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Atlantis Computing handles virtual desktops' persistent data in RAM

Todd Erickson

Atlantis Computing this week launched a version of its virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) software that speeds performance and reduces storage requirements for persistent virtual desktops.

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Atlantis ILIO Persistent VDI 4.0 runs as a virtual machine (VM) inside local server memory, and creates and delivers persistent desktops within that server RAM. The ILIO virtual desktops are registered and created as network file system, or NFS, data stores for provisioning by Citrix Systems Inc.'s XenDesktop and VMware Inc.'s View desktop virtualization platforms.

ILIO Persistent VDI is a new application, but Atlantis gave it the 4.0 version number to keep it consistent with other ILIO applications. In January 2012, Atlantis launched its ILIO Diskless VDI software for nonpersistent desktops.

A persistent desktop is a virtual desktop that maintains user settings and data. Each time a user logs onto the persistent desktop, all personalized settings, shortcuts, files and data appear. Nonpersistent, or stateless, virtual desktops don't retain personal desktop information. At the end of a stateless session, the desktop returns to its original state.

Because it handled only nonpersistent data, there was skepticism about whether ILIO Diskless VDI was truly diskless: Nonpersistent desktops create data that must be kept on networked storage.

The Persistent VDI 4.0 in-memory virtual desktop technology processes file-system traffic and performs desktop-image inline deduplication within RAM, eliminating the need for primary back-end storage.

By running all sessions on server RAM as primary storage, the new ILIO software reduces storage traffic sent over the network and improves VDI performance.

Seth Knox, director of marketing at Atlantis, said the persistent VDI application can reduce the amount of storage needed by around 95% because "almost everything is a duplicate block within a Windows 7 operating system and applications -- which is what makes it possible to run the entire virtual machine in a small amount of memory."

Knox claims the Persistent VDI 4.0 version will bring diskless virtual desktops to the majority of installed VDI environments. "The reason we focused so much on persistent desktops is because about 70% of the installed VDI users are persistent virtual desktops," he said.

Mike Matchett, senior analyst and consultant for the Taneja Group consulting firm, agreed the persistent data application could widen the adoption of VDI for persistent desktops. "Until now, persistent desktops still required disk-based storage," he wrote in an email. "And that has been a drag on the adoption of persistent desktop solutions. Solutions like Atlantis ILIO could light a fire under the persistent VDI adoption rate."

ILIO Persistent VDI has added data protection features that differ from those in the Atlantis Diskless VDI application. To preserve the state of persistent data, the new product uses replication to maintain an updated backup on a storage area network or on network-attached storage systems. The Atlantis ILIO Center management system replicates unique user data to a separate physical host before sending it to networked storage. The replication host stores unique user data for clusters of 500 to 1,000 virtual desktops.

If a desktop or server fails, VMware High Availability restarts the VM desktops, and the replication host repopulates the data stores. A standby replication host runs on another physical host within the cluster in case of a replication host failure.

Both Atlantis VDI software products compress optimized data blocks before writing them to memory. They also attempt to solve the VDI "I/O blender effect" by converting the small, random I/O data blocks generated by hypervisors and the Windows' operating system to larger, sequential blocks.

Atlantis competes for VDI storage customers with GreenBytes Inc., which announced a virtual storage appliance for VDI deployments last week. Another competitor, Virsto Software, was acquired by VMware last month.


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