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Back in May VMware announced the release of View 5.1 which included several new and improved software features that dramatically impact End User Computing.  And some of those storage-focused features, specifically the View Storage Accelerator (VSA) and View Composer API Integration (VCAI), add a BIG boost to performance.  White Paper.png

 

Over the past few months we have had the opportunity to collaborate with the team at VMware on a Reference Architecture for View 5.1 using  NetApp’s Agile Data Infrastructure and Clustered Data ONTAP®.  Part of the architectural exercise included testing and documenting the performance enhancements of VSA and VCAI.  The end result was a VMware white paper entitled “The VMware View 5.1 Reference Architecture for Floating Desktops on NetApp Storage” .  The white paper chronicles the virtual infrastructure used for a 1000 Seat View Deployment, as well as the test scenarios, methodologies, and key findings for that desktop environment.  The paper visually illustrates the radical performance deltas between a VSA and VCAI enabled, versus  non-enabled, desktop environment – which serves as further validation for the great performance customers can expect with View 5.1 on NetApp Storage.

 

But why am I excited to see these new storage-focused features in View 5.1 validated on NetApp? Well, because first and foremost, it is a great thing for our customers.  The new View features, used in conjunction with existing NetApp technology (e.g., FlexClone, Clustered ONTAP, FlashCache, Storage Tiering…), mean our customers derive even greater value, in terms of desktop delivery, performance and scalability for their virtual desktop environment.  Additionally, this Reference Architecture for a 1000 Seat View deployment on NetApp Storage not only validates the performance enhancements the solution brings to EUC, but serves as a well document architectural guide that provides an easily expandable, building-block approach for desktop virtualization, and mitigates deployment risks so our customers can deploy with confidence whether it’s a stand-alone virtual desktop environment or for private cloud. Let’s take a look at a couple of the new features I mentioned earlier…

 

View Storage Accelerator (VSA)

View Storage Accelerator is an in memory (ESXi server memory) cache of common blocks. It is applicable to stateless (floating) as well as stateful (dedicated) desktops and is completely transparent to the guest virtual machine / desktop. It does not require any special storage array technology and provides additional performance benefits when used in conjunction with storage array technologies.

 

View Composer Array Integration (VCAI) Tech Preview twoscreens.png

Offered in VMware View 5.1 as a Tech Preview, VCAI leverages the native cloning abilities in the storage array to offload storage operations within a VMware View environment. By offloading the cloning to the NetApp Storage Array, VCAI improves provisioning speeds and management in View Composer and offers customers the option to take advantage of the powerful NetApp Zero Cost clones (FlexClone technology) without requiring NetApp’s Virtual Storage Console. This enables our customers who have NFS storage arrays to use NetApp native clones in View deployments.

With VCAI, customers can now leverage both the linked clone capability that View provides and the capabilities provided by the NetApp storage array.

 

 

 

This reference architecture white paper specifically focused on the performance improvements in View 5.1, notably View Storage Accelerator for boot storm and application response time, and the View Composer Array Integration for provisioning and linked clone performance.  Look for my colleague, Chris Gebhardt, to delve into the technical details on this sometime later in the next couple of month, but for now I just would like to point out a couple of the key findings:

 

 

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1)  Provisioning with VSA and VCAI on NetApp Storage

 

  • 93% reduction in Read IOPS (that’s a 15x improvement) when provisioning with VSA and VCAI on NetApp
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    2)  Virtual Machine Boot Storms with View Storage Accelerator and VCAI using NetApp clones

      • 80% reduction in Read IOPS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    With desktop virtualization technologies becoming increasingly more important (strategically and operational) within organizations, it’s imperative that a solution is comprehensive enough to address a broad range of requirements (“yeah, like security, cost, management, mobility...”), but also be able to deliver performance to meet the most stringent SLAs and the flexibility to keep doing all that in a dynamic environment. VMware View 5.1 on NetApp Storage provides a virtual desktop solution that is secure, cost effective, and easy to manage.  Built on NetApp’s Agile Data Infrastructure, our integrated desktop solution is design to deliver top performance at-scale, as well as be flexible enough to rapidly adapt to changing business and IT requirements, consistently delivering an exceptional End User Computing experience across the global enterprise.

