FlexPod Datacenter with NetApp All-Flash FAS and VMware Horizon (with View)

NetApp and Cisco, in conjunction with VMware, have recently released a NetApp Verified Architecture (NVA) Design Guide for deploying VMware Horizon View in a FlexPod environment: NVA-1110-FP-DESIGN. This is the first official FlexPod document for running VMware’s virtual desktop infrastructure software in approximately 2 years, and highlights the latest technologies.


An NVA is the NetApp equivalent of a Cisco Validated Design (CVD): a pretested, preintegrated and verified architecture that includes prescriptive guidance to help improve the efficiency and efficacy of architecting and implementing NetApp solutions. An NVA can include one or more documents focused on design, deployment, operations, or sizing. This NVA solution will include both a Design Guide (the current document) as well as a Deployment Guide (this document will be published shortly).

This NVA release focuses on the following software versions:

  • VMware Horizon View 5.3.1
  • VMware vSphere 5.5
  • NetApp clustered Data ONTAP 8.2.1
  • Cisco UCS Manager 2.2(1c)

The hardware in this release was comprised of

  • NetApp All-Flash FAS8060 with DS2246 disk shelves
  • Cisco Nexus 5548UP switches
  • Cisco UCS 6248 Fabric Interconnects
  • Cisco UCS 5108 chassis with 2208XP IOXM
  • Cisco UCS B200 M3 servers

In addition to using the latest software versions (at the time verification testing began), this is the first FlexPod NVA/CVD for VMware Horizon View to use clustered Data ONTAP, as well as the first to use the new All-Flash FAS storage arrays.

This verified architecture utilized a single all-flash HA pair/cluster to easily support 2000 concurrent desktops. A second hybrid HA pair/cluster was used for the infrastructure and user data workloads as an example of using distributed storage clusters. Alternatively, both desktop and infrastructure/user data workloads could have been run on the single all-flash HA pair alone given the performance and capacity headroom available in the system as configured.


NetApp has been implementing flash technologies for what are now known as hybrid storage arrays (combining traditional SAS or SATA hard drives with flash) since 2009 and solid-state drives (SSDs) since 2010. In 2013 NetApp entered the all-flash array market with the launch of the EF540, an all-flash model of the E-Series storage arrays.  Now in 2014 NetApp is shipping all-flash configurations of its most popular product, the FAS series arrays.

In hindsight everything is obvious, including how well Data ONTAP’s core technologies like its Write Anywhere File Layout (WAFL) and use of NVRAM, enhance an all-SSD environment. With Data ONTAP, all incoming writes are cached in memory, logged to NVRAM in both the primary and partner controllers, and acknowledged back to the host immediately to provide very low response time and low latency for write operations. Data is then flushed from cache to disk (in this case SSD) using algorithms to optimize the data layout and coalescing writes (including highly random writes as are typically seen in virtual and virtual desktop environments) into large sequential stripes of across all disks at once. As WAFL always writes to free space rather than performing in-place overwrites, it provides a natural form of wear-leveling for the SSDs while still leveraging the garbage collection and wear-leveling within each SSD itself. These features help extend the life of each SSD so that NetApp is able to offer three-year standard warranty and up to an additional two-years of extended warranty (five-year warranty total) for SSD with no restrictions around number of drive writes. In addition, the thread parallelism and multi-core support continually enhanced in the last several versions of Data ONTAP combines with the powerful multi-core CPUs used in the FAS8000 series controllers to provide truly impressive l0w-latency, high IOP performance.

NetApp has used Login VSI, the industry-recognized standard for VDI workload testing, to perform an extensive series of verification testing of the All-Flash FAS f0r multiple VDI architectures. Each of the following technical reports are loaded with test plan details and results which demonstrate the combination of sustained high IOPs and low latencies consistently seen throughout the testing:

  • NetApp All-Flash FAS Solution For Nonpersistent Desktops with VMware Horizon View (TR-4307)
  • NetApp All-Flash FAS Solution For Persistent Desktops with VMware Horizon View (TR-4335)
  • NetApp All-Flash FAS Solution For Persistent and Nonpersistent Desktops with Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp (TR-4342)

For the architecture used by this NVA solution, here is one sample of the test results:

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 11.45.31 PM

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, keep an eye out for the matching NVA Deployment Guide for this solution coming soon!



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