As technical director for the Rocori School District in Stearns County, Minn., Brian Michalski was looking into virtual desktop infrastructure as a way to cut costs in the schools' 13 computer labs.
He figured with less expensive endpoints and centralized control of resources, VDI would be more efficient and cost effective than the Dell desktops running Windows that the district had in place.
The plan was to use VMware View as the VDI client and he considered several other vendors to supply the additional storage that would be needed.
He considered HP and NetApp storage but found that for roughly the same price - $90,000 to $100,000 - he could get storage gear from NexGen, whose Fusion-io gear supported more IOPs per rack unit than the others.
For example, the NetApp alternative took up four rack units vs. three for NexGen and only supported 250 VDI IOPs vs. several thousand for NexGen, he says.
In fact, Michalski says, the NexGen storage supports the initial VDI need as well as the district's data center SAN, which he has migrated away from the Dell SAN it had before. The NexGen gear now hosts 30 virtual servers plus up to 100 virtual desktops, with about 60 in use at any one time. The old HP SAN is still in place for backup, giving the district the capacity to store backup data longer.
The NexGen gear supports QoS on applications accesing storage so critical apps don't slow down. The latest version of its software supports controlling this performance via VMware's vCenter dashboard.
Michalski says he also hopes to allow a more liberal BYOD policy under which students would be able to bring whatever device they have available and still tap into the school's resources such as accessing files, Office applications and printing.
Some devices that run demanding applications such as AutoCAD and Autodesk won't go virtual because performance would drop or they would require too many network resources.
The future of the VDI deployment is expanding to school staff. As virtual desktops proliferate the processing done on workstations shifts to servers, and that's working out fine so far, but any significant expansion will require careful calculation of CPU and RAM needs and budgeting for more server resources.
(Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/Tim_Greene.)
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