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Desktop Environments Go Virtual and Mobile in a Flash

Of course you’re aware that virtualization and mobility are taking over the traditional office workspace.

More and more, employees are using their own mobile devices and working from home or remote locations, meaning work is no longer a 9-5, at-the-office thing. So to enable efficient practices within this changing environment, your IT needs to change with it. Resources need to be accessible from anywhere, not just in the office. Moving desktops to a virtual environment addresses this concern—while increasing employee productivity and responsiveness, and decreasing costs.

Citrix Synergy 2014 is taking place this week in Los Angeles. And it’s no surprise that this year’s hot topic is enterprise mobility. Technologies such as Citrix XenApp, XenDesktop, and XenMobile, combined with Cisco Unified Computing System (Cisco UCS) and Cisco UCS Invicta™ Series Solid State Systems,  or Citrix NetScaler 1000v with Cisco Nexus vPath, and Cisco mobile workplace solutions, are tools that enable you to move your work environment to the cloud, enabling you to provide full-time, fast, and secure access to your applications and crucial information.

“It was sometimes taking 10 minutes for our clinicians to log on, open an application, and get the information they need,” says Hughes. “That time should be spent with a patient instead of a workstation. We wanted to make it easier and faster for our clinicians to access applications and information, so we started looking into VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure).”  says Jake Hughes, Chief Technical Architect for Infrastructure Systems at Seattle Children’s.

S12A8

With 800 attorneys spread across offices in the United States, London, Shanghai, Melbourne, and Sydney, prominent law firm Seyfarth Shaw relies on its Citrix XenDesktop virtualization platform to deliver Windows environments and in-house applications as an on-demand user service.
DaaS“When you’re sitting in an airport and you need to get something done for a client, you can’t wait for your application to boot up; you want it to be available as quickly as possible and that’s what flash technology provides,” says Andy Jurczyk, CIO, Seyfarth Shaw , experiencing the benefit of the new Cisco UCS Invicta™ features .

Go now to  Unleashing IT   to read  how Seattle Children’s Hospital  virtualized their environment using a combination of Citrix and Cisco solutions or how Seyfarth Shaw law firm is fueling up and serving clients with speed through their VDI implementation.

On Unleashing IT , our on line magazine and resource center you will discover through these examples and many others, how you can utilize Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) in combination with other technologies to speed up processes and give your workers flexibility by providing secure access to the information they need, as soon as they need it.
Visiting our resource center on Unleashing IT you will access to numerous documents , including a Forrester Study “The Total Economic Impact of Cisco Desktop Virtualization Solutions”

Additional resources: Read more on Citrix Synergy 2014
http://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter/cisco-and-citrix-partnership-will-shine-at-citrix-synergy-2014/
http://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter/delivering-workplace-mobility-built-on-cisco-unified-computing-system/

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Ferguson Group Ltd keeps an Eye on Operations with Cisco Physical Security

I remember growing up in the UK years ago during the UK’s  ‘North Sea Oil Boom’. It was a time of great excitement and opportunity for the nation. A whole industry was developed to deal with offshore exploration to ‘bring the energy home’.

It was Aberdeen’s local ‘moon landing’ event –  just five months after Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, the North Sea oil fields were discovered off the east coast of Scotland. Certainly parts of Scotland, Aberdeen especially, saw an uptick in employment from the gloomy ’60s, and the economy changed from rural farming, fishing and textiles to include a more industrial oil and gas setting. Employment, property prices and investment in the City boomed.

Video Surv. from Ferguson Case StudyFerguson is a great Scottish name, but the founder is a great example of how folks were attracted  from outside Scotland (founder Bill Ferguson Jr. is an American) to help further the oil industry in Scotland. Today, Ferguson Group are a key part of the Aberdeen economy, as a leading suppliers of containers, accommodations, and workspace modules for the offshore energy industry (now worldwide).

I thought I’d share how Ferguson conquered a business challenge – namely protecting high-value equipment and, at the same time, use a standardized system and process worldwide whilst keeping up with industry security standards.

