De-duplication: The Boon of Affordable Virtualization
If you intend to run virtual copies of Windows workstation software on a server, you will eventually discover that regular hard disks just can't keep up. Each copy needs the same 80 IOs per second (IOPS) that a laptop or desktop gets from its existing hard disk. In effect, to virtualize systems, you will need either one hard disk per virtual user, or you will need the high IOPS available only in Flash Media. Here, a single flash drive delivering >10,000 IOPS can replace 100 or more hard disks.
The problem then becomes one of cost minimization. If you need to use Enterprise Flash media on a 1:1 basis, you will quickly find that this is the bulk of your build cost. For instance, if you use Enterprise grade media, a quick analysis will show that all the hardware components of a server cost about $15 to $30 per user, but that a single gigabyte of mirrored Enterprise grade Flash media will cost $14 or more. In this scenario, Citrix's Gold Standard at $400 per user quickly pays for itself by eliminating duplicate copies of system files. A further saving might be had as a result of using mirrored Commercial Grade media, or even the basic Raid SuperCharger product. With SuperCharger reducing media costs to $4 to $5 per gigabyte and the Gold Standard, media costs are reduced to a cost near the rest of the system, but you still have the $400/user burden.
In the second quarter of 2011, EasyCo will release an alternative with significantly lower costs: Raid SuperCharger with inherent de-duplication. De-duplication is a superior solution to the problem of virtualized space, because it not only ends duplication of system files, but it also treats all free space as in-common. Similarly, because it operates at the block level, it treats any 4KB block that duplicates another as a duplicate, further reducing space requirements by de-duplicating multiple copies of any document. But perhaps what is most compelling about the SuperCharger solution is that it is fast. Most hardware based de-duplication systems have an upper throughput limit of about 200MB/second, because of the time required to generate hashes. Conversely, EasyCo's design is capable of generating 3GB/second of hashes off of a single core. With the release of de-duplication, it will be possible to have a 256GB Flash drive handle the needs of thirty or forty rather than just four users.