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GCN : May 2014
CASE STUDY INFRASTRUCTURE When the Army s Program Ex- ecutive Office for Aviation sought a new platform for its growing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) pilot, the organization got less than it was looking for. And that s not a negative development in the Army s context. PEO Aviation had been in something of a bind. It was out- growing the servers and storage it used to initially seed its VDI pilot project. The organization ordered Dell blade servers and storage-area network gear from EMC as its new virtual desktop foundation. The procurement process proved uneven, how- ever. The storage arrived in a month, but the servers wouldn t show up until months later. In the meantime, Alan Marett, a contrac- tor working as the server network team leader at PEO Aviation, decided on a dif- ferent direction in ordering converged storage and server hardware from Nutanix. The first Nutanix "block" arrived in Octo- ber 2012 and two more units were added over the next few months. The Nutanix option required less pro- curement effort, according to Marett, since the formerly separate storage and server items were combined. The units also take up a much smaller chunk of rack space than what had been envisioned for the blade server-and-SAN architecture. "Converged storage is a whole lot easier and a better solution because, when you get it, everything you need is right there," Marett said. Recently, big data technologies such as the Hadoop architecture have started to influence the shift toward converged in- frastructures in data centers. IDC predicts the integrated systems market will grow from $5.4 billion in 2013 to $14.3 billion in by 2017, a five-year compound annual growth rate of 32.8 percent. VDI INFRASTRUCTURE PEO Aviation, located at the Redstone Ar- senal in Huntsville, Ala., has responsibil- ity for the Army s helicopter, fixed-wing aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems programs. The organization s VDI pilot involves about 250 users and 400 virtual desktops, a total that includes standby in- stances. Marett said zero clients, as opposed to fully loaded PCs or laptops, are the pri- mary desktop device for the VDI pilot. The project uses VMware Horizon View virtual desktop solution. After procurement of the Dell servers and EMC network storage was delayed, Marett said he eventually spec d out more powerful Dell blades with additional mem- ory and processor cores. He also planned to include EMC SAN storage in the technol- ogy refresh. Meanwhile, he got in touch with a VM- ware contact and, in a bit of serendipity, found that he had moved from VMware to Nutanix. After that reconnection, Marett decided the Nutanix Virtual Computing Platform was the way to go with the VDI infrastructure upgrade. The Virtual Computing Platform con- sists of hardware/software appliances, or blocks, which converge compute and stor- age into a single tier. A block consists of one to four nodes. Each node runs an industry- standard hypervisor such as VMware s ESXi, open source KVM, or Microsoft s Hy- per-V as well as the Nutanix Controller VM. The latter serves the read/write I/Os and controls the local hard disk drive and flash drive resources. It also communicates with all other controller VMs that are clustered together for redundancy, Nutanix noted. According to Nutanix, 57 agencies have deployed its platform including the Depart- ments of Agriculture, Energy, Health and Human Services and Justice. The company also counts Department of Defense service branches among its customers. • The Army won advantages by consolidating storage and servers, and easing management overhead How the Army saved with converged IT BY JOHN MOORE 32 GCN MAY 2014 • GCN.COM "Converged storage is a whole lot easier and a better solution because, when you get it, everything you need is right there." -- ALAN MARETT, A CONTRACTOR WORKING AS SERVER NETWORK TEAM LEADER AT ARMY'S PEO AVIATION