We’re halfway into Cisco Live! Each year I find more and more attendees are coming to talk to us about running various desktop delivery models on UCS. Some observations from folks I’ve chatted with:
More and more of you are asking about NVIDIA GRID solutions for graphics intensive use-cases. I had several in fact, from the oil and gas industry who were especially interested in our C240 M3 solution with GRID – which conveniently we’ve been demo-ing here, remoted out of our San Jose lab. If you’re not familiar with it, check out our solutions for both Citrix and VMware.
CAPEX-friendliness with great performance, for small seat count environments is key. Lot’s of folks asking about solutions that are optimized for 100-200 seats of Horizon or XenDesktop, that are completely self-contained, including compute, storage, broker and the infrastructure assets. I’ve shared this brand new whitepaper on our C240 200 seat config with everyone I talk to – just a single rack footprint that includes the LSI Nytro MegaRAID Controller with 200 GB of flash for write-caching, plus 12 x 600GB SAS drives. Here’s what’s been tested:
Cisco UCS C240-M3 Rack Server (2 X Intel Xeon processor E5-2697 v2 @ 2.70 GHz) with 384GB of memory (16 GB X 24 DIMMS @ 1866 MHz), hypervisor host
Cisco UCS VIC1225 Converged Network Adapter/Rack Server (Optional for 10GB Connectivity)
2 x Cisco Nexus 5548UP Access Switches
12 x 600GB SAS disks @ 10000 RPM
LSI Nytro MegaRAID Controller 8110-4i
The infrastructure/user file volumes are on the 1st 4 drives set up in a RAID 5 config, and the 2nd and 3rd groups of 4 drives (combined in RAID 10) are for XenDesktop MCS (Citrix) or Floating Assignment / Linked Clones (VMware). Extremely cost-effective for 200 seats with great performance that doesn’t max out the system and has plenty of room to breathe. Check out the Citrix and VMware configs of this “in-a-box” solution.
Flash – Flash and more Flash. It’s hard to move around SF without seeing a Cisco UCS / Flash-Forward advertisement promoting UCS Invicta Solid State Systems. Invicta is changing the economics of desktop virtualization with industry-leading wear life rating, expansive write-IOPS capacity, and superior manageability within the UCS fabric with UCS Director. We’ve got a nice demo of 600 XenDesktop seats booting off an Invicta appliance, in under 9 minutes.
There you have it – great performance that goes beyond the traditional barriers associated with cost-effectively delivering desktop virtualization. Definitely check out these three solutions if you have some time remaining at Cisco Live this week.
As previously introduced in my colleague Song’s blog post, Cisco Prime Service Catalog is an industry-leading IT service catalog solution for any managing any type of service request – from desktop to mobility to data center. If you aren’t familiar with our product already, make sure to watch this video:
In most organizations, there is no single system or “app store” that end-users can use to request all the IT tools and services they need to do their job. There are typically different siloed processes for ordering, fulfilling and tracking each of those IT resources (e.g. mobile devices, laptops, applications, infrastructure, access to systems). And with the continued proliferation of new technologies and applications, this has become increasingly frustrating for end-users – and more challenging for IT service delivery teams. Cisco Prime Service Catalog provides a modern and unified approach to solve these problems, with a simple and user-friendly service catalog that eliminates the complexity of ordering services across these different IT silos.
The results? Increased productivity for end-users. Faster and more efficient IT service delivery. Higher IT customer satisfaction scores and greater IT-business alignment.
So what’s new in the latest version of Cisco Prime Service Catalog? Version 10 is packed with several new features and enhancements, including:
A next-generation HTML5 user interface with new capabilities. The user experience for our IT service catalog was inspired by consumer internet sites and app store concepts, and developed in collaboration with Cisco’s own IT organization. In this modern new user interface, end-users can easily search and filter for different apps and tools to find specific services, select and configure the options they want, and place them in their shopping cart.
Depending on who they are in the organization, end-users will have a different view of the catalog – based on role-based access controls. So your employees can search and browse through the catalog to find and download different mobile and desktop apps:
Flexible policy frameworks to enable greater control of available IT services. For example, we’ve added new quota functionality for managing IT resource requests. Quotas are especially useful when automating the delivery of finite resources like storage or compute capacity, or managing against departmental budgets or grants. Another examples is our new policy alerts and enforcement for lease expirations, to notify users before auto-expiring their access to particular resources. Providing your users with the option to automatically extend or cancel their lease can improve resource utilization and increase customer satisfaction.
Finance and demand management enhancements for showback and a “bill of IT”. All IT service providers charge for their services, but the concept of pricing and costing is still new for many enterprise IT organizations. Showback is a typically starting point, and we’ve added new capabilities to differentiate pricing for different classes of service (e.g. gold, silver, bronze) for different departments or tenants. Chargeback is often challenging for many IT departments to implement organizationally, but showback can provide a “bill of IT” with the details of who is using how much of what – without actually implementing cross-department charging. In other words, it shines a light on actual IT consumption and costs. In this new release, we’ve also made it easier to integrate with 3rd party billing systems and tools (e.g. Cloud Cruiser) to help automate financial cross-charges between departments
You may have heard the buzz about the internal Cisco IT deployment of Cisco Prime Service Catalog, dubbed the “eStore”. It’s been featured in a number of articles in the media as the internal enterprise app store that powers Cisco’s BYOD and mobile apps program – and provides Cisco employees with a one-stop shop for all IT services (from desktop to data center). If you’re attending Cisco Live in Milan later this month, you can learn more about the case study in this “Inside Cisco IT” session here.