     

    Check out the VMware white paper right now (here's the link again).

    Chris Gebhardt

    Follow me on twitter - http://twitter.com/@chrisgeb

     

    Today VMware announced the release of VMware View 5.1.  View 5.1 has many new and improved advanced storage features that will help increase storage performance and scale.  In this blog post I will discuss some of the new and noteworthy storage related features.

    http://www.vmware.com/company/news/releases/vmw-euc-portfolio-05-02-12.html

    One of the new technologies in VMware View 5.1 is the View Storage Accelerator (formally known as Content Based Read Cache or CBRC).  This technology helps reduce the amount of data needing to be read from a storage controller during simultaneous read activities such as a boot storm after maintenance or HA event.  With View Storage Accelerator, up to 2GB of memory is allocated from the ESXi host to be used as a host based read cache. Ultimately this helps VMware View environments perform better and scale during boot storm events.  Now you may ask, well what about NetApp and the use of Virtual Storage Tiering, doesn't that solve the boot storm problem. Well yea it absolutely does, but using View Storage Accelerator in conjunction with NetApp’s Virtual Storage Tiering allows customers to scale their View deployments even further, driving down the cost, boosting the performance and ultimately improving the End User Computing experience. 

    Here is how it is configured:

    1. First log into the VMware View Administrator console.
    2. Select View Configuration on the left hand side.
    3. Select Servers under View Configuration
    4. If you already have a vCenter Server configure click the vCenter Server and click Edit…
    5. Here the Edit vCenter Server dialogue box will appear.  Click on the Host Caching tab.
    6. In the Host Cache Settings you can enable and disable host caching, change the default host caching size, and override individual host cache sizes.
      CBRC 0 Enable host caching copy.png
    7. After you enable host caching, you can then create your desktop pool.  When you create an automated pool the Advanced Storage Options portion of the Add Pool wizard will appear.
    8. Here you will be able to enable host caching on a per pool basis.
      CBRC 1 Use host caching.png
    9. You can also choose if you want to cache just OS disks or OS and persistent disks.
      CBRC 2 Disk Types.png
    10. And also choose what days not to regenerate the cache.  For example, you may not want to regenerate the cache during normal business hours.
      CBRC 3 Scheduling Blackout Days.png

     

    The second technology, which I have been waiting for a really long time and am incredibly excited about, is the View Composer API Integration. This VCAI primitive is currently in a Tech Preview status and it allows VMware View to automate the creation of NetApp Zero Cost clones (FlexClone) within the VMware View interface.  In the past, customers had to choose between NetApp clones with VSC provisioning and cloning in manual pools or VMware View Clones in Automated Pools.  There are benefits and drawbacks to both methods.  On one hand the NetApp clones are created at the hardware level (not using copy on write snapshots) and are pre-deduplicated. This method creates desktops that have superb scalability but to create NetApp clones requires two tools: the NetApp Virtual Storage Console and VMware View Administrator.  On the other hand, VMware View Clones in Automated Pools provide excellent management workflows and automation but rely on hypervisor snapshots as underlying the cloning mechanism, which if improperly designed can result in scaling issues. (Note: Proper design refers to the use of technologies that reduce the amount of write IO to the delta file.  Technologies like profile/persona management (User Data Disks) and end user home directories are examples of such technologies that remove IO and allow VMware Linked cones to scale.)

     

    VCAI leverages NetApp’s native cloning capability – without requiring VSC - to improve desktop scalability and provisioning times in View Composer.

    Here is a brief demo of how this cloning works. 


     

     

    Today the View Composer API Integrations are available as a Technology Preview when using VMware View 5.1, vSphere 5.0, the ESXi VIB for VCAI and NFS on NetApp Data ONTAP 8.1 Cluster Mode.

     

    Some other storage related features worth noting: Customizable View Composer disposable disk driver letter and support up to 32 (increased from 8) host in a cluster when using Network Attached Storage (NFS).

