Storage for Desktops – Simple Versus Complicated


I’ve had some great meetings with a number of customers this week and in one of them they were very interested in understanding NetApp’s value proposition with VMware View. They were specifically interested in understanding how NetApp could deliver high levels of storage I/O from a dense, and cost-effective, storage footprint.

As a point of reference they drew what they perceived as a ‘simple’ storage layout on the whiteboard. They believed that such a storage configuration was an optimal means to deliver performance, cost savings, and operational simplicity for a View deployment of 500 users.

I was really surprised at what they drew and thought this would be a simple example to share with you how different NetApp arrays are from offerings from the traditional array vendors.

The image they drew included the layout I have recreated below.

Notice how the physical disk drives are literally allocated for specific functions in the solution?

Introducing Storage Resource Pools (aka Aggregates)

Allow me to introduce you to NetApp storage – where we abstract physical disk drives into pools of storage. In the image below I’ve attempted to depict 48 disk drives stored in 2 shelves or enclosures.

Notice how we RAID protect all of the drives and group them into an Aggregate? Aggregates are the NetApp terms of storage resource pools. Only the spare drives are represented as a physical disk drive.

In the drawing below, I’ve attempted to depict how we provision Flexible Volumes of storage from the Aggregate.

Aggregates provide FlexVols with the ability to grow and shrink non-disruptively while also being able to leverage all of the shared storage capacity and IOPs available in the aggregate. The pooling of disk into Aggregates (along with technologies like RAID-DP & NVRAM) reduces the number of RAID groups and RAID types resulting in fewer RAID parity calculations required when writing data to disk.

Wrapping Up This Post

That’s it, a brief and simple post. I sometimes forget the nitty-gritty details that others have to deal with when provisioning storage with traditional arrays. It reminds me of how lucky we are to have such a simple architectural design.

By the way, the NetApp storage configuration with FlashCache shared in this post would support 2,500 users. Suffice to say, the customer I spoke with were moved by our simple approach and the performance they can obtain from such a small footprint.

I hope you found these images and the details around NetApp Aggregates interesting. Cheers!


  1. Well it looks simple, My soon to be new company has lots of NetApp and I am trying to ramp up. They are hopeing to get 5,000 desktops out the door soon. Have you done any testing with Flash Cache and ThinApp?
    Thanks for the post.

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