IT executives have experienced few absolute drop-dead dates to implement new services in their careers.  Many of us remember the excitement Y2K caused the industry as time marched on at the turn of the century over 20 years ago. Technology teams had to deliver by January 1, 2000, and they did!  Last March, COVID had the same impact. Overnight, IT organizations had to enable their workforces to work from home on almost any connected device they had available. To provide a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) to meet this challenge, many companies set up shop with a major cloud vendor such as Azure or AWS. To justify this choice, they highlighted:

  • Immediate access to desktop applications from any connection point
  • Consistent end-user experience
  • Easy and efficient desktop management
  • Centrally managed data security
  • Leveraging their prior cloud expertise
  • Belief that working from home would last for only a few weeks or months J
  • Reasonable average monthly virtual desktop pricing

According to Gartner 48% of remote workers will continue to stay remote once offices reopen. A Harvard Business School survey indicated that 81% of workers will stay at least partially remote (2 days/week) once we can all hang out together safely at the water cooler. With workers staying at home in greater numbers, IT organizations now have to ask themselves, “Is the cloud the right long-term VDI solution?”

ESG had the same question and published a study in November 2020 comparing on-premises Cisco VDI solutions compared to two of the leading cloud-based alternatives. This study showed that the Cisco-based deployments provided up to 35% lower average monthly cost per virtual desktop. Customers have also reported challenges with their cloud deployments, starting with the cost per month. Cloud vendors offer a pay-as-you-go model, and many found their forecasted costs did not match their realized costs. Furthermore, in some industries, specific data is prohibited to being stored in the cloud due to local or national laws. Security profiles that customers had used prior to COVID did not match what cloud vendors offered, and the loss of direct management control caused concern for some companies.

To provide a clear alternative to the cloud, Cisco and NetApp invested in a Cisco Validated Design (CVD) where a joint FlexPod converged infrastructure configuration designed with Cisco UCS and a NetApp A400 storage array was built in a Cisco lab. Citrix LTSR running on VMware vSphere was deployed, and up to 5000 Knowledge Workers (definition as a professional worker using multiple applications with a customized user interface) or 6000 Task Users (defined as a single application user with a fixed user interface) were scaled to show consistent performance as users were added. A CVD defines every element in the design such that a customer can follow step-by-step and obtain the same results. Citrix is one of the clear leaders in VDI software management, and this design offers customers the ability to bring their remote workers back in house once it is safe to do so. The IT department can realize a higher ROI with a design where each element can grow independently to meet business needs. See the link below for design details.

COVID caused the world to change but trying times can lead to new discoveries and new paths to success!

FlexPod Datacenter with Citrix 1912 LTRS and VMware vSphere 7 for 6000 seats.


John McAbel

Senior Product Manager

Enterprise Solutions on Cisco UCS