     

    Also a shameless plug for one of my favorite works…

    If you are interested in reading more on VMware View workloads, my colleague, Chad Morganstern, and I have done a considerable amount of work to try to better understand the lifecycle of a Virtual Desktop and how Virtual Storage Tiering can boost performance, allowing customers to size for steady state.   https://communities.netapp.com/community/netapp-blogs/virtualization/blog/2011/09/06/netapp-and-vmware-view-5000-seat-performance-report

    Ben DuBois

    Sr. Solutions Marketing Manager, Desktop Virtualization

     

    The landscape for desktop virtualization is continually evolving, but the road to Desktop Transformation just got a little smoother with the announcement of Citrix XenDesktop 5.6 this week. This new release has features that address some of the more popular concerns customers have with respect to virtualizing desktops.  One of those concerns is how to mitigate the cost of deploying persistent, dedicated desktops for users that need them.  The integration of Personal vDisk with XD 5.6 provides IT with an approach that combines virtual disk layering technology with a pooled desktop image to deliver a flexible and personalized desktop that gives users the ability to store personal applications, data, and settings, while reducing the storage and management overhead costs typically associated with dedicated virtual desktops.  Win-win!    

     

                       CalloutBullets.png                                  ZenBlogCover.png

     

    Another area customers are looking to address with desktop virtualization is their migration to Windows 7 – and how to speed that up.   The integration between XenDesktop 5.6 and Citrix’s AppDNA software provides organizations with a means for application rationalization and automation that radically accelerates enterprise-wide migrations to Windows 7 and Windows 8. Good timing!


    “Ease of Management” is another reason organizations are moving to desktop virtualization - but let’s clarify: migrating to Windows 7, applying patches and updates, and general desktop administration is much easier in a virtual desktops environment (just key strokes and mouse clicks, right?) as opposed to the old way, however, just because desktop management and administration is easier is not to necessarily imply that Desktop Virtualization is “EASY” (It’s kind of like nailing Jell-O to a tree – that sounds easy too, but it’s not!  I tried it.).  For most desktop virtualization projects there are several considerations at the infrastructure layer that need to be addressed – such as servers, networks and storage, for example - to insure your desktop project is a success.   “Do I have efficient backup/recovery of user data (NetApp Snapshots and Self-service File Recovery)”?  “Can I rapidly clone and deploy virtual desktops and quickly expand my desktop environment (NetApp array-based cloning, Cisco UCS Service Profiles)”?  “Can I securely and cost-effectively protect user data in the event of an outage (SnapMirror)”?  “Can I handle boot and login storms without buying more disk (FlashCache)”?  So considering all the things you need to account for, a desktop virtualization project can still be very complex – BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE. 


    With the release of XenDesktop 5.6 today it’s crystal clear that Citrix’ continued innovation removes complexity to enable enterprises to deliver desktops, applications and data on-demand – and do it seamlessly from the data center or the cloud.  But how can we further simplify desktop virtualization to help customers maximize the value in their XenDesktop investment?  Considering the functionality and flexibility of XenDesktop to support a multitude of endpoint devices across a myriad of use cases, and deliver a hybrid model for desktop computing with FlexCast (i.e., some combination of traditional VDI, hosted shared, streamed applications… as required) organizations are looking for a total solution that’s built on a flexible infrastructure and that can accommodate any desktopology that you throw at it.


    That’s why we are seeing more and more customers deploying Citrix XenDesktop on FlexPod for their virtual desktop environments - be it within the data center or cloud.  The solution is comprised of XenDesktop, NetApp Storage, and Cisco UCS and Nexus. It’s a validated design that scales with predictable, linear performance without any design changes to the architecture. This results in faster desktop deployment times and faster time to productivity.  So whether you are deploying 500 desktops, 5,000 desktops or 50,000 desktops on FlexPod (or anything in between) you get the simplicity of one solution architecture to deploy and manage, that also provides the agility organizations require to stay competitive.    And BTW, if you do have a big seat implementation planned please checkout Daniel Feller’s blog for his perspective on options for large-scale deployments here.


