December 22, 2014

Written by

Carl Webster


Between August and November 2014, I have worked on three HP Moonshot Proof of Concepts (two in the USA and one in the Middle East). While Moonshot is not the solution to every desktop problem in the world, it has some very strong advantages. I decided to reach out to a couple of the Citrix leads on these PoCs and have them tell you why they selected to use Moonshot. Before I give you their comments, a couple of items:

  • Don’t ask for the company names, you will not get them
  • Don’t ask for the individual’s names, you will not get them
  • Don’t ask for their contact information, you will not get it
  • Don’t ask me to put you in contact with them, not going to happen
  • Don’t ask me to put them in contact with you, not going to happen

Both of these individuals read my blog and I will send them the link to this article. If you have any questions for them or me, leave a comment and if they are allowed to, they will respond to the comments.

I only edited their responses to correct typos, line formatting and wrapping in their responses and had them correct a couple of sentences that were not clear to me.

The questions I asked them to respond to: “Why did you select HP Moonshot over traditional VDI?  Because doesn’t Moonshot cost way more per user than traditional VDI?”

Medical Related Field

Note: This customer will deliver around 2,000 desktops with Moonshot.

Costs comparison: Moonshot HDI vs VDI

My friend Carl ask me last week: “Why did you select HP Moonshot over traditional VDI?  Because doesn’t Moonshot cost way more per user than traditional VDI?”

During my lifetime of layovers in the world’s most “cozy” terminal (much love EWR), I teetered away from basically disagreeing with the question, but I’m feeling more accommodating since then. Comparing the two methods is a tough one.

On one hand we have user dedicated PCs, and on the other we have a populated blade chassis, shared via your virtualization of choice. Totally an apples and oranges situation. So the difference maybe be jarring, in that the Moonshot m700 carts do not require any hypervisor. Every m700 cart has 4 self-contained systems and supports booting directly from Citrix PVS 7.1.

For those that have done HDI on the past with other solutions, this one is much smaller, at around 5u’s….get ready for this, 180 PCs in 5u’s. Maybe I’m easy to impress, but that is kind of amazing. 180 PCs with a fully dedicated 8gb, four core APU, and onboard SSD. If this PC was sitting on your desktop all by its lonesome, that would be a pretty great business-class system.

You could get the same specs from traditional VDI, but you would need a system that supported almost 1.5tb of memory and 720 cores, and then would require a virtualization layer to share it all out.

What end users want is an experience like they are using a dedicated computer, and what a better solution than one which is exactly that?! So this is why I almost disagree with the question. The cost difference as little as it may be is now negligible because the experience is head and shoulders above any traditional VDI experience I have encountered.

It is all about experience and alignment, the end-user knows what they want from their experience. It is up to us “techies” to get them to a solution that is in alignment with the business case.

Retail Related Field

Note: This customer will deliver around 750 desktops with Moonshot.

My answer would be:

As a long time Citrix admin, I knew the advantages of centralized compute environments. For many years I was at a community bank and we used terminals connecting to Citrix published desktops on MetaFrame XP.  This in essence was the first type of VDI.  We were able to support nearly 400 users with an IT staff of 4 full time employees. There was only a user side Linux device, and all user compute was load balanced across the farm.  Roaming profiles and redirected folders stayed on shares in the data center.  This gave a measure of security for PII data, knowing it was not on remote hard drives that could be lost or stolen.  Also there is an economic benefit to this model as terminals usually cost less than PCs and have a far longer useful life than PCs.  Using terminals also gives a centralized management framework that allows for minimal daily maintenance for the user end points.

So the concepts of VDI have strong advantages for organizations concerned with user data security, user hardware life cycles, and IT management with a small staff.

I am now at a larger organization with multiple corporate sites and several hundred retail stores. I had been trying for a year or more to raise interest in traditional VDI at my current company. We have a very robust VMware environment and SAN.  We also use XenApp to provide multiple user apps across the country to our retail stores and other corporate sites.

Additionally, we have a large number of onsite consultants working on multiple projects. My suggestion was to use VDI to provide all the advantages above on a new project. The retail store managers needed a way to have more robust applications and other access that could not be accommodated on a POS sales register.  Also, each consultant was issued a company laptop. The motivation was to keep data assets safe as possible and under company control.

My suggestion was to use VDI and terminals for a new store user system and for consultants. Including the consultants could enforce the traditional controls but allow for BYOD to reduce hardware expense.

But there was a lot of resistance because of the general understanding that VDI could go very badly. There is another problem with IOPS when it comes to VDI. All IOPS coming out of virtual desktops are typically treated as “equal” by the hypervisor. This causes a lack of consistent user experience (as user workloads vary). Imagine a user running a zip file compression or running an on-demand virus scan on the same host as the CEO who needs his desktop to work on his board meeting presentation. I researched several hybrid and flash based storage systems aligned with VDI deployments. My conclusion was that the total VDI solution was viable now because of the new storage options.

But that was not the only barrier.  The organization is very committed to vendor standardization and not enabling a sprawl of siloes of independent solutions.  So the addition of new VDI-centric storage was not agreeable.  And without that enhancement, the usual VDI IOPs concern remained.

Another hurdle turned out to be the business side.  As they came to understand the shared nature of VDI resources, there was growing resistance.  No one wanted a system that was not completely “theirs”. Even after explaining the IT benefits and small probabilities of user bottlenecks, it was still not well thought of. So traditional VDI was not seen as a safe and reliable solution to match the company culture and expectations.

Then I discovered the HP Moonshot platform and the Converged System 100. Immediately I knew that it had great potential.  Hosted Desktop Infrastructure solves all the concerns I encountered.  It matched our existing hardware vendor. It provides substantial dedicated CPU, GPU, and RAM for every user. And because of the nature of Citrix Provisioning and its ability to cache in memory, the user IOPs to disk are greatly reduced.  Plus Citrix Provisioning frees the onboard 64GB SSD for other uses.  It could hold persistent data, or business apps.  We use it as the page file location.

The use of XenDesktop and Receiver also creates a user system that can be available anytime on multiple devices.

I will say there is one caveat.  We decided to segregate the CS100 server components on dedicated VMware hosts. We also used a new HP 3PAR system as the underlying storage for all of the design. This was mainly because it started as a POC.  But because of its success, and vendor match, the additional hosts and storage was something that was accepted.

Another motivation for making that “giant leap” to Moonshot was the vision behind it. Having that chassis in your Data Center does more than enable HDI. Other server cartridges are available and more will be available in the future. I think it’s the beginning of a new phase of hardware consolidation and server computing. Also, the power consumption is impressive.  It only requires 33 watts typical for a cartridge running 4 Windows systems with a Quad core AMD APU, 8GB RAM, and an SSD.

Another plus is each Windows node has 2 x 1GB NICs.  This may not be meaningful when you think of an end user station.  But having it there gives you more options. We use 1 NIC as a normal LAN link.  The second is used as a direct link to a dedicated iSCSI LUN on the 3PAR.  Having a permanent storage partition per system has enabled us to add business data that is unique to each store location.

I am a big fan of HP HDI and Moonshot in general.  I know our particular situation will not match a lot of businesses.  But people should sit down and think about the potential it offers in terms of consolidation, energy savings, flexibility of architectures, end user mobility and user computing resources.  I believe it is a game changer on several levels.

There you go.

If you have any questions or comments, leave them in the comments section.




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