Insights, Best Practices and Forward Thinking from the Customer Facing Team, Solution Architects and Leaders on Extreme Performance Applications, Infrastructure, Storage and the Real-World Impact Possible

Key Insights & Considerations for a VDI Implementation at Anglia Ruskin University

by VIOLIN SYSTEMS on October 9, 2012

Gregor Waddell, Assistant Director IT, Anglia Ruskin University is joining us for a two part blog series where he shares his insights on the university’s VDI initiative.

In my previous post I outlined how VDI implementation reduced power consumption and increased IT performance at Anglia Ruskin University.

We opted for a VDI deployment to achieve our objectives to reduce power consumption while at the same time provide an optimum IT environment and experience for our 32,000 students.

The building hosting the new IT open access area assumed no need for cooling, presenting a heat issue for traditional PCs. At the same time our media-rich applications added to power consumption and also meant that thin client technologies weren’t an option.

These challenges all presented themselves at a time when VDI technology was coming of age, and addressed all of these issues. We went through months of planning and testing, and finally, in September 2011, we successfully launched the new Hosted Virtual Desktop using Violin flash Memory Arrays. As part of the process it became clear that storage performance is key to VDI and our existing traditional spinning disk did not offer sufficient performance. Our virtual machines needed 80-100 IOPs per desktop. This is where Violin was the instrumental partner of choice, making VDI a reality for us.

This post highlights key insights and considerations for successfully implementing a VDI infrastructure, given the huge research process we went through.

I hope it will be useful to share the knowledge we have gleaned; here are some of the key lessons we learned:

1. Keep in mind that your end user experience must be identical or even better than that provided by a traditional PC. Your internal customers will have as high expectations.

2. Storage performance is critical in a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure environment. The storage performance required far exceeded what we could sensibly provide from our Storage Area Network.

3.  Hosted Virtual Desktops may require a new approach to support and management to get the best out of the environment – we have restructured our department to provide a small dedicated Hosted Virtual Desktop team with combined desktop, server and storage skills.

4. Some applications are better suited to a VDI environment than others, as many were originally built expecting to sit on a traditional fat PC, Photoshop for example. Prioritise what applications you need to virtualise. We do expect to see more software houses build their applications to suit VDI’s in the future, but there will always be exceptions that need a physical PC environment.

5. We decided to host our VDI in a separate environment. As VDI is so different, the volume and scale is so intense, we wouldn’t suggest sharing it with any other application that may prevent the I/O that you need for the VDI to work seamlessly.

6. We have introduced application virtualisation as the default means to deploy software across our IT estate – minimising complexity in our standard images whether they are virtual or traditional.

7. VDI has come of age - we consider Hosted Virtual Desktop and the other supporting technologies to be a viable and realistic alternative to traditional PCs whilst providing a range of additional benefits.

Technology is changing at a radical speed and to ensure that you are providing your users with the most elevated performance, investing in an infrastructure that will supersede your user’s expectations is key to a seamless experience.

If you’d like to read more about the benefits of VDI implementation with Violin Systems, please read the full case study.