Pure Storage Promises All-Flash Storage For VDI For Under $100

All-flash storage array developer Pure Storage has released reference architecture and a starter kit to back up claims that its arrays can be as part of a VMware-certified virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution to provide high-speed storage for less than $100 per seat.

Pure Storage is offering solution providers a VMware VDI reference architecture and a VDI starter kit to make it easy to use all-flash storage as part of a VDI implementation for less than the cost of traditional spinning hard disk, said Matt Kixmoeller, vice president of products for the Mountain View, Calif.-based storage vendor.

"We've been selling flash storage for a while and found VDI a common use case," Kixmoeller said. "So for the last few months, we have tested a variety of solutions and are now offering the architecture to customers."

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The reference architecture was designed in partnership with VMware, and it is a part of VMware's Rapid Desktop Program, Kixmoeller said. To help partners get started, Pure Storage developed the VDI starter kit, which consists of an entry-level model of its array that allows easy testing of the solution. "Customers often find our standard arrays too large to purchase for testing VDI, so we are offering a smaller model," he said.

In designing the reference architecture, Pure Storage did benchmark testing with VMware's View Planner software to simulate activity by 1,000 VDI users, Kixmoeller said. "With flash storage, there's no issue about whether the user's virtual desktop is reaching cache storage or a disk drive," he said.

Most storage vendors, in developing VDI solutions, take advantage of stateless virtual desktops that rely on a single "gold" image virtual desktop that can be used by multiple users, Kixmoeller said.

Pure Storage's solution, however, offers the performance needed to use persistent virtual desktops, which allows each user to have his or her own desktop image, he said. "We have our own dedupe technology, so persistent virtual desktops look almost like stateless virtual desktops," he said.

The Pure Storage solution lets IT departments provide the same user experience with VDI that they expect from physical desktops, said Kris Queen, director of technology at Alliance Technology Group, a Hanover, Md.-based solution provider and Pure Storage partner.

NEXT: The Importance Of A VDI Storage Reference Architecture

Alliance Technology Group did a pilot test of Pure Storage all-flash arrays in a VDI environment with a customer who subsequently purchased two arrays for VDI and has been using them for over a year, Alliance's Queen said.

"VDI requires a lot more back-end disk I/O than most people realize," he said. "They think they can throw a couple hundred virtual desktops on the storage and get away with a few disks more than needed for physical desktops. But you need a centralized storage array where 200 users can log in at 8:00 in the morning and start downloading files. Our customer started out moving a few users to Pure Storage, found they liked it, and then migrated all its users. And, they stopped getting calls about the desktop performance."

Having a reference architecture for all-flash storage is important for helping customers get the kind of performance they expect from their arrays, Queen said.

Customers with virtual desktops want to know how to make better use of their compute resources, and while all storage vendors have flash tiering backed by disk for increased performance, customers need to know these flash arrays fit their requirements, Queen said.

"It's still early for flash storage," he said. "But everyone is thinking about it. It's not a hard conversation. All the storage guys know flash is coming."

Pure Storage's all-flash storage arrays start at a street price of under $75,000 for a raw capacity of 2.75 TB, which after deduplication offers the equivalent capacity 10 TB, Pure Storage's Kixmoeller said.

As customers' VDI implementations go into production, solution providers can upgrade the solution with more capacity as well as with a second controller for high availability. "There's no price penalty for not buying more capacity at the beginning," he said. "We're small. We don't need to play those loopholes with customers."