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Accelerating the Performance of Graphics-Intensive VDI

The VDI landscape is increasingly evolving to embrace virtual desktops that look, perform, and respond like their physical predecessors.  Whether it’s application responsiveness with low latency across the network, or high-performance storage with expansive IOPS capacity that mirrors  the native experience on one’s desktop/laptop, implementers and users expect their virtual desktops to behave akin to physical.

These technological achievements have led to increasingly successful virtual desktop deployments for knowledge workers and task workers, but not so much so for users of 3D graphics applications traditionally running on high-end dedicated graphics workstations.  Across many industries and verticals like Manufacturing/Design, Higher Ed, and Healthcare, you’ll find end users needing access to immersive 3D graphics applications.

Cisco, Citrix and NVIDIA are pleased to be at the forefront of extending the applicability of VDI for graphics-intensive use cases, enabled by our jointly validated solution architectures based on Cisco Unified Computing, NVIDIA GRID™ vGPU™ and Citrix XenDesktop.  This joint solution offers affordable, scalable performance for graphics-intensive VDI use cases, built on an optimized computing infrastructure from Cisco.  Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) is the foundation of Cisco Desktop Virtualization Solutions. Cisco UCS provides an end-to-end, service-and-application optimized platform for mobile, virtual workspaces.  The embedded NVIDIA GRID solution enables GPU sharing without sacrificing application compatibility or the user experience. Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp deliver desktops and applications as on demand services that tap into the benefits of GPU resources.  With our combined desktop virtualization solution, we’re expanding the utility, reach and performance of VDI.

Learn more about Cisco, Citrix and NVIDIA joint solutions for immersive 3D graphics in virtualized environments by checking out this helpful Solution Overview

For more information on NVIDIA GRID™:

NVIDIA GRID™ main website –
NVIDIA GRID™ K1 & K2 boards -

For more information on Cisco Desktop Virtualization Solutions with Citrix:


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Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) Includes Strong Ecosystem for Security and Network Services

partnersWhen Cisco designed the concept of an Application Centric Infrastructure, we knew it wouldn’t reach its full potential without drawing in a very comprehensive ecosystem in a number of areas. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of our announcement was the breadth, quality and scope of the data center infrastructure vendors that we aligned so quickly with our ACI vision and that contributed their perspectives to the launch, and will be contributing key solutions to Cisco’s infrastructure-wide vision.

Yesterday, I blogged about the role of application controllers, network monitoring solutions, WAN optimization, firewalls, etc. have in setting up application networks, provisioning applications, and how the ACI policy model incorporates these security and services solutions. I wanted to follow up that post with some highlights from the support we received from some of our ACI ecosystem vendors in this area, that incorporate ACI policy support into their security, application delivery controller, load balancing and other solutions.

Read More »

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Three Years On, FlexPod is Smarter, Faster, and Better.

This month marks the three year anniversary of Cisco’s partnership with NetApp and our development of FlexPod.  Over the years, we’ve experienced some tremendous growth, more than doubling new installations year-over-year, and now we have more than 3,000 customers globally.

Following the success of FlexPod Datacenter, FlexPod Express and FlexPod Select the solution is capping off the year with several technology enhancements. These include the automation of integrated infrastructure, business continuity solutions, and validation of new products and reference architectures.

Together, Cisco and NetApp are introducing four new FlexPod components that enable our customers’ continuing journey to the cloud:

  1. UCS Director 4.1 deeply integrated with clustered Data ONTAP.
  2. The addition of Citrix to the FlexPod Cooperative Support program.
  3. FlexPod Datacenter with NetApp MetroCluster
  4. FlexPod Datacenter with Cisco Virtualized Multiservice Data Center 2.3

I encourage you to take a look at the short video we’ve created that gives more details of all the new components we’re announcing today.

Our friends at NetApp have written a great  blog post outlining the last two offerings, but I’d like to focus on the first two components – UCS Director and the addition of Citrix capabilities.

UCS Director Integration

New integrations with UCS Director and Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) provide automation and service catalogues, which help customers move toward delivering cloud services. Corporate IT maximizes benefits when its infrastructure can be commissioned within minutes in response to changes in demand. Cisco UCS Director views FlexPod as a single system and allows customers to rapidly deploy FlexPod by leveraging single element managers. UCS Director, in turn, will soon be natively integrated into Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud for a more comprehensive FlexPod cloud management solution.

With the Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) cloud accelerator, UCS Director and FlexPod are integrated as a “node” in the cloud that can be used by cloud administrators to provision NetApp storage into virtual data centers.

Faster with Intel

Rapid deployment will be used to harness tremendous increases in FlexPod computing power. The newest FlexPod deployments will feature Cisco UCS built on Intel’s Ivy Bridge chipset.  We’ve introduced the Intel Xeon Process E5-2600 v2 product family on several servers.

