Optimize The Virtual Desktop Experience Through Strong Back-End Design


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Desktop virtualization streamlines support for a dynamic workforce while providing employees with easy, secure access to enterprise resources. Seven best practices help guide a successful design of the critical back-end IT infrastructure.

By Bob Ganley

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Optimize The Virtual Desktop Experience Through Strong Back-End Design

  1. 1. Features Optimize the virtual desktop experience through strong back-end design By Bob Ganley Desktop virtualization streamlines support for a dynamic workforce while providing employees with easy, secure access to enterprise resources. Seven best practices help guide a successful design of the critical back-end IT infrastructure. I n today’s enterprise computing landscape, desktop virtualization has gained major traction. Organizations large and small are adopting hosted virtual desktops to enable workforce mobility. At the same time, desktop virtualization helps simplify management for the efficient delivery of applications that are vital to workplace productivity. Virtual desktops depend on centralized IT resources that are shared by many users simultaneously. This centralization helps streamline administration while enhancing data protection and security. Although desktop virtualization is an established approach offering significant benefits, many organizations have yet to take advantage of this technology. When organizations shy away from replacing traditional desktops, they tend to cite three common reasons. No time for a complex implementation. Choosing an alternative approach to desktop management means rethinking every aspect of application delivery, from data center infrastructure to endpoint device. Many enterprises have static IT infrastructure that can lengthen lead times for such an all-encompassing project. Choosing a modular and agile approach enables organizations to start small, gain experience with desktop virtualization functionality and then grow while accommodating changes in direction. Up-front costs place too high a burden on the IT budget. Desktop virtualization requires drastically different infrastructure than a traditional desktop model. For example, desktop disk-drive capacity is traded for 36 2013 Issue 04 | Dell.com/powersolutions Reprinted from Dell Power Solutions, 2013 Issue 4. Copyright © 2013 Dell Inc. All rights reserved.
  2. 2. Boosting virtual desktop performance For its desktop virtualization initiative, law firm Quarles & Brady adopted Dell EqualLogic hybrid storage arrays. As a result, the firm greatly improved disk provisioning, boot times and overall end-user environment responsiveness. dell.to/150FApK shared data center storage capacity. This infrastructure a linchpin of employee on each physical server. Under normal trade-off may lead to an up-front cost per productivity and satisfaction. operations, processor cycles are the virtual desktop that is actually higher than To access the virtual desktop, end users limiting factor in maximizing consolidation. the cost of refreshing desktop hardware. have several choices in endpoint devices, Rules of thumb and guessing won’t work Consequently, organizations should look for such as Dell Wyse thin, zero and cloud to determine the appropriate server; it is an efficient approach to desktop virtualization clients. Although these devices provide best to employ a tool that helps assess that helps reduce up-front and ongoing a tangible interface for end users, what the virtual desktop performance, capacity costs. This desktop virtualization approach happens behind the scenes in the data and scalability of servers for characteristic should result in a total cost of ownership center ultimately determines budgets, workloads. For example, a study by lower than that of buying and maintaining project schedules, staffing plans, risk Principled Technologies showed that the new desktop hardware. mitigation and end-user satisfaction. tested Dell servers comfortably supported Desktop virtualization slows computer Dell has extensive experience in up to 160 virtualized desktops.1 performance. User perceptions of designing, building, delivering and performance can make or break the supporting desktop virtualization solutions, organizations typically found it cost- success of a desktop virtualization project. including the critical back-end IT prohibitive to use virtual desktops to deliver The right components must be configured infrastructure. Based on this experience, applications with rich media and graphics. in a way that provides an exceptional user Dell has gleaned seven best practices for Today, a graphics processing unit (GPU) experience. Furthermore, desktop services designing a robust framework to support can accelerate high-end graphics support cannot be interrupted by downtime, and desktop virtualization. for end users who require a rich media centralized data must be kept safe from Server