Cisco recently released an updated Cisco Validated Design guide (CVD) for its Cisco Virtualization Experience Infrastructure (VXI) with Citrix XenDesktop. It is available here and provides a comprehensive coverage of the entire Cisco VXI solution for delivering virtual desktops with XenDesktop – so I highly recommend anyone interested to give it a read.

In this blog, I would like to provide key summarization of the VXI solution as mentioned in the CVD and as it relates to a XenDesktop implementation. On a high level, Cisco VXI is an end-to-end architectural initiative involving Cisco’s Data Center, Collaboration and Networking components enabling the delivery of XenDesktop based virtual desktops – with a focus on achieving better scalability utilizing Cisco data center components, achieving better voice and video collaboration by integrating Cisco communication applications and endpoints for virtual desktops and finally to utilize Cisco networks for delivering optimized desktops. By leveraging the VXI solution, a XenDesktop implementation is further empowered in delivering multimedia rich virtual desktops with exceptional end user performance. Let’s see how this is achieved by breaking down the VXI components and the benefits it provides to XenDesktop:

1. Data Center. I am sure most are aware of the Cisco Unified Communication Systems (UCS) and the innovations that it brings to the blade architecture and the unique benefits that it provides for hosting XenDesktop. I will name a few here:

– UCS high speed extended memory implementation provides great VM density without compromising on end user performance.

– Unified Fabric (FCoE) with high I/O bandwidth allows much higher overall solution scalability. And even in terms of virtualizing Citrix components such as Provisioning Services.

– UCS Service profile fits well in to making the entire solution “stateless”, which could be a big advantage for managing larger environments, with faster and more dynamic provisioning and also faster recovery.

If you are interested for more details for a XenDesktop on UCS solution, here is the link to all three UCS CVDs for XenDesktop (one for each hypervisor). It also provides validated reference architecture, design recommendations and density numbers for XenDesktop and XenApp on UCS.

On the data center side, the VXI CVD also provides hypervisor and storage design best practices along with references to results from testing done with Atlantis ILIO for IOPS reductions. So a very scalable backend infrastructure to host XenDesktop. Next, let’s look at the collaboration piece:

2. Collaboration. I like to breakdown the VXI collaboration into two major sub-components: Endpoints and Applications that together enables the rich media, voice and video integration in to delivering virtual desktops. The following provides a list of Cisco Virtual Experience (VXC) Endpoints and a brief feature list:

VXC Endpoint Category Feature Highlight
Cisco Cius Tablet – Citrix Receiver ready.- Enterprise ready with central management through Cisco Unified Communications Manager (Cisco UCM). 

– Multiple ways to install applications (Android Market Store, UCM-managed, Cisco App HQ).

– Standalone and docked mode.

– Local voice and video media plane – meaning direct media path to the destination (no “hairpin” effect).

VXC-2112 and VXC-2212 Zero clients – Supports ICA/HDX connection.- Supports Power over Ethernet (PoE) and Universal PoE. 

– Seamless integration to Cisco IP Phones (9971, 9951, 8961).

– Cisco Unified Personal Communicator (CUPC) integration.

VXC-6215 Unified Communications (UC) enabled thin client – Supports ICA/HDX connection.- CUPC integration. 

– Media Termination: Terminates voice media streams on the local client when controlled by CUPC or CUPC for MS Lync running in the virtual desktop.

VXC-4000 UC enabled software appliance – Citrix Receiver needs to be installed on the thick client since VXC 4000 is a software appliance and does not provide capability to connect to XenDesktop within the software. 

– Medial Termination.

Along with the VXC endpoints, Cisco Unified Communications Applications play a critical role in enabling better media collaboration aspect to XenDesktop. The ability to implement Cisco Unified Personal Communicator (CUPC) within a virtual desktop with point-to-point media routing provides a much better performance for the end user. This eliminates the ‘hairpin’ effect – which is caused if the audio/video within the call is routed from the source to the destination through the data center over the virtual channels. Instead with this media traffic offload on the VXC 6215 and VXC 4000, a separation of UC media traffic and its placement outside of the HDX protocol takes place. This allows the media to traverse over the network allowing the native network based QoS to be applied to the media stream. This helps significantly in keeping the virtual desktop experience intact while making these video calls. This demo gives a great illustration. And finally, let’s look at the VXI network:

3. VXI Network. This covers the Cisco networking solutions that enable the end-to-end VXI solution for delivering XenDesktop, including the new HDX aware Cisco Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) for providing QoS and HDX optimization over WAN. This enables environments with WAAS already deployed to be HDX-aware and ready to deliver virtual desktop across WAN connections. Obviously Citrix Branch Repeater and NetScaler are Citrix’s solution for WAN optimization and traffic management respectively, and they offer tight integration with XenDesktop. So Citrix customers have choices in deploying networking solutions depending on their needs.

Now with this brief summarization, I hope your CVD read will allow you to keep things more in context to XenDesktop. In future blogs, I will cover specific technologies and integration aspects of the joint solution – so do comment and let me know if you have any specific interest.

I find your feedback to be valuable so please feel free to reach out with questions and/or comments.

Thanks,

Bhumik Patel

Cisco Engagement Architect, Citrix WW Channels and Emerging Product Sales