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Desktop Virtualization Projects: Network Latency Can Kill

VMware users say latency problems can cause VDI trouble at the worst times--say, during a snowstorm when everyone tries to work at home. But there are fixes.

12 Enterprise IT Resolutions For 2012
12 Enterprise IT Resolutions For 2012
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Companies that have deployed a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) within their organizations reported notable increases in latency, especially when the number of users increases, but an executive of VMware, makers of VMware View 5.0 VDI, says a VDI project may also need to include an upgrade of network capacity.

VMware assembled a trio of CIOs from companies using its VMware View VDI platform at an office in San Francisco last week to share their experiences with reporters. While all three said going to desktop virtualization has made their employees more productive and delivered a favorable return on investment, there have been some problems.

T-Mobile noticed a considerable decline in performance when the server running VDI failed over from one data center to another. "We only added 50 milliseconds of latency but that latency killed us," said Daniel Spurling, director of EIT infrastructure and operations for the wireless carrier.

T-Mobile also noticed an increase in latency in the Pacific Northwest recently after a snowstorm hit and people couldn't get in to the office. "Everybody's working from home and our VDI infrastructure is not performing that well," he said.

Latency has been "a big challenge for us," acknowledged Vittorio Viarengo, vice president of end-user computing at VMware. But in View 5.0, which was released last month, performance has improved by between 50 and 70% from version 4.6, introduced about a year ago. However, he noted, that's an improvement in overall performance, not just latency.

"When you deploy VDI you need to look at your network because now you're remoting that screen and that screen has to go back and forth," Viarengo said, referring to the virtual desktop image.

[ The trend toward desktop virtualization is expected to increase in 2012. For more, read Citrix Receiver One Answer to BYOD. ]

While T-Mobile uses View version 5.0, the Milwaukee-based law firm Foley & Lardner is still on version 4.6, but its network performance issues were addressed by VMware engineers. "We don't have performance problems anymore," said Douglas Caddell, CIO of Foley & Lardner.

But the law firm encountered other problems with its VDI rollout. Its main data center is in Ohio, but when it tried to add another data center in San Diego there were problems, Caddell said.

"It didn't quite work like it was supposed to, and our whole West Coast deployment got put on hold," he said. In preparing for VDI, the firm read case studies of successful deployments, but those examples were of VDI rollouts in one campus or in just one city, while Foley & Lardner has offices in several U.S. cities and abroad.

Nonetheless, VDI has been a success at Foley & Lardner because it met one of Caddell's main goals: To get out of the equipment business. "When a laptop or desktop PC crashed ... [IT] would take that thing out of service and spend four plus hours doing a reimage. All that stuff was just killing us," Caddell said.

VDI allows a company to secure business applications while enabling the consumerization of IT, so that workers can use their personal laptops, smartphones, or tablets on the corporate network, said Bill Naughton, CIO of ADP Dealer Services, a division of the payroll processing and IT services giant that provides IT services to automobile dealers.

"We had a challenge of giving [software] developers creativity and freedom to do solution [creation], but we had to lock it down, so we came up with this solution where we did a virtual WAN environment for them," said Naughton.

"It's been a pretty big win for us. Not too often do you have infrastructure projects where you enable the users to do more, you get an ROI on it, and it's more secure," he said. ADP uses VMware View 5.0.

VMware's Viarengo said some glitches are to be expected when doing a rollout of VDI or any new technology, but these can be easily overcome, particularly with a customer that has already done virtualization in their data center.

"These are all symptoms of a new market," he said. "What we find is that people who do desktop virtualization successfully are the ones that are in stage two of the virtualization journey."

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User Rank: Apprentice
1/26/2012 | 8:18:27 AM
re: Desktop Virtualization Projects: Network Latency Can Kill

thanks for the great article. Delay across the network is one of the main concern about VDI performance. Three parameters are key here:

1) the sensitivity of the VDI protocol to delays - this is why VDI vendors continue to improve their stack like it is explained in your article;

2) the geography (i.e. how far away are users and servers, and

3) fluidity at the remote branch which is usually the main bottleneck. This last point gets increased importance because of the variety of the flows that combine at this access (VDI + Unified Communications + Internet + Cloud + ...) all at the same time. Traditionnal WAN Optimization (compression, etc.) can not really solve the issue as they only address a part of the flows in this open environment - The appropriate way is to implement QoS and per flow control at the branch level to provide true VDI flows protection in this dynamic and heterogeneous environment.

WIth best regards.
Thierry Grenot @ Ipanema Technologies.
User Rank: Apprentice
1/23/2012 | 7:55:15 PM
re: Desktop Virtualization Projects: Network Latency Can Kill
Excellent point, Rob. Real-time applications, such as VDI, VoIP, and video, are highly susceptible to packet loss. WAN optimizers, like those from Silver Peak, that can correct for packet loss and out-of-order packet in real time can significantly improve the quality of the VDI session.
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