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A Review of Dell’s vWorkspace

Last week Centrinet attended a vWorkspace training session at the Dell Concourse Parkway site in Atlanta, GA. The session was held to introduce the partners to the new product, along with a demonstration of its capabilities.

We were very impressed and found the product to have some great new features. The administration console was very user-friendly with an intuitive layout; now one can access all of the configurations from a single pane of glass. Additionally, vWorkspace supports most of the major hypervisors in the market today, so it’s positioned to be a competitive low-cost solution for VDI and Terminal Server deployments.

When building out vWorkspace with a Hyper-V hypervisor, you can leverage a new feature in vWorkspace 8.x called HyperCache. From Dell’s internal documentation:

HyperCache provides read Input/Output Operations Per Second (IOPS) savings and improves virtual desktop performance through selective RAM caching of parent VHDs. This is achieved through the following:

Reads requests to the parent VHD are directed to the parent VHD cache.

Requests data that is not in cache is obtained from disk and then copied into the parent VHD cache.

Provides a faster virtual desktop experience as child VMs requesting the same data find it in the parent VHD cache.

Requests are processed until the parent VHD cache is full.

The default size is 800 MB, but can be changed through the Hyper-V virtualization host property.

This is a very nice feature and greatly improves the performance and user experience of the desktops.

The way that disk usage and workloads are managed makes vWorkspace highly efficient. During bake-off tests, Dell found that the desktop density of vWorkspace deployments was much higher (as much as 25% in some cases) than other solutions in the market.

By offering compatibility with a variety of low-cost storage solutions, and support for multiple desktop deployment technologies, vWorkspace makes a very attractive option for companies looking to deploy new desktop solutions.

IT Projects 3

Software Defined Storage (SDS): A Centrinet Case Study

I recently completed a very interesting client project based on MS Hyper-V and MS Storage Space, and wanted to share the details here today.

The Clients had been using the 2008 R2 Hyper-V CSV cluster with iSCSI storage, which was complex to manage. The steep costs for iSCSI storage were returning low levels of performance on the 1GbE iSCSI network. After looking at some alternative solutions, we proposed that they utilize the existing 2U DL380G7 servers’ local storage with Hyper-V 2012R2.

Details and Setup 

We used 4x Hyper-V 2012 R2 hosts by running local storage tiering with a 4x 450 GB 10K SAS drive and a 4x 400 GB SSD. Additionally, we enabled Windows data deduplication on the file system. This had the end result of maximizing the performance (since VMs run locally) while still preserving storage (deduplication).

This setup met the requirements of cost-effective high-performance storage, and simple management, but did not have redundancy without the use of shared storage.

To handle this, we implemented Hyper-V Replica to a fifth Hyper-V node (4x Hyper-V hosts continuously replicate changes on the VM to the fifth Hyper-V node). In case any of the Hyper-V hosts are experiencing hardware issues, they are able to bring up the VM in minutes. Additionally, we put a robust backup in place, which backs up VMs locally and replicates everything offsite.

Results

The clients were thrilled with the results. Their initial backup rate was 25-35 Mbps on the shared iSCSI SAN. After project completion the backup rate increased to 200-250 Mbps on their local storage.

Active VMs are now on SSD disks, versus the slow mechanical hard drives of the past. Hyper-V Replica gives clients an ability they’ve never before had – the ability to quickly restore VMs on the Hyper-V Replica node. In less than 5 minutes the client can bring back a failed VM, instead of having to suffer through the entire restoration process. Additionally, the Replica will have made 8 copies of the VM within a 24-hour period –there’s some reassurance!

Summary

This architecture fundamentally changes the ways we normally deploy virtualization solutions. Instead of having to acquire expansive blade servers, high-performance SANs, and high-performance storage networks, this architecture gives businesses the ability to use traditional rack mount servers to start virtualization projects. Now each server can potentially support 200-250 users, and the client doesn’t need to bleed in order to have in-house virtualization solutions.

This is a perfect example of utilizing software-defined storage (SDS). The only cost to the client is the solid-state drive (SSD). All of the necessary software features are free with Microsoft Server 2012 R2. And although this is not a silver bullet solution, it is a great alternative for anyone who is willing to look outside the box to move IT one step further from the cost center

 

 

Part III – Updating a Pooled Desktop Image

Applies to: Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2

Part III

In Part II we saw how to deploy and publish a Windows 7 pooled virtual desktop. Now let’s take a look at the steps needed in making a change or update to our image and making it available to users. To recap our environment, we have a Windows 7 pooled desktop collection available to our users. This was created from our master virtual machine called Win7master. Part of the process needed when we created our collection was to run sysprep on our master image. As a good practice measure, I created a checkpoint of the virtual machine prior to running sysprep. This was done so I can easily revert the virtual machine back to a normal state prior to when I ran sys-prep. Read more

Part II – Publishing a Windows 7 Pooled Desktop

Applies to: Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2

Part II

Now with our RD Virtualization Host deployed as per Part I of deploying VDI for RDS 2012, we are ready to publish a Windows 7 pooled VDI desktop. This section will cover the deployment of a pooled desktop and the options available when deploying the desktop. The first thing we will need is a Windows 7 virtual machine. I’ve pre-created this machine along with some applications installed on the image. Once you are done installing applications and configuring the Windows 7 image, we will need to prepare the image for deployment. In order to do this, we will need to run Sysprep with the following options. Read more

Part I – Deploying VDI for RDS 2012 / 2012R2

Applies to: Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2

In previous articles, we looked at the deployment steps of a traditional form of Remote Desktop Services (RDS) for 2012 and 2012 R2. Now let’s take a look at the setup of VDI for a 2012 RDS farm. This will be broken down into three parts. In this first part, we will go through the process of deploying the RD Virtualization Host role to a single Hyper-V server in an existing 2012 RDS farm. Then in the second part, we will go through the process of creating a desktop collection and publishing a Windows 7 pooled VDI desktop. Finally in part three, we will go through the process of maintaining a desktop image for a pooled desktop. This portion will cover the maintenance and updating of the main image in a pooled VDI desktop environment.

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