Posted by Kelly Murphy, Gridstore and Tom Rose, Unidesk
We had a great time the other day presenting on a very interactive webinar with Dave Kawula, Microsoft MVP. The topic was Breakthrough Economics for VDI – how Gridstore HyperConverged Infrastructure coupled with Unidesk application layering technology and Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) enable virtual desktops to be implemented for far less than the cost of physical PCs – $550 per user “all-in.” We were asked many, many questions during the webinar and while we answered a lot, there were still a number that we didn’t get to. We’ve put together the answers to those questions as well as the results of our polls.
If you weren’t able to attend, we highly recommend you watch the webinar replay. In addition to us presenting and answering questions, Dave provided a live demo of the Gridstore/Unidesk VDI solution. Watch the full webinar to find out how your environment can benefit from this solution (and you also have a chance to win an Amazon gift card). CLICK HERE FOR REPLAY
Below are the unanswered questions (again, we answered many during the webinar which you will hear in the replay), along with the results of our VDI polls.
Q: We are looking to replace 50 desktops with a virtual replacement. We use Hyper-V for our server virtualization. Is it more expensive if I have less than 1500 desktops?
A: Both of us have configurations for smaller implementations, starting as small as under 200 desktops. There are volume breaks for Unidesk and Gridstore, but the price even for a few hundred desktops will be less than buying new PCs (<$800).
Q: Will mobile users have the ability to access their desktop through a single connection?
A: Yes. In all VDI systems, mobile users use the connection broker component to authenticate themselves and access their desktops through a single connection. Most connection brokers now support all client devices (e.g. PCs, thin clients, smartphones, pads). When using Microsoft RDS, Unidesk and Gridstore for VDI, the Microsoft Remote Desktop clients and the RD Connection Broker that are part of the RDS service in Windows Server 2012 will give your mobile users access to their desktops.
Q: What is the feedback/acceptance of VDI from the “true” end-users (non IT people, ie. those in sales, finance, HR, etc departments)?
A: VDI user acceptance ranges, of course, based on the level of service you provide. If you give them a locked down desktop that performs poorly and doesn’t save their customizations, it won’t be good. If you give them an all-flash Gridstore desktop that is faster than their old PC, and you save all personalization with Unidesk layers, and you can deliver apps in minutes instead of weeks, and you can repair their desktop in 2 minutes just by rebooting with Unidesk personalization layer rollback, they will love it.
Q: Is Unidesk another service/application that you include in your current environment? Or does it replace say a current Citrix environment?
A: Unidesk is application and image management software that you run in your current environment. If you are running Citrix XenApp or Citrix XenDesktop, you would install the Unidesk virtual appliance on your existing virtual infrastructure and use it to deliver layered applications and operating systems to XenApp session hosts or XenDesktop desktops. If you are running Microsoft VDI, you would install Unidesk in your Hyper-V environment and use Unidesk alongside Microsoft RDS.
Q: What is the bandwidth per machine needed for remote offices or do you need a caching server at each location?
A: VDI in general works better over high bandwidth networks, but WAN optimizations in the most common protocols – RDP/RemoteFX, HDX, PCoIP – now offer excellent performance even over lower bandwidth networks. You can also add WAN optimization solutions such as Citrix NetScaler, or leverage the distributed management architecture of Unidesk and Microsoft RDS to install a local Gridstore appliance in each remote office. The local users will then connect to the local office instead of the main datacenter, but you’ll still be able to manage all desktops, images, and apps once centrally.
Q: In our environment, if malware is detected we are required to wipe the HDD and re-install the image. How does VDI handle redirected folders or persistent layers?
A: Unidesk can eliminate malware and viruses simply by rolling back the desktop to an earlier snapshot of the Personalization layer. That’s one of the benefits of layering – OS, App, and Personalization layers are versioned. You can also “undo” bad patches simply by assigning an earlier OS or App layer version to one or more desktops and restarting them.
Q: With Unidesk’s single layer (disk image) architecture for OS & similarly for applications, storage IOPS demand on those layers (disk images) are expected to become a bottleneck. Do you have a recommendation (thumb rule) on design of the underlying storage platform…?
A: It’s actually the opposite. Unidesk is proven to bring out the best performance in hybrid storage arrays because the virtual disk layers shared by many VMs become “hot,” and stay resident in flash, which has more than enough IOPS to satisfy read/write requests. On Gridstore, Unidesk layering is even faster because of the all-flash architecture.
Q: How does the ‘Personal’ layer of Unidesk interact with User Profile Disks from MS?
A: Unidesk is compatible with Microsoft User Environment Virtualization (UE-V) and standard roaming profiles. Some customers create personal, persistent desktops with Unidesk and choose not to use UE-V or profiles, allowing the Personalization layer to capture all customizations – settings, data, user-installed apps, plug-ins, etc. Other customers create non-persistent, pooled desktops with Unidesk that are shared by many users – in this case, the Personalization layer is destroyed after each desktop use, so UE-V or profiles are used to restore user settings.
Q: Why not use Parent Disks for OS/Apps and Differencing Disks for the top layer?
A: Many of Unidesk’s 1300 customers tried that in their first attempts at VDI. Differencing disks get blown away every time you patch, which blows away all user personalization. That quickly became a non-starter for most VDI projects, and is why everyone is now looking to use layering.
Q: Is there any plan to also support the Linux and UNIX OS for this layering technology?
A: Not today. Unidesk is for Windows app mobility, at least in the near term.
Q: Is this pricing annual or monthly?
A: We showed the one-time cost for RDS CALs, Unidesk licenses and the Gridstore appliance. There will be the usual annual maintenance (16-20%) on top of that.
