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Zero to 5000 Citrix VDI Users Logged-in and Working in Just 30 Minutes!

Making sure your users don’t go to sleep (or worse) waiting to log-on
Hi Everyone! I am the team lead Technical Marketing Engineer for Cisco Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solutions on UCS and Nexus. While I have done some blogging in my time – this is my first blog for Cisco. I have been in this space for over 22 years, before “virtualization” was called that, working with published applications and published desktops (MetaFrame and early RDP.)
With the Citrix and EMC teams, I have been focused for the past few months on validating what I think is a really exciting solution -- even if I say so myself. So recently not much time for blogging I am afraid.
Over the last couple of years we have seen desktop virtualization, specifically Hosted Virtual Desktops (HVD,) become increasingly more mainstream -- but today we are really experiencing an upsurge of deployments -- and not just pilots -- but full blown multi-thousand seat deployments.
As you are probably aware the worst nightmare is that you deploy the solution and the users don’t adopt it because it doesn’t provide them the user experience they need or want.
One of the key requirements for success is an infrastructure that won’t just provide the right experience for the first few hundred users -- but that will scale linearly as you grow into the many thousands.
You can rely on Cisco Validated Designs to deliver for you! We use real world test scenarios to insure that you can implement our designs in your environment and be successful.
The keys to a successful deployment of a large scale HVD environment start with:

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Cisco Live Europe London Excel Centre Jan 28-Feb 1 : What You Make Possible

January 28, 2013 at 5:00 am PST

Cisco Live Europe returns to London this year more precisely at the ICC Excel Conference Centre.

By focusing on “What You Make Possible”, attendees are invited to hear customer testimonials and see Cisco’s innovation solutions that showcase what is possible when partnering with Cisco.

WhatYouMake Possible

 

As usual the event is divided between a series of educational programs, starting on Monday January 28 with a full day of technical seminars , followed on the 29, 30, 31 and even Feb 1st by a large range of opportunities

  • Keynotes sessions with CTO Padmasree Warrior (1/29) and Data Center SVP/GM David Yen (1/30 )
  • Break out sessions
  • Panels
  • Labs
  • Meet the Engineers
  • Cisco Certifications

I will not detail all the activities. I encourage you to check the website. If you’re in London you want to attend directly – If not you may want to check www.ciscolive356.com to discover  a large  choice of sessions that you can attend on line .

This year we are honored to have NetApp as a Diamond Sponsor (Check John Rollason’s blog on NetApp activities a Cisco Live) . If Cisco, EMC and VMware have been collaborating intensively over the past years with the creation of VCE , and solutions such as VBlock and VSPEX , Cisco and NetApp have also reinforced the partnership moving it to a next level with a recent announcement around Flexpod (chek the blog from Todd Brannon More of a good thing: Cisco and NetApp open the next chapter for FlexPod)

 

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Citrix NetScaler VPX gets going on the Cisco 1110 Virtual Network Services platform

 This week at Cisco live! in London, Citrix is demonstrating the Citrix NetScaler VPX virtual application delivery controller (vADC) on the Nexus 1110 Cloud Services Platform . NetScaler VPX is the industry-leading vADC and is further testimony to the expanding ecosystem for the Cisco Nexus 1000V virtual networking portfolio and the Cloud Network Services platform. The integrated Cisco-Citrix solution follows on the heels of last year’s agreement by the two companies that Cisco would reference sell the Citrix NetScaler portfolio, and Cisco’s demonstration of its Nexus 1000V virtual networking portfolio on Citrix XenServer.

Citirx

 

The Nexus 1110 is the latest generation of appliances that started with the Nexus 1010. The Nexus 1110 helps customers that are virtualizing more of their application and security services and want to run them on a dedicated platform. For example, virtual firewalls, like our Virtual Security Gateway (VSG), complement physical firewall appliances to support virtual application deployments and VM mobility requirements. The Nexus 1110 appliance serves that need, running a range of virtual services on a platform that the networking and security teams can more directly control than the other application servers.

With Citrix NetScaler VPX integrated into the Nexus 1110 Cloud Services Platform, enterprise IT admins can scale-out deployments by enabling additional virtual NetScaler instances (VM’s) directly from the Nexus 1110. NetScaler VPX also provides feature and management consistency across physical and virtual ADC’s, as well as consistency across physical and virtual workloads that are being managed. The NetScaler portfolio includes two other physical appliances, MPX and SDX. The virtual VPX can also load balance across both physical and virtual servers, as well as multiple web servers, application servers and database servers.

