New Nexenta VSA tackles VDI storage with flash cache

Nexenta launches flash cache software in a virtual storage appliance for VMware’s Horizon View platform to boost performance for virtual desktop deployments

Storage software supplier Nexenta has launched a virtual storage appliance and flash cache product aimed at virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployments.

A key function of Nexenta VSA for VMware Horizon View is to provide a hardware boost to performance by managing host memory as a flash cache for virtual desktop operations.

Nexenta’s software is built around the open source ZFS operating system (OS), designed by Sun Microsystems, which has caching functionality built in. Using this it transforms host system RAM into local cache for desktop operations.

This addresses a key challenge with virtual desktop environments, ie the massive and random I/O demands they place on storage.

With physical desktop devices there is unhindered access to directly-attached storage on boot up and subsequently. But, with virtual desktops user configurations and data are served remotely, so I/O from users comes in randomly to the server and can be demanding in terms of volume of throughput, especially when many users log on at the start of shift, creating so-called boot storms.

Such flash caching products deals with this by directing virtual desktop images to reside in server cache, therefore ensuring rapid access.

Using on-board memory as cache is one key location where flash memory is being targeted to boost virtual machine operations. Products such as those from Atlantis ILIO also target virtual desktop operations while the likes of FlashSoft, Fusion-io’s IOTurbine and VeloBit’s HyperCache are aimed at virtual servers.

The software auto-discovers storage and memory on VMware hosts and communicates with VMware’s VDI management platform, Horizon View and with vSphere to provision storage profiles for the VDI environment.

Real-time analytics assesses VDI storage requirements during steady operations and boot storms and can recommend and configure storage changes. There is also a testing function so that desktop environments can be proofed for performance before going live.

The claimed benefits are an increase in the number of desktops that can be supported, an improved user experience, offloading of traffic from the storage network, lowered cost per desktop and reduced storage capacity requirements.  

Bridget Warwick, Nexenta Systems’ chief marketing officer, said: “This is software that takes an application’s storage preferences and best practices and uses that knowledge to auto-tune, configure, deploy and accelerate access to whatever storage the system is using.”

The Nexenta VSA for VMware Horizon View can be deployed as a virtual machine on the VMware hypervisor or on bare metal.

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