Why You Should Go For HP LeftHand & VMware View for VDI?

As you have seen in my previous blog posts, I love demystifying VDI Reference Architectures.

Why you should read this Blog Post than the actual Ref. Architecture? 

Usually Ref. Architecture documents are complex, boring and pretty extensive. Except the solution designers and architects people don’t at them unless there is a compelling reason. Through this blog post, I have demystified it, simplified in a lucid style, ease for everyone’s understanding.

HP and VMware Relationship: 

HP is a Platinum Partner of VMware. Most of HP’s hardwares and softwares work with VMware’s vSphere and/or other products and are well integrated. Eg: HP DL series servers, BL series Blades, HP LeftHand VSA, HP 3PAR Storage etc. (there are quite a few!)

As per Gartner, HP is the no.1 vendor to ship VMware ESXi Server Software with it’s Servers and Blades. (Status: as of 2012)

HP & VMware Client Virtualization Relationship: 

Again quite a few to name:

  1. HP Servers and Blades for VMware View and vSphere (which provides the Management Infrastructure on the VDI segment)
  1. HP Thin & Zero Clients are specifically meant for VMware View. These client devices are optimized for PCoIP (PC over IP) Protocol for VMware View. Please see the details here: http://www8.hp.com/sg/en/products/thin-clients/index.html There are at least 7 models of HP Thin and Zero Clients for VMware View VDI solution.

What’s the unique thing in this Reference Architecture?

Most of the VMware View Reference Architectures have some kind of similarity in terms of design. I had previously spoken about Pivot3 and VMWare View Reference Architecture in this post. However, in HP’s case the interesting thing to note is that here HP doesn’t use it’s HP 3PAR SAN Storage or any kind of SAN/NAS type shared storage. Rather it efficiently uses the local storage of HP DL 380 series servers by virtualizing the local storage and present them to the vSphere Layer (without the need of a SAN/NAS) through HP LeftHand 400 VSA. Interesting thing! We will talk more about this in details soon…

Unique Things in this VDI Design:

1. Use of Stateless Virtual Desktops: Stateless Virtual Desktops are not dedicated to any user. As soon as the user logs off the desktop will go back to the pool and will be assigned to the next user.

2. Use of Local SSDs (HP IO Accelerator): HP IO Accelerators (A Breakthrough Product from HP and Fusion-IO) for ProLiant Servers are PCIe card-based direct-attach solid state storage technology solutions for application performance enhancement. Based on MLC and SLC NAND Flash technology, these devices are ideal for low latency workloads requiring high transaction rates and real-time data access such as VDI. In this scenario 785GB Cards are used. See the picture of it below.

HP IO Accelarator

(Pic: HP Fusion-IO Storage Accelerator PCIe Card inside HP Proliant Servers. Pic Courtesy: HP)

3. Hot plug SAS Storage: Each HP Proliant DL380 Gen8p Server used here comes with four 300GB SFF (Small-Form-Factor) 10K RPM (10,000 Rotation Per Minute) Hot Plug (Hot-Plug meaning you can add/remove these drives without taking the server in maintenance mode) Enterprise SAS hard disk drives.

4. HP LeftHand Virtual SAN Appliance Software (VSA) powered by SAN/iQ Software v9.5: HP LeftHand VSA aggregates all the local storage and presents as a Virtual SAN/NAS aggregating a network RAID10 based 1.17TB of Total Storage.

and last but not least

5. HP ProLiant DL380P Gen8 Servers: If not the best, at least one of the top best model servers available today. Intel® Xeon® CPU E5-2680 @2.70 GHz | Dual socket with 8 cores per socket (16 cores total) | 256 GB RAM. There are 3 such servers used in this Ref. Architecture.

6. Single Vendor SLA (since all the components are provided by HP): I believe this is the unique point unlike most of the other View Reference Architectures by Cisco etc.

So, let’s start…

Any typical setup of VMware View will be more or less like this (below in the diagram. Pic courtesy: VMware):

VMware View

HP proposes that like any Standard View Ref. Architecture, the Management Cluster should be separated from the Virtual Desktop Cluster.

The Management Cluster: It is hosted by two separate servers which holds the following
Management Components:

Active Directory/DNS Server | vCenter Server with View Composer | View Connection Server | DHCP Server | 3 VSA Software Appliances. These all components have been placed as virtual machines.

As per this Ref. Architecture each HP DL380p G8 Host is capable of hosting upto 200 virtual desktops, total it to 600 virtual desktops for all the three servers.

Replica Base Image Placement & Linked Clones Placement: on SSD (HP IO Accelerator)

User data, The Parent Base Image & the Swap files of Virtual Desktops Placement: on Shared Storage

Management Components Placement: on Shared Storage

(* The shared storage is the aggregate of all local SAS/SATA drives from each server and culmination of a Virtual SAN by the use of HP LeftHand VSA. HP LeftHand VSA is scalable, fully redundant and highly available.) HP LeftHand presents the shared storage of 1.17TB on RAID10 whereas the individual SAS/SATA drives are configured on RAID5 on the server level with 4 HDDS of 300GB each)

Physical Networking: 2 numbers of 10GBPS 24 port HP 5920AF-24XG switch which offers low latency response.

Virtual Networking:  A DvSwitch (Distributed Virtual Switch) has been configured on the vSphere Layer with 2000 ports and separate port groups for iSCSI, Management Network and Virtual Desktop Traffic. According to the port groups different vLANs have also been configured and used so that traffic isolation can happen on the network level.

Virtual Desktop Base Image: Windows 7 32bit -optimized for lower IOPS consumption. This VM is with 1vCPU, 1GB RAM and 24GB Virtual Disk.

I will not go further describing the validation tests and results in this post. For that and for other further information you should look at the Official HP Link for the Reference Architecture.

So, what do you think about this Reference Architecture? Do you think HP is the mother of all the appliance based VDI solutions like Nutanix, Pivot3 and V3 Systems? Probably yes, or maybe not. I read in one of the interviews by Dheeraj Pandey, CEO-Nutanix that their product idea originated from a similar concept from HP. I may be wrong. I shall wait to hear from you…

Thanks for reading! Take Care…

-Amitabh | Amitabh’s LinkedIn Profile

(PS: This article was first published in Amitabh’s Personal Blog: http://Amitabh-vWorld.Com)

One thought on “Why You Should Go For HP LeftHand & VMware View for VDI?

  1. I’ve used a similar approach in the past for server virtualization. Using the Lefthand VSA and iSCSI to simulate shared storage with local disk but obviously without Fusion I/O. It was a good approach for branch offices. IMO this too can be a good branch office solution with low CapEX. But I do have a couple of questions.

    1. In Figure A-1 for application response times. What were the other 199 virtual desktops doing when you were testing out the application? Were those VMs at idle or doing something similar?

    2. This is off subject a bit, but you may know the answer. Can the DL380 you used support multiple Nvidea Q3000 GPUs to allow for a shared GPU configuration offered in View 5.2? I have a customer with a particular need for this but they are opposed to using blade hardware for the new WS460 G8′s and their graphics expansion cards.

    3. The DL380 can have a maximum of 786GB of RAM. Do you have any thoughts on how Atlantis Computing’s ILIO product would compare with the Fusion I/O cards in both performance and pricing?

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