Service Excellence

XtremIO Changes the Game, Services Adds VDI Muscle

By Sam Cavaliere Solutions Principal, VMware End User Computing November 22, 2013

We just completed a major milestone at EMC. The launch of XtremIO is a game changer in the IT industry. Realistically, I think that many people haven’t really grasped how significant a shift it is and what the impact of XtremIO will be on a number of workloads. I’m going to talk a little about XtremIO and how it fits in the scheme of the marketplace. Then I’m specifically going to talk about End User Computing (EUC), how XtremIO changes the game and how EMC Global Services is ready RIGHT NOW to show our customers how to take advantage of this new technology. At the end of this post, I will provide links to relevant reports/downloads and education so you can learn more about XtremIO and what is being brought to market.


All Flash Arrays? So What? 

All flash arrays (AFAs) have been around for a few years as the increase of availability of solid state drives and the decrease in price has made the storage option more popular. IDC predicts that by 2015, the all-solid state storage (SSS) market will be $1.2B (see IDC Technology Assessment, All Flash Array Performance Testing Framework). As increases in virtualization (specifically virtualization of workloads that require high disk I/O activity), big data and analytics workloads continue to press enterprises, technology organizations struggle to provide solutions that can address the performance requirements and make the solution a quality experience for the user community. The reality is that despite the increase in traditional Hard Disk Drive (HDD) speeds, traditional HDD infrastructure simply cannot provide the I/O without massive scale. Enter in flash arrays. Flash has promised the level of performance that these workloads require, however, the price point has been very heavy and the capacity of these arrays hasn’t yet matched that of the traditional HDD infrastructure. The result is that enterprise IT is taking a more analytical approach to storage. Those applications that are most accessed are being moved to flash storage with the less accessed data staying on the least expensive, but also lower performing traditional infrastructure. This leads technology groups to now look beyond the $/GB metric and look at the cost per IOP ($/IOP)or in the case of VDI, the cost per desktop ($/Desktop).


Enter in the X-Brick!

With XtremIO, the foundation is built on the X-Brick. The X-Brick is a cluster scaling unit and is built in such a way that it can scale linearly on its RDMA fabric and thus allow for linear growth of IOPS, linear growth of capacity (in 10 or 20 TB blocks) while latency remains sub-millisecond. Think about that, taking workloads that require massive IOPS (such as VDI, how convenient), being able to scale out a VDI deployment on a single cluster, while maintaining the latency sub-millisecond, so the end user experience remains the same. That would be nirvana, and that is what XtremIO brings to the table.


So What?

You might ask, “Ok, this is great, I’ve heard all of this stuff, but let’s get beyond the marketing and get down to brass tacks. How does this really help?” Well, consider the challenges associated with large VDI deployments today. You can do the research yourself, or you can take some of the research I’ve done for you J. Doesn’t matter whether you read guidance from Pure Storage, EMC, Whiptail, Citrix, VMware, its all the same. VDI has a set of workloads, specifically around I/O, that are agreed upon by all vendors. Specifically these workloads include:

  • Boot Storms
  • Login Storms
  • Steady state
  • Virus scan

With each of these workloads, come different I/O requirements and the storage backend you select for your VDI implementation must take those I/O requirements into consideration. Otherwise, you will find yourself in the same place as many other VDI implementation– failing. User experience goes in the tank when proper sizing and consideration of I/O requirements are not met. So what kind of I/O are we talking about here? It depends on the specific workload, but some of these are your proverbial worst case scenario. In the case of a boot storm (where all of your Virtual Desktops boot up at the same time) you could be talking about a requirement of 100,000s of IOPS (based on a 1000 VDI deployment) to provide reasonable boot time of your desktops. Sure, you could get away with 70 IOPS per VDI, but would your users be ok with their desktop taking ~8min to boot? Where does XtremIO help? Its de-duplication technology not only increases logical capacity, but also reduces the impact of a boot storm. As in, reduces it to a non-issue. Additionally, because the X-Brick scales linearly, you have the flexibility to host more VDI desktops. So consider that a single X-Brick can host 2500 virtual desktops today. As your requirements go up, you simply add X-Bricks in place.

Don’t take my word for it, look at the demonstration video provided by XtremIO for yourself here or listen to one of our customers (E*Trade) talk about their experience with XtremIO here.

But it’s not just performance.

