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Why you should go for HP StoreVirtual VSA and VMware Horizon View for VDI?

Why you should go for HP StoreVirtual VSA and VMware Horizon View for VDI?


Those of you who follow my personal blog: www.Amitabh-vWorld.Com know my love for demystifying VDI Reference Architectures. And if you don’t previously know of my love, then this is the perfect blog to introduce you to it.


Why should you read this blog post instead of the original Reference Architecture? 


Usually any Reference Architecture document is complex, boring and lengthy and as a result it usually remains unnoticed unless there is a specific and compelling reason. Reference Architecture is also likely to go unnoticed unless you are a solution consultants or architect.,

Through this blog post, I have demystified the Reference Architecture in a lucid, simplified style to get it reached out to the broader mass.


The HP and VMware Relationship 


HP is a Platinum Partner of VMware and the relationship goes a long way in all the three stacks: Data Center Virtualization, Cloud and End User Computing. Most of HP’s hardware and software has been designed to work with VMware’s Virtualization and Cloud products. These include:

  • HP DL-Series servers / BL-Series blades
  • HP StoreVirtual VSA / HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage.
  • HP Software Products like Arcsight, CSA, SA, OO

(The list is very long…)

According to Gartner, HP has been the number one vendor to ship VMware ESXi Server Software with HP Servers and Blades.


HP and VMware Client Virtualization Relationship: 

Although HP-Citrix relationship in the EUC (End User Computing) space perhaps goes more a long way, HP-VMware relationship is also quite strong. Some of them are:

1. HP Servers and Blades for VMware Horizon View and vSphere (VMware vSphere provides the Management Infrastructure for the VDI)

2. HP Thin and Zero Clients specially optimized for PCoIP (VMware Horizon View uses PC Over IP Protcol by Teradici Inc. as the main transport protocol) are known to be the leading end-point devices for VDI. Please see the details here.


What’s the unique thing in this Reference Architecture?


Usually the VMware Horizon View Reference Architectures have some common elements but may differ how these elements fit together in the design. I had earlier discussed “How VDI works on Converged Appliances like Pivot3” (and Nutanix, V3 Systems too) in this post. However, in HP’s case (in this Ref. Architecture), interestingly it is about implementing VDI without any shared storage, NO NAS – NO SAN! And unlike the converged appliance vendors mentioned above, it is hardware agnostic!


How’s that possible? VDI without Shared Storage and without Converged Appliance!?

Rather it efficiently uses the local storage of HP DL380 series servers by virtualizing the local storage and presenting them to the vSphere Layer (without the need of a SAN/NAS) through HP StoreVirtual VSA in a form off-late termed as Software Defined Storage. This whole “Software Defined Storage” concept is a pretty interesting and practical approach! Let’s explore further…


Unique traits in this VDI design:

1. Use of Stateless Virtual Desktops: Stateless Virtual Desktops are not dedicated to any user. As soon as the user logs off, the desktop returns to the pool and will be assigned to the next user.

2. Use of Local SSDs (HP IO Accelerator): HP IO Accelerators (A breakthrough product from HP and Fusion-IO) for ProLiant Servers are PCI e card-based, direct-attached solid state storage technology solution for application performance enhancement. Based on MLC and SLC NAND Flash Technology, these devices are ideal for low latency workloads requiring high transaction rates and real-time data access such as VDI. In this scenario 785GB Cards are used. See the picture of it below.


(Picture: HP Fusion-IO Storage Accelerator PCIe Card inside HP ProLiant Servers)


3. Hot-Plug SAS Storage: Each of the HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8 Servers used here, comes with four 300GB SFF (Small-Form-Factor) 10K RPM (10,000 Rotation per Minute) Hot Plug (Hot-Plug meaning you can add/remove these drives without taking the server in maintenance mode) Enterprise SAS hard disk drives.

4. HP StoreVirtual VSA (Virtual Storage Appliance) Software: HP StoreVirtual VSA aggregates all the local storage from each individual server, combines and presents as a Virtual SAN/NAS storage aggregating to a RAID10 based 1.17TB of Total Storage. HP StoreVirtual VSA used to be previously known as HP LeftHand VSA P4000.

5. HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8 Servers: This is a leading server product from the award-winning ProLiant series servers. It comes with Intel® Xeon® CPU E5-2680 @2.70 GHz (and higher), dual socket with 8-cores per socket (16 cores in total), 256 GB RAM (and more depending on the server specification). There are three such servers used in this Ref. Architecture.

6. Single Vendor SLA: Since all the components are from HP, there’s surely a better SLA in place unlike in the case of Cisco-Nexenta or Cisco-Nimble type Horizon View Ref. Architectures.

So, now that we are introduced to the building blocks, let’s integrate them.

Typically a VMware Horizon View infrastructure looks more or less like this shown in the diagram. (Courtesy: VMware):


In our case, HP as well advocates the use of dedicated management cluster and separates it from the VDI cluster.


The Management Cluster: The management cluster holds the base infrastructure for the VDI cluster. Here it is hosted by two separate servers which contain the following Management Components:

Active Directory/DNS Server | vCenter Server with View Composer | View Connection Server | DHCP Server | 3 VSA Software Appliances.  

All of these components have been placed as virtual machines.

As per this Ref. Architecture each HP DL380p Gen8 Host is capable of hosting up to 200 virtual desktops, for a total of 600 virtual desktops for all three servers.


Replica Base Image Placement & Linked Clones Placement: on SSD (HP IO Accelerator)

User data, The Parent Base Image & the Swap files of Virtual Desktops Placement: on Shared Storage

Management Components Placement: on Shared Storage


(* The shared storage is the aggregate of all local SAS/SATA drives from each server and culmination of a Virtual SAN by the use of HP StoreVirtual VSA. HP StoreVirtual VSA is scalable, fully redundant and highly available.) HP StoreVirtual presents a shared storage of 1.17TB on RAID10 whereas the individual SAS/SATA drives are configured on RAID5 on the server level with 4 HDDS of 300GB each)


Physical Networking: Two 10gbps 24 port HP 5920AF-24XG switches offer low latency response.

Virtual Networking:  A DvSwitch (vSphere Distributed Virtual Switch) has been configured on the vSphere Layer with 2000 ports and separates port groups for iSCSI, Management Network and Virtual Desktop Traffic. According to the port groups, different vLANs have also been configured and used so that traffic isolation can happen on the network level.

Virtual Desktop Base Image: Windows 7 32/64-bit optimized for lower IOPS consumption. The base image VM is of 1vCPU, 1GB RAM and 24GB Virtual Disk.


Let’s keep it short or else it will be no different from the Ref. Architecture itself. The validation tests, results and other information can be found at the Official HP Link for the Reference Architecture.


Here we see how a high performance VDI can be implemented without going for a huge upfront investment on a SAN/NAS storage instead opting for HP Servers (with IO-Accelerator), HP StoreVirtual VSA and VMware Horizon View. Although off-late Nexenta, VMware, StorMagic, FalconStore like vendors have come up with similar Software Defined Storage solutions, still HP StoreVirtual VSA is considered to be the trend-setter and the best of the lot!


Thanks for your time! As they say “Sharing is Caring”, feel free to share with your social network.  (Best, Amitabh - My LinkedIn Profile - Follow Me on Twitter: @AmitabhPancham)

(This article was originally published in Amitabh’s Personal Blog: http://Amitabh-vWorld.Comin 2013)

Sr. Virtualization, Cloud & VDI Consultant. Independent Evangelist & Blog Author of: Amitabh-vWorld.Com
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About the Author


Amitabh is a Virtualization, Cloud Computing & VDI focused IT Consulting & Architecture Professional. He comes with 17 years of strong IT Infrastructure Consulting & Architecture experience with leading MNCs like Microsoft, HP. He has designed & implemented several mid. to large scale IT Infrastructure Projects involving technologies from VMware, HP, Microsoft, Citrix, Linux. He is also an Independent Product/Technology Evangelist around Virtualization & Cloud Computing in the Asia Pacific region. His Blog: http://Amitabh-vWorld.Com generates lot of interest among the VMware & VDI community. His visionary articles on Cloud & VDI were extremely well appreciated around the world and received immense re-twitts.