graphics. In the past, experience. For example, Dell engineers compromise and loss. Organizations can 1. Focus on user experience benchmarked the Dell PowerEdge R720 mitigate these risks by heightening quality To get the right mix of infrastructure server running Windows 8 in a virtualized of service to help maintain performance, components on the back end, it is environment supporting a Microsoft® protect centralized information assets and important to start by carefully profiling DirectX®–based game designer application. simplify support. and understanding users’ workloads. In this test study, users with a heavy This process provides input to the graphics requirement accessed the 7 best practices for successful desktop virtualization definition of virtual desktop images that server through Remote Desktop Services. are optimized to minimize the impact The benchmark tests showed that a Desktop virtualization offers convincing of desktop consolidation. Among the single PowerEdge R720 server supported benefits such as resource consolidation ramifications to consider are server, up to 75 graphics-intensive users.2 and streamlined management, but those storage and network utilization. These results indicate that this type of come at the cost of concentrating compute Server processor. The ability for a solution enables IT organizations to easily power and desktop services in a central desktop virtualization project to deliver on deliver a high-fidelity, rich multimedia location. Centralization raises the stakes the promise of cost-effective performance experience to virtual desktop users across for IT leaders by making the design and depends on maximizing the consolidation local area networks (LANs) and wide area implementation of desktop virtualization of many small-scale virtual machines networks (WANs). 1 “Dell PowerEdge M620 Blade Server Solutions for Virtual Desktop Infrastructures,” by Principled Technologies, commissioned by Dell Inc., October 2012, bit.ly/18PPEKo. 2 For more information, see “Dell Expands VDI Offerings on Windows Server 2012 With Shared GPU and Converged Infrastructure,” by Nicolas Cuendet, Dell Enterprise IT Perspectives blog, July 16, 2013, dell.to/16UkQo5. Reprinted from Dell Power Solutions, 2013 Issue 4. Copyright © 2013 Dell Inc. All rights reserved. Dell.com/powersolutions | 2013 Issue 04 37
  3. 3. Features drastically depending on user profiles and Automated data tiering Logical storage Desktop virtual machines Block pool time of day. Short-term spikes in storage access — including those seen during virtual machine boots, virus scans, and morning logins and afternoon logoffs by many users Physical storage User N App Tier 1 Cost a given desktop virtualization solution vary Performance Storage. The storage requirements of Tier 2 OS at approximately the same time — may Tier 3 cause I/O storms that intensify performance demands on the storage infrastructure. Common solutions such as using multiple disk spindles and short-stroking drives — Metadata Read 20 times since 12:05:09 • • • formatting a drive so data is stored only at the outer sectors of the disk platter — are expensive to buy and own, creating Automated tiering is designed to dynamically and nondisruptively optimize storage to provide the right performance without breaking the bank. potential roadblocks to a virtual desktop chassis is to get the desktop image as traditional desktops, it also helps reduce close as possible to the server applications. desktop support costs. Typically, storage storage without breaking the budget, IT Dell blade chassis networking facilitates is a top driver of up-front costs for the organizations should consider automated two-step east-west traffic: one step to back-end IT infrastructure required to data tiering (see figure). This approach the blade switch and one to the target. support desktop virtualization, followed by pairs a small amount of high-performance Other blade architectures may require compute resources. Over time, decreased storage with cost-effective, capacity- a fabric interconnect for blade-to-blade management complexity becomes a optimized storage. On each block, the communications, effectively doubling the primary contributor to the reduction of storage system keeps metadata describing number of steps for east-west traffic. ongoing expenses for successful desktop infrastructure (VDI). To incorporate high-performance time of access, access frequency and Miercom recently put Dell networking virtualization deployments. Storage. Storage costs are driven not so forth. The storage system uses the gear to the test under a VDI metadata to determine the appropriate tier independent testing company found that only by capacity, but also by performance for the block; it is designed to move inactive Dell networking gear delivered excellent requirements. Some solutions to the blocks to capacity-optimized storage and performance and services that support storage performance challenge can drive up active blocks to high-performance storage. a quality