Transforming Desktop Computing

While at VMworld 2010 in San Francisco this year, I got to meet up and talk with Robert from Atlantis Computing.  Our conversation was about VDI and he was quite proud of the capabilities that Atlantis ILIO brings to the table in the VDI space.  The conversation went well and got me interested in investigating a little further on the technology.  Atlantis ILIO or “VDI Booster” as they like to call it, is a solution to address the complexity and high costs of VDI Deployment and management. ILIO has been architected to support most of the main VDI players like VMware View, Citrix XenDesktop, Microsoft Hosted Virtual Desktop (HVD),and Quest Software vWorkplace, etc.

That sounds great but what does this VDI booster do and how does it work? 

Atlantis ILIO is a virtual appliance that can be installed in one of two ways. The first way is a Shared ILIO where a single ILIO appliance runs on an HA cluster as a single instance. In this configuration the ILIO servers are shared between several VDI servers and the shared image components as well as the unique user data are stored in the SAN/NAS servers. When the user accesses a virtual desktop, the virtual machine boots from an ILIO virtual disk image that synthesizes all image components from the NAS or SAN storage.

The second method of installation is Dedicated ILIO.  In this configuration the virtual appliance is run on each physical host VDI server.  The shared ILIO image components, such as operating system and application are stored on locally attached storage of the host.  This method makes image provisioning extremely fast and reduces the amount of disk I/O needed for this operation.

The job of the appliance is to act as a go between or a proxy between the physical host and the storage, to the point that the I/O traffic passes between the appliance and the storage.  This gives the Atlantis ILIO the ability to perform deduplication from cache memory of the ILIO appliance.  The first question that came to mind for me after hearing this was how much memory the ILIO is going to need to be able handle the work load and get the most out of the environment?  The recommended answer was for the ILIO appliance to have 16GB of RAM available to it. By caching all the shared image components in the ILIO appliance it reduces the amount of IOPS needed to the storage disks themselves.

When implementing ILIO you have the ability to create a base virtual machine from scratch to use as the main golden image or also the ability to P2V a physical workstation into the gold image giving you flexibility when creating and administrating the image template. This gold or master image is the base of all the virtual machines so there is no need in patching hundreds or thousands of desktops, just the master image itself. With each individual user specific customization and applications being treated as a user information layer and that layer can be quickly and easily reset to a clean slate or to a known good configuration instantaneously without any changes at all to other layers. Each application would fall as a separate image component and/or layer

All in all at first glance I can really see how this is going to help optimize and maximize your VDI infrastructure which will increase your return on investment as well as provide performance gains for your end users.

Steve Beaver (142 Posts)

Stephen Beaver is the co-author of VMware ESX Essentials in the Virtual Data Center and Scripting VMware Power Tools: Automating Virtual Infrastructure Administration as well as being contributing author of Mastering VMware vSphere 4 and How to Cheat at Configuring VMware ESX Server. Stephen is an IT Veteran with over 15 years experience in the industry. Stephen is a moderator on the VMware Communities Forum and was elected vExpert for 2009 and 2010. Stephen can also be seen regularly presenting on different topics at national and international virtualization conferences.

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