificing performance, thus driving higher V:P ratios and increasing server usage.

FlashSystem Enterprise Performance Solution adds the following advantages of advanced storage functionality:
  • Thin provisioning to allocate storage “just in time”
  • Improved utilization to harvest all SAN capacity
  • Disaster avoidance with location-proof data availability
  • EasyTier for storage efficiency
  • FlashCopy for point-in-time copies
  • Mirroring/copy services for data replication and protection
  • Real-time compression to place up to five times more data in the same physical space.

IBM Flex System platform

IBM Flex System is an integrated platform that delivers custom-tuned and client-specific configurations for optimum flexibility. IBM Flex System combines compute nodes, networking, storage, and management into a complete data center building block that is built for future-proof, heterogeneous data centers with flexibility and open choice of architectures, hypervisors, and environments.

The IBM Flex System configuration includes:
    • IBM Flex System x240 compute nodes. The x240 compute nodes contain an embedded VMware ESXi hypervisor to host VMs that are used for virtual desktops and for management and provisioning tasks. The x240 compute nodes are combined into three groups: stateless Hosted Virtual Desktop (HVD) pool, dedicated HVD cluster, and management cluster.
    • Stateless HVD pool nodes are configured with local SSD storage that hosts VM files. The nodes use FlashSystem storage to get local VM images from the repository. High availability is provided by the connection broker. If a VM or node failure occurs, the connection broker redirects the user to another available virtual desktop.
    • The nodes in a dedicated cluster are configured with no local storage. All VM files are placed onto FC-connected FlashSystem shared storage. High availability is ensured by failing over the VM to another compute node with the VMware High Availability feature.
    • The nodes in management cluster host VMs are running controlling instances such as connection broker, centralized management tools, and databases for storing control information. These nodes are connected to FlashSystem storage, which stores VM files and provides high availability (HA). VMware HA also provides high availability for management VMs.

IBM Flex System Manager:

    • IBM Flex System Manager™ is a systems management appliance that drives efficiency and cost savings in the data center. Flex System Manager provides a pre-integrated and virtualized management environment across servers, storage, and networking that is easily managed from a single interface.
Switches:
    • LAN Switches -- The IBM Flex System Fabric EN4093 10Gb Scalable Switch provides a redundant, high-speed, low-latency 10 Gb Ethernet network for the compute nodes and client and management networks.
    • SAN switches -- The FC3171 8 Gb FC switch, or FC5022 16 Gb switches, provide Fibre connectivity that can be used for interfacing with FlashSystem.

VMware View

VMware View provides remote desktop capabilities to users of VMware virtualization technology. A client desktop operating system runs within a virtual environment on a server. This connection broker application delivers a personalized high fidelity experience for users across sessions and devices. It also enables higher availability and agility of desktop services that are unmatched by traditional PCs, while it reduces the total cost of desktop ownership. Users can enjoy new levels of performance and productivity and the freedom to access desktops from more devices and locations with greater IT policy control.

The following VMware View features provide a familiar experience for the user:
  • Take advantage of multiple monitor support for RDP and PCoIP. With PCoIP, you can adjust the display resolution and rotation separately for each monitor.
  • Print from a virtual desktop (in a Microsoft Windows environment) to any local or networked printer
  • Access USB devices and other peripheral devices that are connected to the local device that displays your virtual desktop
  • Manage profiles by using View Persona Management to preserve user profiles and data between sessions and to dynamically synchronize them to a remote CIFS share or to SAN managed storage at configurable intervals. View Persona Management can work with or without Windows roaming profiles.
  • Integrate with VMware vCenter to achieve cost-effective densities, high levels of availability, and advanced resource allocation control for your virtual desktops.
  • Use View Composer to quickly create desktop images that share virtual disks with a master image. By using linked clones in this way, you conserve disk space and simplify the management of patches and updates to the operating system.

Users can access their personalized virtual desktop from a company notebook, their home PC, a thin client device, a Mac, or a tablet. From tablets and from Mac, Linux, and Windows notebooks and PCs, users open View Client to see their View desktop. Thin client devices use View Thin Client software. They can be configured so that the only application that users can start directly on the device is View Thin Client.





Usage scenarios

In the healthcare industry, staff are constantly on the move, but need fast, security-rich access to patients’ electronic medical records that are in compliance with data privacy regulations. By combining secure single sign-on capabilities with a VDI running on FlashSystem storage, healthcare IT enables staff to access multiple systems and applications to obtain medical records or images with a single, more secure sign-on.

In the education industry, a VDI that is running FlashSystem storage can help schools extend the lifecycle of existing PCs, in addition to allowing the schools to adopt new technology. Students can receive the same quality education, regardless of the availability of hardware, devices, or location. At the same time, IT staff can reduce the time, cost, and complexity that are associated with maintenance, upgrades, provisioning, re-imaging, and repairing the school’s technology assets.

For the public sector, local, state, and federal agencies must extend support to an ever-increasing collection of personal devices and do so under stringent security measures. A virtual desktop with FlashSystem storage can give personnel the anytime, anywhere access they need to maintain productivity. It can also provide the centralized security and control that are necessary to help maintain extreme data confidentiality. Agencies can also expedite provisioning and upgrades to multiple devices at a sustainable level of cost and effort.




IBM SmartCloud Desktop Services with FlashSystem

By using time-proven methods, open source tools, and extensive expertise developed through real-world customer implementations, IBM can help your enterprise deploy cost effective VDI solutions utilizing SmartCloud Desktop Services incorporated with FlashSystem to accelerate your transition to a less complex, virtualized desktop environment.

Running a virtual desktop in a FlashSystem storage environment unleashes users' productivity by delivering extreme performance, efficiency, and reliability across devices and networks in your VDI. Through these services, a broader range of users, from power users to remote users, can have faster and more security-rich access to resources, helping to improve their productivity and increasing business speed and flexibility.




Supported platforms

For supported hardware and platforms for the FlashSystem portfolio of products, see the following link:
http://www.ibm.com/systems/support/storage/ssic



Ordering information

For FlashSystem ordering information, see the following IBM Redbooks® Product Guides:
http://www.redbooks.ibm.com/abstracts/tips1158.html


Related information

For more information, see the following documents:
http://www.redbooks.ibm.com/redpieces/abstracts/sg248189.html?Open
  • IBM FlashSystem 840 knowledge center
http://ibm.co/1o0Z8br
    On this page, enter FlashSystem, select the information type, and then click Search. On the next page, narrow your search results by geography and language.
  • US Announcement Letter - IBM FlashSystem 840 and IBM FlashSystem V840 Enterprise Performance Solution
http://ibm.co/1mzyFwt

Special Notices

This material has not been submitted to any formal IBM test and is published AS IS. It has not been the subject of rigorous review. IBM assumes no responsibility for its accuracy or completeness. The use of this information or the implementation of any of these techniques is a client responsibility and depends upon the client's ability to evaluate and integrate them into the client's operational environment. publib-b.boulder.ibm.com

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Publish Date
29 May 2013

Last Update
22 July 2014


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IBM Form Number
TIPS1029