Greenbytes revs IO Offload Engine to spark VDI adoption

Greenbytes delivers an IO Offload Engine to remove VDI system traffic from the data path and increase IOPS for virtual desktops.

Greenbytes Inc. today introduced its virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) IO Offload Engine, built to separate VDI system traffic from data traffic and process that system traffic on an inline appliance.

With the new appliance, Greenbytes is shifting from a storage array vendor to one dedicated to selling systems for VDI, although Michael Robinson, vice president of marketing communications, said Greenbytes will continue to support its GB-X, HA-3000 and Solidarity storage arrays. He also leaves the door open to a return to selling storage for specific markets.

“We are absolutely laser-focused on VDI and solving the I/O problem with the IO Offload Engine,” Robinson said. “That said, down the line, you might see us reintroduce a storage capacity product -- likely for ‘big data’ -- along the lines of what we have been known for up until today.”

The Greenbytes IO Offload Engine is designed to remove I/O loads required for VDI provisioning, boot traffic and swap files, allowing the back-end storage system to handle the application data. Installation of the Offload Engine requires no changes to existing storage systems. The device includes dual active controllers; power supplies; Fibre Channel (FC), iSCSI and 10 Gbps Ethernet network connections; and automatic failover for high availability.

“We’ve developed a product specifically architected to offload I/O off the storage controller into a dedicated appliance so the storage controller can carry on and do the work it was designed to do,” said Steve O’Donnell, Greenbytes chairman.

O’Donnell said the IO Offload Engine removes the major storage obstacles to VDI implementations. “The two major constraints we are seeing are performance and costs,” O’Donnell said. “It requires very large amounts of RAM in servers and extremely performant storage controllers on the back end to deliver the number of IOPS and reduce the swap traffic to enable VDI to operate effectively.”

The IO Offload Engine uses Greenbytes’ data deduplication to reduce VDI images by up to 90%, O’Donnell said. It also can scale to 500,000 desktops. “A single box can support somewhere between 4,500 and 5,000 VDI sessions,” he said, “and we can scale these out to support hundreds of thousands of sessions.”

Greenbytes will formally set pricing next week, but the IO Offload Engine is expected to cost about $5.25 per VDI seat per month. The entry point is 1,000 VDI seats.

Mark Bowker, a senior analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group, said he is intrigued by the pricing but wonders what the reaction will be to an inline device.

“Anytime that you sit in-band with any application or any workload, you’re automatically perceived as being overhead,” Bowker said, adding that Greenbytes will have to educate customers on how the inline product can reduce IOPS and latency.

Greenbytes faces no direct competition, but VDI vendors Citrix Systems Inc. and VMware Inc. use flash caching with their VDI software to speed performance.

Greenbytes is targeting managed service providers, Internet service providers, telecommunications providers and enterprises, O’Donnell said. He said Greenbytes is looking into eventually incorporating the device into a blade architecture and possibly even switches.

Senior news director Dave Raffo contributed to this story.

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