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Atlantis VDI Ups IOPS Performance By 10 To 20 Times

Atlantis Computing has announced Atlantis ILIO Diskless VDI, a virtual desktop infrastructure product that makes use of server-based blade storage that it claims eliminates storage for Citrix and VMware virtual desktop operating system images. This means that users can reduce the capital expenses associated with VDI to less than $200 per desktop while providing boot times of 12 seconds. The company has tested the product with Cisco UCS blade servers, which can deploy up to 6,400 virtual desktops in one rack, and is promoting it with Cisco, but the product is server-agnostic.

"So far it's really interesting, really good," says Steven Bell, infrastructure systems architect for PAETEC Communications, now a part of Windstream Communications, a telecommunications company based in Fairport, N.Y. "It's definitely a paradigm shift compared to traditional storage. We have yet to deploy it on a larger scale, but we're hoping it'll be able to fulfill those needs."

The company was looking for alternatives to big-box vendor storage arrays because it wanted to treat its storage in the same, non-persistent way it treats its virtual desktop--that is, information is destroyed once a user logs off. "We didn't want to buy a huge expensive frame for something that's here one second and gone the next," he says. It expects to save both operational and capital expenses, but does not yet know the amount.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based Atlantis has been selling the ILIO product for some time; what is new is the ability for it to run only on server-based memory, says Seth Knox, director of marketing.

The Atlantis implementation reviewed both with the company and the user is the highest-performing real-world VDI installation seen to date, says James Bagley, senior analyst and business development consultant for Storage Strategies NOW. In particular, the combination of Atlantis' input-out reduction with the Cisco blades creates phenomenal performance, especially since the end user already used Cisco for switching fabric across its network.

While other VDI implementations have used flash memory appliances, Atlantis is the first to demonstrate such an implementation on blade servers without using a storage appliance or disk array, he says. This is unique and is responsible for the high performance, which is 10 to 20 times the speed of other implementations in terms of input/output operations per second (IOPS), he says.

However, the "diskless" aspect is a bit misleading, says Henry Baltazar, senior analyst of storage and systems for 451 Research. While the technology is good for storing the operating system and applications, it does not account for user-generated data, such as spreadsheets, presentations, videos, pictures, PDFs and so on, which ultimately need to be stored on some sort of disk storage system, he says.

VDI has been very popular with vendors and industry pundits, but the market traction has not met expectations. Gartner estimated that there will be as many as 20 million virtual desktops in place by 2014, and last year CDW found that 90% of businesses were considering or implementing client virtualization projects. CDW also found that companies were having a number of problems with VDI, from greater-than-expected complexity to hard-to-calculate ROI and the challenge of training end users. According to IDC, U.S. thin-client sales will amount to less than 2 million units by 2013.

The product is shipping now. It is priced per named user, in the same way as Citrix and VMware systems, at $100 per desktop for the first user and at varying prices per user after that, depending on how many users there are, says Bernard Harguindeguy, president and CEO. It is delivered through Atlantis' 60 resellers and partners.

For a VDI alternative, see The Win 8 Transition by subscribing to Network Computing Pro Reports (free, registration required).