Anglia Ruskin University saves with flash memory

Anglia Ruskin University has virtualised nearly 1,000 desktops for 32,000 students with the use of a flash memory platform.

The university has replaced its existing architecture with a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) system that uses Violin’s 3000 Series flash memory array.

Anglia Ruskin had already pushed almost all of its server estate over to VMWare Sphere. However, a real limiting factor was the back-end storage performance in the VDI environment. The storage required a system that would scale to at least 800 concurrent users with no appreciable degradation to user experience, and introduce a resilient architecture avoiding single points of failure.

The university also needed to reduce power consumption and contribute to sustainability objectives within its corporate plan.

Gregor Waddell, assistant director of Anglia Ruskin University, said Violin’s 3000 Series flash memory array could handle 220,000 random write IOPS in 4K blocks - more than 20 times the performance of a comparable storage area network (SAN) disk array.

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He said: “We chose this array because it’s very well-engineered, reliable and offers high storage performance. Storage performance is key to VDI and our existing traditional spinning disk was not good enough. The virtual machines needed 800-100 IOPS per desktop, most of which were writes.”

To cater for the heavy I/O loads generated by hundreds of users logging on and launching apps, Waddell said a traditional SAN-based solution would have required many shelves of disks, would have consumed more power, required significant cooling, and would have incurred higher maintenance costs.

The project was part of an upgrade from an estate of around 4,500 PCs to Windows 7. Waddell said the new architecture had delivered software licence savings as software can be licensed on a concurrent basis rather than a "per seat" basis.

Seagate recently built on its solid-state storage portfolio by taking a stake in DensBits Technologies.