One of the main things I was asked during my time working the Desktop Transformation Center Booth at Synergy Barcelona were about the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) with the NetApp storage solution, and the Dell PowerEdge solution with the EqualLogic storage solution. Attendees were interested in knowing which areas of Synergy were running off both solutions, why the equipment was chosen, and how it was configured. I will cover the Cisco UCS solution in this blog post.

The relationship between Citrix, Cisco and NetApp is not new. At Citrix we made an announcement in 2010 about our joint efforts to partner with Cisco on the Cisco Desktop Virtualization Solution with Citrix XenDesktop. In addition, we collaborated with Cisco on the Desktop Transformation Center at Synergy San Francisco. Much of the hardware that Cisco provided at Synergy San Francisco was also used in Barcelona. However, there were some slight changes since we wanted to show key areas of Synergy as being “powered by Citrix”.

Planning for Synergy Barcelona began almost immediately after Synergy San Francisco, during which time discussions between the Citrix Desktop Transformation team and Cisco and Dell centered on what could we do different and better than before. It was agreed upon to showcase the benefits of desktop virtualization by hosting desktops and applications for key user groups – including registration, Internet access and booth staff.  Our Citrix architects began the design of infrastructure, and determined the hardware resources necessary for the build.  Hardware resources were based on many factors including vCPU’s, vRAM, disk IOPS, and storage to support a XenDesktop 5.5 environment using Machine Creation Services.

Once we presented our requirements to Cisco, their engineers determined the best equipment for driving the Desktop Transformation solution. As a result, the Cisco UCS solution consisted of the following:

  • (2) Cisco UCS 5108 server chassis with (8) B250-M2 blades with 192Gb of RAM each
  • (2) Cisco UCS 6120 Fabric Interconnects
  • (2) NetApp FAS3240 SAN Storage Systems
  • (2) NetApp DS4243 Disk Shelves (each with 24x 600Gb drives)
  • (1) Cisco Nexus 5548 Switch with 10Gps Ethernet/FCoE


Doubling up on key equipment allowed us to build a clustered configuration for redundancy and high availability. The communication between the blades and the switch ran over 10Gb Ethernet connections.  2 x 10Gb/s FCoE were used between the Fabric Interconnects and the NetApp FAS3240s. Since Hyper-V does not support NFS we used iSCSI. System management was handled through the Cisco UCS Manager.

Once we had the hardware configured, we built six Hyper-V hosts with 6 TB of storage, since that was all we required for the virtual desktops. The virtual desktops were distributed evenly between three Cluster Shared Volumes, to ensure that we wouldn’t run into issues with disk latency because of SCSI commands or queuing. Using XenDesktop 5.5 we created MCS Pooled Random desktops for the Internet Access Center, the Cisco booth, and other Synergy vendors. This configuration provided us with the capability of spinning up over 600 MCS generated virtual desktops, with available RAM being the limiting factor.

Our thanks go out to Cisco and NetApp for providing the hardware necessary for half of the Desktop Transformation Center, and to all our partners who helped make Synergy 2011 a great success. For more information on Cisco Unified Computing and their products please visit the Cisco UCS site.

Ed Duncan – Senior Consultant
Worldwide Consulting
Desktop & Apps Team
Virtual Desktop Handbook
Project Accelerator