“We like to say that Cisco and Intel are “Joined at the Chip,” because the innovation each company brings is incredibly complimentary. Cisco’s innovation in the data center is an extension of the company’s historic focus: connecting things. Cisco Unified Data Center and products like UCS are the outcomes of our drive to connect the pieces. When we join forces with Intel’s leadership at the computing core, customers see an unbeatable combination.”  –  Todd Brannon, Tick Tock Goes the Server Clock

Coupled with other UCS innovations, the solution has demonstrated great performance versatility and has set record-breaking industry benchmarks.

For enterprises that want to scale out this capacity, Cisco delivers UCS Central. UCS Central software manages multiple, globally distributed Cisco UCS domains with thousands of servers from a single pane.

Adding CItrix

Agile deployment and scale-out performance need the backing of a best-in-class support model. The FlexPod Cooperative Support program brings together the technology expertise of Cisco, NetApp and now Citrix. Citrix XenDesktop, Citrix XenServer and Citrix CloudPlatform are frequently deployed workloads in enterprises today. Customers will have direct access to Cisco, NetApp and Citrix engineers trained to rapidly address any operational issues.  By adding Citrix, FlexPod has the broadest IT and cloud management support, including Citrix CloudPlatform, Microsoft System Center, VMWare vCenter Orchestrator, CA Automation Suite for Clouds, and BMC Cloud Lifecycle Manager.

Combined, these advances in FlexPod technology will enable the platform to exceed the needs of the most demanding private and public cloud deployments.

We’re incredibly proud of the work that Cisco and NetApp have done over the past three years.  We are looking forward to an exciting future together as we use the FlexPod platform to continue delivering significant technology innovations to our customers.


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Your VDI Checklist for VMworld 2013

With just a week ahead of VMworld 2013 in San Francisco, there’s a lot of planning to do.  For example:

  1. Saying “thank goodness it’s not Vegas”
  2. Finding a suitable bacon-themed party to attend (I’ll explain)
  3. Checking out some useful VDI content at VMworld

So if you’re earning your trip to SF by doing some VDI fact-finding footwork whilst there, you’ve come to the right place.  I’m going to save you a ton of wasted time trekking across the Moscone center, and spell everything out right here.  But before we go there, some backdrop…

This has been an incredibly busy year for Cisco, and its VDI technology ecosystem, and certainly VMware.  Yes, I know it’s only August.  With the help of our ecosystem and channel partners, we took aim at the most important VDI hurdles that prevent IT from embracing this technology, including:

  • The cost and performance bottleneck associated with VDI storage
  • Expanding the addressable use cases into which VDI nicely fits
  • The complexity of putting a cost-effective yet scalable solution together

Now you may be saying “Pretend like I’ve been asleep for 8 months, and remind me what you’re talking about, and make it quick or I’ll find another blog to read”.  Ok then testy reader, here goes:

  • We’ve raised the bar on VDI storage performance, while reducing the overall TCO.  With the help of our expanding, best-of-breed ecosystem including solutions from Nimble Storage, Fusion-io, Nexenta, Tegile, and Atlantis Computing, we offer prescriptive design guidance on how to build solutions based on these technologies, combined with Cisco Unified Computing.  These solutions are available as a complete suite of reference architectures and validated designs, here.  These solutions are making the reality of doing floating or PERSISTENT desktops in an affordable way, a reality.
  • When you think of VDI, it’s traditionally been around the low-hanging fruit that’s easily addressable, ie: task workers, such as call center ops and those who have a minimal set of apps they need to use at any given time.  But what about graphics-intensive workstations that aren’t adequately addressed by VDI display protocols?  Employing Cisco UCS C240 M3 Rack Server with the NVIDIA GRID™ solution, we can do virtualized GPU, offloading CPU resources while delivering higher quality graphics rendering at distance.
  • We’re de-risked getting into VDI, especially for pilot / proof-of-concept environments where your organization wants to get their feet wet, quickly, and affordably.  How?  The UCS SmartPlay with VMware Horizon View, that’s how.  These promo bundles begin with a starter for 30, 100 or 300 users, and offer expansion options, as well as storage upgrades like UCS Storage Accelerator (built on Fusion-io).  We call this the “Accelerated Path to ROI with VDI”.

In case you missed it, I cover some of this in my previous post, here.  Now back to VMworld… coincidentally, the stuff I mentioned above, are BIG focus areas for Cisco and its partners at the show, ie: if you want to see these solutions in action, read further.

Also coincidentally, these are the very same technology trends that Brian Madden recently wrote about, associated with the increasing feasibility of doing VDI for “persistent 1-to-1 desktop images” as he puts it, leveraging the storage technologies we’ve incorporated in our reference architectures.   He also makes reference to the importance of virtualized GPU solutions that are making VDI an increasingly good option for CAD, photo/video editing and similar environments.

So if you’re putting your VDI at VMworld SF checklist together, here are some things you MUST add:

1.) Cisco VDI Demos! (akawho doesn’t like hardware, software, and blinky lights?”)

