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Taking Desktop Virtualization Beyond the Data Center – with the Next Wave of Unified Computing

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 3.46.26 PM If you look back at the Cisco UCS launch on September 4th, and VMworld SF just prior, the last 4 weeks have been a tsunami of solution innovation milestones in unified computing, ie: where the next wave of Unified Computing is taking us.  If you haven’t already seen the launch event “Powering Applications at Every Scale – the Next Wave of Unified Computing Innovation”, please check it out!

Desktop Virtualization Beyond the Data CenterScreen Shot 2014-09-23 at 3.48.07 PM

A much anticipated part of this launch was the introduction of UCS Mini.  This is all about expanding our presence / penetration of where we can offer the unified computing value proposition.  With the economic disruption UCS has brought to the data center, it’s now time to extend that value beyond the traditional limits of the data center – check out this presentation to get an idea of the TCO impact alone, when considered next to HP DL360p Gen8 ’s.

With this economic advantage, comes the opportunity to address a growing array of desktop virtualization use cases that depend on footprint-friendly form factor without sacrificing performance or simplified, stateless, centralized manageability.  Think of use cases that include:

  • the enterprise-edge where you likely don’t have IT resources in place
  • retail/point-of-sale environments, or
  • small/medium-sized businesses that need fewer servers

In these scenarios, traditional centralized VDI implementation is hampered by WAN latency, security and business continuity concerns.  Being able to deploy a local solution that integrates compute, software and storage, that’s still centrally managed, could be just the solution for your branch office.  Look for new solutions from Cisco and our ecosystem partners that address these scenarios with compelling new offers, which brings us to VMworld Barcelona.

VMworld Barcelona and Integrated Infrastructure solutions for Desktop and App Virtualization

In just a few weeks, we’ll be at VMworld Barcelona, and I’m pleased to once again have the opportunity to kick off the week with a breakout session co-delivered with VMware’s Bhumik Patel, covering “Best in Class Desktop Virtualization with Horizon 6 and Cisco UCS”.  If you didn’t join us in the room in San Francisco, and you’ll be in Barcelona, please attend this second offering of TEX2516

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 3.55.00 PMI love opening these things up with a simple poll of i) how many folks in the room have implemented UCS, and ii) how many have done so in support of VDI or app virtualization.  In San Francisco, from the show of hands, it was obvious that over 90% of the room (of 200+ session attendees) had deployed VMware Horizon on UCS.  It was also telling that many attendees expressed interest in solutions for graphics/NVIDIA, flash storage, and our new VDI Pilot Accelerator configurations that are optimal for getting one’s feet wet in desktop as well as app virtualization.Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 3.59.02 PM

Another hot topic was Integrated Infrastructure solutions for VDI.  If you’re already familiar with FlexPod or Vblock, you already know how rapidly this IT consumption model is growing (to the tune of $3B in FlexPod alone) and how Cisco and its ecosystem partners are enabling organizations of all sizes to

  • dramatically reduce the time to deploy new services,
  • using modularized infrastructure approaches that integrated compute, network and storage,
  • supported with unified, single pane of glass management
  • backed by validated performance testing / documented results

The Nimble Storage SmartStack is another great example in this space, offering pre-validated solutions for organizations of all sizes, wanting to take the guesswork out of getting into desktop or server virtualization.  Imagine the possibilities with a SmartStack built on UCS-Mini…  Speaking of which, check out this article about VCPro, a service provider in the Asia Pacific region, offering DaaS on SmartStack built on UCS Mini.

Look for more news in the coming weeks regarding these and other new solutions that expand the use cases for desktop and app virtualization -- see you at VMworld Barcelona!

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The #1 x86 Blade Server Is Also Your Best Choice for VMware Horizon

Cisco VMware infographic-v4In case you missed it, last week Cisco partners, ecosystem, and customers everywhere applauded the latest IDC worldwide server tracker report citing Cisco UCS as the revenue market share leader in North America, eclipsing HP for the top spot in x86 blades.

Cisco VP/GM Paul Perez said it best: “Customers are adopting UCS because our innovation drives positive business outcomes for them.”  That’s a sentiment echoed in every case study highlighting the tangible business impacts our customers have experienced when deploying mission-critical workloads on UCS.  Nowhere is this more evident, than with desktop virtualization, where organizations are transforming end-user computing to unleash greater employee mobility, productivity, business continuity and agility.  Check out this infographic if you want to see a nice snapshot of what real Cisco customers have done with VMware Horizon on UCS.

