Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is VirtualStorm?

A: VirtualStorm is an enterprise class virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution for 1000 to 100,000 users. It’s a software agent that optimizes VDI infrastructures in order to cost effectively deliver high performance, easy to manage virtual desktops. When you add VirtualStorm to leading VDI technologies (from Microsoft, VMware and Symantec the entire solution scales linearly to tens of thousands of concurrent users. In addition VirtualStorm improves hardware resource utilization while automating deployment, installations, provisioning, updates and upgrades.

Q: What Make VirtualStorm Unique?

A: A: VirtualStorm is truly unique when compared to other VDI solutions. VirtualStorm’s combination of memory management, the use of disk I/O and client redirection to a centralized application repository produces an unparalleled increase in scalability, performance, manageability and ROI.

For example VirtualStorm will on average run three times as many virtual images per server as it’s closest competitor. As a result this means that VirtualStorm can run 250-300 full Windows desktops with full application stacks, on a dual socket/quad core Nehalem server in production.

Q: Can You Tell Me More?

A: VirtualStorm is unique in three major areas:

• Memory Enhancement Stack (MES)

• The MES is a special memory driver for virtualized applications that intelligently loads and activates applications or parts of applications. Large applications are loaded and operated in a very small physical memory footprint (384MB) and RAM expansion is extended to the SAN. As a result the page file performance is improved and density of VM’s per server.

• Disk Driver

• VirtualStorm leverages a disk I/O driver to access application resources rather than streaming an entire application image to the end user. As a result VirtualStorm takes advantage of redirection technology and simply points the end-user to the application. This improves the end user experience and application response time. VirtualStorm’s I/O driver is a filter driver that directs the application directly to the VMDK image thereby eliminating chatter between virtual disks. VirtualStorm DOES NOT direct over the virtualized bus. It redirects over the SAN instead.

• Redirection to a centralized application repository.

• VirtualStorm provides a centralized application repository that allows thousands of users to concurrently access the same virtualized application. The repository appears as a mounted disk within the virtual image and VirtualStorm’s I/O driver simply writes into the VMDK.

Q: Why is there a Memory Enhancement Stack?

A: The MES was created to alleviate a very specific Windows Memory Manager problem.(the problem of Memory Allocation Errors, cause of 70%+ of all blue screens or BSOD.) In a virtual environment such as VirtualStorm it allows loading of applications that are much larger than the allotted 384 MB of RAM. The M.E.S. works alongside the standard Windows Memory Manager.

Q: Do VirtualStorm Images Ever Grow Unpredictably?

A: No. VirtualStorm images are fixed in size with the default image being 2.2GB in size: 1.2GB for the base image and 1GB for page swap. Each image consists of a 400MB bare-bones Microsoft Windows OS image, then 100MB are added for the VirtualStorm driver and anti-virus software, and the rest is page swap and extended memory.

Q: How Large Can Extended Memory Be?

A: Although the extended memory is set at 1GB per image, it can be configured from 64MB up to 4GB, depending upon your application needs.

Q: How Does Redirection Work?

A: When the user requests an application; Active Directory is first checked to validate the user profile and grant access to the right application groups. The request is then directed to the centralized application repository where the virtualized applications reside. The repository directs the request directly to the VM via streamlined disk I/O. The Memory Enhancement Stack takes what it needs from the allocated 384MB of segmented RAM for that VM and pages the rest to the extended page file on the desktop image that is assigned to that VM.

The result is extremely fast response times as most of the I/O is in and out of memory.

Q: Does VirtualStorm Leverage Best of Breed VDI Technologies?

A: Yes. VirtualStorm Leverages “best of breed technologies” where it makes sense. For example, VirtualStorm utilizes the world’s leading hypervisor – VMware - for the back end VDI servers and Symantec’s Workspace Virtualization for application packaging and deployment. However these components alone do not provide enough abstraction of hardware, operating systems, applications and user-data to scale and support 100,000 end users cost effectively. In addition Symantec Workspace Virtualization does not provide concurrent access of its local disk to a SAN.

So by adding VirtualStorm to this solution, SVS delivers a multi-user capability in a shared environment allowing remote application management inside of a Windows image. In addition VirtualStorm makes the application disk for the VMware image central to the environment in order to allow sharing of a single application instance for many concurrent desktops.

Q: Does VirtualStorm Change Standard Supported Software?

A: No. VirtualStorm adds to the standard installations of the respective VDI vendors and does not change any configuration. The VirtualStorm agent builds on top of these stacks and adheres to the best practices for Symantec, VMware and Microsoft. For example a highly customized Windows image is supported by Microsoft because it was constructed using standard procedures and Microsoft’s WAIK.

Q: What is the Relay Agent?

A: The Relay Agent and the Enterprise Management Console allow you to access all endpoints, both virtual and physical, on all networks. The Relay Agent is advertised to VirtualStorm agents (installed on the end-points) via a DHCP or DNS setting. The Relay Agent can listen on all subnets inside a network and aggregate the available VirtualStorm based desktops. It then manages all traffic to and from the VirtualStorm desktops from the Enterprise Management Console.

Q: What Port Do the Agents, Management Console and Relay Server Use?

A: All traffic is handled by UDP over port 8003.

Q: What is the Enterprise Management Console (EMC)?

A: The enterprise management console is a central location from which to manage the life cycle of all applications and endpoints (fat, thin and virtual) for the entire enterprise. The EMC uses a small agent that is deployed on the endpoints and the applications are virtualized and stored on a single disk repository. Now all patch updates, all software rollouts, are done once and sent to thousands!

Q: How Does VirtualStorm Handle User Profiles?

A: VirtualStorm uses redirection and active directory integration to access user profiles that are located on shared storage. As a result they are only accessed when and if necessary, but never altered by VirtualStorm.

Q: How Does VirtualStorm Handle User Data?

A: Personal user data is handled as part of traditional data-center operations and as such VirtualStorm has no need to change, utilize or access it.

Q: How Does VirtualStorm handle a Sudden Surge of User Activity?

A: A surge of user activity is known as a “Boot Storm” and occurs when a large number of desktops have to be instantly provisioned (say at 9am when everyone logs-on). VirtualStorm’s architecture accounts for this in a number of ways. First it minimizes the chance of traffic saturating the network, increased VM density handles scalability and good disk performance should handle everything else. Therefore the key to handling boot storms is to ensure that your storage subsystems provide respectable IOPS. VirtualStorm best practice suggests that you always pre-provision sufficient VMs.

Q: Why Doesn’t VirtualStorm Use Linked Clones Like Some Other Solutions?

A: VirtualStorm does not use linked clone technology for three strong reasons:

1. Storage Capacity: Linked clone images are can grow in size very unpredictably.

2. Kills Disk” : Linked clones create “hot spots” on disk and repeated access to the same spot leads to many disk failures.

3. Single-Point-Of Failure : If something happens to one clone, it happens to all clones that are linked to it and this can lead to failure and downtime.

Q: How does VirtualStorm Addresss Security?

A: VirtualStorm leverages best in class security produces, features and best practices. Symantec Endpoint Protection is incorporated into VirtualStorm, which not only protects the endpoints, but also includes antivirus and additional behavior control.

VirtualStorm centralizes the complete ICT infrastructure. Access is via virtual display clients (without OS on separate LANs) while encrypted traffic passes through a high-grade security gateway (Solaris 10 with trusted extensions). The traffic only consists of display vectors and 128bit encryption is an option. In addition your applications become read-only instances in your VirtualStorm environment and are controlled through the application agent and the enterprise management console.