If you’ve ever worked on a VDI project, chances are pretty good you encountered one or more issues pertaining to performance, scalability, availability, data management, data protection, and cost. And when you did, chances are just as good it was your storage that contributed to or even caused those problems.
After all, traditional (hardware-based) storage systems, which are not “application aware,” are unable to differentiate the performance requirements of various workloads to ensure that every application performs at optimal levels, nor are they designed to scale while providing linear improvements in performance.
Many of these systems are built on antiquated storage architectures that entail replicating data between volumes or arrays to provide high availability (HA) of critical databases, server and desktop OS images, user profiles, and user data. Such HA implementations typically lead to inefficient storage utilization as well as storage and data management complexity.
While all of the above can severely hinder VDI deployments, any one of them can make it difficult for organizations to realize the benefits of desktop virtualization.
In an effort to mitigate or prevent “storage” issues, such as those described above, from spilling over onto other business-critical workloads, many organizations have even gone so far as to implement VDI as a separate “island,” further increasing management cost and complexity.
In short, proprietary hardware-based storage solutions that have been available for what seems like forever haven’t solved any of the problems that frequently derail VDI deployments; rather, they’ve contributed to them.
So, who (or what) can help you solve or, even better, avoid these problems?
As a long-time Citrix-Ready Partner and now part of the Citrix organization, Sanbolic (and its innovative Melio software platform) has helped hundreds of customers overcome the storage challenges that have plagued VDI deployments since its advent. Since the early years of virtualization, Sanbolic has touted the benefits of decoupling software from hardware, thereby enabling organizations to build “customized” storage solutions using industry-standard components (compute and storage) with intelligence (advanced storage and data management services) provided solely through software that is 100% agnostic to the underlying infrastructure.
Such software should enable seamless scale-out of both infrastructure and workloads, intelligently utilize hardware to provide assured performance levels where needed, offer tier 1 storage capabilities across a wide range of storage devices (Flash, SSD, HDD), enhance overall system fault-tolerance, and greatly simplify data management and data protection efforts. In addition, the software should be able to deliver these same capabilities to customers regardless of whether they’re deploying VDI within a single datacenter or across multiple datacenters.
Although Sanbolic has long embraced and championed the idea of delivering enterprise-class storage and data management capabilities and services through software, only recently has this concept been labeled “software-defined storage” and a consensus reached within the storage industry to refer to the concept by its label when describing the decoupling of storage and data management from hardware components. And while the term software-defined storage, or SDS for short, may still be relatively new to many outside the storage industry, its benefits (removing the need to manage storage using proprietary interfaces on a per-array basis and eliminating per-feature licensing costs) are quickly being realized by organizations of all sizes as the technology continues to see rapid adoption.
For those new to SDS, there are two fundamental approaches, with most vendors designing and developing their solutions based on one approach or the other. The following descriptions explain the premise behind each approach:
The first approach entails moving all storage and data management from the confines (enclosure) of a hardware-based storage system to the host systems that are actually using the storage. The primary benefits of this approach include centralized management and scale-out of infrastructure and workloads across heterogeneous storage environments comprised of a variety of storage devices (flash, SSD, HDD) housed in different systems such as JBODs and storage arrays, and the elimination of pay-per-feature licensing models that require customers send storage vendors a check every time they need access to another feature (i.e., snapshots, QoS, storage migration, mirroring, replication, tiering, deduplication, etc.).
The first approach to SDS, which enables converged infrastructure, can be extremely helpful to organizations looking to augment their existing storage infrastructures. By effectively consolidating their environments, customers realize significant reductions in storage and data management cost and complexity as well as improved IT agility and operational efficiency while continuing to leverage investments in their legacy storage systems.
The second approach removes the traditional components and layers of a storage infrastructure, including storage arrays, switch fabrics, HBAs/CNAs, and cabling, and enables customers to build their own storage systems using industry-standard compute and storage components with intelligence provided through software. Consolidating computer and storage resources within common enclosures and centralizing the delivery of storage and data services across the resulting hyper-converged infrastructure greatly reduces storage and data management cost and complexity while avoiding the high CAPEX and OPEX costs incurred with the use of external (SAN) storage arrays. Additionally, the ability to employ distributed RAID across the systems comprising the hyper-converged solution provides the level of fault-tolerance for which users of traditional storage arrays are accustomed.
Key benefits afforded by the second approach to SDS include centralized management and scale-out of infrastructure and workloads across heterogeneous storage environments comprised of a variety of storage devices, the elimination of pay-per-feature licensing models, and dramatically lower TCO through the use of commodity hardware components. Organizations looking to build out new storage environments that offer high performance, dynamic scale-out, high availability, simplified storage and data management, and enterprise-class storage and data services at significantly lower cost than traditional, high-end storage arrays will likely want to consider this approach to SDS.
The number of storage vendors (old and new), industry analysts, and pundits promoting the benefits of SDS continues to grow on a daily basis, with many believing the technology has already established itself as a major turning point (for the better) for the storage industry. Sanbolic Melio (now Citrix Melio), which has been deployed in Citrix VDI (XenDesktop and XenApp) environments worldwide for many years, has always been a 100% software-based solution that offers customers the flexibility to choose either or both approaches to SDS in order to achieve unified management and scale-out of their virtual desktop infrastructures (and other enterprise workloads) across heterogeneous storage environments.
A true SDS solution that is agnostic to the underlying hardware, Melio provides advanced data services (i.e., database clustering, scale-out file-serving, cost-effective DR, etc.) and tier1 storage capabilities (across multiple storage levels) that can be applied dynamically to meet ever-changing business demands while ensuring the most efficient use of a customer’s valuable storage resources. SLAs that guarantee the performance of business-critical workloads, seamless workload migration, intelligent data placement (data tiering), snapshots, data mirroring and replication, automated data management, and the ability to scale to thousands of nodes and exabytes of capacity (without downtime) are all included in the Melio platform (no pay-per-feature licensing costs involved).
In addition to the benefits noted above, Melio’s unique distributed (shared) storage technology, which provides multiple servers with concurrent read-and-write access to logical volumes, offers Citrix VDI customers the following:
- Simplified desktop and server image management and maintenance (PVS and MCS)
- Optimal storage utilization
- Reduced storage capacity requirements
- Improved virtual desktop machine performance (XenDesktops and XenApp servers)
- Dynamic scale-out (add infrastructure servers and/or storage capacity on-demand)
- High availability of desktop and server images, databases, user profiles and user data
- The ability to span XenDesktop and XenApp deployments across multiple datacenters in active/active mode for load-distribution and DR
In summary, SDS is ushering in a new era for storage. As a provider of next-generation scale-out architectures for the modern datacenter and one of the first companies to offer a pure software-based solution, Sanbolic delivered the benefits of SDS to its enterprise customers for many years. As the newest addition to Citrix’s portfolio of industry-leading technologies, Melio is making it easier than ever for our customers to realize the benefits of desktop virtualization.
If you’d like to learn more about Melio, SDS, and the new WorkspacePod powered by Melio, please register to attend the Instructor-led Training Lab “Introduction to Citrix Melio” (ILT Lab SYN624) and/or attend the breakout session “Introduction to Citrix Melio and its Role as the Core Technology of WorkspacePod” (breakout session SYN325) at Citrix Synergy 2015 in Orlando, FL, May 12-14.
See you there!