Q: What is the yearly maintenance cost after making the initial purchase of $550 / user?
A: Standard 16-20% based on quantity of licenses purchased.
Q: Is he saying that all software licenses are included with your pricing? To clarify, all software needed to run VDI – Hyper-V, Microsoft VDI Client Bundle etc.
A: We did not include the cost of Windows Server/Hyper-V because many Microsoft customers already have that as part of their EA. We also didn’t include the Microsoft VDA (virtual desktop access) subscription of $100 per user per year. That’s only needed if you are going to access the virtual desktop through a non-Windows device. If you are reusing Windows PCs, that cost is not needed. We were trying to keep it an apples-to-apples comparison of VDI vs. a fixed PC.
Q: Do you have a product for the 10-50 user range? We service many small businesses.
A: Great question. This solution can scale down quite nicely.
Q: What about the hardware platform supermicro – will Gridstore enter in discussion to be Dell-aware or Lenovo-aware?
A: Great question – we have the ability to separate software from hardware and are considering future platforms. You’ll receive an announcement from us when a new platform has been certified.
Q: Does Gridstore have plans to offer “compute upgrades” as processors advance, without replacing the entire unit?
A: We find most customers will just purchase a new node. Even though a chassis holds up to four nodes, you can grow by a single node at a time. You do not need to purchase an entire block of 4 nodes each time.
Q: What is the lifespan of this solution?
A: VDI typically has a longer lifespan than PCs – 5-7 years.
Q: Does the cost per user scale up?
A: Yes, it actually gets less expensive the more you buy.
Q: Do Unidesk & Gridstore come as an appliance only or will customers have the option of choosing underlying hardware from their partner of choice and use the Unidesk/Gridstore layer on top of this? ?
A: The solutions are independent. Unidesk can run on any platform, but you can only get this kind of performance / ROI on the Gridstore hardware platform.
Q: Any thoughts on the processing overhead for running the VDI? Is there an advertised number from MS for Hyper-V?
A: This is a great question. Normally the bottleneck in our testing comes down to CPU Cycles. We will see the CPU maxing out on the Login VSI tests long before the storage / network.
Q: CPU dropped after 100%. Was the test conducted in “High Power” mode?
A: The first and last of the graph are warm-up and cool-down. It’s all run in “High Power” mode.
Q: What happens when the Internet goes down?
A: If the solution is set up to use private networks or a local LAN in the same facility, the Internet going down will have no impact, as all traffic is local. If you are using the Internet for connectivity and it goes down, the RDP protocol will try to reconnect. If the session times out, the user would simply re-logon once the Internet was back online and they would be placed back onto their desktop, picking up exactly where they left off.
Q: Would Gridstore be able to manage/handle other type of containers? (Docker, LXD, etc.)
A: Gridstore doesn’t care what kind of data is stored on it, and is fully compatible with all container technologies. However, when it comes to running VDI workloads on Gridstore, only application layering with Unidesk and the provisioning and collection management extensions that Unidesk has added to RDS are going to be applicable. Also note that container technologies such as Docker capture the operating system together with the application and are isolated from all other containers, whereas Unidesk layers capture only the application’s registry keys and files and are fully interoperable with other layers (i.e. layered apps look and feel as if they’ve been locally installed).
Q: VDI cost doesn’t include the physical device at the user (Monitor/Keyboard/NIC/CPU). How much is a low-end physical device for a VDI environment?
A: There are some very good options out there for Thin Clients from IGEL Technology –> They have a soft client that can even turn an older PC into a thin client which really drops the cost. There are also micro-PCs in the $100 range that ship with Windows, enabling you to avoid the VDA subscription.
Q: Why didn’t VDI cost didn’t include physical endpoint?
A: Good catch – you were listening carefully! For this model, we were assuming reusing existing PCs for virtual destkop access using IGEL, Dell, ThinPC or other “dumbing down” technologies others chatted about above. If you add in new thin clients and then the VDA license cost, that will bump the cost up a little, but it will still be less than new PCs.
Q: Are the solid-state drives deduped?
A: The Vstores can be deduplicated with Windows DeDupe and that scenario is supported by Microsoft + Hyper-V
Q: What about security? Working in healthcare there is always the HIPAA and HITECH regulations that need to be addressed.
A: By its nature, VDI enables better compliance with HIPAA and HITECH because patient data is no longer on the edge, but in the data center. VDI also provides a “follow me” desktop that lets clinicians pick up where they left off, promoting consistent use of EMR and other clinical systems. In addition, Gridstore and Unidesk are partnering with 5Nine to provide advanced security. Several joint healthcare customers are already using the Unidesk + Gridstore + 5nine combination – all better together.
Q: How do Gridstore and Unidesk work in a multi-tenant environment?
A: Both Gridstore and Unidesk are ideal for multi-tenant environments. Gridstore’s linear scaling makes it well-suited for small or large service providers who are offering hosted desktops for customers. Unidesk enables the Windows operating system and applications to be patched once to update all desktops. RDS collections, managed by Unidesk, can be used to separate tenants from each other and assign custom app layers on top of the same base OS layer. Highly granular roles/rights are being added in the next major release of Unidesk to allow administrators to “see” and manage only the applications and desktops used by their tenants.
The following provides the results of the polls taken during the webinar. Check them out and see how you compare with our attendees.
Poll 1: Have you got VDI deployed today?
Poll 2: What challenges concern you about VDI?
Poll 3: How many VDI users do you need to support?
We hope you enjoyed the webinar and this recap. Look for more developments from Gridstore and Unidesk as we execute on our recently announced partnership.