Everyone associated with virtualization is obsessed with storage! Well, it may be hyperbole to some but it cannot be ignored as one of the key challenges in desktop virtualization.

But why so much talk about storage? After all, the concept of storage has been there for ages. Yes it existed before digital storage, in the form of physical files. Later on the concept caught-up for digital storage when the PCs invaded the households. This is precisely the reason for the noise and confusion! Everyone assumes they understand storage. After all, how complicated can it be when every computer user has knowledge of storing digital data on HDD/DVD/CD/USB/external drives etc? However, the fact remains that storage is least understood and taken for granted by many, even though it is complicated, especially for desktop virtualization which requires a specific expertise to configure it.

The reality in virtualization is further complex for storage. Things were simpler until Direct Attached Storage (DAS). However, since the introduction of NAS and SAN in the virtualization environment it has become more complex. We are faced with issues including RPM, RAID, IOPS, file vs. block, thick vs. thin provisioning etc. which are all relevant for desktop virtualization.

The key drivers for desktop virtualization are reducing the capex/opex and increasing the agility of the business environment. The TCO gets impacted heavily if the storage is not configured correctly for desktop virtualization, specifically for NAS/SAN. There are numerous challenges to overcome for optimizing the storage in the desktop virtualization environment. For example, sizing, cost, performance and skilled storage resources are a few key ones. Few desktop administrators have been trained on NAS/SAN storage configuration. The skilled storage resources are more focused on storage provisioning for server virtualization mainly to optimize the database, ERP or exchange applications. Storage is one of the highest item impacting TCO for infrastructure, and even more so in desktop virtualization. Optimally configured storage can significantly increase the number of virtualized desktops supported. Storage and virtualization vendors working together should provide guidelines including best practices and configuration / sizing guides etc. so that the end users reap all the benefits and feel more confident to embrace desktop virtualization.

Citrix has invested considerably in the Citrix Ready program and is working with key storage vendors to address these market needs. Storage partners can make use of the Citrix Ready program to certify their products and validate their offerings with Citrix products. Citrix has introduced StorageLink for better management and seamless configuration of storage. StorageLink also provides site recovery automation capabilities. Citrix’s introduction of Intellicache will also help in reducing TCO.

To conclude, I am hoping that even though the storage and virtualization vendors have been showing greater cooperation day-by-day, there is still an immediate need for storage vendors to focus their attention to address the market needs of desktop virtualization, which has its own specific storage issues to deal with.

The views expressed here are mine alone and have not been authorized by, and do not necessarily reflect the views of, Citrix.