end-user experience in a VDI the cost of capacity with techniques such The Dell strategy emphasizes this type of environment. The Dell Networking S6000 as short stroking or using a large number intelligent storage.3 top-of-rack/end-of-row switch exhibited of low-capacity disks. Another technique Network. Networking connects workload.4 The a high degree of scalability, and it was not involves allocating a large amount of servers to each other, to storage and to found to be a limiting factor to scalability in solid-state drives that must have specific other devices. If blade infrastructure is a VDI environment.5 volumes, such as gold masters, assigned to part of the architecture, a key aspect of them by a storage administrator. networking communications is how many 2. Manage lifecycle costs steps are consumed by server-to-server The expense of owning a PC can easily different approach that features automated communication, or east-west traffic. One grow to five times the initial cost of the data tiering to help lower the total cost goal of consolidating desktops into a machine.6 Although desktop virtualization of ownership for desktop virtualization hyperdense configuration such as a blade may call for higher up-front costs than storage. Dell commissioned Principled Dell storage offers a fundamentally 3 For more information about storage tiering for desktop virtualization, see “Maximizing Desktop Virtualization Success With VDI-optimized Dell EqualLogic Hybrid Arrays,” by Taneja Group, March 2011, dell.to/16FvQSx. 4 “Dell Networking S6000: High-performance 10/40 GbE Top-of-rack Switch,” by Miercom, August 2013, dell.to/1e9SXhM. 5 For more information about the Dell Networking S6000 switch, see “Bridging Physical and Virtual Networks With Ease and Efficiency,” by Kamesh Kothuri and James Wynia, in Dell Power Solutions, 2013 Issue 4, qrs.ly/ud3n8xl. 6 “Breaking 38 Down the Barriers to VDI With Dell EqualLogic iSCSI SAN Arrays,” by Taneja Group, December 2010, dell.to/1avnNLM. 2013 Issue 04 | Dell.com/powersolutions Reprinted from Dell Power Solutions, 2013 Issue 4. Copyright © 2013 Dell Inc. All rights reserved.
  4. 4. Technologies to perform two comparative time for deploying VMware vSphere, compared to studies that quantified the reduction in energy a different management tool.10 consumption and cost per virtual desktop enabled by automated tiering. In those studies, 3. Start small and grow the evaluated Dell storage configuration was The productivity of many employees depends shown to deliver 51 percent lower cost per on their desktop computing environment. If a desktop and up to 68 percent less power problem occurs during desktop virtualization consumption than storage alternatives.7 deployment, it could disrupt workforce Virtual desktop density. A good metric for productivity. Therefore, it is unusual to implement comparing the up-front cost of server resources a wide rollout at the early stages of a desktop required in a given desktop virtualization solution virtualization project. Starting with a small is virtual desktop density: cost per virtual desktop, community of early adopters is the best way number of virtual desktops per physical server to gain experience with the solution and build and number of physical servers per rack. The Dell confidence for a larger deployment. PowerEdge M620 server has demonstrated up Pilot-to-production plan. Pilot to 19.4 percent lower purchase cost per virtual implementations lack many characteristics desktop and up to 63.1 percent lower power of a production deployment. To address this consumption compared to other tested servers.8 Ongoing management. In a Taneja Group challenge, Dell recommends that the solution be designed for scalability from the start. As survey, 89 percent of data center managers the number of virtual desktops increases, the reported that their administrators waste time architecture should not fundamentally change to because of the complexity of virtualization support growing populations. The goal is to avoid management.9 Reducing this complexity forklift upgrades, which can disrupt operations can lead to a direct decrease in the cost of and waste infrastructure investments. ownership for desktop virtualization. Dell Active System Manager is a tool that Modular infrastructure building blocks. To support scalability, Dell recommends designing consolidates common management tasks for around deployment modules; each module servers, network, storage and virtualization in a individual module to handle the rising capacity specific configurations and best practices through and performance requirements in a process template-based provisioning and workflow called scale up. Once the scale-up design point is coordination. In addition, the tool facilitates reached for an individual module, organizations management of cluster-level and virtual machine can scale out — adding more modules as needed lifecycles through deep integration with the to accommodate growing populations. The Dell Microsoft® Hyper-V® and VMware vSphere® Active