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Putting VDI Security Concerns to Bed and……….

………..New Cisco Data Center Security Enhancements

The workplace is changing fast. Workers are becoming increasingly mobile. The introduction of employee-owned consumer devices like tablets, is becoming the norm; in fact, the average number of devices used by knowledge workers is between 3 and 4 and rising. While IT organizations acknowledge the productivity, business agility and cost benefits these developments can bring, they are also concerned by the associated challenges. Not surprisingly, numerous industry research papers point to device, application and data security, and regulatory compliance as the biggest challenges for mobility and BYOD projects.

To address these security concerns many IT organizations are applying desktop virtualization or virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) technologies to ensure management and protection of the applications, data and content centrally in the data center, regardless of which device is used. But how can IT ensure that VDI deployments themselves are secure?

Today, Cisco announced new data center security enhancements that further protect VDI deployments. These new innovations enable more scalable, secure access to hosted virtual desktops and more robust protection of data center resources. These innovations also ensure that business critical applications and virtual desktops hosted within the data center can be better protected from other virtual desktops that have become compromised or infected. (Read also today’s blog from John N. Stewart , Cisco Sr.VP, Chief Security Officer  “Does Virtualization Improve Security ? “)

Deploying a data center infrastructure that has the built-in security capabilities to address these challenges needs to be an integral part of any VDI design. The Cisco VXI Smart Solution  is a comprehensive, secure desktop virtualization solution that addresses these security concerns in both Citrix XenDesktop and VMWare View deployments; you can find more information on the designs here.

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VMware Mobile Secure Desktops – built on Cisco VXI

As I was preparing for a webinar recently, some stats came across my desk reinforcing what we’ve suspected for a while, namely that employees and the organizations they belong to, are increasingly embracing a cloud workspace – one that’s mobile and deliverable on any device, and that this imperative is a reality that IT managers are wrestling with not months from now, but now.

These nuggets are certainly no surprise:

  • Three of every five employees believed it was unnecessary to be in the office to be productive.
  • Two of every three employees surveyed expect IT to allow them to use any device – personal or company-issued – to access corporate networks, applications, and information anywhere at any time.
  • 69% of IT decision makers surveyed (by Forrester Consulting) advise that implementing a BYOD policy for smartphones/tablets is a top priority (study commissioned by Cisco, May 2012)

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Desktop Virtualization Perspectives at Cisco Live 2012

At Cisco Live, I had the good fortune to sit down with Steve Kaplan of Presidio (@ROIdude), and Sreekanth Kannan of VMware, to discuss the current landscape of desktop virtualization as seen through the experiences of our customers, key enabling technologies we’re excited about, and some thoughts about what to expect looking forward. Watch the session 

Desktop Virtualization Panel with VMware and Presidio at Cisco Live 2012

Clearly our friends had a lot to share, and were excited about the transformation happening in our customers’ desktop IT environments.  Some highlights from our chat:

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Cisco Virtualization Experience Infrastructure (VXI) solution for Citrix XenDesktop: Different Business Use Cases

Desktop virtualization is one of the major initiatives at Cisco and our partnership with Citrix is flourishing as Jonathan Gilad reported on this social media platform several times.

Today I invited  Bhumik Patel , Alliance Engagement Architect at Citrix, to write about some aspects of the collaboration between Cisco and Citrix to provide the best workspace experience to our customers. Bhumik is responsible for delivering technical best practices and joint solutions on Citrix XenDesktop and Cisco VXI desktop virtualization solutions for customers and partners. He has been with Citrix since 2007 and is based out of Santa Clara; CA. Prior to this role, Bhumik was part of Citrix’s WW Consulting group leading consulting projects for several enterprise Citrix customers around the globe and has led initiatives for developing best practices while integrating Citrix and partner solutions.

Bhumik is at Cisco Live in San Diego this week and on Twitter @bhumikp and on his blog – Check Citrix booth #734.

“As a Citrix Architect implementing Desktop Virtualization solutions with Cisco VXI and Citrix XenDesktop in the field, I would like to share some of the successful business use cases that a joint solution addresses primarily from a Citrix viewpoint. Since Cisco VXI is a unique, end-to-end architectural solution integrating virtualized data center, virtualization-aware networks and virtualized collaborative workspaces for optimally delivering virtual desktops with XenDesktop, it is really built to drive multiple I.T initiatives for you at once, all leading towards a flexible, next-generation workspace. Let’s look at the VXI solution at a very high level and then a few practical use cases:


First and foremost benefit is with Cisco UCS providing an ideal platform for hosting Citrix XenDesktop delivering virtual desktops for organizations. With the extended memory technology providing great VM density, and the service profiles allowing customers to dynamically build and scale out their infrastructure hosting XenDesktop. UCS also provides a great end user experience even for some very large VM footprints due to the unified fabric supporting very high I/O bandwidth. The solution with UCS and XenDesktop is completely validated and tested for providing the required density numbers. I had the opportunity to contribute to the initial validations with Cisco and you can read more on it here. So the guess work is eliminated while implementing your VDI solution, which could be a huge benefit in itself.

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Virtualizing the Desktop: A stepping stone towards the Unified Workspace?

Last week during Interop Las Vegas, I was able to witness and participate in all sorts of conversations about virtualization, and its effect on the way we deploy, deliver and consume applications and services.

Virtualization itself is not a new topic, but given the way our environment has been shaping lately, it is becoming more and more relevant. In this new world we all carry multiple devices, we are always on the move, and the definition whether the app we are using is running from the cloud or from our devices is increasingly irrelevant.

Users do not care about the technology, or the role of virtualization or cloud, as long as they have access to the applications and data they need, whenever they need it. We sometimes think the users should care, but in reality, it is IT that should care, and not the users. And that is a big distinction.

This of course is not a surprise, but I perceived a sense of impatience and even annoyance from some of the users that I was able to question about this matter. I got a really clear message that whatever is the future of the desktop–or the workspace as more and more people refer to it, should be delivered to them soon.

As for the important characteristics of this workspace, from the users’ perspective:

  • Access to it has to be transparent. They must have an ‘on-demand’ connectivity environment that allows them to have secure access to the data and/or applications they need to complete the tasks at hand, without worrying about authenticating every time, on the device of their choice. Solutions such as Cisco AnyConnect and the Cisco Identity Services Engine provide these capabilities, and clearly there is pent up demand for such a solution deployed broadly across the enterprise.

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