VMware announcing Project Fargo: a technique for rapid cloning of running VMs, 30 x faster VDI provisioning

This post is part of a serie blogposts on VMworld. For an overview of VMworld announcements see this post. 

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At the keynotes of VMworld 2014,  VMware announced a very interesting new project called Project Fargo. The other name of this seems to be Project VMFork.

Also mentioned is Project Meteor.

Fargo/VMFork is a platform currently in technology preview  which enables a rapid cloning of running VMs for application remoting purposes. Imagine a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure environment. A running VM has the base operating system. We call this the Template VM. When a new user logs in, a clean new virtual machine is cloned based on this Template VM. This clone starts in 1 second or so!

Photo below taken by my PQR co-worker Rob Beekmans during a VMworld session.

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Kit Colbert of VMware described Fargo below (source here):

Just-in-time desktop delivery

While we’ve solved the real-time application delivery problem, we still need to address the issue of desktop delivery.  The reality is that today the delivery of virtual desktops is time consuming.  From cloning to powering on and OS boot to customization, the end-to-end process can take many minutes before the virtual desktop is ready to accept user logins.  This problem compounds itself when trying to deliver hundreds or thousands of desktops at one time.  We need a better solution.

Just like CloudVolumes leveraged hypervisor technology to optimize the delivery of applications, we can leverage hypervisor innovation to optimize the delivery of virtual desktops.  In particular, the vSphere team has been working on something we’re calling Project Fargo.  Project Fargo enables the instantaneous cloning of a running virtual machine (essentially a virtual machine “fork”).  The cloned VM is identical in every way to the original and initially shares all memory and disk with it as well.  Project Fargo is very cool for two reasons: first, it gets you a new running VM in under a second.  Second, it’s a very lightweight VM because it shares all memory and disk with the original.  (To be clear, both the memory and disk are “copy on write” so if new VMs modify bits of their memory or disk, a separate copy is made for that VM.  We thus preserve security and isolation between VMs.)

The idea is then that we can leverage Project Fargo to quickly spin up new virtual desktops for us.  Rather than the multi-minute process we had before, with Project Fargo and some optimizations in how we do customization, we can have a new virtual desktop up and running and ready for user login in just a few seconds.  Very exciting!

Also because of Fargo , storage and memory resource consumption of VMs is reduced. When a running VM is cloned, the operating system files are shared. When a shared file is written, a copy of that shared file is copied to the child VM.

Use cases:

enterprise applications

  • speed of containers-based provisiong
  • VM-level goodness (isolation, management)

virtual desktops

  • instant clone of running non-persistent desktop
  • instant availability of application for application publishing

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The Project Fargo feature will become likely become available in vSphere 6.0 (scheduled for 2015). It will be also possible to use Fargo features using a vCenter API.

Early benchmarks show that 120 sessions can be handled on a 2 socket/8 core host with 30% less CPU consumption than same number of RDSH session.

This poster shown at VMworld explains a bit more. Thanks Ruben Spruijt of PQR for sharing the picture.

Here is another photo of the same poster published by vmnerds.fr.

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When the VM has been provisioned applications are assigned to this VDI workstation using the recently acquired layering solution CloudVolumes. VMware claims a 30 x faster VDI provisioning.

The combination of Project Fargo + CloudVolumes is internally called Project Meteor. The photo below on the left was taken from a Tweet by co-worker Ruben Spruijt @rspruijt . 

Project Meteor is focused on  delivering these desktops to any device with an HTML5-based browser. The photo on the right was taken by co-worker Rob Beekmans. 

View Composer is being replaced by Project Fargo to increase provisioning 30x

My co-worker Rob Beekmans of PQR also wrote a blog on Fargo and Meteor.

Duncan Epping of VMware wrote a  nice blogpost about this new tech.

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Some more info on Fargo here.

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