    In closing, I’ll mention a comment that I recently heard someone say that “a desktop virtualization environment is like an iceberg, with the ‘desktop’ being the tip, and the virtualized infrastructure components the chunk beneath the surface”.   That’s an interesting analogy, and it could infer that it’s one big “thing” that works together, even if all the components aren’t highly visible.   And successfully architecting, deploying and managing this thing we call a virtual desktop environment – and have it scale -  is truly an ART (…sizing the storage for virtual desktops, some would say, is a BLACK ART - but that’s another blog!).  So get started by setting yourself up for success and consider Citrix XenDesktop 5.6 on FlexPod for your desktop virtualization project because the solution really does provides the dexterity that businesses require for optimal desktop delivery, regardless of what their virtual desktopology looks like now, or in the future.

     

    “The deployment of a thousand virtual desktops must begin with a single VM”

    -  Anonymous Xen quote

    Chris Gebhardt, Desktop Virtualization Architect

    Follow me on twitter - http://twitter.com/@chrisgeb

     

    I sure have used the saying "I am pleased to announce" quite often in my last couple of blog posts but I am really happy about this one!  Today NetApp released the latest version of the Virtual Storage Console 2.1.1.  In this version there are some really important and new technologies that will help customers in their virtual server and desktop deployments.  Below is a list of the new and supported features of the VSC 2.1.1.  I was going to highlight some of the new features that I believe are important but when I started to do that, I started highlighting everything.  This release is really important, for support of vSphere 5 and View 5, for new technologies that  allow our customers to continue to maintain storage efficiency of thin provisioned virtual machines, and for improvements to help the operational aspects of deploying and maintaining virtual infrastructures.

     

    Over the next couple of days and weeks I will be posting demo's of many of the new features of the VSC 2.1.1.

     

    http://now.netapp.com/NOW/download/software/vsc_win/2.1.1/ <- Must have a NetApp NOW account to download the software!

    New Features:

    Virtual Storage Console 2.1.1 includes the VSC 2.1 enhancements and adds some new ones. The following list summarizes both the 2.1.1 and the 2.1 enhancements:

    • Support for vSphere 5.0, which includes vCenter Server 5.0 and ESXi.
    • The Virtual Storage Console capability is renamed Monitoring and Host Configuration to better describe what it is used for.
    • The Monitoring and Host Configuration Tools panel now includes two download buttons for MBR tools: one for ESXi hosts and one for ESX hosts. You must download the correct version for your host operating system.
    • Monitoring and Host Configuration adds support for the following:
      • Designating a host as skipped
      • Displaying storage controllers running Cluster-Mode
      • Providing faster discovery as well as running the discovery as a background task
      • Displaying information about the status of hosts by supplying a Status Reason column for hosts
    • Provisioning and Cloning adds support for the following:
      • Reclaiming space after data deletion in guest OS
      • Preventing misalignment prior to cloning
      • Specifying the number of CPUs and memory settings for new virtual machines
      • Adding existing datastores to new ESX servers in clusters and datacenters
      • Retaining View Server credentials for cloning
      • Cloning datastores across vSphere sites
      • Creating, naming, and managing virtual machine distribution into new View Server pools
      • Importing into Citrix XenDesktop and VMware View (API enhancement)
      • Saving BIOS settings when cloning from template
      • Adding a storage system using a domain account
      • Catalog-based API provisioning
      • Citrix XenDesktop 5.0
      • Data ONTAP 8.1.0 (7-Mode)
      • VMware View 4.6 and 5.0

    Chris Gebhardt, Desktop Virtualization Architect

    Follow me on twitter - http://twitter.com/@chrisgeb

     

    I am pleased to announce an update to the NetApp and VMware View Solutions Guide TR-3705 v5.0 or better know as our best practices guide for deploying VMware View on NetApp!  In this version we take a look a new and exciting technologies that are enabled by the NetApp Virtual Stroage Console version 2.1.1 (which is currently available at now.netapp.com) as well as support for vSphere 5 and VMware View 5.0.  In this document we focus on new technologies enabled by the VSC including space reclamation for thin-provisioned virtual machines on NFS, VM misalignment alert and prevention, VMware View credential management for provisioning and cloning, multiple pool creation for VMware View , and datastore remote replication!

     

    Screen Shot 2011-09-06 at 3.18.32 PM.png

     

     

    Over the next couple of days and weeks I will be posting some short blogs on each of these VDI related technologies that are enabled by the Virtual Storage Console!  Stay Tuned!

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