Lab Report Preview: Fusion ioVDI

High-performance Virtual Desktops with Stateless Cost Efficiency

Fusion ioVDI is a desktop virtualization solution designed to accelerate virtual desktops with server-side flash while seamlessly integrating into any DAS, SAN, or NAS environment.  ioVDI Software and Fusion ioMemory deliver desktop performance from server-side flash with the ability to leverage VAAI (with compliant storage) to provide both persistent and stateless desktop capacity and data protection.  This report summarizes ESG Lab testing and validation of the Fusion ioVDI solution and previews the results that will be shared in detail in an upcoming ESG Lab Validation report.

Author(s): Tony Palmer

Published: August 28, 2013

The Product

Fusion ioVDI can be deployed with well-known qualified servers from Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM, Supermicro, and others.  ioVDI complements VAAI-compliant shared storage to optimize SAN/NAS investments and supports all VMware mobility features including vMotion, DRS, HA, and SRM as well as VMware snapshots. Virtual desktops are managed and configured using VMware Horizon View and vCenter.

Fusion ioVDI utilizes a number of advanced technologies to optimize performance using low cost infrastructure. Write vectoring intelligently directs transient desktop writes to server-side flash while persistent desktop writes are directed to shared storage. Write vectoring recognizes the existence of transient desktop writes that never need persistence, including page file I/O, temporary files, and browser temp data. Essential desktop writes such as auto-saves and user data updates are directed as expected to shared storage for protection and HA.   Transparent file sharing provides inline, file-level deduplication of all desktop data hosted on a server so that partial or complete common files can be simultaneously accessed by hundreds of virtual desktops. Dynamic flash reallocation optimizes flash performance across desktops during migration events.

Why This Matters

In a recent ESG research survey, 41% of respondents called out providing a consistent computing experience for remote and mobile users as a challenge with endpoint devices. Among organizations that have deployed desktop virtualization, poor performance was cited as a top challenge with their environment. Virtual desktop environments can hammer an infrastructure with I/O that is generally random, constantly shifting, and often write intensive.

ESG Lab validated that Fusion ioVDI delivered outstanding persistent desktop performance with stateless desktop economics. With a workload simulating 1,000 heavy virtual desktop users, we measured response times in microseconds, a reduction in disk utilization averaging more than 70%, and fast, consistent boot times averaging less than ten seconds under full load. All of these tests were executed on an almost absurdly economical test bed, with industry standard servers from Supermicro, entry-level storage from NetApp, and a commodity 1Gb network switch.


ESG Lab Validation Highlights

ESG Lab is in the process of performing hands-on evaluation and testing of ioVDI at the Fusion-io Silicon Valley offices in San Jose, California. The following is a summary of the results observed so far:

  • ESG Lab observed excellent performance in a 1,000 seat virtual desktop environment built using low-end commodity NFS storage over legacy 1Gb Ethernet.
  • ESG Lab observed fast, consistent boot times under full load of 8-12 seconds, while running 1,000 desktops.
  • Tens of thousands of IOPS were being serviced by ioVDI with reads and transient writes serviced by server-side flash.
  • Fusion ioVDI provided consistent, predictable response times of less than 200 microseconds as measured with Login VSI over multi-hour test runs. A Windows 7 desktop accessed from an iPad was extremely responsive.
  • Using online sources for pricing of the components used in the test bed, ESG lab confirmed that virtual desktop infrastructure could be provided at a cost of less than $125 per desktop.
  • ESG Lab observed a significant increase in maximum desktop density with ioVDI.
  • Back-end storage traffic was reduced by 90% overall, measured at the disk, with 60% of write traffic offloaded from back-end storage.
  • Boot times and desktop responsiveness were observed to be faster than an SSD-equipped laptop.

Issues to Consider

While Fusion ioVDI can significantly reduce server, storage, and network costs, organizations will still have to consider the costs of both virtual desktop software and client operating system licensing.


The Bigger Truth

Today’s virtual desktop solutions tend to force users into one of two camps: cost-effective server-side solutions, which are limited to stateless desktops, or storage-side solutions, which are designed to deliver the performance and availability required for persistent desktops but are only really cost-effective at a very large scale. 

Fusion ioVDI bridges this gap with an approach blending software and hardware that delivers virtually all IOPS performance from server-side flash while retaining SAN integration for highly available capacity and virtual machine mobility. Fusion ioVDI delivers the persistence, performance, and HA of storage-side solutions with the cost-effectiveness and simple deployment model inherent in server-side solutions.

ESG Lab experienced the benefits of ioVDI first hand. Using an external keyboard, the user experience of a virtual Windows 7 desktop accessed from an iPad was crisp and responsive, with no noticeable difference from that of a physical laptop.    

Fusion ioVDI delivers outstanding performance where it matters for the desktop user experience. ESG Lab saw fast boot times for 1,000 users under load, predictable performance over time with very little variability, and linear performance scaling with practical starting and scaling increments.

Full ESG Lab Validation Report coming soon.


ESG Lab Reports

The goal of ESG Lab reports is to educate IT professionals about data center technology products for companies of all types and sizes. ESG Lab reports are not meant to replace the evaluation process that should be conducted before making purchasing decisions, but rather to provide insight into these emerging technologies. Our objective is to go over some of the more valuable feature/functions of products, show how they can be used to solve real customer problems and identify any areas needing improvement. ESG Lab's expert third-party perspective is based on our own hands-on testing as well as on interviews with customers who use these products in production environments. This ESG Lab report was sponsored by Fusion-io.



question August 30, 2013, 5:55 PM

I see that makes sense. Thanks for the clarification! :)

Tony Palmer August 31, 2013, 12:26 PM

You're very welcome.

One thing I should add is that the Fusion-io best practice is to pair ioVDI with VAAI-compliant and dedupe-capable primary storage, which makes good sense to me.

Enjoy your weekend!


Joe Elliott August 31, 2013, 6:53 PM

Thankyou for the inquiry about ioVDI storage use.

An advantage of ioVDI is being 'storage agnostic'. thats is, you can use nearly any existing storage system you already own. In our 1001 desktop demo for vmWorld 2013, we used an entry level 2U NetApp FAS2220 with 24 x 400GB drives in a RAID DP volume exported with NFS over a 1G switch using cat5 cables. This resulted in a formated 5.5TB volume available to our ESXi servers.

By using the standard deduplication and rapid cloning tools that come with the NetApp OnTap operating system we saw actual disk usage of less than 500GB for 1001 Fully-Cloned Windows 7 desktops with 32GB disks. That left over 5TB free or just under 10% utilization of our NFS volume. All major SAN vendors offer similar capabilities. If you can mount your SAN to ESX over NFS, your system is compatible with ioVDI.

The ioVDI technology eliminated nearly all the traffic to the SAN enabling us to use a legacy 1G network for our storage needs and sufficient bandwidth to run all 1001 desktops simultaneously.

The NetApp disk and CPU utilization idled around 2-4% once all 1001 desktops were fully booted.

Without ioVDI the network was fully saturated and the NetApp disk and CPU utilzation were totally consumed.

By comparing the capabilities of our demo rack (see the ESG report for details) with and without ioVDI, we saw a 10x increase in density and an increase in individual VM performance when ioVDI technology was used.

Hope that helps ... Joe.

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