By Chris Gebhardt, Sr. Technical Marketing Engineer, NetApp

NetApp recently designed and deployed a roughly 10,000-seat All Flash FAS FlexPod for its engineering virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). The goal was to provide all of NetApp’s developers across the globe with virtual desktops to improve productivity and user experience, among other things.


This decision was not an easy one, as it changes the way developers have worked, some for over two decades. However, once the decision was made, the foundation for the VDI solution was a no-brainer-we used an All Flash FAS FlexPod with Data ONTAP to optimize the speed of deployment, system sizing, and storage efficiency across the VDI infrastructure. Focusing on these three factors is critical for any successful VDI deployment.


The Speed Factor
As a longtime partner with Cisco, NetApp has built much of its own datacenter infrastructure based on FlexPod. If you combine that with the work we have done helping over 6,000 FlexPod customers, we had total confidence it would deliver the performance we needed for this project. This work has enabled us to develop an unsurpassed level of expertise with the FlexPod solution that encompasses design, deployment, and management.

NetApp and Cisco have co-developed over 100 Cisco Validated Designs, NetApp Verified Architectures, and Technical Reports based on FlexPod. We have also built a process and procedure to rapidly deploy FlexPod infrastructure, regardless of the use case or workload-and I mean rapid! From design to deployment, it took us just 12 days to stand up the complete VDI solution. We’re talking upwards of 150 blades and tons of storage-enough hardware for about 10,000 virtual desktops worldwide in twelve days!


Right Sizing and The User Experience
The principle of “beginning with the end in mind” was introduced in Steven Covey’s book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” over 25 years ago. It’s a principle that still applies today. But how do you apply that principle when “the end” keeps changing or is unknown? This brings me to the second reason we chose FlexPod: right sizing.


We know that developers all have different workflows and tools to get their jobs done. This introduces many different requirements, and the environment can be very dynamic. So how do you guarantee a great end user experience? Although we designed the environment using five PODs of 2,000 seats, each, FlexPod allowed us to provision optimal CPU and memory hardware configurations as required. With other converged infrastructure and hyper- converged infrastructure offerings in the market, you don’t have the ability to scale and be flexible where and when you need it. When you’re talking scale of this magnitude (i.e., 10,000 seats), you can’t afford to have extra anything. You purchase exactly what you need-processing, memory, storage-and nothing more!

Data Types and Storage Efficiency
Now let’s take a closer look at All Flash FAS and VDI. If you step back and look at a VDI solution, it’s not just about the C drive. There are many different data types-including user data, profiles, and applications-that the infrastructure uses to run the VDI environment. And yes, the C drive too. Each of these has different capacity, performance, protocol, backup, and disaster recovery requirements. Because Data ONTAP isn’t a siloed architecture, All Flash FAS nodes can co-exist with spinning media nodes within the same storage cluster and in the same management framework.

Designing a cost-effective and high-performing solution requires that you look at each of these data types individually. We all know that the world is moving to all flash, and so are our internal development systems! The spinning media market is slowly shrinking, and SSDs and other non-rotational media are becoming much more cost effective on a $/GB basis. Add to that the inline deduplication and inline compression efficiencies within Data ONTAP, and the cost of NetApp flash solutions is significantly reduced.



Clustered Data ONTAP Scale-Out.jpg


However, having been involved with deduplication for a long time, and with tens of thousands of customers using our dedupe technology, we know not all data dedupes and compresses are the same. If you take a look at the different data types, the C drive contains a lot of duplicate information. We often see savings of 10:1 for the C drives. This is not the case with user data, where duplicate information is less common and thus does not deduplicate as well (with typical savings in the 1.3:1 range). Putting your desktop OS on flash makes great sense, but your user data not so much.


With Data ONTAP, you can choose where your data resides. You pick the media, set your own replication and backup schedule, and connect via your protocol of choice. If you decide to change your mind later, which we all know can happen, Data ONTAP allows you to non-disruptively move your data to where it needs to be.

A focus on speed, sizing and storage efficiency will make your next VDI deployment a success, whether you use all-flash storage or a hybrid design that uses a combination of flash and disk media. And to optimize your budget, find out how you can achieve storage costs as low as $35 and $55 per desktop with NetApp flash-accelerated desktop virtualization solutions.

NetApp Staff