It should therefore be no surprise when industry luminaries like VMware’s Sanjay Poonen (EVP/GM of VMware End User Computing) highlights the importance of Cisco UCS in helping his team gain market traction in end user computing.  This Business Insider interview is an insightful read – especially if you’ve only heardSanjay Poonen the competitive narrative between Cisco and VMware, and were not aware that our two companies actually have a differentiated, compelling joint offer around desktop virtualization built on VMware Horizon deployed on UCS.

Is your organization in the midst of transforming your desktops into mobile workspaces?  Do you want to learn more about how organizations just like yours are turning to the market leader in x86 blades for their VDI deployment?  Next week VMware is hosting an online virtual event (think of it aVMW_EUCInsightBanner_240x96s a free virtual tradeshow) – VMware EUC Insights.  From the convenience of your office (or home, or coffee shop, etc.) you can listen in on keynotes, breakout sessions, and engage desktop virtualization experts from Cisco and VMware.  I encourage you to check out Cisco UCS at VMware EUC Insights on June 17th!

PS: if you visit our booth and complete a short survey, you’ll have a chance to win an iPad Air!

 

 

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Things You Can Do in 16 Minutes: Pushing the VDI Performance Envelope with Cisco UCS, VMware Horizon View and EMC VSPEX

So what exactly can you do in 16 minutes?  Well, you can:

  • Download and install your preferred tax prep software, because (if you’re in the US or Canada) April is coming
  • Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame, then reminisce and/or lament about it for exactly 1 minute.
  • Save 15% on your car insurance (you can supposedly get this done in 15 vs. 16 min.)
  • Do some really unsavory things not suitable for mentioning on a nice blog post like this one.

Don’t care about any of those things?  Neither do I.  Let me come back to this in a moment…

If you’re familiar with our architecture portfolio for desktop virtualization, you may be aware that we’re continuing to invest in VSPEX-based reference architectures for Cisco Desktop Virtualization.  This week, we just announced the latest addition to the Cisco Validated Design (CVD) portfolio – our solution for VMware Horizon View 5.3 with Cisco UCS and EMC VSPEX available here.

If you’re not already familiar with them, CVD’s provide prescriptive design guidance around how to build solutions with specific outcomes (performance) as documented through a testing/documentation discipline that Cisco’s been doing for years.  You’ll find our repository of desktop virtualization CVD’s here.

So now let’s talk about the CVD itself.  Our principal author is Ramesh Guduru – he’s a Virtualization Systems Engineer in Cisco’s Data Center Business Group and has extensive experience in Horizon View, virtualization infrastructure and management, Cisco UCS and storage.  Ramesh assembled a test platform based on the setup shown in Figure 1. 

Cisco UCS VDI VSPEX with View

Figure 1: Cisco CVD Validation Platform

As you can see the core pillars of the solution are:

Key things we wanted to expose/profile in this effort included:

  • More with less – more powerful processors and faster memory
  • System footprint for delivering 2,000 Horizon View desktops, while still retaining room to expand as demand increases
  • Leverage more economical processors – ex: a 57% lower list price for the Intel E5-2680 v2 10-core processors vs. top bin processors tested in the past = lower server cost = lower per desktop CAPEX
  • Hosting density leadership (# desktops per compute blade)
  • End user experience as exercised using LoginVSI with medium workload with Flash
  • Boot-up and login performance (simulating the Monday-morning boot storm dilemma all VDI implementations face and daily login storms)·

From a design perspective we also wanted to ensure our system provided:

  • Full n+1 fault tolerance across the stack
  • Fully virtualized platform, inclusive of the virtual desktops, as well as the infrastructure componentry like vCenter, AD, SQL servers etc.

I’ll leave it to you the explore the methodology Ramesh followed for the CVD, but let me point to a couple interesting things gained from this effort:

  • With our B200 M3 blade, we increased our desktop workload capacity (across the system) by 30% compared with full-width blades used in prior analyses
  • We collapsed the footprint from 30 RU down to just 12 RU.
  • The combined effect of the selected CPU (Intel Ivy Bridge), high-bandwidth, low-latency unified fabric, and our VIC 1240 converged networking adapter yielded exceptional user experience at under 1.75 sec at full load.
  • The EMC VNX5600 provided outstanding storage performance for both file and block, using EMC Fast Cache technology.
  • VMware Horizon View 5.3 with Sparse Virtual Disk gave us better disk performance and disk space efficiency.

And as for the 16 minute thing?

  • That’s how long it took for the full population of 2,000 virtual desktops to get booted and ready to login (under 16 minutes).  And in an additional 14 we had all of them running user workload with no sign of exhausting the system.

Get the details by digging into the CVD posted here

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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

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

 

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