Just around the corner is a new Cisco® Validated Design (CVD) that documents a reference architecture combining Citrix® XenDesktop® 7.1, Cisco UCS blade servers, NetApp storage, and VMware ESXi 5.1 as the hypervisor. In conjunction with engineers from Citrix partners Cisco and NetApp, we built out the solution and conducted validation testing for a mixed workload of hosted shared desktops (RDS) and hosted virtual desktops (VDI). The soon-to-be-released CVD describes an enterprise solution that exhibits excellent scalability for a mixed user workload of 2000 users.

The solution is based on a turnkey FlexPod infrastructure (i.e., FlexPod Data Center with VMware vSphere 5.1) that takes advantage of the newest generation of hardware and software components: Citrix XenDesktop 7.1 and Provisioning Services 7.1, Cisco UCS B200 M3 blades, Intel® Xeon® E5-2680v2 (Ivy Bridge) processors, and NetApp shared storage equipped with Clustered Data ONTAP® storage operating system. The architecture is designed with N+1 server fault tolerance, using two Cisco UCS chassis with two blades for infrastructure servers and 12 blades for shared and virtualized desktops.

The turnkey nature of the infrastructure provides a compact, affordable, and flexible solution for hosting Citrix XenDesktop 7.1 software. This XenDesktop release follows a new unified architecture that provisions both hosted shared desktops (RDS) as well as hosted virtual desktops (VDI) using the same management framework, tools, and common policies. The CVD presents a fully validated design that we stress-tested under a 2000-seat workload — 1450 hosted shared desktops with 64 Server 2012 virtual machines and 550 hosted virtual desktops with Windows 7. The Cisco UCS blades with Ivy Bridge processors and 384GB RAM supported considerably more users than similar testing with previous generation Sandy Bridge architecture.

The reference architecture supported the 2000-seat user density using a fully virtualized configuration on VMware ESX 5.1. Our single server testing showed excellent results that scaled linearly to reach the 2000-user density on multiple servers. The CVD represents a cost-effective, flexible, and scalable reference architecture that is ideal for large departments and enterprise deployments.

I’ll post more about our testing and scalability results (including a link to the actual CVD) when Cisco publishes it later this month (February). When the CVD is released, I’ll be sure to send out another post.

UPDATE (02/25/2014): The CVD is now available http://www.cisco.com/c/dam/en/us/td/docs/unified_computing/ucs/UCS_CVDs/cisco_ucs_xd7esxi51_flexpod.pdf

— Frank Anderson, Principal Solutions Architect with Citrix Worldwide Alliances