Hands Down the Ultimate VDI/DaaS platform – Persistent Desktops

A while back I wrote an article entitled “Open letter to non-persistent VDI fanboys…”. In the article I provided reasons to why persistent VDI makes more sense nowadays for the large majority of use cases. A number of community members have chimed in, and that culminated into a live debate during VMworld 2013 that was mediated by Gunnar Berger, research director for Gartner’s IT Professionals Services (watch the debate here).
In my original article I claimed that non-persistent desktops, Linked Clones, and alternative image and app management are not a requirement any longer for the large majority of VDI use cases because today it is possible to utilize fully provisioned persistent desktops without the usual capacity and performance penalties, and most importantly in a cost-effective manner.
In addition to the above, administrators can still use the same tools they are familiar with to manage Windows environments without incurring in additional learning, licensing costs, or instead having to manage VDI in an entirely new and different way than all other Windows devices. This approach has also proven to reduce OPEX and VDI rollout timeframes.
Brian Madden from BrianMadden.com response in my blog article had the following remark “I am 100% on board with getting there as painlessly as possible, which in most cases is P2Ving (whether literally or figuratively) your existing desktop environment, and that’s going to require persistent support…
Here is where I want to drive your attention to what Nutanix offers today and how it is unrivaled by ANY of the infrastructure solutions on the market. Please bear with me as I go through the Nutanix awesomeness that allow VDI implementations of any size to be rolled out as smooth as they can be. Please note that if you are completely unfamiliar with Nutanix just click here and learn more.

  • Scale-Out

Nutanix is a web-scale platform in which compute and storage can be independently scaled via the use of CPU and storage-heavy nodes in the same cluster with predictable performance. Nutanix utilizes a shared-nothing architecture where every node works completely independent from the rest of the cluster, eliminating choke points.
However, what really matters is that organizations are not required to procure costly infrastructure solutions on day one if the initial VDI project is only catering for a small number of users. The Nutanix cluster will grow linearly with predictable performance as your VDI implementation grows overtime. None of the monolithic storage solutions on the market are able to provide this linear scale-out approach with such granular and cost effective scaling increments.
This scale-out approach also has a profound impact on Service Providers economics enabling them to minimize investments while also improving operational efficiency.



  • Heterogeneous Hypervisors

Nutanix is hypervizor agnostic, supporting vSphere, KVM and Hyper-V. The platform is able to aggregate different node types concurrently in a single Nutanix cluster. That allows organizations to run VMware Horizon View on vSphere, XenDesktop on vSphere or Hyper-V, Virtual Bridges on KVM, or any other option that comprises these hypervizors.



  • Elastic De-duplication

Nutanix has a de-duplication engine built into the solution that works for data stored in DRAM and Flash.
What many people don’t know about Nutanix is that it is a 3-tier platform, and utilizes DRAM, Flash and HDD. This combination provides access to constantly accessed data in terms of microseconds, instead of milliseconds when only Flash is used. This is an awesome feature that influence and enhances the VDI end-user experience.
The de-duplication engine is designed for scale-out, providing near instantaneous application response times. Also, because Nutanix is platform agnostic, this feature is available in whatever hypervizor or VDI solution you chose to work with.
How does it work?
Every disk write is fingerprinted with US Secure Hash Algorithm 1 (SHA1) during the creation of the desktop VM or during user operations. The important thing to know is that only a single analogous data block is stored in the Nutanix cluster at the performance tiers (DRAM or Flash). Because of this de-duplication more capacity is available at the performance tiers.
In VDI context this basically means that persistent desktops can be deployed without the capacity or performance penalties commonly existent with most storage solutions.


Interesting fact – Nutanix uses the native SHA1 optimization available on Intel processors, reducing host CPU consumption and improving hash operations performance.
I’ll talk more about de-duplication in a future article.

  • Compression

As new data is created by users and written to disks the Nutanix compression automatically compress data at the capacity tier when this data is not in-use any longer or not required to remain in the performance tier.
Frequently in VDI environments capacity can be culprit of many issues when Linked Clones are not implemented, and this is the reason Linked Clones were created to begin with – storage capacity reduction. Nutanix compression increases the usable capacity across all storage tiers eliminating the capacity bottleneck and effectively enabling organizations to deploy persistent desktops.
Tests have demonstrated capacity reduction of up to 75% for VDI user data footprint.


The compression algorithms have been purpose-built for virtualization and in the future I will discuss more about this technology.

  • Data Locality

Nutanix utilizes a shared-nothing distributed architecture and it ensures data is always replicated across Flash, HDD, Nodes and Blocks for high availability. A desktop VM may access data from anywhere on a Nutanix cluster, but Nutanix controllers (CVM) will always ensure that overtime active data blocks that belong to a desktop VM are present in the host where the desktop is currently running. This process is transparent and occurs in the background using free CVM cycles.
Data Locality is a key performance enabler for VDI or any other workload, always ensuring important VM and user data is always as close as possible to memory and CPU, avoiding multiple hops and eliminating dependency on Storage Area Network.
Josh Odgers explains in detail Nutanix Data Locality in his article “Data Locality & Why is important vSphere DRS clusters

  • Native Disaster Recovery and Replication

This is the one of most impressive features in my opinion, and I am still learning about it. I will briefly explain it, but I will write an article dedicated to disaster recovery and replication in the near future.
Nutanix has built-in VM-Centric, multi-site, bi-directional, multi-topology disaster recovery and replication engine that supports VMware Site Recovery Manager and Run Book Automation tools.
The replication utilizes incremental and fine-grained byte-level data transfers with intelligent data compression, eliminating network and storage resource throttle. At the end of the day this means cost and time saving for organizations.


