The allure of client virtualization is the promise that it can deliver a robust corporate desktop experience to any user at any time or place using any device. The reality is that to date client virtualization deployments pretty much required rocket scientists to configure, implement and manage them, especially when it came to the underlying storage architectures upon which they are based. That has changed thanks to new reference architectures such as what HP now offers that transform client virtualization initiatives from complicated white board sessions into turnkey, business-ready solutions.
Client Virtualization’s Reality Fails to Match Its Early Promise
The promise of client virtualization has been there for years if not decades. I was one of its early adopters using Citrix WinFrame in 1996 citing some of the same reasons for deploying it that are mentioned today. These include:
- A desktop-like experience minus the headaches of physical desktop management
- Anytime, anywhere access of applications on any device
- Centralized management and control of application data
- Fast deployment of new applications
- Higher levels of data security as data stays centrally located remaining in the data center
It was for reasons like these that the Gartner analyst firm predicted that by 2013 49 million client virtualization units would ship.
Yet the reality of client virtualization has failed to meet its early hype. In 2011 an IDC analyst report forecast that only 8.3 million client virtualization units would ship by 2015 while an updated 2012 Gartner report found that client virtualization had penetrated only 2% of the desktop space.
The Three Forces Impeding Client Virtualization’s Adoption
Three forces continue to impede client virtualization’s adoption:
1. Business pushback. PCs and laptops continue to drop in price making it difficult for companies to illustrate the return on investment associated with client virtualization. Enterprises expect client virtualization to lower their costs so they are minimally on par with desktops and ideally cost less.
To date this has not occurred. The North Dakota Information Technology Department found the cost of a virtualized desktop to be 1.4 – 1.7 times the cost of a physical desktop. These costs largely result from the need to put in place an IT infrastructure that delivers a virtualized desktop experience that is equivalent to a physical desktop. Yet delivering this experience comes with an upfront capital cost that businesses have felt obligated to push back on.
2. IT complexity. To date client virtualization has epitomized IT complexity. Client workloads are poorly understood, there is little visibility into the infrastructure and solutions are inappropriately configured to deal with the peaks and valleys associated with client virtualization performance.
Amir Husain, the President of VDIworks, a client virtualization software company, writes, “Customers have to be pretty close to rocket scientists to figure out the storage requirements for any client virtualization initiative they undertake.“
3. Poor user experience. Users have grown accustomed to the desktop experience so when they encounter a sub-standard virtualized desktop experience they naturally push back. Aggravating the situation, IT has had even fewer tools to support them in this new environment than they had with their physical desktops which further contributed to their reluctance to accept and adopt it.
Reference Architectures Answer Client Virtualization’s Concerns
The answer to these concerns is found in reference architectures that standardize how enterprises deploy and support their client virtualization infrastructures. Encompassing networking, servers, and storage hardware as well as the client virtualization software, reference architectures offer base line configurations that help ensure the resulting IT infrastructure is cost-effective, easy to deploy, and then performs well and remains easy to manage and support over time.
HP Client Virtualization Reference Architectures are prime examples of how reference architectures can drive the cost and complexity out of client virtualization deployments. Available for VMware Horizon View and Citrix XenDesktop, organizations may follow either of one these client virtualization paths using an HP reference architecture that matches their initial requirements which they may then scale over time.
Making the HP Client Virtualization Reference Architecture notable is that organizations may predictably scale their environment by mapping their requirements to the exact hardware they need to deploy. For instance, each HP ProLiant BL460c Gen8 blade can host up to 100 virtual desktops which helps organizations know almost exactly how many physical server blades they need for their specific client virtualization deployment. Yet the real benefit that HP Reference Architectures offer is how they simplify and reduce the costs of the networking and storage components of client virtualization deployments.
Rocket Scientists Need Not Apply
The trickiest and most sensitive aspect of any client virtualization initiative is configuring the backend storage system and accompanying storage network. Acquire too much networking and storage capacity and the costs for client virtualization can quickly escalate so that they exceed the cost of desktops. Acquire too little and virtual desktops will underperform and sour users on their client virtualization experience.
HP Reference Architectures based on the HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage systems drive the cost and complexity out of configuring and managing this critically important part of the client virtualization deployment using the following technologies:
- Wide striping. By distributing data across all of the disk drives on the HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage system, virtual desktops benefit from the aggregate performance of all the drives on the system.
- Dynamic optimization. Organizations generally walk before they run when deploying any new technology. The challenge this presents in client virtualization initiatives as technology that may work fine in small deployments may fail to perform or scale as the environment grows.
The HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage Systems overcomes these concerns. Organizations may start small and then add more storage to support more virtual desktops using the HP 3PAR Dynamic Optimization feature. It redistributes data across existing and new drives to maintain and even improve performance as the client virtualization deployment grows.
- Scale-out performance. Bringing more virtua
l desktops online adds to the load of the storage system’s controllers. The mesh architecture of the HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage system complements its dynamic optimization feature by giving organizations the flexibility to introduce more controllers (up to eight) to maintain and improve the storage system’s performance over time.
- No storage networking. Storage systems are often dedicated to client virtualization deployments. In light of this, the HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage systems include a Flat storage area network (SAN) feature. Using a Flat SAN, organizations may directly attach servers to the HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage system to further reduce their client virtualization complexities and costs.
- A manageable infrastructure. A big key to keeping client virtualization’s costs and complexity under control long term is monitoring and managing it. Using the respective management consoles for the HP BladeSystem and HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage systems, organizations can put in place policies that alert them to when specific performance thresholds are being crossed and even automatically take action based on these preset policies.
HP Reference Architectures Make Client Virtualization Deployments a Business Reality
Anytime, anywhere access to corporate desktops using client virtualization may be the future. However enterprises can only deliver this new reality if they can put in place a backend IT infrastructure that can be cost-effectively deployed and managed without requiring the use of a rocket scientist to do so.
HP Client Virtualization Reference Architectures based on the HP BladeSystems and HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage systems help to make this vision a reality. They eliminate the costs and complexities associated with client virtualization by creating a new reality where client virtualization deployments do more than facilitate anytime, anywhere access to corporate data. They ensure that the backend infrastructure is constructed in such a way that any business can confidently and effectively manage it without keeping a rocket scientist on staff to do so.