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VDI – The Questions You Didn’t Ask (But Really Should)

There’s no shortage of content out there (a quick Google search easily confirms this) when it comes to looking for vendor-originated material touting the latest server performance benchmarks for hosted virtual desktops.  Being part of that community, I’m pretty sure I have my fingerprints on more than one such piece of collateral – and I’m constantly reminded of this, when we run into questions along the lines of “yeah, {xxx} desktops on a blade is great, but c’mon, you and I both know we’d never do that in practice”.  It’s a balancing act of demonstrating solution performance, intersected with the practical reality of what IT managers would reasonably support in a production environment.

So what really matters?  If I’m implementing VDI for the 1st time, and I’m trying to make intelligent decisions around CPU, memory speed, IOPS, etc., where do I go?  VDI is unique in its consumption of compute, storage and network resources, when compared to other workloads hosted in the data center.  Much of the performance benchmarking info put out by server manufacturers is not specific to VDI performance, or how user experience might be impacted by simple decisions like choice of clock speed or # of vCPU.

Thankfully, there are folks in my company that care a LOT about such questions.  So much so, that a small, VDI-proficient group of them took it upon themselves to design and build an in-house lab environment with one express purpose – exhaustively exploring and documenting the performance and scalability impacts seen when configuring your compute platform for VDI.  No stone left unturned – things like CPU cores, clock speed, memory speed,  vCPU, memory density and more – all fair game.

The findings are extremely valuable to anyone deploying VDI, and what this team discovered is a set of real-life “questions”.  The “Missing” questions if you will – those questions that are noticeably absent or never sufficiently exposed in marketing materials, when it comes to the practical choices you can make that most significantly impact the cost, scalability and performance of your virtual desktop implementation.

So let me start with an introduction.  Over the next few weeks, you’re going to hear from some peers of mine – Doron Chosnek, Jason Marchesano, and Shawn Kaiser.  They’re Cisco Consulting Systems Engineers, and they live and breathe VDI (I know, melodramatic), as implemented in their customers’ data centers around the world.

They undertook this journey with the express purpose of answering the “missing” questions, by assembling a test platform in their lab, built on Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS), using readily available components including:

  • Various UCS B200 M3 configurations
  • Login Virtual Session Indexer (Login VSI) 3.6.1 benchmark
  • Login VSI’s Medium with Flash workload
  • VMware View 5.1.1
  • Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 32-bit virtual desktops
  • Pure Storage FlashArray with Purity version 2.0.2.

Keep in mind that their goal was not to explore maximum scalability, or prescribe a preferred design/architecture, or even what kind of server blade or processor you should use for VDI.  Instead they relied on commonly available gear easily found in our customer’s data centers.  If you want prescriptive design guidance, Cisco CVD’s are ideal for that, and you can find them here.

So let’s talk about their test environment.

Physical Lab

The physical environment shown below is a highly overprovisioned system.  Only one B200 M3 blade was tested at any one time, yet every logical link between elements shown consists of multiple 10-GbE links or multiple 8-Gb Fibre Channel links.

The storage array has 24 flash disks and is capable of substantially higher IOPS than used for this testing. All the infrastructure machines used for this test (Active Directory, VMware vCenter, VMware View, VSI Launchers) are virtual machines on the B230 M2 blade in the environment.

9 Q Figure 1

 

Note: At the time of testing, the Pure Storage had not completed UCS certification testing.

 

Logical Server Environment

9 Q Figure 2

The tests involved two UCS B200 M3 blades, one with dual E5-2665 processors and the other with dual E5-2643 processors.  The 2643 is a 4-core high clock/burst speed processor, and the 2665 is an 8-core medium/high clock/burst speed processor.  Here are the specs for the CPU’s chosen:

9 Q Figure 3

Now, you may wonder, are either of these THE processor you would choose for VDI?  Not necessarily! 

Keep in mind the goal we set out with – to expose the relative impacts of # cores, clock speed, memory speed, #vCPU’s etc.  What you’ll take away from the results, are guidance on which parameters matter for specific types of VDI deployments.  You can then safely look at a VDI-“workhorse” processor like the E5-2680 or E5-2690, and apply what our CSE’s have learned through this testing, to that class of CPU, and make your best selection there.

The tests were conducted using Login VSI’s Medium with Flash workload generator.  As we explore the test results in this series, you’ll see reference to “VSImax”, which defines the threshold past which the user experience will be unacceptable.  The VSImax threshold will appear on supporting graphs that show the performance curve under various test scenarios.  You can learn more about how this threshold is derived here.