  • Come by Booth 1005 for starters.  Our VDI demos will include:
  • UCS C240 M3 running VMware Horizon View with…
    • UCS Storage Accelerator (built on Fusion-io) delivering low-latency, high-IOPS capacity for non-persistent View desktops
    • NVIDIA GRID™ cards installed so you can see virtualized GPU delivering accelerated graphics in action!
    • We’ll also have a single-wire managed (aka “Single Connect”) cluster of C220 M3’s running VMware Horizon View with EMC VNX5300 storage.  This environment will show 500 desktops running (live) Login VSI 3.7 Medium workloads

2.) Our featured breakout session “#VAPP6408 – The Next Wave of Virtualization & Fabric Computing with Cisco’s Unified Computing System will share the latest innovations in Unified Computing with a special focus on VDI.

3.) Cisco Booth Theater Presentation (and maybe win free stuff)

  • swing by Booth 1005, at 5:30pm on the Tuesday (Aug. 27th) to catch Mike Brennan’s presentation “Delivering VMware Horizon View Desktops with Uncompromised Performance and Scalability

4.) Colorado University at Boulder – Featured Breakout Session “#EUC5610 – Virtualized Inception: Mobility Dream within a VDI Dream; Realized!

  • CU Boulder deployed Nimble Storage for supporting VDI with Horizon View, built on Cisco UCS.  This is a great case study in supporting hundreds of users, supporting BYOD and mobile users in a fully virtualized end-user computing environment.  Check out the written version here.
  • We have a reference architecture (R/A) with Nimble you can review here.
  • and… because Inception is one of my favorite movies ever, you know this session with CU Boulder simply can’t miss!

5.) Nexenta VSA for View (NV4V) Demo Featuring Cisco UCS

  • check out this innovative storage appliance demo, built on Cisco UCS C-Series Rack Server.  You can review our joint R/A here.

6.) Tegile VDI Passport Program

  • Tegile will be running a passport program that provides the opportunity to win an iPad mini by visiting: Tegile, Cisco, and other VDI ecosystem partners
  • We have a joint R/A featuring Tegile Zebi available here.

6.) Atlantis Computing ILIO with Cisco UCS

  • If you’re not familiar with it, the ILIO appliance built on Cisco UCS, provides scalable IOPS capacity without disks,  leveraging UCS’s expansive memory footprint.  Check this Glasshouse Whitepaper for more.

7.) #vBacon !

Ok, so what about the bacon thing?  If you want to get in on probably the best bacon-themed party in SF, you need to be at the Cable Car City Pub by 10pm on Tuesday August 27th.   You won’t be disappointed.  Find out about this and other goodies @CommNinja and the Cisco Social Media Team are putting together, but checking this out.

Well for now, that’s it.  I’ll have more to share next week at VMworld.  Stop by, say hi, and let us help you knock some items off that VDI checklist.  For more information on literally everything I mentioned above, see my handy bookshelf below:

VMware Horizon View Promotion: Cisco UCS SmartPlay Bundle Offer

VMware Horizon View Promotion: Cisco UCS SmartPlay Bundle Offer

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Video Whiteboard: Cisco UCS with VMware Horizon View

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VDI Reference Arch. with VMware Horizon View, Cisco UCS and NetApp FlexPod

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Cisco UCS with VMware Horizon View at Cisco Live

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VDI Reference Arch. for VMware Horizon View with Cisco UCS and EMC VSPEX

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Solution Overview: VDI with VMware Horizon View, Cisco UCS and Fusion-io

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VDI Reference Arch. for VMware Horizon View with Cisco UCS and Nimble Storage

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VDI Reference Arch. for VMware Horizon View with Cisco UCS and Nexenta

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VDI Reference Arch. for VMware Horizon View with Cisco UCS and Tegile Zebi Storage

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 8.46.16 AM

VDI Reference Arch. for VMware Horizon View with Cisco UCS and Atlantis ILIO


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#EngineersUnplugged S3|Ep7: NetScaler and the Application Driven Data Center

In this week’s episode of Engineers Unplugged, we send the marketer in to chat with the technologist. Steve Shah (@steveshah) quizzes Nisarg Shah (@nisargcisco) around the use cases for NetScaler including load balancing in the Application Driven Data Center. Less talk, more TLAs! All will be explained, just watch and see:

The moral of this story, marketing and engineering finally agree, unicorns are hard to draw.

The moral of this story, marketing and engineering finally agree, unicorns are hard to draw.

Welcome to Engineers Unplugged, where technologists talk to each other the way they know best, with a whiteboard. The rules are simple:

  1. Episodes will publish weekly (or as close to it as we can manage)
  2. Subscribe to the podcast here:
  3. Follow the #engineersunplugged conversation on Twitter
  4. Submit ideas for episodes or volunteer to appear by Tweeting to @CommsNinja
  5. Practice drawing unicorns

Thanks as always for joining us. Be sure to catch up on all of your favorite topics by watching previous episodes. Watch this space, we’re going to be voting on the best of all of the seasons soon!

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