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Defining the Virtualized Collaborative Workspace

Today Cisco announced the Virtualization Experience Infrastructure (VXI).  I wanted to take the opportunity to discuss this new system, and offer some thoughts on what it means, relative to desktop virtualization.

If you’ve heard our CEO, John Chambers, address our customers, industry analysts, and the IT community at large, you’ll know that he often highlights how we’ve built our success not on offering solutions that compete directly with today’s approaches, but rather solutions that anticipate the problems and opportunities that our customers may not have wrestled with yet, but inevitably will.

VXI recognizes that a worker’s productivity is not defined solely by their access to their desktop, but to the broader, encompassing suite of collaborative solutions they depend on.  It’s bigger than email or slide presentations or spreadsheets – it’s the full experience that extends to unified communications, and immersive collaborative video.  It’s about leveraging the intelligence in the network to create new capabilities that are meaningful in a virtual workspace context.  This is what VXI is all about -- solving for the “bigger picture” problem by delivering a services-optimized system that goes beyond today’s virtual desktop.

What is VXI?

VXI is built on the architectural binding and interworking of Cisco’s Collaboration, Borderless Network and Data Center technologies to enable new solutions that build upon, and go beyond, the confines of traditional desktop virtualization.  VXI employs an open-ecosystem approach, leveraging the strengths of our solution partners including VMware, Citrix, NetApp, EMC, Intel, and Wyse.  Check out the Virtual Storage Guy’s “Cisco VXI Ups the Ante for some valuable perspective from NetApp, as well as Sumit Dhawan’s post on the Citrix Blog.

If we think about the evolved workplace, WebEx and TelePresence come to mind as good examples of applications that need to be embraced in a fully virtualized collaborative workspace, and yet they pose real challenges to traditional desktop virtualization solutions when you consider the impact of real-time, immersive media.  And what about the IP phone sitting on your desk?  Surely that device (which most of us spend the better part of our day using) doesn’t just disappear because our desktop and apps have been abstracted from our PC, and remoted from a data center?  And yet these devices are intimately connected with our desktops and office applications.

Now let’s consider the distributed intelligence that exists across the network.  Tapping into client mobility services, security and energy-management features that are pervasive across the LAN and WAN infrastructure presents new service creation possibilities.  For example, we can look forward to location-aware solutions that leverage this existing intelligence to provide new persistent capabilities for virtual desktop users as they roam the virtual campus.

How does it fit together?

Cisco’s Desktop Virtualization Solutions, leveraging Citrix and VMware, are core building blocks of the VXI system.  Central to VXI is an open ecosystem that does not prescribe a “one-size-fits-all” approach.  You can see the value of this as you survey the landscape of client devices your end-users choose to conduct business on, from tablets to smartphones, zero-clients to rich clients – all of which VXI supports.  Cisco recognizes that in every enterprise, the end-user profile will govern what makes sense for a call center operator versus a sales executive.  Cisco is enhancing this landscape of choices by introducing a new set of what you might call “capable clients” that consolidate several essential capabilities into single unified device, including rich media collaboration, virtual desktop, and web.Cisco Cius

Cisco Virtualization Experience Clients

Cius Mobile Business Tablet, which was announced in June – comes standard with a choice of virtual desktop clients, allowing seamless, secure access for mobile professionals, while leveraging Cisco’s Collaboration Architecture.  When docked in its media station, users can benefit from one device that integrates traditional unified communications capabilities along with a full virtual desktop experience through their familiar keyboard, monitor and mouse.

Cisco VXC 2200New Cisco Virtualization Experience Clients (VXC) – available in both standalone and IP-phone integrated versions.  These zero client solutions save desk real-estate while offering Power over Ethernet (PoE), and supporting up to 2 monitors and up to 4 USB ports.  This is a great integrated approach to delivering a virtual desktop without compromising on rich collaborative applications.  These solutions also provide flexibility in choice of virtual desktop client software, supporting PCoIP, ICA and RDP.Cisco VXC 2100

It’s all about choice without compromise, whether we’re talking IT control/security/manageability, or end-user experience.  I view these new end-user choices as part of this bigger story that’s unfolding, going beyond the traditional desktop.  Our customers expect us to solve for the challenges of how they embrace virtual desktops, while continuing to embrace the rich collaborative technologies they know and love.  I believe Cisco VXI holds that promise, and there’s still a lot more on the way.  Clearly there’s a lot to be excited about as VXI addresses the “bigger picture” problem and opportunity associated with the virtualized workplace, beyond what traditional desktop virtualization offers today.

It would be great to get your first impressions of VXI, and what it might mean to your fully virtualized, collaborative workspace!  Also, don’t forget to attend our Cisco Collaboration Virtual Launch Experience, hosted by our CTO, Padmasree Warrior.

For more information:

Cisco Desktop Virtualization

Cisco Virtualization Experience Infrastructure

Cisco Virtualization Experience Clients

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