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IBM Cuts Virtual Desktop Storage Requirements

VMware may include a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) as part of its offerings but partner IBM beat it to the punch in finding a way to leverage the technology. IBM has created a component based on VMware's VDI that slashes VDI storage requirements by up to 80 percent, it announced at VMworld 2008, the VMware (NYSE: VMW) user conference being held in Las Vegas through Thursday.

This technology, the Virtual Storage Optimizer (VSO), uses an algorithm developed by IBM Research, and will form part of IBM's (NYSE: IBM) Virtual Infrastructure Access (VIA) services, in which IBM experts virtualize clients' IT infrastructure.

The VDI lets users host and centrally manage desktop machines in the datacenter while providing thin clients a full PC desktop experience. VMware has stated it is focusing on the VDI more.

The VSO will address clients' distributed end user environments, including laptops and mobile devices, Jack Magoon, a business development executive in the end user services division of IBM Global Technology Services, told InternetNews.com.

IBM's VSO leverages the snapshotting capability of VMware's VDI to create an ultra-efficient storage system. It takes the same approach as incremental backup -- a master image of a clone is created and stored on the back end, each user gets a personalized workspace with all relevant applications, and only changes made by users are saved.

"Instead of saving one clone per user, you just save the delta and your storage requirements are reduced by the space required for the master copy times the number of users you have," Magoon said. The cost savings will be huge because storage is "the most expensive part of the hardware configuration and storage requirements are growing rapidly" Magoon added.

Indeed it is. According to IDC, worldwide disk storage systems revenues hit $6.9 billion in the second quarter of this year, up 10 percent year over year.

While virtualization reduces the rate of increase in storage demand because virtual machines require less storage, they still do take up some disk space, so anything that can reduce that will help enterprises costs.

Less storage, more speed

Another VMware partner, Hewlett-Packard, (NYSE: HPQ) also uses the snapshotting capability in VMware's VDI to improve storage efficiency. However, its approach is more straightforward, and all it does is take snapshots of data and overcommit physical resources, providing as little as possible to support the amount of virtual memory allocated, and adding more physical resources when needed.

In addition to slashing storage requirements, IBM's VSO speeds up the provisioning, deployment and deprovisioning of a virtual machine. "It can take 10 to 30 minutes to put up a virtual machine, depending on the complexity of the environment and the kind of virtual machine being created, and with the VSO it takes about a quarter of the time you'd normally need," Magoon said.

That further adds to the savings because "anything you can do to reduce staff time and do things quicker is going to reduce your total cost of ownership (TCO)," Magoon explained.

VSO is only available to customers using IBM's VIA services, Magoon said. It is not available as a standalone feature.