Case Study

Specialty Retailer Puts Flash Arrays Through Paces to Control Costs and Boost Productivity

A proof of concept in the WWT Advanced Technology Center provides unbiased testing at scale for VDI project

By showing evaluating each vendor’s products on equal footing against the customer’s specific requirements, WWT helped our customer make an intelligent decision that was right for them. –Matt Halcomb, WWT architect overseeing proof of concept

Challenge

A multinational specialty food and beverage firm wanted to deploy a 3500-seat virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment. By imaging laptops using VDI, the organization hoped to reduce IT deployment and support costs, as well as provide customized interfaces for different user groups.

The organization knew they would need to incorporate flash into their environment if their VDI plans were to be successful. But with all the hype surrounding flash storage and a complicated vendor landscape, the organization needed a way to put different leading flash technology through their paces to choose a flash solution that was right for their environment.

Known for conducting flash “bake-offs” at scale through the capabilities of our multi-vendor Flash Lab, inside of our Advanced Technology Center, the organization came to us to compare the performance of five flash solutions, each from a different OEM.

Solution

We were asked to perform a comprehensive performance and functionality test on flash arrays from EMC, HP-3PAR, Pure Storage, SolidFire and Coho Data. Using ATC tools like Login VSI, we were able to quickly emulate spinning up 1000 persistent desktops with 60GB hard drives and 20GB images. We ran these VMs using VMware Horizon View on eight dedicated B200 M3 Blades with eight dedicated 8Gb FC connections for each array.

Tests were designed to measure how quickly 1,000 desktops can be provisioned and also tested resiliency under a number of conditions such as what happens in the event of a boot storm, disk failure or shelf failure.

Specialty Retailer Puts Flash Arrays Through Paces to Control Costs and Boost Productivity

Results

WWT measured the time to provision, total I/O and manageability as well as other performance criteria. The customer was provided with a full report of results and could evaluate the contrasting features on a like-for-like basis.

For example, one OEM’s product required thick provisioning, meaning the image load required 60TB of server-side storage running in four shelves of rack storage. On the other hand, another OEM’s product only required 20GB of server-side storage to perform the task thanks to de-duplication algorithms. The offset was that the first OEM’s solution offered superior resiliency, but at high cost.

Based on the organization’s ability to tap into our ATC Flash Lab infrastructure, software and testing tools, they were able to determine a flash solution that was right for them within four weeks following the POC. In contrast, if they were to procure the needed equipment and conducted testing themselves, it would have taken months. They are now benefiting from reduced time to market by being able to push forward their VDI project.

Business outcomes as a result of this POC include:

  1. Reduction in risk. The customer is confident that they have chosen the best solution based on thorough evaluation.
  2. Increased speed-to-market by using WWT’s flash lab environment to conduct the final evaluation.
  3. By deploying laptop images using VDI, the customer was looking to reduce expenses while improving productivity.  VDI provides greater defense against catastrophic failure, improve update speeds, and provide an easy way to customize desktops for certain groups of users – ultimately increasing efficiency and reducing IT deployment and day-to-day support costs.