The rewards of a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment naturally start with, from the point of view of the end user, increased mobility between, better access to information, and more flexibility in access device type (PC’s, notebooks, Mac, Smartphones and Tablets). From the perspective of IT, VDI promises reduced costs thus boosting the bottom line and making IT look like heroes. This is the nirvana of virtually every corporation in the world. And while the benefits of VDI can include a significant capital cost reductions, these gains, unless properly migrated, can be lost to the time involved in managing the VDI environment and protecting against service outages.
Managing the environment and protecting service levels is where the concept of the PAN (Processing Area Network) adds value to a VDI project. As background, a PAN is analogous in many ways to a Storage Area Network (SAN). In a SAN, storage disks are centralised, and then logically allocated back to servers. Within a PAN, it's the CPU and memory that is pooled and transformed into a centralised fabric, and then allocated logically to the applications. The advantages are very similar. Within the PAN, through the use of a management interface, static servers, I/O, and networks are pooled into more flexible, readily available resources that can be allocated as needed, to ensure the applications have the capacity, availability and response time to meet service level requirements of the business.
Like any technology solution, there are some risks involved in a VDI deployment. At the highest level, moving to virtual desktops concentrates risks and requires the enterprise to pay closer attention to business continuity and disaster recovery issues as failure of infrastructure can lead to service outages for hundreds or even thousands of employees. Mitigating that risk requires a management environment that provides for the automated and rapid recovery of the entire environment. It must do this while reducing IT spend and, most importantly, without adding management overhead to the IT staff.
Consider a major US based hospital in Atlanta, Ga., which includes over 20 health centres with an IT services department accommodating over 25,000 individuals per year. In seeking a solution to achieve a goal of 50 per cent cost reduction through consolidation, simplified management, more flexibility and agility, the organisation looked to a virtualised desktop solution. The older system, which was resource-intensive with desktops for every doctor (limiting mobility), was updated with an Egenera Pan Manager on a Fujitsu BX900 Blade System, establishing a more efficient processing area network (PAN) for greater flexibility and scalability. The hospital realised an 80 percent reduction in data centre complexity for its mission-critical applications, as well as significant cost savings and decreased manpower requirements.
The Atlanta hospital example illustrates how the Egenera virtual desktop infrastructure was able to extend hardware life, deliver efficiencies across several areas, and significantly reduce administrative overhead. Post-deployment, management was accomplished by a single full-time equivalent, compared with the previous ratio of one FTE for every 350 IT clients.