The Evolution of VDI

For the past decade, as organizations have been rethinking their approach to delivering desktops to end users, many have turned to a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment. An initial driver to VDI was the focus on reducing the per-desktop cost. Along with lower cost, IT teams also had to make sure that end users didn’t experience performance impacts as a result of the move from physical to virtual desktops. This tension between cost and performance was one of the more difficult challenges in delivering effective VDI platforms to users.

Delivering Desktops to End Users with NetApp HCI

Enter NetApp® HCI, the enterprise-scale hyper converged infrastructure solution designed to support mixed workloads. At the heart of HCI is the NetApp SolidFire® Element® OS software, designed to protect workloads from interfering with each other and to deliver predictable performance to every application.


Let’s take a close look at how HCI addresses the challenges of delivering VDI to end users. Because of the huge variety of application workloads in an organization, IT teams often find the requirements to support end users to be chaotic and unpredictable. Every end user has their own usage pattern, and those patterns may conflict. To deal with the unpredictable resource contention for the different types of users, IT teams had to isolate the VDI from other IT resources. Each desktop type had to be built using its own infrastructure “pod” to deliver the hardware required to drive the desktop. Isolating each user type to its own physical architecture helped to ensure that performance of the VDI environment remained consistent. This model provided slightly more consistent workload performance, and it also limited the scope of failures across groups of end users.


To make sure that these isolated pods were built to support the chaos of targeted end-user workloads, assessment tools were developed to help design and size VDI environments. These tools were used to estimate the CPU, RAM, IOPS, capacity, graphics, and network required to support the number of concurrent users and application types. By using these tools, each new pod could be created to support a specific set of user requirements within a reasonable range of outcomes. The result was a proliferation of pod-based systems across all the user types, just to support the VDI effort.

VDI Pods

Addressing the Future with End-User Computing

As VDI evolves, end-user apps and end-user data (files) need to become more accessible. This is accomplished through a virtual workspace, enhancing VDI to EUC (end-user computing). An emerging trend is to collapse VDI silos to run as just another workload in a truly software-defined data center. EUC buyers are looking for infrastructure beyond just hardware convergence They want fully programmable and massively simplified infrastructure to build apps and virtual machines, and to offer consumption of IT to all modes of operations. Adoption of hyper converged infrastructure (HCI) is increasing, especially for EUC, because of its ability to deliver resources as simply as possible.


Looking back at the evolution of VDI and the pod-based architecture, it’s clear that end-user workloads are unpredictable at best, and the challenge of consolidating the desktop varieties in a single platform often leads to resource contention. Why should we expect this constraint to change, especially when adding even more business applications to the mix? Isn’t the idea of putting all the different desktops plus databases and business applications on a single platform just a recipe for disaster?


The key to success is the ability of NetApp HCI to deliver predictable storage performance to align with compute performance. By discretely assigning storage IOPS with storage capacity, each virtual machine can be assured that the storage won’t slow it down. And with the storage performance discretely “assigned” to a VM, the storage won’t be impacted by another VM trying to use the same storage resource. Each application gets the compute and storage performance it needs, and those resources won’t be “taken” by another application. Mixed EUC workloads can be easily consolidated on a single NetApp HCI system.


NetApp HCI is also fully integrated to deliver a VMware Private Cloud experience, provisioned within just minutes out of the box. Built on the foundation of the NetApp SolidFire Element OS, users experience all that has thrilled EUC buyers previously: QoS, flexibility and scale, and overall simplicity.


Gone are the silos. Gone are scale limitations. EUC can leverage desktops, databases, and other workloads with full confidence. Simple, globally efficient resources are available today with NetApp HCI. For more information, visit our EUC page.

Doug Chamberlain

Doug Chamberlain is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at NetApp, joining the company through the acquisition of SolidFire. The last two decades of his career in technology have been in the storage industry, with product management and product marketing roles in tape, disk, flash, and storage software solutions. He holds a BS in Economics and a Masters of Business Administration. Prior to joining SolidFire, Doug was a Principal Product Manager at Oracle, responsible for the ZFS Storage Appliance.

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