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Specialty Retailer Puts Flash Arrays Through Paces to Control Costs and Boost Productivity

Proof of concept in the Advanced Technology Center provides unbiased testing at scale for VDI project

Challenge

A multinational specialty food and beverage firm wanted to deploy a 3,500-seat virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment. By imaging laptops using VDI, the organization hoped to reduce IT deployment, support costs and provide customized interfaces for different user groups.

The organization knew it would need to incorporate flash into its environment if their VDI plans were to be successful. But with all the hype surrounding flash storage and a complicated vendor landscape, the organization needed a way to test and compare competing flash technology products in order to find one that was right for their environment.

Because we're well known for conducting flash product comparisons at scale through our multi-vendor Flash Lab inside the Advanced Technology Center (ATC), the organization engaged WWT to compare the performance of five flash solutions, each from a different OEM.

Solution

We were asked to perform comprehensive performance and functionality testing of flash arrays from Dell EMC, HP-3PAR, Pure Storage, SolidFire and Coho Data. Using ATC tools like Login VSI, we were able to quickly emulate spinning up 1,000 persistent desktops with 60GB hard drives and 20GB images. We ran these VMs using VMware Horizon View on eight dedicated B200 M3 Blades with eight dedicated 8Gb FC connections for each array.

Tests were designed to measure how quickly 1,000 desktops could be provisioned. We tested resiliency under a number of conditions, such as what happens in the event of a boot storm, disk failure or shelf failure.

Flash array diagram

Results

WWT measured the time to provision, total I/O and manageability as well as other performance criteria. The customer received a full report of results and was able to evaluate the contrasting features on a like-for-like basis.

For example, one OEM’s product required thick provisioning, meaning the image load required 60TB of server-side storage running in four shelves of rack storage. Comparatively, another OEM’s product only required 20GB of server-side storage to perform the task thanks to de-duplication algorithms. The offset was that the first OEM’s solution offered superior resiliency, but at high cost.

Based on the organization’s ability to tap into our ATC Flash Lab infrastructure, software and testing tools, they were able to comprehensively test and identify a flash solution that was right for them within four weeks. In contrast, if they had procured the needed equipment and conducted testing themselves, it would have taken several months.

WWT accelerated the customer's time-to-market through a streamlined product comparison that enabled them to push ahead with their VDI project.

Business outcomes

The outcomes that resulted from the proof of concept include:

  1. Reduction in risk. The customer is confident they have chosen the best solution based on thorough evaluation.
  2. Increased speed-to-market by using our Flash Lab environment to conduct the final evaluation.
  3. By deploying laptop images using VDI, the customer was looking to reduce expenses while improving productivity.  VDI provides greater defense against catastrophic failure, improves update speeds and provides an easy way to customize desktops for certain groups of users — ultimately increasing efficiency and reducing IT deployment and day-to-day support costs.