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In today's new work-from-home reality, organizations worldwide are scrambling to acquire reliable, easy-to-use productivity solutions that support a fast, agile move to remote collaboration. One critical component of that solution is the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), allowing remote and mobile users to access tools anytime, as needed, wherever they are, while data remains safe and secure. 

IT veterans might be skeptical, recalling the challenges and missteps of early VDI deployments. But that was then and today's VDI has a vastly different story to tell. 

WWT will soon showcase the latest VDI innovations in our Advanced Technology Center (ATC): an Intel® Select Solutions reference design based on a hyper-converged environment that scales virtual desktops simultaneously for high performance and increased density, at less per-desktop cost. And, this upcoming VDI offering benefits from powerful new large memory capacity and highly performant dedicated storage available in Intel Xeon Scalable processor-based systems, as well as a superior hyper-converged environment and a smarter approach to workloads.

WWT to introduce VDI done right – with HCI and Intel Select Solutions

To appreciate some of the pitfalls of VDI when it was introduced, rewind to 12-plus years ago and the emergence of virtualization. System designers at that time were careful to start with the easiest applications. But when they tried to virtualize a desktop environment, they underestimated the workload demands and the impact they would have on other business-critical workloads. What's more, they used a shared infrastructure and shared storage array, which lacked sufficient desktop density on the hardware and actually raised per-desktop costs compared to traditional workstations. Users disliked the glacial performance and limited functionality. These and other deployment issues overshadowed VDI's benefits of centralized management and data security, damaging VDI's reputation as a viable solution. 

In designing today's VDI solution, WWT and Intel recognized the importance of providing dedicated compute, memory and network resources that are also scalable – the same approach used for databases, high-performance computing (HPC) and other essential yet demanding workloads. The logical choice: VDI atop a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) equipped with the right technologies and components.

VDI will be featured in the ATC as one of our principal HCI use cases: resources to run demanding workloads in a VMware vSAN environment, properly matched with the number of virtual desktop users. This all-in-one-place model is based on an Intel Select Solutions reference design, offering appealing advantages such as verified performance for streamlined deployment.

For those unfamiliar, Intel Select Solutions are verified hardware/software stacks that are optimized for specific workloads across compute, storage and network. Rather than spending days or weeks performing research, configuration and fine-tuning, Intel Select Solutions simplify the task by presenting a short list of pre-verified, balanced and optimized choices that are benchmarked to deliver high performance, price/performance and security.

Technologies working together to power today's VDI

The new Intel Select Solutions for VMware Horizon VDI on vSAN incorporates an array of complementary Intel technology assets working together to accelerate workloads. 

VMware vSAN server node
Source: Principled Technologies

These solution ingredients include:

  • The 2nd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processor for greater performance over previous-gen processors. VDI is a CPU-intensive workload highly dependent on providing the cores and frequency required to support users and whatever applications they need to run to be productive.
  • Intel Optane persistent memory 100 series, an innovative memory technology that delivers a unique combination of affordable large capacity memory with support for data persistence.
  • Intel Optane SSDs are used to create a new, accelerated caching tier with low latency and high throughput, endurance and QoS to help end data access bottlenecks.
  • Intel 3D NAND SSDs to further expand storage capacity with high performance and reliability.

The result: a high-performance solution that lets you achieve greater density, increasing the number of users with less need for additional servers for reduced total cost of ownership. And now as an Intel Select Solutions offering, deployment of this VDI architecture becomes vastly easier.

Adding Intel Optane persistent memory delivers profound improvement

Principled Technologies recently conducted hands-on testing to measure the impact of Intel Optane persistent memory on a VDI solution. Researchers compared three memory configurations on otherwise-identical server clusters – same storage, processor and network resources. Their findings revealed that adding Intel Optane persistent memory alongside a small amount of traditional DRAM increased the VMware Horizon® virtual desktop count by 25 percent over the base configuration, to 200 desktop users. The sizes used for the VDI instances were 2vCPU and 16GB of memory.

They found that doubling the amount of Intel Optane persistent memory increased desktops over the base configuration by 87 percent, for a total of 300 desktop users. This indicated that supporting more users doesn't necessarily require purchasing additional servers. It should be noted that the increase in desktop density was not done via overprovisioning the resources; the solution supported this density without experiencing the CPU wait or memory ballooning issues that can plague a poorly designed solution.

Three hundred VDI users is only the beginning: WWT has invested in software to test and monitor the performance and availability of centralized desktop environments such as VDI to support up to 1,000 users at a time when performing its own synthetic workload testing. This testing suite goes beyond standard density calculators, measuring performance/latency experienced by users inside the actual desktop.

Put WWT's next-gen VDI solution to your own test in the ATC

Learning from their shared experience of 2020, organizations around the world are suddenly clamoring for new remote solutions such as VDI. Through years of technology collaboration, WWT and Intel have laid the groundwork for this moment – together, we've been first to offer an array of leading-edge technologies to support virtualization: We were one of the first system integrator partners to offer Intel Select Solutions for VMwarevSAN; one of the first to accelerate solutions built on 2nd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors and Intel Optane persistent memory 100 series; and now, we're showcasing technologies we will soon be offering as an Intel Select Solutions reference design for desktop virtualization infrastructure in our Advanced Technology Center.

WWT invites you to gauge for yourself the potential performance gains of this new approach to VDI on a hyper-converged infrastructure, and discover how it can benefit your own organization. Come put it to the test in the ATC, or schedule a personal VDI workshop or lab to learn more.

Intel, the Intel logo, Xeon, Optane and other Intel marks are trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries.