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Breaking through Performance Barriers: Desktop Virtualization at Cisco Live

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:

Hardware Components:

  • 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.

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Delivering Workplace Mobility – Built on Cisco Unified Computing System

Citrix Synergy kicks off next week and Cisco is once again proud to be a platinum sponsor.  We’ll have an extensive suite of content at the event, and a number of our desktop virtualization and enterprise mobility experts on the ground.

Need a Warm-up for Citrix Synergy?

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 9.57.04 AMBefore we dive into all the Cisco/Synergy goodness, I want to point out that Cisco TechWise TV posted a brand new VDI-focused episode featuring our product manager (Ashok Rajagopalan), lead TME (Mike Brennan) and myself, with TechWise’s Jimmy Ray Purser and Robb Boyd.  The episode does a nice job revisiting what’s new with desktop virtualization, how has the landscape transformed from an infrastructure perspective, and a look behind the scenes at how we put our Cisco Validated Designs (CVDs) together.  You can view the session here.

You can also check out this short animated whiteboard video that outlines why Cisco UCS is your best choice for deploying Citrix XenDesktop

If you’ve made plans to be in LA next week, here’s a quick run-down of stuff you should check out.

Read More »

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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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Delivering Mobile and Cloud Services Now Gets End-to-End Network Control

From the Data Center across the WAN to the User -- with unique Citrix integrations for the Cisco Open Network Environment

In the long history of the Cisco and Citrix partnership, the two companies have worked together to deliver great solutions to many of the largest corporations in the world.  About 16 months ago, we enthusiastically agreed to expand the solution sets we jointly deliver beyond Desktop Virtualization to also address the Mobility, Cloud Services and Cloud Networking marketplaces.  Few other alliances in the industry can match the breadth and depth of the integrated solutions Cisco and Citrix are developing.

This week at Cisco Live in Milan, I now have yet another reason to stay excited about our partnership with Cisco… the new announcement from Cisco about Cisco ONE (Open Network Environment) Platform supporting “both” datacenter and enterprise networks.   Read 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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