Desktop virtualization, or virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), can bring many benefits to an IT organization, including easier system management and centralized security and data protection. But the storage environment that supports VDI requires some careful planning to avoid the problem of VDI “boot storms” — big slowdowns that can occur when a lot of users log into the system at the same time. There are a few options for addressing the problem, but the one that makes the most sense relies on tactical placement of solid-state drives (SSDs).
The problem of VDI boot storms is a fairly straightforward one. Virtual desktop workloads are predictable; they’re based on the work hours of desktop users, which typically run from about 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each workday. The overall storage I/O that an average virtual desktop generates is quite low compared with that of a server workload, and so the density of desktop virtual machines on a host is typically much greater than with server virtualization. Conversely, the initial startup of a desktop is very resource-intensive, where the operating system and applications do a large amount of reading from disk while loading and executing.
A boot storm occurs when many virtual desktops all boot up during a short window of time (for example, between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.), which causes intense concentrated storage I/O that can easily overwhelm a storage subsystem. If the storage subsystem isn’t designed to handle the heavy I/O load, you can effectively end up with a denial-of-service attack on your storage subsystem.
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