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Your Workspace – Your Way

As you may have seen in the announcement on December 17th, Cisco along with its partners Citrix and Desktone by VMware, are announcing our joint solutions for Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS).  Clearly our customers demand choice and flexibility in how they choose to implement desktop virtualization, not just in terms of the delivery technology, but also in terms of the ownership model.  You’ve told us you want virtual desktops and apps that fit your business and IT consumption models.  You want it “your way”.  And for a growing constituency, it just makes sense to shift the burden of designing, implementing and managing the solution to an affordable OPEX model, outsourced to a Cisco-powered Service Provider.  Cisco DaaS offers our customers the choice and flexibility they expect.

What you may have also noticed with this announcement is that Cisco and its partners are continuing to bolster the underlying infrastructure/fabric of our desktop virtualization platform, to the benefit of both our premises-based and cloud-based (DaaS) clientele.  To that end, we’re sharing some important enhancements we think make the overall platform an optimal underpinning for virtualized desktops and apps.

Raising the CPU Performance Bar

The Cisco UCS B200 M3 Series Blade Server continues to be our flagship VDI workhorse delivering industry-leading performance for virtual desktops and apps.  We’ve updated this server to incorporate the latest Intel Xeon E5-2600 v2 Series Processors (Ivy Bridge), and with that we’ve delivered unprecedented performance gains.  For example, based on single-blade characterization testing conducted by Cisco, and using the industry-recognized LoginVSI for workload testing, we’ve successfully deployed 252 VMware Horizon View desktops on a single blade (based on LoginVSI Max threshold).  This represents a 31% increase in server hosting density over the previous CPU.

VMwareIvyBridge

CitrixIvyBridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Economics of Flash

Nowhere is the benefit of flash technology seen so forcefully as with VDI workloads where the IOPS bottleneck has traditionally driven the up front CAPEX hurdle of desktop virtualization, out of reach for many environments, especially smaller ones.  Cisco has worked extensively with our portfolio of industry-leading storage technology partners to continue to offer prescriptive design guidance on how to tap into the benefits of the flash and hybrid-flash arrays.

Nimble Storage has been a featured joint solution on which many of our customers have experienced the economics of this hybrid-flash solution first-hand.  Many organizations are increasingly tapping into the efficiencies of this solution in conjunction with Hosted Shared Desktops (ie: Citrix XenApp), for which we’re announcing a brand new reference architecture based on Nimble’s CS240G-X4 with Cisco UCS, Citrix XenApp 6.5 on Microsoft Hyper-V.  The Citrix Validated Solution supports 1,000 hosted shared desktops running on the Nimble array.  The compact 3U solution provides cost-effective performance and capacity through its flash-optimized hybrid storage architecture, that combines the exceptional performance of flash with the favorable economics of high-capacity disk.  The validated architecture allows customers to eliminate risk, speed time to deployment, and scale as needed using the modular design.

Making Physical and Virtual Indistinguishable: Immersive Graphics

You may have caught my blog in support of the Citrix/NVIDIA/Cisco joint solution announcement on Dec. 11th.  Similarly, customers like SSOE are reaping the benefits of our joint solution with VMware and NVIDIA.  It’s no surprise that end users need (no, demand) that their virtual environment behaves akin to the physical one they left behind.  Just talk to any designer, healthcare clinician or researcher in an academic setting.  This has been one of the stumbling blocks around expanding the number of use cases that can be targeted by VDI, specifically where graphics-intensive applications are used..  I encourage you to learn more about our joint solutions with VMware and Citrix

Accelerating the ROI of VDI and App Virtualization – It’s All in the Bundles

To close this out, I want to shift focus to the “last mile” problem of the journey to virtual desktops.  No, not the “networking” last mile, but rather that point at which you’ve made the determination to implement a solution, to get your feet wet, ie: how to get started.

Earlier this month, Cisco released brand new Solution Accelerator Paks for Desktop Virtualization with VMware and Citrix.  These bundles offer attractive discounting, along with single-SKU ordering simplicity.  Organizations seeking to get into desktop virtualization can take advantage of Solution Accelerator Paks to deploy small pilot or proof-of-concept environments that offer great scalability when the need arises.

