Less really can be more when it comes to desktop virtualization. 180 PC-on-a-Chip desktops—minus the hypervisor—with Citrix XenDesktop, HP Moonshot, and AMD. Part 1
Last week at HP Discover in Barcelona, Spain, HP unveiled a revolutionary new member of the Moonshot platform called the Converged System 100 for Hosted Desktops designed exclusively with AMD for Citrix XenDesktop. This new architecture is unlike anything else the industry and Citrix was there side-by-side on the show floor unveiling this new jointly designed platform to customers and partners. The interest from attendees was unbelievable and the simplicity of this new platform with XenDesktop and Provisioning Services made attendees really understand that desktop virtualization can be made simpler with an architecture like this. Let’s take a look at the hardware and dive deeper into this new and exciting game changing architecture.
The Moonshot 1500 platform is a 4.3U chassis that has an impressive array of compute, graphics, storage, and network. This new Proliant M700 Server cartridge for HDI, or Hosted Desktop Infrastructure, was designed for those key knowledge workers that need direct unfiltered access to hardware that has been traditionally managed by a hypervisor in the VDI world. By providing this level of hardware access users can be assured that they will not have to share any hardware resources with anyone else that could potentially impact others in a traditional VDI architecture. With this new architecture users now have access to their own dedicated processors, graphics, storage, and networking which increases the user experience and ultimately productivity.
Inside the Moonshot chassis are 45 dedicated plug-n-play M700 server cartridges. Each M700 cartridge has 4 PC-on-a-Chip nodes or systems that are powered by the chassis. With 4 PC-on-a Chip nodes X 45 cartridges that gives us a total of 180 dedicated PCoC systems. Each cartridge consumes an impressive low wattage amount of power that is typically 33 watts in active use, 20 watts at idle and a maximum of 63 watts. That’s about 8 watts per node on average which is equivalent to a small radio, but with the power and HDX experience of a boom box! For an entire chassis then the total amount of power that these 45 cartridges or 180 nodes
The image below showcases the Moonshot chassis fully loaded with 45 cartridges.
Each HP Proliant m700 is powered by a PC-on-a-Chip architecture designed by HP and AMD. Each node on a cartridge has an AMD Opteron X2150 APU (4) x86 core 1.5 GHz processor with AMD Radeon 8000 Series Graphics. The graphics and processor are a single piece of silicon die called an Accelerated Processing Unit or APU and offer 128 Radeon Cores up to 500 MHz. This type of graphics card is perfectly designed for the knowledge worker who has light level graphics requirements like Direct X 11 enabled applications such as Microsoft Office 2013. This allows for a smaller footprint for a SOC and provides HP and AMD the flexibility to have 4 nodes per cartridge. Each node has a dedicated 8GB of Enhanced ECC DDR3 PC3-12800 SDRAM at 16000 MHz speed for a total of 32GB per cartridge. For storage each cartridge has an integrated storage controller with a dedicated 32GB SANDISK iSSD per node located on the Mezzanine Storage Kit for a total of 128GB space. Each iSSD is rated to perform up to 400 IOPS which more than sufficient for most traditional VDI or SBC users. Each node also has its own pair of 1GB Broadcom NICS allowing for a combined 2GB of dedicated network bandwidth per node. This makes for greater design choices for allowing node to have access to different VLANS for boot and production traffic if desired. For node deployment the BIOS allows each node for a series of simple boot methods such as boot via local iSSD, boot via PXE, and boot one time via PXE or HDD. Also each of the m700 nodes have the capability to leverage Wake-On-LAN or WOL using a magic packet. This enables even nodes that are powered off in the chassis to be powered on straight from the Provisioning Services console!
Inside the chassis is a simple and easy to leverage series of integrated switches. There are two switches that are segmented as switch A and switch B. Each Wolff switch can provide up to 4 x 40GB of stackable uplinks per switch. These Wolff switches are fully manageable switches with Layer 2 and Layer 3 routing functionality as well as QoS, SNMP and SFLOW functions. With each node having a 2 dedicated 1GB NICS and each cartridge delivering 8GB of potential traffic, these switches are ready to handle any type of HDI workload scenario.
XenDesktop and HDX
So far you have read about the hardware and its exciting capabilities, but is there a specific version of XenDesktop for the Moonshot platform? Yes there is. The HP Converged System 100 will only be supported by Citrix for those customers using XenDesktop 7.1 and Provisioning Services 7.1. While it’s possible that previous versions of XenDesktop may work, the main feature that only XenDesktop 7.1 provides is the capability for the Standard VDA to leverage the native GPU for those Direct X enabled applications, for example, without the need of the HDX 3D Pro VDA that was always the case before for leveraging GPUs. (The HDX 3d Pro VDA is required for higher end CAD applications, which also require a higher end GPU than what is inside the M700 cartridge. Think NVIDIA K2 and XenServer GPU pass through with HP BL380 Gen 8 blades here for HDX 3D Pro for those higher end users which is a separate architecture than Moonshot.) For those of us that have been keeping up to speed with XenDesktop, Derek Thorslund posted great blog about what the XenDesktop 7.1 VDA can provide for native graphics. Throughout the development of the Moonshot platform Citrix, HP, and AMD worked very closely on the HDX side. During this time Citrix developers were able to enhance our current 7.1 Standard VDA WDDM driver to be able to provide optimizations that are now capable of leveraging the AMD graphics cards which are a standard on the Moonshot HDI platform. This new WDDM driver enhancement now allows for a superior HDX experience that can directly leverage the GPU for each node! The example below shows the device manager Citrix WDDM driver as well as the AMD Radeon GPU. It is important to note again that this new AMD optimization is specifically designed and supported for the XenDesktop 7.1 standard VDA only and not the HDX 3D Pro VDA which is not supported by Citrix on the CS100 Moonshot platform at the time of writing this article. This new enhancement is in the form of a hotfix (MSP) is available now on Citrix.com.
Below is YouTube demonstration showcasing all these pieces in real-time!
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180 bare-metal nodes to Windows 7 in minutes
In most situations there are going to be a few ways to deliver Windows to bare-metal nodes before the XenDesktop and Provisioning Services client installers can be deployed. The current HP supported method of delivering Windows 7 x64 to a node is using Windows Deployment Services or WDS. WDS is a free role of the Windows 2008R2 SP1 and Windows 2012/R2 operating system that can be enabled. Once we have our master image created the fun part begins. In the next series I’ll show the simple process of leveraging WDS to deploy Windows 7 to our master node in just a matter of a few minutes. Then I’ll demonstrate the PowerShell capabilities from Moonshot to PVS and how were able to build all 180 nodes just with PVS and Studio. More to come so check back soon….