The USC Viterbi School of Engineering is innovative, elite and internationally recognized for creating new models of education, research and commercialization that are firmly rooted in real world needs. The school’s first priorities are the education of outstanding students and the pursuit and publication of new research.
Viterbi currently serves 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students who are supported by approximately 300 faculty members. Students and faculty are supported by almost 30 computer classrooms with over 900 desktop and laptop computers running over 200 applications.
“It is a challenge to keep pace with the constantly changing demands of our faculty and students,” said Michael Goay, Executive Director of IT. “There is limited classroom space, with limited hardware in each location. Building new labs is expensive, as is managing dedicated computers in each facility to handle our constituents’ diverse application needs.”
The school deployed a comprehensive Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) using VMware Horizon with goals to address these challenges. With VDI, the aim is for all students to access engineering applications from anywhere, at any time. Plus Viterbi seeks to reduce the time and money spent by IT staff and faculty installing and managing applications.
As part of the strategic VDI rollout, the school purchased eight Dell PowerEdge R720 servers with local SSDs to boot non-persistent linked clones. This offloaded key VDI functions from Viterbi’s existing Dell EqualLogic hybrid arrays, which are used to store student data.
“We saw great VDI performance with local SSDs in place, but that solution simply couldn’t scale cost effectively,” said Goay. “I wanted to add VDI images without constantly worrying about how to afford and manage storage performance. Plus, I didn’t want to manage each host individually. We are looking for a comprehensive solution that worked consistently across all applications, on all devices, in all classrooms.”
The school looked at replacing their hybrid array with an All Flash Array (AFA), but felt the performance improvement attained would be disproportionate to the exorbitant cost of the new storage devices.
Instead, the school sought a solution in PernixData FVP® software.
FVP was installed inside the school’s hypervisor with no changes to existing servers, storage or virtual desktops. With FVP, the school created a low latency, fault tolerant I/O acceleration tier across servers using RAM – a concept known as infrastructure level
in-memory computing. This enables storage read/writes to be handled inside the hosts, minimizing VDI latency and ensuring seamless scale-out growth.
“FVP promises to deliver high VDI performance by offloading data intensive tasks, like boot storms, into server RAM,” said Goay. “I expect it to be extremely easy to scale, and will save substantial money by avoiding expensive AFA upgrades. Plus, it is certified with VMware Horizon, so we expect seamless deployment and operations.”
With over 600 virtual desktops currently accelerated by FVP, students at Viterbi are experiencing a noticeable improvement in desktop responsiveness – at boot ups and during ongoing operations.
“We expect substantially fewer complaints from students and faculty,” said Goay. “Plus we expect class enrollment to go up as students have better access to more services.”
Going forward, Viterbi expects to use FVP software for more general purpose applications, like databases, email, file, web, desktop streaming servers, and more.
“My goal is to have FVP on every administrative server,” said Goay.