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Cloud VDI – Don’t Forget to Keep the File Storage “Close”

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) was already seeing a resurgence thanks to the cloud. Cloud VDI overcomes the two biggest challenges with on-premises VDI – cost/complexity for IT and latency for end users. Cost/complexity is reduced because you no longer have to worry about the infrastructure – VDI is provisioned on-demand in cloud data centers and managed through SLAs. Latency is mitigated by using the cloud to host virtual desktops in multiple sites and keep virtual desktops physically “close” to users.

COVID-19 is accelerating cloud VDI even more as enterprises scramble to keep employees productive working from home. Established VDI solutions such as Citrix XenDesktop and VMware Horizon are now being deployed in Azure or AWS. Newer VDI solutions such as Amazon WorkSpaces, Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop, and Workspot are gaining ground because they, like Nasuni, were built for the cloud.

But what about the file storage behind the virtual desktops? The benefits of cloud VDI are clear: greater access, tighter security, lower costs, more agility. However, without modernizing the file storage that goes with cloud VDI, these benefits will be lost. The user experience trumps everything, and if users don’t get the fast file access they’re used to, VDI adoption will stall.

That’s where Nasuni comes in. Our cloud file services platform keeps your file storage “close” to your virtual desktops no matter how many VDI farms, pods, or sites you deploy. In the same way that deploying multiple VDI sites mitigates the impact of network latency on virtual desktop performance, Nasuni’s edge caching and multi-site file synchronization mitigate the impact of network latency on file storage performance. Every user at each VDI site will enjoy fast, “local” access to shared files.

Nasuni delivers this better cloud VDI file storage at significantly lower cost. By consolidating file data in scalable, low-cost AWS, Azure, or Google object storage and by eliminating the need for file backup and replication, you’ll save about 50% compared to the cost of traditional NetApp or EMC NAS, Windows file servers, or VM disk storage in the cloud.

Here’s a deeper technical look at the two ways customers are starting to implement Nasuni as they transition to cloud VDI.

#1 – NAS Consolidation in the Cloud

Andres Rodriguez, Nasuni’s Founder and CTO, explains this well in his “VDI at the Speed of Light” blog – the only way to make cloud VDI successful is to deploy your virtual desktops close enough to every user to keep latency in the 100-180ms range (less if they use more graphics-intensive apps like CAD or Adobe Creative Cloud). For distributed organizations, it is simply not feasible to do this from one cloud location.

As this picture shows, there is just too much distance and too many network hops between the different locations and the single cloud region where virtual desktops are hosted. With every device and switch along the way introducing buffering and delays, users in the more distant locations will not get the low-latency desktop experience they need.

Network Latency Diagram
Network latency makes it difficult to provide a high-speed user experience in every site of a global VDI deployment if virtual desktops are only hosted in one cloud datacenter.

The solution is to deploy separate VDI sites in multiple cloud regions to mitigate latency. But you still need to address file storage. For example, if London users connect to their virtual desktops in their local AWS datacenter but their home directories and group shares are still in California, slow file access can ruin the whole VDI user experience.

To deploy VDI and have it run well in each region, you need to bring your file storage “close” to each VDI site. You could deploy multiple silos of NAS or file servers, which also have to be backed up in each location. That would solve the latency problem for both desktops and file storage. But as this picture shows, the cost and complexity would go through the roof.

High Performance NAS Diagram
Deploying high-performance NAS or file servers to keep file storage close to each VDI site mitigates latency, but is often cost-prohibitive and too complex to manage.

The better choice is to use Nasuni. Nasuni enables you to keep your file storage “close” to each VDI site without all the cost and complexity of NAS silos. Our cloud file services platform consolidates all file data in low-cost object storage such as Azure Blob, Amazon S3, or Google Cloud Storage. Nasuni Edge Appliances – small footprint virtual machines that cache copies of just the frequently accessed files from object storage – are then deployed in each of the regional cloud VDI hosting sites to provide SMB and NFS-based file access to each pod of virtual desktops. It’s important to note that file access is not over the WAN. Every virtual desktop is accessing file storage on the local Edge Appliance at the LAN speed of each cloud datacenter.

