Data Storage and the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

Data storage takes many forms and can be broken down into primary, secondary, removable, and virtual data storage. Each category has its place. As an organization moves toward a virtual desktop infrastructure, some forms of storage system may be more appropriate than others. Here’s a look at the different types of storage systems and their place, if any, in a virtual desktop infrastructure.

Primary Data Storage

Think of primary storage as built-in, hands-off storage on a computer or server. For example, computers come with built-in RAM and ROM. In general, this type of data is handled by the operating system and end-users are not required to do anything special other than use their computers. Random Access Memory (RAM) stores data temporarily; when a computer is switched off, its RAM data is removed from memory. Read only memory (ROM) is permanent and cannot be overwritten; ROM stores data on internal chips.

With a virtual desktop infrastructure, each virtual desktop is assigned its own allotment of RAM independent of what’s physically installed on the actual machine used to launch the virtual desktop.

Secondary Data Storage

Storage devices such as hard disks, CDs, DVDs, and USB flash drives are secondary storage devices. These devices can be added to a computer system or network as needed to increase storage capacity. For example, if you have a desktop computer with a nearly full built-in hard disk, you could add a second hard disk for added capacity. You could also write data to a CD, DVD, or USB flash drive. Secondary storage is semi-permanent. For example, it doesn’t disappear when you shut down the computer like RAM does. However, you can usually overwrite data and delete files (unless the data is on a ROM disc such as a CD-ROM or has been set as read-only).

Removable storage falls into the secondary storage category, but is notable for its portability. USB thumb drives are the classic example of removable storage. These small devices are inserted into USB ports where they become an extra drive. You can drag and drop files between other drives and the USB drive as well as save files directly to the device. Once removed, the storage is portable. You can plug the USB drive into a different computer and access the files, write new data, and so on. Removable storage comes in several forms including USB drives, memory cards, and even connected devices such as digital cameras, smartphones, and MP3 players (which have their own storage systems).

Virtual machines do not necessarily need their own storage devices as data is generally stored in the organization’s virtual storage system. However, end-users may need to access data on a CD, DVD, or Blu-ray disc or may want to save files to a USB drive for various purposes. For example, a sales rep may want a copy of his PowerPoint presentation on a USB device to ensure a smooth presentation at a client’s office.

Online / Virtual Data Storage

Online / virtual storage is a storage system hosted by the enterprise or a third party provider, with users accessing it using a network or Internet connection. While the terms virtual data storage and cloud computing often sound as if data is just invisibly floating around, it is actually stored on physical storage devices located in a remote datacenter.

Virtual data storage is a vital component of a virtual desktop infrastructure. After all, virtual desktop users need a centralized location for storing and accessing data. If a user were to store files on a local computer rather than in virtual data storage, that data would not be accessible when the user uses a different computer to launch the virtual desktop.