This week in Vegas Microsoft is hosting its annual Microsoft Management Summit, with the bold subtitle “Manage the future, from desktop to cloud.”

Citrix is there in force, to support our rapidly growing momentum with Microsoft in the dekstop virtualization arena, where our combined products lead the industry in terms of scalability, price, manageability and depth of features. Now, that’s a fairly bold claim, and one that I probably ought to to substantiate. In terms of scalability our recent benchmarking of XenServer and Hyper-V versus other hypervisors has demonstrated clear superiority for Windows Server and Desktop virtualization. XenDesktop 4 – which combines XenApp delivered applications (presentation virtualization) with Microsoft App-V App Virtualization and streaming, VDI-based VM-hosted desktops and Citrix HDX(tm) delivery, scales better than any other solution in the industry.

In addition, at the virtual infrastructure level, Hyper-V and XenServer are free and entirely compatible, supporting a single unified management toolstack in the form of System Center VMM integrted with Citrix Essentials, and in particular, Citrix StorageLink which offers (demo, free download):

  • Improved Management of Storage Fabric and Arrays:
    Traditionally, fabrics and arrays are managed with their own set of proprietary UIs.
    StorageLink™ provides easy to use UI wizards to configure and manage your SAN fabric and arrays.
  • Tight Integration with native features of Storage Arrays:
    StorageLink™ “talks the language” of the storage array and exposes the native feature set in the storage array to the Virtualization administrator. Examples of these features are thin provisioning, fast clones, fast snapshots etc.
  • Improved VM Lifecycle Management:
    StorageLink™ allows the administrator to define hardware and storage profiles for VMs. Storage profiles can then be linked to storage volumes (LUNs) in storage arrays.
    The combination of hardware and storage profiles allows administrators to define golden images to enable subsequent rapid creation of complex workloads leveraging the snapshot and clone capabilities of storage arrays.

StorageLink

  • Reduces cost and complexity by leveraging existing investments in storage systems.
  • Offers one click access to native storage services via SMI-S or vendor plug-ins to proprietary APIs
  • Simplifies storage setup and maintenance via simple wizards
  • Provides complete DR capabilities with StorageLink Site Recovery
  • Integrates with Microsoft System Center VMM.

Here are a few of the scenarios we jointly enable via a System Center Integration Pack that offers Citrix StorageLink and Site Recovery within Essentials for Hyper-V.

  1. An administrator can create a golden VM in System Center Virtual Machine Manager (ie. use System Center as his primary interface) and automatically call StorageLink for provisioning the VM storage using Powershell. This enables seamless integration of storage management with VM management.
  2. An administrator can call StorageLink using Powershell in SCVMM to create multiple VMs from a single golden image using StorageLink to invoke built-in operations in the underlying storage infrastructure. Snapshots and clones that would have taken tens of minutes per VM, now take seconds. System Center remains the user’s primary interface for managing the virtual infrastructure.
  3. StorageLink Site Recovery workflows are automated using Powershell. So admins never need to touch the StorageLink GUI. This includes designating Primary and Secondary arrays and sites, creating storage repositories on both them, protecting and mapping them, selecting the VMs to be replicated, and staging the VMs at the secondary. Further, SCVMM can be used to start and stop VMs, at both the primary and the secondary sites – so System Center is the primary management interface.
  4. An administrator can call into StorageLink, using Powershell, to configure storage for a cluster and to add storage or hosts to the cluster. This becomes an increasingly complex problem as the size of the cluster increases and if the number of LUNs being managed is high. StorageLink seamlessly handles mapping all the nodes in the cluster to their LUNs, behind the scenes, including automatic management of storage-host configuration.
  5. Automated provisioning for XenDesktop workloads for better scalability. StorageLink lets admins setup a scalable VDI solution by understanding and managing linked clones from their golden images.

Finally, Citrix is planning to integrate StorageLink within the Microsoft Dynamic Infrastructure ToolKit (DITK). The DITK is a partner extensible toolkit that allows admins to provision and manage their virtualized IT infrastructure. It front-ends SCVMM and links to partner-provided capabilities such as storage. It enables a self-service portal that allows on-boarding (sign-up, infrastructure assessment/request management), configuration and administration of resources and end-user self-service tasks such as starting/stopping VMs, and more.

If you’re at MMS, and interested in a storage management solution for your XenServer or Hyper-V based infrastructure, give StorageLink a whirl and let us know what you think.