VDI Enablement Buying Guide

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You can tell that desktop virtualization is gaining traction by the number of storage vendors coming out with products aimed at the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) market. There are simply too many to cover, but here are a few of the candidates which seek to facilitate VDI by providing faster storage and removing bottlenecks. The list includes Sanbolic, Atlantic, Greenbytes, Nutanix and Tintri.

Sanbolic Melio VDI

Common gripes about VDI include cost, performance and complexity. However, Sanbolic’s Melio data management software layered on top of Citrix XenDesktop is said to lower upfront and ongoing management costs, simplify VDI deployment and ensure high availability of storage. Prices start at $9,500 per server (one year of service support included). It uses a distributed architecture that works in conjunction with Citrix Provisioning Services (PVS) to create a platform for centrally creating, managing, delivering and maintaining desktop images to virtual machines hosting virtual desktops. VDI users achieve high availability of desktop images and write cache files for virtual desktops without single points of failure. It is also said to scale out to tens of thousands of VMs and exabytes of capacity.

“Melio reduces storage capacity requirements, improves virtual desktop performance and enables the high availability (HA) and load-balancing capabilities of PVS, without introducing additional data or storage management overhead,” said Andy Melmed, vice president, enterprise architecture, Sanbolic. “Melio also allows customers to span implementations across geographically dispersed locations for active/active and/or DR.”


Tintri has two products that work specifically with VDI: Tintri VMstore T540 and Tintri VMstore T445. Tintri VMstore houses virtual desktops and virtual machines on one single device. The storage systems use proportional scheduling for IOs, which separates IO queue per vDisk, and every queue gets the same priority.

“Because most storage systems do not have vDisk-level management, they have to house VDI on a different storage environment,” noted Geoff Stedman, vice president of marketing for Tintri. “Additionally, Tintri VMstore keeps track of performance statistics and resources on a per-vDisk and per-VM level, allowing admins to know what VM or vDisk might be taking the bulk of the performance on the machine, and how much performance overhead the entire machine can handle.”

Tintri claims these boxes are ready for their first VM within eight minutes of power-on and can deploy 1000 clones in about an hour. The appliance approach means you can dedicate host memory and host CPU to desktop and server needs as opposed to tapping into the resources of existing storage and server hardware. By means of thin provisioning, cloning and dedupe/compression, Stedman said some users have provisioned in excess of 100TB of production VMs in 13.5 TB of addressable space on a VMstore T540.


The GreenBytes vIO storage appliance incorporates inline deduplication and a PCIe-based flash card, local SSD or flash-based storage controller with a VMware ESXi host. The goal is providing the performance of flash at the cost of spinning disk. It includes deduplication of live data and swap files, which means you’re able to spend less on RAM while still providing solid performance.

“With traditional storage there are two choices: low cost or high performance,” said Jeff Eberhard, Senior Systems Engineer, GreenBytes. “We give you high performance virtual desktops, at a price that is affordable.”


The Nutanix Virtual Computing Platform converges the storage and compute tiers. All reads and writes occur locally in the server using SSDs and HDDs that sit inside each node in the server cluster. This appliance is wrapped with distributed software to cluster the system and provide snapshots, replication, DR and compression.

“Nutanix software migrates data between different tiers to deliver the best combination of performance and capacity at a given price point,” explained Howard Ting, Vice President of Marketing, Nutanix. “Our competitors make storage faster and more efficient by using a combination of SSDs and HDDs, but they require a storage network and manage the compute and storage tiers in silos, leading to higher cost and complexity.”

Atlantis Computing

Atlantis Ilio software aims to cut VDI costs and deliver a desktop that is faster and cheaper than a PC. The company claims that by using it, organizations can deploy up to seven times more desktops within the same storage footprint.

“Atlantis ILIO Persistent VDI enables Citrix XenDesktop and VMware View customers to deploy VDI immediately using existing images while delivering virtual desktops that are faster and cheaper than PCs,” stated Seth Knox, Director of Marketing, Atlantis Computing. “It leverages local server RAM and ILIO In-Memory Storage technology to run the desktops and uses a small amount of shared SAN/NAS storage – up to 95 percent less than normally required – for data protection and availability.”

Atlantis claims more than 200 desktop virtualization customers, including JP Morgan Chase & Co., AIG and Qualcomm.

Case in point: the U.S. Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) is using Ilio storage optimization software as part of a VDI architecture spanning eight military hospitals in the USA and Europe. In this example, Ilio enables NetApp storage arrays to support five times more Citrix XenDesktop and Citrix XenApp users, speeding response times for medical applications and eliminating bottlenecks.

“Atlantis ILIO enabled us to reduce the amount of storage required in the U.S. Army project by 80 percent,” said Scott Miller, director of cloud, virtualization and the advanced technology center of system integrator WWT.

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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