Cisco Validated Design: 5k Seat Virtual Desktop built on Cisco UCS, EMC VNX7500, XenDesktop 5.6, and vSphere 5.0

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Reference Architecture:

This document reports the results of a study evaluating the scalability of Citrix XenDesktop 5.6 environment, utilizing Citrix Provisioning Server 6.1, on Cisco UCS B-Series B230 M2 Blade Servers running VMware ESXi 5.0 Update 1 hypervisor software connected to an EMC VNX7500 Storage Array. We utilize second generation Unified Computing System hardware and software. We provide best practice recommendations and sizing guidelines for large scale customer deployments of XenDesktop 5.6 on the Cisco Unified Computing System.


Summary of Main Findings:

The combination of technologies from Cisco Systems, Inc, Citrix Systems, Inc, VMware and EMC produced a highly efficient, robust and scalable Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) for a hosted virtual desktop deployment. Key components of the solution included:

  • The combined power of the Unified Computing System, Nexus switching and EMC storage hardware with VMware ESXi 5.0 Update 1, Citrix Provisioning Server 6.1, and Citrix XenDesktop 5.6 software produces a high density per blade and per chassis Virtual Desktop delivery system.
  • B230 M2 half-width blade with dual 10-core processors and 256GB of memory supports 22.7% more virtual desktop workloads than the previously studied full width blade using a new medium workload with flash.
  • The study design based on five Unified Computing System chassis, four each with 8 - B230 M2 blades and one with 7-B230 M2 blades, each with dual 10-core processors and 256GB of memory and a M81KR (Palo) converged network adapter supports 5000 virtual desktop workloads running the new medium workload with flash, more than 2.25 times the density of previously studied chassis with full width blades.
  • The 39 B230 M2 Servers were organized in three VMware ESXi Clusters, each with N+1 Server fault tolerance. This highly available configuration is a first for our Cisco Validated Design series.
  • We were able to ramp (log in and start workloads) up to steady state in 30 minutes without pegging the processor, exhausting memory or storage subsystems.
  • Compared to previous studies with full width blades, the rack space required to support 5000 users was reduced from 72 Rack Units to 30 Rack units.
  • Pure Virtualization: We continue to present a validated design that is 100% virtualized on ESXi 5.0 Update 1. All of the Windows 7 SP1 virtual desktops and supporting infrastructure components, including Active Directory, Profile Servers, Provisioning Servers, SQL Servers, and XenDesktop delivery controllers were hosted as virtual servers.
  • We maintain our industry leadership with our new Cisco UCS Manager 2.0(4a) software that makes scaling simple, consistency guaranteed and maintenance simple.
  • Our 10G unified fabric story gets additional validation on second generation 6200 Series Fabric Interconnects and second generation Nexus 5500 Series access switches as we run more challenging workload testing, maintaining unsurpassed user response times.
  • For the first time in a Cisco VDI Cisco Validated Design, we incorporate our Nexus 1000V virtual distributed switch. A redundant pair of Nexus 1000V Virtual Supervisor Module appliances were deployed for each ESXi cluster to extend our Cisco end-to-end Quality of Service leadership, guaranteeing high priority virtual desktop related traffic to produce industry leading end user experience
  • EMC’s VNX 7500 system provides storage consolidation and outstanding efficiency. Both block and NFS storage resources were provided by a single system, utilizing EMC Fast Cache technology.
  • Citrix HDX technology, extended in XenDesktop 5.6 Feature Pack 1 software, provides excellent performance with host-rendered flash video and other demanding applications.


Cisco Validated Design


Original Links:


Originally Published: February 2013

Documents Attached:

  • Cisco Validated Design


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