So ok, the performance is amazing. That’s clear, so what else can help make this happen? IT organizations are working harder and harder to find ways to get better performance, take up less floor space, and save money. That is what XtremIO delivers as well. A single X-Brick takes up only 6U of server rack space for 10TB of raw capacity. It sips power at only 750W. Putting that in perspective, the power supply in my PC is 750W, for $32.99 you can buy a 400W power inverter for your car from Staples. So 750 Watts, not bad for 10TB of capacity that can provide 250,000 IOPS of random reads. Put together an 8 X-Brick cluster and you get linear scale. We are talking 2,000,000 IOPS for random reads or 1.2M IOPS of 100% random write (assuming a 2:1 deduplication). The performance is staggering.

How Does EMC Global Services fit in

Now that I have given you the background on XtremIO, how long will it take to be able to get rubber to the road and take advantage of the performance that I reference? EMC wanted to make sure that customer could take advantage of this technology immediately. So work was done ahead of time with our partners, like Citrix and VMware, to provide reference architectures for XenDesktop and for Horizon View, the 2 leading solutions for VDI today. It can’t be taken for granted that customers are up to speed and prepared to deliver these VDI solutions today. That’s where EMC Global Services comes in.

We at EMC know that VDI is at the forefront of our customer’s minds today. IT is being asked to deliver more with less today. Budgets are getting tighter and the ability to support all of the different hardware solutions out there makes it difficult for IT shops to scale. Add in the trend of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the complications are taken to the next level. VDI provides some solutions to that management headache today and many of our customers have been deploying and almost all have been considering leveraging VDI to take control of that management nightmare. All of our customers should be taking advantage of this technology to improve the VDI environment and the end user experience. As such, we have services that can jumpstart your ability to take advantage of this technology.

Proof of Concept or NEW VDI Install

Customers who want to just try out VDI and see if it’s for them, there is NO better way to try out VDI then with the power of XtremIO. If you have already decided on VDI and are open to alternative solutions for your hardware, you can see how XtremIO can deliver virtual desktops with the best user experience available. EMC has put together a service that provides customers with that ability.


The result is a tested and fully capable VDI environment. Working with EMC to ensure that pre-requisites are in place, the engagement will take as little as 4 weeks to complete.

Upgrade Existing VDI Environment with XtremIO

We can also help customers who already have deployed VDI and:

  • Want to expand its footprint
  • Improve performance
  • BOTH!!!!!

This service offering is about taking that existing environment and upgrading (migrating) to XtremIO infrastructure. This effort will release the storage you previously used and allow you to repurpose for a “less intensive” workload :D . The EMC team will come in after spending some time reviewing your existing environment, will dig in and work to migrate your current offering to XtremIO. Your users will see the difference and the opportunity to expand your VDI footprint will begin!!


What makes this so attractive is that assuming all pre-requisites have been met, this packaged service can be delivered in 3 weeks, start to finish. This is not a multi month migration project.

Why EMC Services

You may be reading this and saying, “I didn’t even know EMC delivered these types of solutions”. The reality is that EMC has been delivering these solutions (and more) for >10 years now. We have a staff of experts in End User Computing technology, a Center or Excellence to package and test applications for Windows 7 compatibility, and work hand in hand with the entire EMC account team to make it possible to ensure the success of our customers from the start of these transformations, to the finish.

Wrap  Up

I hope this has given some insight into the tremendous opportunity VDI and XtremIO can bring to your organization. EMC Services is ready today to help you take advantage of the new capabilities of both XtremIO and the expertise of EMC Services to deliver these services. Stay tuned for more postings on the capabilities of EMC Services. See below for downloadable content related to these topics.

If you have any questions and you don’t know how to get answers, send them my way at and I will do my best to help you.

Happy Hunting.


Supporting Material

About Sam Cavaliere

Solutions Principal, VMware End User Computing

Sam is a 20+ year industry veteran. Sam’s background is in all aspects of Microsoft technologies from the earliest versions of Windows/Windows NT and Exchange to international deployments of Windows Desktops and Office.

He has held numerous certifications and has been a speaker at a number of conferences representing Microsoft across a number of technologies. He is a subject matter expert in Unified Communications technologies and working with customers on technology roadmap development.

Read More

Share this Story
Join the Conversation

Our Team becomes stronger with every person who adds to the conversation. So please join the conversation. Comment on our posts and share!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *