With over three million seats sold in the first six months of 2010 alone, Citrix is the market share leader in desktop virtualization software. More than half of the Fortune 100 have production deployments using Citrix XenDesktop, and I’ve had the opportunity to talk with a number of them in my previous role as a Forrester analyst and my current role here at Citrix.

Done right, desktop virtualization will have a profound impact on organizations by enabling more flexible workstyles, improving business agility and data security, and a host of other strategic business priorities.

However, one of the key inhibitors for full, mainstream adoption of desktop virtualization is the storage infrastructure requirements and associated cost. As Cisco’s Tony Paikeday recently commented, “Doesn’t it make sense to ensure that the compute and storage infrastructure are designed and configured around the unique requirements of desktop workloads?” This is echoed by a recent Citrix Community post which identified storage as the “#1 thing that people mess up with desktop virtualization.”

Many IT teams underestimate the impact desktop virtualization will have on storage and as a result costs can quickly spiral out of control while response times plummet and end users revolt.

Here are three examples of why storage is so important:

  1. Storage can make the difference between acceptable and outrageous cost-per-seat. Storage is one of the largest expense categories for desktop virtualization projects and can easily represent 35% to 50% of the overall project. It’s not surprising when you think about how inexpensive a desktop PC’s consumer-grade hard drive is relative to the cost per raw gigabyte of networked storage – at Forrester, I used to warn that storage was $0.10 in a PC and $10 in the datacenter (per gigabyte). Citrix has developed great efficiency technologies that reduce the storage foot print required for pooled VDI desktops, but these don’t address dedicated VDI desktops and end user data. Choosing a storage platform that enables you to substantially reduce storage consumption while implementing a data management strategy as part of an overall desktop virtualization plan can help justify the economics for moving from fixed PCs to virtual desktops.
  2. Managing thousands of desktops, and the associated infrastructure, can be painful in a virtual world too. Simply virtualizing thousands of physical desktops does not eliminate the need to manage those desktops – nor does it give desktop admins the ability to pass the buck on other infrastructure management. Ideally you want to give your desktop administrators the ability to manage their desktop environment without requiring deep knowledge of the storage environment. Storage has the potential to play a central role in delivering the agility, availability and manageability that is requisite for virtual desktop administration.
  3. Performance compromises are unacceptable to end users. Certain activities tend to produce high I/O activity at certain times — for example, all users boot their desktops first thing in the morning and many log back in immediately after lunch. Peak periods with 2 to 3 times the steady state load can bring a typical storage system to a crawl and degrade end-user experience to unacceptable levels. Storage must be sized for both performance AND capacity based on extensively tested best practices and should optimize read and write IO traffic.

To help our customers succeed, Citrix works closely with leading storage providers like NetApp to deliver uniquely integrated solutions that address these challenges and enable desktop administrators to perform key storage based data management operations. Since we understand that not all workers can use pooled VDI desktops, we wanted to make sure that we had an answer for those of you that are struggling with storage costs for dedicated VDI desktops. With NetApp, thousands of desktop images can be created in minutes using NetApp’s rapid provisioning capabilities and then imported and managed within XenDesktop. And, regardless of which type of virtual desktops you use, backups, DR replication and failover, deduplication and storage and VM provisioning for NetApp storage can all be performed through XenCenter with no knowledge of the underlying storage.

Our customers need more than great technology, however. They need solutions that are easy to deploy, easy to support and easy to scale. That’s why we’ve partnered with Cisco and NetApp to deliver a comprehensive desktop virtualization solution that combines market leading software and hardware, a complete set of deployment templates, starter kits, expansion packs, validated reference architectures … all with a single number to call for support. This dramatically simplifies the process of deploying, configuring, supporting and scaling desktop virtualization enterprise-wide without any trade offs in terms of cost, performance, or end user experience.

If you’re considering desktop virtualization, the underlying storage infrastructure can be a key determinant in the project’s success. Stay tuned for the final post in this series highlighting storage requirements for a successful desktop virtualization project:

•Part I: Three Reasons Desktop Virtualization is Reaching a Tipping Point
•Part III: Storage Must-Have’s for Desktop Virtualization (coming soon!)