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Anglia Ruskin University virtualises 32,000 students with Violin Memory

Hosted Virtual Desktop Solution delivers 30-40% power consumption savings.


Date: 30 Jul 2012

Violin Memory, Inc., provider of one of the world’s fastest and most scalable flash Memory Arrays, helped Anglia Ruskin University virtualise nearly 1,000 desktops for 32,000 students. Realizing the bottlenecks of disk, the university replaced their existing architecture with a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution that used Violin’s 3000 Series flash Memory Array.

The Challenge
According to Gregor Waddell, assistant director of Anglia Ruskin University, the University wanted to provide a modern and attractive desktop to its students and staff, leverage recent technology innovations to reduce cost, and improve the delivery of the latest software to those who need them irrespective of location. The University also needed to reduce power consumption and contribute to sustainability objectives within its corporate plan.

Anglia Ruskin had a great understanding of the advantages of virtualisation for its server infrastructure and had already pushed almost all of its server estate over to VMWare Sphere. However, the real limiting factor was the back-end storage performance in the VDI environment. The storage performance required a solution 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 Solution: Violin’s Flash Memory Array
After considering several options, Anglia Ruskin selected Violin’s 3000 Series flash Memory Array for its ability to handle 220,000 random write IOPS in 4K blocks: more than twenty times the performance of a comparable storage area network (SAN) disk array.

“We chose a 3000 Series Violin flash Memory Array because it’s very well-engineered, reliable, and offers high storage performance,” said Waddell. “Storage performance is key to VDI, and our existing traditional spinning disk did not offer good enough. The virtual machines needed 800-100 IOPS per desktop, most of which were writes.”

To cater to the heavy I/O loads generated by hundreds of users logging on and launching apps, a traditional SAN based solution would have required many shelves of disks, consumed more power, required significant cooling, and incurred higher maintenance costs than the Violin Memory-based solution. The project was part of an upgrade from an estate of around 4,500 Windows X-based PCs to Windows 7– supporting a vibrant and diverse student population of 32,000. Anglia Ruskin was keen to utilise virtualisation technology to benefit the university.

Return on Investment
After deploying the new VDI solution with Violin’s flash Memory Array, the University saw significant benefits and cost savings. The new desktop was initially launched within a new IT open access area in 2011 and is now being rolled out to a wider base including the staff.
“Feedback from our students and Student Union has been excellent,” said Waddell. “Our architecture has allowed speedy additions of new software such as Adobe Dreamweaver. We have also realised potential software license savings where software can be licensed on a concurrent basis rather than a ‘per seat’ basis.”

Key benefits:
Hosted VDI, associated software costs, training, consultancy and 400 thin clients had a total budget similar to that required to provide traditional PCs.

Additional users may be added up to the existing server capacity of 600-700 concurrent users by either adding thin or zero clients or by re-using existing PCs.

Predicted power total consumption is <60-70% of comparable Windows 7 based PCs (using thin client devices). This includes all server and storage power consumption.


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