As Graham Cowperthwaite said in a recent article: “For years our headquarters in Scotland relied on an analog video security system”. Graham is director of operations at Ferguson Group, and went on to say “That system wasn’t meeting our needs in terms of image quality and remote accessibility.” He added: “For example, our board members are often traveling between bases, and want to have the ability to check back on facilities from any networked location, even from an iPad. We simply couldn’t do that with an analog system.”

So Ferguson switched from a an analog security system to an IP-based solution, from Cisco. And it wasn’t just cameras and door hardware. They also needed to consider the security and reliability of the network on which camera images and access history would be transmitted and stored.

 “We looked at other physical security offerings on the market, but nothing came close to Cisco in terms of comprehensiveness,” says Graham Cowperthwaite. “Only Cisco could provide us with a total combination of Cisco IP video cameras, door readers, firewalls, and routers, all available globally with the highest levels of vendor support. We were already a Cisco house in terms of our network infrastructure, and the interoperability of these solutions fit in perfectly with our goals for standardization.”

Ferguson Group now relies on the Cisco® Video Surveillance Manager to monitor its entire facility in Aberdeenshire, including doors, buildings, and the many valuable assets in the company’s storage yard. Supervisors on the Ferguson network can access live, high-quality footage on a laptop or mobile device. They can even review recorded footage as necessary. This all runs on an integrated Cisco architecture (based on Cisco Desktop Virtualization with VMware (VXI), running on the Cisco Unified Computing System™ (UCS®), for the techies amongst you!).

The business results? Read More »

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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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Delivering True Elasticity in Virtual Workspace Scale

You may have caught this week’s announcement from Citrix on the availability of XenDesktop 7.5 (see announcement here).  With this release, desktop virtualization implementers can tap into new elasticity and efficiencies of provisioning, managing, and scaling-up/down their deployments in real time, while also tapping into the simplicity and performance of Windows app delivery with XenApp 7.5 .

If you’ve followed Citrix and Cisco’s journey in this space, you know that our two companies enjoy an extensive track record of collaboration and innovation in breaking down the CAPEX, complexity and performance barriers associated with delivering virtual workspaces to users, on any device, anywhere.  We’re continuing to innovate on this front, bringing together a combined vision and architecture for desktop virtualization and enterprise mobility.   Cisco and Citrix continue to accelerate the ROI and performance of desktop virtualization, and are making it easier than ever for environments of all sizes to get into VDI and app virtualization quickly and cost-effectively.  Our new Solution Accelerator Paks for Citrix XenDesktop are a great proof point of that.

I want to now turn to a couple concepts that are central to this latest announcement.  The notion of an elastic infrastructure approach for these deployments, that straddles public and private cloud to enable ‘capacity-flexing’ in terms of virtual desktop scale.  If you look at the underpinning, you see this notion of stateless, elastic provisioning present in the very core of our joint solution – the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS).

Give UCS Manager a Test Drive

Give UCS Manager a Test Drive

The DNA of the UCS architecture is based on answering the question “how would you build a server to deliver a pervasive virtual infrastructure that flexes in real time to changing, shifting workload capacity demands?”  Cisco answered that question four years ago with a compute platform purpose-built to deliver the goods, founded on our stateless provisioning and operations model.  This wire-once, touch-less environment for flexing desktop virtualization capacity up and down, is a foundational pillar for the Citrix announcement.  If you haven’t had a chance to test-drive UCS Manager and Service Profiles, check out the UCS Advantage.

Equally important is the reality that our customers need and want a balanced portfolio approach to how they consume IT services both via the public and private cloud.  This hybridized approach provides insulation, security, and eliminates dependency and risk associated with any one delivery model.  This is central to Cisco’s “World of Many Clouds” – and on that note you may have seen the news coming out of Cisco Live Milan on Wednesday January 28th – available here.

If you’re at Cisco Live Milan this week I encourage you to stop by our Data Center booth and learn more about:

  • UCS provisioning and management of workloads like VDI and app virtualization
  • Desktop virtualization solution architectures with ecosystem partners
  • Cisco UCS Invicta delivering accelerated VDI performance
  • Much more

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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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