Atlantis Computing promises diskless VDI

Using memory as storage, a desktop can boot in 12 seconds, virtual storage vender says


Virtual Desktop storage provider Atlantis Computing today announced a new product that runs non-persistent virtual desktop environments using only server memory.

The company's Atlantis ILIO diskless VDI appliance eliminates the need for Virtual Machine Disk Formats (VMDKs) on VMware. By removing disk storage, Atlantis's ILIO reduces the cost to run a virtual desktop to $197 and delivers performance superior to a physical PC, with boot times of just 12 seconds, according to Atlantis Computing CEO Bernard Harguindeguy.

"One of the main issues holding people back from implementing VDI or keeping it small is the fact that storage is a huge cost associated with it. The cost of storage is two times to four times the cost of a physical PC," Harguindeguy said.

Atlantis is focusing its ILIO diskless VDI product on non-persistent VDI because it requires less storage capacity to run an infrastructure. Persistent VDI requires a unique desktop image to run on a virtual server requiring more backend storage capacity; a non-persistent VDI uses the same desktop image for multiple users.

Mark Bowker, an analyst with market research firm ESG, said desktop virtualization remains a top ten IT priority, but the cost and complexity of storage is a major impediment with production VDI implementations.

"Enterprise IT is grappling for ways to address the shear storage capacity and associated costs with any major VDI deployment. This demand has created the opportunity for companies such as Atlantis to ... apply a new backend architecture for VDI deployments that can potentially help customers significantly drive down storage costs associated with VDI, reduce the infrastructure complexity and ultimately deliver VDI at scale."

Bowker said Atlantis's approach, while unique, is not the only way to tackle the storage issue associated with VDI deployments. Citrix and VMware are designing intelligent caching into their software to also help address storage consumption and desktop delivery performance.

Atlantis's ILIO appliance sits between a virtual machine and back-end storage from vendors such as EMC, NetApp and Hitachi Data Systems. The ILIO software performs data deduplication at the block level, eliminating up to 90% of the capacity required to run a virtual desktop instance, Harguindeguy said. Because so little storage capacity is required - about 1GB -- the memory in a typical blade server environment is enough to support a VDI environment, he said.

"The hardware has evolved," Harguindeguy said.

For example, Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS) blade server platform offers an Extended Memory function that allows users to configure up to 384GB of memory in an industry standard Intel Xeon 5500 dual-core processor server. Typically, blade servers running on an Intel Xeon 5500 processor are limited to 96GB or 144GB of memory.

Up to 160 virtual desktops can run on a single Cisco UCS B230 M2 Blade Server; Up to 1,280 virtual desktops can run on a 6U (10.5-in high) server stack; and 6,400 VDIs can run in a single server rack (30U), according to Harguindeguy.

Because the virtual desktops are running on memory, performance is also increased. According to Atlantis, each image can achieve up to 367 I/Os per second (IOPS).

PAETEC Communications is deploying 160 virtual desktops using Citrix XenDesktop on each of its Cisco B230 M2 blade systems using the Atlantis ILIO virtual appliance. Steve Bell, PAETEC's infrastructure systems architect, said the company will be able to deploy up to 6,400 virtual desktops in a single rack of Cisco UCS blade servers without the need to purchase any disk-based storage, SSDs, or PCI-based RAM drives for VDI.

"As a result of Atlantis ILIO and Cisco UCS, our virtual desktop solution costs less than a workstation or laptop, provides a better user experience, and was able to reduce or eliminate our storage, network, power, cooling, and rack space CAPEX and OPEX costs more so than any other VDI offering," Bell said in a statement. "From a storage perspective, we wanted to eliminate the reliance of VDI on SAN/NAS storage while at the same time not sacrificing -- and perhaps even improving -- overall user experience."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

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