These bundles also offer expansion and upgrade options for adding more users, tier-0 flash storage from Fusion-io and LSI, as well as GPU options based on NVIDIA GRID K1, and K2.  Check out our brochures for VMware and Citrix as well as the ordering guides if you want more detail (VMware , Citrix )

January 12-14: Citrix Summit

Let me conclude by pointing out that next week is Citrix Summit, and for our channel partners attending the event, you’re encouraged to stop by the Cisco booth, and also check out the following:

Monday:

  • Cisco’s Frank Palumbo, SVP Worldwide Data Center Sales takes the stage for the keynote at 9am ET
  • Cisco’s breakout session, SUM 142 “Driving Success with Mobile Workspaces: the Citrix and Cisco Go-To-Market Framework” is at 3pm ET
  • And I’ll be in the Citrix Booth Theater at 1pm covering the Cisco Desktop Virtualization Solution with Citrix

Tuesday: Cisco’s Ram Appalaraju, VP Data Center Business Group delivers breakout session SUM 111 “NetScaler Roadmap and Vision” at 10am ET

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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™ vGPU™ – www.nvidia.com/vgpu
NVIDIA GRID™ main website – www.nvidia.com/vdi
NVIDIA GRID™ K1 & K2 boards -http://www.nvidia.com/object/grid-boards.html

For more information on Cisco Desktop Virtualization Solutions with Citrix:  www.cisco.com/go/citrix

 

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VDI Roundup: Cisco and VMware – Better Together

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 12.59.59 PMIt’s a beautiful thing when you can hijack four not-quite random people off the VMworld show floor and get them to tackle a discussion on desktop virtualization.  And that’s exactly what we did a couple weeks back, when the opportunity presented itself.  With Courtney Burry (VMware), Mike Brennan (Cisco), Dave Kinsman (WWT) and myself on hand, we did a sort of VDI blogger “round-up”.  You should check out the video below, but a quick recap as follows:

  • Courtney discussed some of the latest improvements in Horizon View that improve desktop TCO by optimizing storage footprint through technologies like SE sparse (or Space Efficient Sparse) which provides the ability to reclaim blocks of storage that are unused or deleted by the guest file system.
  • I also shared some thoughts on our joint solution with VMware that’s expanding the number of use cases addressable by VDI, through our support of hardware-accelerated 3D Graphics with nVidia as part of our C-Series rack server solution, as well as the improving economics of 1:1 persistent desktop images using the latest generation of flash-based partner technologies we support through our VDI storage ecosystem.
  • Mike discussed how we’re offering a more consolidated management approach with VMware through things like integration within vCenter which includes a snap-in for UCS, allowing administrators to see our UCS infrastructure inside the vCenter web client as well as open API’s that introduce more opportunities for automation, which combined with combine with UCS Manager and our automation tools, can help our customers provision desktops from bare metal, much faster.
  • And to help round-out the round-up, we snagged Dave Kinsman from WWT, to give us his feedback on how he sees all of this coming together, both for channel partners like WWT, and they customers they serve.

 

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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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Get Social with Cisco at VMworld 2013 (Your Ticket to Community Activity)

August 15, 2013 at 1:24 pm PST

Pack your bags, double up on shoes and leave room for swag, it’s time for VMworld 2013, and Team Cisco Data Center has a lot going on. For a full round up of our show presence, this: http://www.cisco.com/go/vmworld

Yes, that is a tower of real bacon at #vBacon.

Yes, that is a tower of real bacon at #vBacon.

Now for the the behind the scenes look. First, follow @CiscoDC and #ciscovmw for all Cisco-flavored information from the show. This year’s Roving Reporter duties will be most ably handled by Scott Hanson (@CiscoServerGeek). Follow Scott for up to the minute geek’s-eye views on what’s happening.

We are also welcoming Maish Saidel-Keesing (@maishsk), one of five Cisco vExperts, who will be leading a talk through our #vBrownBag sponsorship. Details pending--we’ll update you as we have the specifics.

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