The cool part now!
Nutanix enables administrators to completely fail over entire VDI deployments to a secondary datacenter and later on fall back with all data created in the secondary datacenter already replicated back to the primary datacenter. No LUN modification, no re-signaturing, no re-configuration, no expensive hardware. Simple!
These features allow organizations to put Linked Clones and it’s complex management in the past.
Note: Stretched VLAN is required for seamless DR and fallback capabilities. Optionally, SRM can be used to manage desktop IP addresses in each datacenter.

  • Supporting the Non-Persistent model

Nutanix is also an exceptional platform for Linked Clones with features that take Linked Clones and non-persistent desktops to extreme performance levels. In another post I will talk about features like Nutanix Shadow Clones and View Composer Array Integration.
Non-Persistent (also known as Floating Pools) powered by Linked Cloning technology are a special category of VDI, where desktops are refreshed at some point in time, usually after user logoff, returning to its pristine state.
Desktops in this pool model are assigned to the user at logon time and every time the user re-connects he/she may or may not get the same virtual desktop. It is also possible to refresh or delete virtual desktops after first use, ensuring every user always get a clean and functional desktop.
If your organization has use-cases for non-persistent desktops you should work with  LiquidwareLabs and Unidesk. These companies have powerful softwares that enable user-installed applications  and app layering with non-persistent desktops.
These are just some of the architecture features that make Nutanix the best platform for hosting VDI and DaaS. However, what isn’t in this article is the outstanding 365/24/7 global support and the highly skilled team of architects comprised of VCP’s, VCDX’s and CCIE’s that exhaustively help customers realize maximum results.
Thanks to Dwayne Lessner and Josh Odgers for reviewing the accuracy of this article.
This article was first published by Andre Leibovici (@andreleibovici) at myvirtualcloud.net.


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    • Sketch on 01/22/2014 at 3:55 am

    Ok. I’m done. I’m done with your blog. I had followed it to keep up with virtualization news and ideas and tech issues – not for ongoing commercials for your new company. I understand that you’re at a new company and you may be excited – but its too much “cornpone opinion” for me. if you want people to use it – explain how to use it, not WHY (you think) they should use it.

  1. Sketch, thanks for the candid feedback. You need to understand that I moved companies for a very special reason, when I could have stayed with VMware and keep blogging VMware and doing the very same thing. The world is in constant change, so do we.

    Now, off course I will get to the technical articles and walkthroughs, but first I need to baseline knowledge. Many people don’t even know what Nutanix or GFS really is and this baselining is critical.

    So, please bear with me and we will get to the technical deep stuff.


    • forbsy on 01/23/2014 at 7:56 am

    I just think it’s funny how you were so negative about Unidesk in the past and called it not a true layering solution – and now you’re touting it as great. I wonder what changed? Oh yah, you don’t work at VMware anymore :-).

    • forbsy on 01/23/2014 at 7:59 am

    Unidesk is actually more positioned with Persistent desktops btw. They can also support non-persistent but their architecture enables the storage capacity savings of non-persistent when running persistent. So, really no need to deploy floating desktops with Unidesk – unless your use case demands it (i.e. call centre)

  2. forbsy, first of all I need you to point me to any article, blog post or comment I have made about Unidesk where I am being negative about their product or approach. I have never said they are not true layering. Would you please point me to any reference?

    In my article entitled “Open letter to VDI fanboys…” I even say “For use cases where there is a fit, Unidesk, Horizon Mirage and other players on the market will be able to help you”. Your statement is not correct and I must say I am a big fan of Unidesk.

    Now, of course , being a VMware employee and having a product that sort of compete with Unidesk I will not go and discuss or evangelize on Unidesk. That’s just non-compete, but you have never seen me talking bad about Unidesk or LiquidwareLabs or about any other vendor on the market. That’s just not me.

    I would love to see a Nutanix and Unidesk reference architecture and perhaps even deeper software integration, truly enabling the SDDC for VDI.


    • forbsy on 01/23/2014 at 9:02 am

    Sure. Here’s the link:

    If you read the comments section you state ‘Unidesk, despite great product and has it’s use cases, is not persistent desktop. Additionally, as you know, namespace and app virtualization have it’s limitations’

    That sounds like maybe you didn’t understand what Unidesk is. It is actually persistent desktop first and foremost. It has nothing do do with app virtualization. Glad to hear that you’re supporting them though because I think their solution should be included with any VDI design.

    I’d also love to see a Nutanix/Unidesk reference architecture.

  3. forsby, in the reference you point I am not talking negatively about Unidesk, as a company or product. I even say it’s a great product. Sure, there are limitations to what can be done with layering and other image management technologies, but it’s much improved than 1 or 2 years ago.

    Let’s put that to bed… we both agree it’s great technology.


    • forbsy on 01/23/2014 at 10:46 am

    Agreed! 🙂 Nutanix is actually a partner of my company. I like the solution. I’ll be interested in reading more of your technical related posts about Nutanix. I’m interested in hearing actual technical differentiation against other hyper-converged solutions like Simplivity and VSAN.

  1. […] this week in my article Hands Down the Ultimate VDI/DaaS platform – Persistent Desktops I described how Nutanix help organizations to achieve higher performance, […]

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