Another service catalog case study that we’re featuring at Cisco Live Milan is Steria. Steria is a great example of one of our service provider customers in Europe; they’ve used Cisco Prime Service Catalog to enable on-demand, self-service delivery for a broad range of IT workplace services, including desktop and mobile applications. You can read more in my earlier blog post – or if you’ll be in Milan, check out the session here.
During the week of Cisco Live Milan, you will also hear more about Cisco Prime Service Catalog version 10.0 in the context of our soon-to-be-announced new release of Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC). Cisco Prime Service Catalog is one of the bundled components within this cloud management software solution, so the enhancements in version 10 are also reflected in the upcoming new release of Cisco IAC. You can join one or more of the Cisco Live Milan sessions listed here to learn more about Cisco IAC.
With just a week ahead of VMworld 2013 in San Francisco, there’s a lot of planning to do. For example:
Saying “thank goodness it’s not Vegas”
Finding a suitable bacon-themed party to attend (I’ll explain)
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! (aka ”who 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
CU Boulder deployed Nimble Storage for supportingVDI 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:
This blog post promises to avoid telling you about all the fantabulous (I know that’s not a word) growth expected in the number of hosted virtual desktops to be deployed by 2016. What I do want to share, is how Cisco is ramping up our investments in accelerating your path to virtual desktop success, and how we’re tapping into the fundamentals of our Unified Computing System (UCS) to deliver new VDI efficiencies; the same efficiencies that have made Cisco the 2nd most preferred x86 blade server vendor* worldwide, in just 4 years! So why are so many organizations moving away from their legacy compute solution, and choosing UCS for VDI workloads and more?
Differentiated capabilities that address VDI pain points: TCO and Manageability
It’s no secret to anyone that VDI is not simple to deploy. You essentially have to bring together multiple seemingly disparate solution elements (server, storage, virtualization, broker, network, security, etc.) and make them work in a cohesive manner, and then be certain that your implementation will scale from a small pilot of 50 users to hundreds, thousands, or more! Clearly with such complexity, the last thing you need is a complex compute infrastructure underneath it all. There are 3 key things at the heart of this, that speak to why UCS is better for VDI:
1.) Server-resident flash. Our “On-Board” Architecture for VDI intercepts the rapidly proliferating use of flash based storage solutions that offer expansive IOPS capacity and huge performance. UCS takes it a step further by offering an integrated solution leveraging our partner Fusion-io. We’ve additionally delivered reference architectures that extend the use cases and attractiveness of flash-based solutions with appliance approaches (that direct-connect the storage array to our fabric interconnect) as well as more traditional multi-tiered architectures. More on that in a moment…
2.) We’ve made it easier to provision and manage the hosts for your virtual desktop deployments.UCS Service Profile Templates enable rapid deployment from bare metal, creating a zero-touch, mistake-proof, stateless operations model. Now, when you add the On-Board, server-resident flash to the configuration, you extend the reach of this management model to include high-performance, economical storage, completely provisioned and managed as part of the blade configuration/profile! No SAN or associated expertise required! Perfect for floating, non-persistent desktops.
3.) Granular visibility across the virtualized infrastructure. With user desktops now running amidst other mission-critical workloads in the data center, there’s more reason than ever to ensure that you can impart QoS, security and manageability across the multitude of virtual machine traffic flows traversing the data center. Cisco Virtual Machine Fabric Extender (VM-FEX) and Cisco Nexus 1000v provide the visibility and controls that make this possible, extending physical world policy and administration to virtual.
A long time ago, it used to be comforting, to hear the words “One Size Fits All”. As though our interests were surely represented within that catch-all, assuring us that we weren’t going to get left out in the rain. You could safely make that impulse-driven purchase, bring it home (or have it delivered), and know with certainty, that you wouldn’t be disappointed. It’s almost laughable to think that we subscribed to this way of thinking for about 50 years. But thankfully, we live, work and play in a world where it’s not about one-size-fits-all, and the only things we’ll accept as such, are wristwatches, and bicycle helmets! (unless you have a gargantuan sized cranium)
And so it is with your IT environment – “One-Size-Fits-All” feels too much like hand-cuffs (which coincidentally are also one-size-fits-all). We’ve done away with the notion that a solution that’s optimized for a Fortune 500, is going to be at all suitable for a medium-sized business with almost 1,000 employees. While both organizations might have a strategic imperative around workspace mobility, and have set out to virtualize the desktops of say, 5% of their workforce, they’ll approach this problem in two completely different ways.
One of these organizations will have an extensive , multi-tiered networking and security infrastructure, optimized for virtual machine traffic, the other may not.
One of these organizations will have a mature SAN infrastructure in place, with embedded resources and expertise, and lots of existing mission-critical data already housed there. The other may not.
One of these organizations will have a high percentage of virtualized workloads and a highly automated/orchestrated environment for rapidly spinning up new infrastructure. The other may not.
Certainly these two environments are not going to take the same solution approach to deploying virtual desktops? They will however, share many of the same key objectives/demands: future proof scalability, resiliency, streamlined provisioning and operations, consistent user experience for the 1st user as well as the 1000th. And they’ll want all of this with the lowest possible TCO.
Last month, Cisco introduced our expanded suite of solution architectures for desktop virtualization. This portfolio was struck with the objective of ensuring our customers would never have to settle for a One-Size-Fits-All approach to deploying VDI, recognizing that they’re deploying this solution from a multitude of possible starting points in their IT maturity. With four new solution architectures, each built on Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS), and each backed by design guides and reference configurations co-developed with industry-leading partners in storage and storage-optimization technologies, we’ve taken the risk and guesswork out of choosing the deployment methodology that’s right-sized for your organization. Check out my friend Ashok’s more detailed post on the new reference architecture portfolio.