System 800 converged infrastructure virtualization platforms. dell.to/1f7vWXQ users are added, organizations can populate an to capture and apply desktop virtualization– Performance of legacy systems at Socorro Independent School District limited their usefulness for teachers and students. Discover how Dell helped the district use VDI technologies to deliver modern computing capabilities on legacy hardware. can support a variable number of users. As single interface. It provides a centralized means Enriching education through VDI solution provides an example of this modular An analysis by Principled Technologies found approach in a study by Principled Technologies, that the Dell Management Plug-in for VMware® where the system was shown to scale from 900 vCenter™ tool required 76 percent less hands-on to 1,800 VDI users.11 7 “VDI With Dell EqualLogic Hybrid Arrays: A Comparative Study With the Industry-Leading SAN Solution,” by Principled Technologies, commissioned by Dell Inc., January 2013, dell.to/14zBJiS, and “VDI With Dell EqualLogic Hybrid Arrays: A Comparative Study With the Industry-Leading NAS Solution,” by Principled Technologies, commissioned by Dell Inc., March 2013, dell.to/1312rBH. 8 “Dell PowerEdge M620 Blade Server Solutions for Virtual Desktop Infrastructures,” by Principled Technologies, commissioned by Dell Inc., October 2012, bit.ly/18PPEKo. 9 “Breaking Down the Barriers to VDI With Dell EqualLogic iSCSI SAN Arrays,” by Taneja Group, December 2010, dell.to/1avnNLM. 10 “Centralized Systems Management: Dell Management Plug-in for VMware vCenter vs. HP Insight Control for vCenter Server,” by Principled Technologies, commissioned by Dell Inc., October 2012, bit.ly/16NfD3v. 11 “Dell Active System 800 Converged Infrastructure Solution: VDI and Collaboration Performance,” by Principled Technologies, commissioned by Dell Inc., January 2013, bit.ly/XTbeVc. Reprinted from Dell Power Solutions, 2013 Issue 4. Copyright © 2013 Dell Inc. All rights reserved. Dell.com/powersolutions | 2013 Issue 04 39
  5. 5. Features 4. Protect corporate data the number of human interactions that can lead Centralized desktop services consolidate to downtime. Dell internal testing performed information assets. This consolidation offers in October 2012 has shown that Active System tremendous benefits for streamlining control Manager enables administrators to take systems and security efforts. But it also presents from bare metal to ready-to-host virtual machines risks in maintaining service availability and in up to 75 percent fewer steps compared to protecting information. blade server solutions from other vendors.12 Layered data protection. Data protection High-availability architecture. The physical involves more than just backups. Recovery times infrastructure should be protected with high and recovery points must be aligned with the value availability designed into every level. The server, of the data being protected. For example, Dell storage and networking components of the recommends using snapshots of primary storage desktop virtualization back-end solution require systems as a means to establish frequent recovery redundancy, such as hot-swappable components points that can be quickly brought online. Daily and standby spares, as well as proactive problem backups take longer to restore than snapshots detection, warning and resolution. because snapshot restoration is designed to be a Site resilience. High-availability hardware nearly instantaneous volume rollback on primary Getting a fast start Hudson County needed a virtualization solution that improved operating efficiency. By deploying a pre-cabled, ready-to-run converged infrastructure system from Dell, the county experienced a fivefold faster time to value. setups cannot protect against downtime if the storage. Alternatively, backups are made to nearline building loses power or is affected by some other capacity-optimized disk media that is more cost- site-specific issue. To optimize service availability, effective than primary storage. In addition, archives organizations should establish a disaster recovery help reduce the amount of cold data saved on site and keep that site current so that services can nearline storage while providing compliance with be restored with little or no downtime. For this corporate and legal mandates. scenario, Dell recommends storage-level replication Integrated data protection. Hypervisor-aware that is integrated with virtualization management. data protection tools map operating system and Organizations should look for automated replication — hypervisor objects to the underlying storage in whether synchronous or asynchronous — that can a way that enables hypervisor and application- propagate hypervisor- and application-consistent consistent snapshots and backups. This integration dell.to/12wgWjR data sets to the remote site. of data protection tools with the hypervisor allows administrators to restore executable machine 6. Speed time to value images and configurations from recovery points. To capitalize on the promise of desktop The data storage and the hypervisor should be virtualization, organizations should consider ways integrated at both the management level and the of accelerating the time to value of their desktop application programming interface (API) level. virtualization projects. 