A Northern Ireland health and social services trust has adopted Tintri hybrid-flash storage to support a large-scale virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) rollout.
The South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust adopted hybrid flash storage from Tintri to support the rollout when it became apparent its existing HP LeftHand SAN could not provide the IOPS (input/output operations per second) needed to support spikes in VMware Horizon View virtual desktop operations.
The trust has 11,000 staff and serves a population of around 500,000 people in the south eastern part of Northern Ireland. It has three main hospitals and 120 remote facilities, which are central to a strategy of pushing care closer to the client.
Darren Henderson, ICT services manager for the trust, said VDI started as a way of serving desktops easily to staff working remotely but it soon became clear it was well suited to the hospital environment.
“The ‘follow-me’ desktop is ideal for trust staff who can walk up to any device, swipe ID cards and login on the nearest terminal as they move around the facilities,” he said.
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Currently, the trust is part way through its VDI rollout, with around 600 desktops deployed of a likely ultimate total of 2,000. That’s currently supported by one Tintri T540 hybrid flash storage array. The trust has bought two but the second one is not due to go live until a secondary datacentre site is operational.
Each Tintri T540 Tintri VMstore is a dual-controller NFS (1Gbps Ethernet and 10GbE ports) array that comes in a 3U form factor with eight 300GB MLC drives and eight 3TB SATA drives with data deduplication and compression between the two.
Tintri specifically targets virtual machine environments. It does away with volumes, LUNs and RAID groups and maps I/O requests directly to the virtual disk. This tight VM integration lets VMstore control I/O performance for each virtual disk.
The trust looked at its storage options when it became clear its existing HP LeftHand P4000 array was not up to the job, said Henderson.
“The LeftHand is a fantastically resilient SAN for traditional storage but in VDI testing – for example, re-composing 100 desktops at a time – it soon hit its performance ceiling.”
A key benefit of Tintri over other suppliers evaluated is the simplicity of management
Darren Henderson, South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust
“We knew we needed flash to get the IOPS we needed,” said Henderson, “and we looked at EMC, HP, Violin Memory, Whiptail and Fusion-io, but it soon became apparent Tintri hit the spot in terms of price and performance.”
“Some other products would have delivered desktops to the same standard but were too costly and/or too complex for our small storage team,” he added.
Henderson looked for IOPS performance figures that would handle boot ups and recomposition of around 100 desktops at a time, for example after security patching. For this he said the requirement was for 10,000 to 12,000 IOPS.
Henderson said a key benefit of Tintri over other suppliers evaluated is the simplicity of management.
“We racked it, gave it an IP address and within an hour we’d moved the desktop estate to it. The management interface is very simple and lists VMs. You can then drill down to see where any latency is occurring,” said Henderson.
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Could Tintri improve its product in future versions? Henderson said one issue is the inability to manage more than one instance of Tintri from the same screen. Currently, you must manage each array separately, but he has been told that was going to be fixed in a future upgrade.
Was it a concern to Henderson that Tintri would potentially form a silo of storage in the trust IT infrastructure?
He said, “To a certain degree it is, but VDI files tend not to move and we’re happy to have a captive SAN that provides the level of IOPS we need and to keep that kind of headroom.”
Tintri only emerged from stealth two years ago. Was the potential longevity of the supplier a concern to Henderson given that the flash array market is subject to high levels of consolidation and acquisition?
“We were concerned someone would come in and swallow up Tintri and that the product would be left out to dry. But we were also convinced about the commitment of the company and the venture capitalists to developing it as best-of-breed. And in any case we are happy that we can carry on supporting it should it be acquired.”