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Desktop Virtualization And The Storage Challenges It Creates

As server virtualization becomes more widespread desktop virtualization is quickly becoming the next big project that IT Managers have on their white board. As with any new IT project it has the opportunity to bring added flexibility and cost savings to the organization while at the same time increasing IT efficiency. However like server virtualization before desktop virtualization brings a whole new set of storage challenges.
As server virtualization becomes more widespread desktop virtualization is quickly becoming the next big project that IT Managers have on their white board. As with any new IT project it has the opportunity to bring added flexibility and cost savings to the organization while at the same time increasing IT efficiency. However like server virtualization before desktop virtualization brings a whole new set of storage challenges.Desktop virtualization comes in several forms. The first is where virtual machines are stored and processed on a physical server host. Instead of server virtualization where we may be dealing with dozens of virtual machines per host in desktop virtualization we are dealing with hundreds if not thousands per host. In fact look for the new bragging benchmark for both storage and server hardware vendors to be how many virtual desktops can they support per host, per storage. This form of desktop virtualization is best used in the shift worker type of environments where multiple users will be sharing the same desktop hardware at different points throughout the day. It also has the largest potential to drive down costs.

The other form of desktop virtualization is for the knowledge or mobile worker where one user will have one desktop or laptop. Here the virtualization is done on the laptop or desktop. Essentially the corporate environment is run in a virtual machine package on the user device. This allows for offline use and greater mobility but does consume local processing power and storage. It does not have as great an impact on hard costs as the shift worker case but should provide IT operational savings.

There is a third form of desktop virtualization also. A hybrid approach that is a blending of knowledge worker form with the shift worker form where you can use the data center processing power while connected to the data center and then the local processing power of the laptop/desktop when it can't connect to the data center. Changes are then synchronized when the device is reconnected to the data center.

From a storage perspective the first form, the fully hosted shift worker solution and the last form, the hybrid solution, can cause the most storage challenges. We will cover these challenges in detail over the next several entries and on our upcoming webcast "Making Sure Desktop Virtualization Won't Break Storage". At a high level the most common challenges that you deal with in these forms of desktop virtualization is periodic storage performance problems related to boot, login, logoff, shutdown, patch and antivirus updates, most commonly summarized by the term boot storms. The second challenge is dealing with new or remaining data preservation issues.

Finally there is also the cost issue. You are essentially taking the least expensive storage in the enterprise (user desktop/laptop hard drives) and putting them on a SAN and potentially using solid state disk to address the boot storm issues. As a result optimization of the data associated with desktop virtualization is critical as is keeping the cost of the storage system under control while maintaining consistent performance. Next up in this series is going to be detailing the boot storm problem and possibilities to address it.

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George Crump is lead analyst of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Find Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement here.

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