5. Ensure service availability organization chooses to design and build the VDI, The layered approach to data protection extends it should choose components that have been to all aspects of the desktop service infrastructure. tested and shown to be exceptionally well suited Recovery points for application data and virtual for desktop virtualization. Field-tested components. If an IT images should be augmented with protection from hardware failures and site failures. Automation. Human error is often considered Reference architectures. If the IT organization prefers some guidance while performing the integration, it should leverage reference architectures to be the primary cause of security failures such that are specific to its choice of hypervisor and as breakdowns, business interruptions and system virtual desktop management software. Dell has outages. Dell Active System Manager is designed invested over 100,000 hours of engineering effort to automate management workflows and reduce to develop a set of 12 reference architectures that 12 For 40 more information on automating VDI deployment using Dell Active System Manager, visit dell.to/16iawqO. 2013 Issue 04 | Dell.com/powersolutions Reprinted from Dell Power Solutions, 2013 Issue 4. Copyright © 2013 Dell Inc. All rights reserved.
  6. 6. cover typical combinations of hypervisors In the cloud On-site and desktop virtualization software.13 Pre-configured solution Pre-integrated offerings. Perhaps the Desktop as a service fastest way to reach production readiness is to deploy a pre-configured converged infrastructure platform that contains all the components required for the back end. Dell offers several ready-to-deploy configurations DVS Enterprise Active Infrastructure for desktop virtualization that can support from tens to thousands of users. Dell Active Systems and Dell PowerEdge VRTX are among the converged platforms that are DVS Simplified Appliance 7. Simplify support DVS DaaS Organization manages or Dell manages optimized for desktop virtualization. Dell manages Given the broad range of components that comprise a desktop virtualization Dell Desktop Virtualization Solutions (DVS) offer a range of flexible deployment options. implementation, one of the best ways to simplify support is to partner with an coverage from the client to the data center, Desktop virtualization for a responsive user experience as well as start-to-finish support from Getting the data center infrastructure inception through design, deployment and right is critical for a successful desktop ongoing system management. virtualization deployment. Dell organization that can provide end-to-end Dell provides comprehensive support Author Bob Ganley is a senior marketing manager at Dell and is responsible for converged infrastructure solutions marketing. Desktop Virtualization Solutions (DVS) for all aspects of desktop virtualization. are specifically designed to simplify Dell Services has implemented more than and accelerate the transition to desktop 1,000 desktop virtualization projects for virtualization. As an end-to-end provider organizations worldwide. of desktop virtualization solutions — Delivery models. Organizations can Learn more Dell desktop virtualization solutions: dell.to/16ob5dG from the client to the cloud — Dell has implement desktop virtualization in a leveraged its extensive experience to range of ways, from self-deployed, self- develop seven best practices for desktop managed on-site installations to completely virtualization. These best practices help outsourced implementations such as the organizations accelerate support for desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) model. In mobile workplace initiatives through the Dell DaaS On Demand offering, Dell a back-end IT infrastructure that manages and supports an organization’s enables an optimal user experience virtual desktops in the Dell Cloud. The without compromising security. other end of the spectrum is in-house Moreover, by engaging an experienced deployment, which may be based on a solutions organization as early as pre-configured or customized solution. possible during the process, enterprises Organizations can engage Dell Services to worldwide can pave the way to a help design, deploy and/or manage on-site smooth and successful desktop desktop virtualization (see figure). Dell Active System Manager: dell.to/174EDBB virtualization deployment. 13 To Dell data protection: dell.to/16jmHP3 learn more about Dell reference architectures, visit dell.to/15hteha. Dell, EqualLogic, PowerEdge and Wyse are trademarks of Dell Inc. Reprinted from Dell Power Solutions, 2013 Issue 4. Copyright © 2013 Dell Inc. All rights reserved. Dell.com/powersolutions | 2013 Issue 04 41