9 Q Table 1

So that’s the test environment.  Through this series – let’s call it VDI – the Questions You Didn’t Ask (But Really Should) – our CSE friends (Shawn, Doron, and Jason) will explore and expose the findings they’ve documented for us, dealing with a new “question” each time.  If you join us for this journey, it’ll be worth your while – you’ll come away with a better appreciation of the impact that some simple decisions in your data center compute configuration can make.

So are you ready for the journey -- You’ll find the Questions (answered thus far) below:

  1. VDI “The Missing Questions” #1: Core Count vs. Core Speed
  2. VDI “The Missing Questions” #2: Core Speed Scaling (Burst)
  3. VDI “The Missing Questions” #3: Realistic Virtual Desktop limits
  4. VDI “The Missing Questions” #4: How much SPECint is enough
  5. VDI “The Missing Questions” #5: How does 1vCPU scale compared to 2vCPU’s?
  6. VDI “The Missing Questions” #6: What do you really gain from a 2vCPU virtual desktop?
  7. VDI “The Missing Questions” #7: How memory bus speed affects scale
  8. VDI “The Missing Questions” #8: How does memory density affect VDI scalability?
  9. VDI “The Missing Questions” #9: How many storage IOPs?
  10. VDI “The Missing Questions” Conclusion

Special Web Event -- You’re Invited!

If you’re enjoying our series, be sure to join our free webcast, where Shawn, Doron and Jason will discuss all the (Missing) VDI Questions Live + take your Q&A.  Access the webcast here.

Featured Whitepaper Now Available!

Need a convenient whitepaper-ized version of the discussion?  Download it now, here.

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Announcing Cisco Jabber for Virtual Environments with the New Release of Cisco VXI

These are exciting times. Today Cisco announced the latest release of the Cisco Virtualization Experience Infrastructure (VXI) Smart Solution and I am very pleased to share this news with you. Cisco has unveiled a new software strategy to support Cisco Jabber for virtual environments as an integral part of Cisco VXI. Cisco has taken this path to innovation based on how our customers use the Cisco VXI Smart Solution today for desktop visualization and from trends in the market. We continue to see strong growth in desktop virtualization and in new collaborative experiences not to mention the ongoing demand for BYOD and mobility.

Cisco VXI was the first desktop virtualization architecture to eliminate the bottlenecks and overloads that often occur with rich media collaboration. Today we are evolving that architecture further by including Cisco Jabber for virtual environments which — thanks to Cisco Virtualization Experience Media Engine (VXME) — leverages the computing and processing power of the local environment to minimize the impact of rich media on network performance and data center resources.

Cisco VXME enables virtual desktop users to take advantage of Cisco Jabber’s suite of collaboration features like voice calling, high-definition video calling, presence and instant messaging. Meanwhile, virtual desktops, applications and collaboration services are centrally hosted on the Cisco Unified Data Center and delivered to a broad array of devices resulting in a seamless user experience. It’s just like using a traditional local desktop.

With today’s announcement, Cisco VXI becomes the first desktop virtualization solution to integrate network-based Quality of Service. The Cisco VXME software makes the network aware of voice and video traffic and automatically prioritizes it, reducing jitter and delays. The result? IT managers are now able to easily deliver a high quality collaboration experience to their virtual desktop user communities.

Not only do these innovations create a stellar user experience, they also meet security needs. Virtual desktops become a mirror of traditional workspaces, and as such provide the same level of secure access to documents, corporate applications, and a full suite of collaboration tools via Cisco Jabber.

Additionally, users are now able to personalize their virtual workspace experience with our new desktop accessories from Jabra and Logitech.You really have to check them out.

We continue to work closely with our partners who are fully enabled to implement an end to end VXI Smart Solution. Find out what this new release means to them.

Right now, Cisco VXME is designed to work with the Cisco Virtualization Experience Client (VXC) 6215 and will be globally available in March of this year. Support for 3rd party thin clients and Windows PCs will follow during the first half of 2013. Cisco Jabber for virtual environments is compatible with Cisco VXI solutions running Citrix XenDesktop, Citrx XenApp, or VMware View 5.1.  Read Citrix and VMware perspectives on these innovations.

To learn more about Cisco’s desktop virtualization strategy and see a demonstration of  Cisco Jabber for virtual environments and the new UC accessories, I invite you to join me for the Cisco Collaboration Announcement Webcast with live Q&A on Jan 17 from 9-9:30 a.m. Pacific Time (replay available after 11 a.m. Pacific Time).

Phil

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