Cisco Desktop Virtualization Solution for EMC VSPEX with Citrix XenDesktop 7.5 for 1000 Seats

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Quick Stats
First Published:July 2014
Broker:XenDesktop 7.5
Desktop Type(s):PVS
Hypervisor:VMware vSphere 5.5
Storage Type:VNX 5400
Target # of Desktops:1,000


The landscape of desktop virtualization is changing constantly. New, high performance Cisco UCS Blade Servers and Cisco UCS unified fabric combined as part of the EMC VSPEX Proven Infrastructure with the latest generation EMC VNX arrays result in a more compact, more powerful, more reliable and more efficient platform.


In addition, the advances in the Citrix XenDesktop 7.5 system, which now incorporates both traditional hosted virtual Windows 7 or Windows 8 desktops, hosted applications and hosted shared Server 2008 R2 or Server 2012 R2 server desktops (formerly delivered by Citrix XenApp,) provide unparalleled scale and management simplicity while extending the Citrix HDX FlexCast models to additional mobile devices


This document provides the architecture and design of a virtual desktop infrastructure for 1000 mixed use-case users. The infrastructure is 100% virtualized on VMware ESXi 5.5 with third-generation Cisco UCS B-Services B200 M3 blade servers booting via iSCSI from an EMC VNX5400 storage array. The virtual desktops are powered using Citrix Provisioning Server 7.1 and Citrix XenDesktop 7.5, with a mix of hosted shared desktops (70%) and pooled hosted virtual Windows 7 desktops (30%) to support the user population. Where applicable, the document provides best practice recommendations and sizing guidelines for customer deployments of XenDesktop 7.5 on the Cisco Unified Computing System.




The combination of technologies from Cisco Systems, Inc., Citrix Systems, Inc., EMC, and VMware Inc. produced a highly efficient, robust and affordable desktop virtualization solution for a hosted virtual desktop and hosted shared desktop mixed deployment supporting different use cases. Key components of the solution included:

  • This solution is Cisco’s Desktop Virtualization Converged Design with VSPEX providing our [Cisco] customers with a turnkey physical and virtual infrastructure specifically designed to support 1000 desktop users in a highly available proven design. This architecture is well suited for large departmental and enterprise deployments of virtual desktop infrastructure.
  • More power, same size. Cisco UCS B200 M3 half-width blade with dual 10-core 2.8 GHz Intel Xeon Ivy Bridge (E5-2680v2) processors and 384GB of memory for XenDesktop hosted virtual desktop hosts and 256GB of memory for XenDesktop hosted shared desktop hosts supports ~25% more virtual desktop workloads than the previously released Sandy Bridge processors on the same hardware. The Intel Xeon E5- 2680 v2 10-core processors used in this study provided a balance between increased per-blade capacity and cost.
  • Fault-tolerance with high availability built into the design. The 1000-user design is based on using two Unified Computing System chassis with eight B200 M3 blades for virtualized desktop workloads and two B200 M3 blades for virtualized infrastructure workloads. The design provides N+1 Server fault tolerance for hosted virtual desktops, hosted shared desktops and infrastructure services.
  • Stress-tested to the limits during aggressive boot scenario. The 1000-user mixed hosted virtual desktop and hosted shared desktop environment booted and registered with the XenDesktop 7.5 Delivery Controllers in under 15 minutes, providing our [Cisco] customers with an extremely fast, reliable cold-start desktop virtualization system.
  • Stress-tested to the limits during simulated login storms. All 1000 simulated users logged in and started running workloads up to steady state in 30-minutes without overwhelming the processors, exhausting memory or exhausting the storage subsystems, providing customers with a desktop virtualization system that can easily handle the most demanding login and startup storms.
  • Ultra-condensed computing for the datacenter. The rack space required to support the 1000-user system is less than a single rack, 34 rack units, conserving valuable data center floor space.
  • Pure Virtualization: This CVD presents a validated design that is 100% virtualized on VMware ESXi 5.5. All of the virtual desktops, user data, profiles, and supporting infrastructure components, including Active Directory, Provisioning Servers, SQL Servers, XenDesktop Delivery Controllers, and XenDesktop RDS (XenApp) servers were hosted as virtual machines. This provides customers with complete flexibility for maintenance and capacity additions because the entire system runs on the VSPEX converged infrastructure with stateless Cisco UCS Blade servers, and EMC unified storage.
  • Cisco maintains industry leadership with the new Cisco UCS Manager 2.2(1d) software that simplifies scaling, guarantees consistency, and eases maintenance. Cisco’s ongoing development efforts with Cisco UCS Manager, Cisco UCS Central, and Cisco UCS Director insure that customer environments are consistent locally, across UCS Domains and across the globe, our [Cisco] software suite offers increasingly simplified operational and deployment management and it continues to widen the span of control for customer organizations’ subject matter experts in compute, storage and network.
  • Our [Cisco] 10G unified fabric story gets additional validation on second generation 6200 Series Fabric Interconnects as Cisco runs more challenging workload testing, while maintaining unsurpassed user response times.
  • EMC VNX and the FAST suite provide industry-leading storage solutions that efficiently handle the most demanding IO bursts (e.g. login storms), profile management, and user data management, provide VM backup and restores, deliver simple and flexible business continuance, and help reduce storage cost per desktop.
  • EMC VNX provides comprehensive storage architecture for hosting all user data components (VMs, profiles, user data, vDisks and PXE boot images) on the same storage array.
  • EMC VNX system enables seamlessly add, upgrade or remove storage infrastructure to meet the needs of the virtual desktops.
  • EMC Virtual Storage Integrator (VSI) plugin for VMware has deep integration with VMware vSphere provides easy button automation for key storage tasks like datastore provisioning, storage resize, data deduplication, etc. directly from within vCenter server.
  • EMC PowerPath/VE combines multiple path I/O capabilities, automatic load balancing, and path failover functions into one integrated package
  • Latest and greatest virtual desktop and application product. Citrix XenDesktop™ 7.5 follows a new unified product architecture that supports both hosted-shared desktops and applications (RDS) and complete virtual desktops (VDI). This new XenDesktop release simplifies tasks associated with large-scale VDI management. This modular solution supports seamless delivery of Windows apps and desktops as the number of users increase. In addition, HDX enhancements help to optimize performance and improve the user experience across a variety of endpoint device types, from workstations to mobile devices including laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
  • Optimized to achieve the best possible performance and scale. For hosted shared desktop sessions, the best performance was achieved when the number of vCPUs assigned to the XenDesktop 7.5 RDS virtual machines did not exceed the number of hyper-threaded cores available on the server. In other words, maximum performance is obtained when not overcommitting the CPU resources for the virtual machines running RDS.
  • Provisioning desktop machines made easy. Citrix Provisioning Services 7.1 created hosted virtual desktops as well as hosted shared desktops for this solution using a single method for both, the “PVS XenDesktop Setup Wizard”.





Original Links:


Documents Attached::

  • Cisco Validated Design

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