For years analysts have been predicting that virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) will be the "next big thing," but the concept is still failing to set the world on fire. Many organisations, while supporting the ideas behind VDI integration, have not yet taken the final leap - primarily due to concerns about cost and performance.
When VDI implementations fail, either technically or economically, the root cause is often storage. Storage typically accounts for 50 percent of the infrastructure cost of VDI deployments, and improving VDI performance often means throwing more and more disk at the problem.
In particular, slow I/O causes poor response times and complaints from users, and often traditional arrays run out of I/O horsepower, preventing enterprise-wide VDI scale. In other words, legacy disk-based storage was not designed to keep up with the performance and economic challenges of modern VDI deployments.
However, as adoption of flash storage increases, VDI is becoming a more attractive option for many enterprises, according to Scott Dietzen, CEO of Pure Storage. Not only does flash provide consistently low latency, delivering better performance in some cases than a laptop with local SSD, but inline deduplication and compression also bring down the cost.
"The problem that VDI has is that the user experience is so poor when you run virtual desktops against traditional mechanical disk, because mechanical disk wastes 98 percent of its time trying to get to the spot on the disk where the data is, and then only 2 percent of its time doing real work.
"The end user ultimately gets really frustrated because they see the performance deteriorate," Dietzen told Techworld.
With an all-flash storage array from Pure, however, Dietzen claims that VDI is faster than the best laptop you can buy with a state-of-the-art SSD.
"Customers have just been flabbergasted, because normally there's this trade off where you get manageability and security but you have to sacrifice user experience. They're like, how can our VDI experience be better than no VDI at all?"
Moreover, Dietzen claims that Pure Storage has found a way to get the price point of its all-flash storage arrays down to where they are directly competitive with disk solutions.
"The most critical technologies are really fast algorithms for deduplicating and compressing the data - algorithms that don't work on disk because they're so performance-intensive that mechanical disk slows down dramatically," he said.
"That data reduction is what allows us to hit the price point of an existing EMC or NetApp disk array. Even without any flash cache at all, we can hit the same price point, but then sell a product that's 10x faster and 10x more space and power-efficient."
Dietzen said that although the lion's share of it's all-flash arrays have been bought by tech companies, financial services firms, intelligence, military and the federal government, the VDI use case has also been attracting non-traditional early adopters.
"Reference customers include state and local government, and hospitals, so the technology's been broadly appealing far more than we expected," he said.
"Our customers just want to plug us in. They're running the product with VMware, Oracle, Microsoft, open source technologies like MySQL. They don't want to change any of the configuration, they want a plug replacement for an existing EMC or NetApp disk array that just works and yet delivers these advantages."
Last month, Pure Storage opened a new European headquarters in London, headed up by John Silva, formerly of HP 3PAR. Silva said there is "exploding demand" for all-flash storage systems in the region, particularly as more companies struggle to cope with the demand for fast access to data and applications.
"EMEA represents a substantial market opportunity for all-flash storage systems; we believe Pure Storage is best positioned to address that opportunity," said Mike Volpi, partner at Index Ventures, which invested $95 million to fund the expansion.
"Their North American momentum sets them up to extend naturally into EMEA and we are very pleased to see the company executing on its planned global expansion."
Pure Storage has already established its first customer deployments in the region and assigned key reseller, distribution, and support relationships. The company now also offers 24x7 support with 4-hour onsite service for the EMEA market.