This picture shows what a multi-site cloud VDI deployment could look like with Nasuni. In each AWS region, a Nasuni Edge Appliance VM is deployed right next to the pools of virtual desktops in the same AWS datacenters. As a result, the users in each region access their home drives, group shares, and project directories on their local Nasuni Edge Appliance, which mitigates latency and ensures a high-performance file sharing experience everywhere.  

 

NAS Edge Appliances Diagram
Nasuni Edge Appliance VMs cache frequently accessed files from object storage in each cloud VDI site to make file storage “local” to every desktop, mitigating latency and speeding up file access.

#2 – Global File Sharing in the Cloud

With all file data and those silos of NAS and backup consolidated, you can now take advantage of another unique capability of Nasuni – sharing the same files across every cloud VDI site to enable distributed team collaboration and boost worker productivity.

Nasuni’s UniFS® global file system – the first file system designed to have its inode structure live and scale natively in object storage – provides a universal namespace that can be accessed from any endpoint, anywhere in the world. File changes happening on an Edge Appliance in one cloud VDI site are automatically stored as new versions in object storage, then immediately synchronized to Edge Appliances in other VDI sites. Users get access to the most recent versions of files anywhere in the world, without worrying about version mismatches or editing conflicts.

Multi-Site Sync Diagram
Nasuni multi-site file synchronization ensures any new files or file changes – like this Adobe Photoshop file – are propagated across each cloud VDI site so they can be accessed at local LAN speeds through the UniFS global file system.

Reducing Cloud VDI File Storage TCO Up to 70%

The technical advantages of using Nasuni and AWS, Azure, or Google cloud object storage instead of legacy Network Attached Storage (NAS) from EMC and NetApp or virtual machine disk storage in the cloud should now be clear. But the cost-saving advantages are just as important.

Hard Cost Savings

Focusing on the real capital cost savings first:

  • Nasuni and its UniFS global file system are based in limitless, low-cost cloud object storage such as Azure Blob, Amazon S3, and Google Cloud Storage instead of expensive, hardware-constrained block storage.
  • Nasuni Edge Appliances cache only the frequently accessed files in each cloud VDI site. Without needing full-sized NAS, file servers, or VM disk storage in each location to store multiple copies of all file data, the file storage capacity footprint in each region can be reduced by 85-95%.
  • Nasuni Continuous File Versioning®, which stores file system changes as they occur in object storage to create an infinite, immutable file version history, eliminates the cost of third-party backup software, media servers, and backup storage.

Together, these savings typically add up to a 50% reduction in file storage costs.

Operational Cost Savings

With the Nasuni platform and object storage, you’ll substantially reduce IT operational costs as well, thanks largely to the web-based Nasuni Management Console (NMC). The NMC replaces all the point tools that would otherwise be needed to administer a multi-site file infrastructure:

  • Multi-site management. Shares, volumes, Edge Appliances, and protocols can be created, monitored, and managed as a collection. One configuration change made centrally will be automatically propagated across all cloud VDI sites.
  • Instant provisioning. More capacity for group shares, project directories, and home drives can be added instantly to ensure virtual desktops never run out of space.
  • Centralized file recoveries. Individual files, entire shares, or full volumes can be restored to almost any point in time in any cloud VDI site, making it easy to mitigate a ransomware attack or simply recover an accidentally deleted file.
  • Workflow automation. The NMC REST API enables your cloud VDI file storage to be integrated with business workflows such as chargeback, employee onboarding and offboarding, and new project provisioning, as well as existing workflow tools such as Jira.

If you’re moving to cloud VDI to keep your end users productive as they work from home, don’t forget to keep your VDI file storage “close.” Nasuni is the best way to do this. With Nasuni, you can consolidate NAS silos and keep your cloud VDI file storage local, no matter how many VDI sites you deploy. Nasuni’s multi-site file synchronization will enable the same files to be shared across all VDI sites to boost distributed team collaboration and workforce productivity. And Nasuni with Azure, AWS, or Google object storage will cost a lot less than any other alternative.

 

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