Today, we have a guest post from Frank Anderson — former Citrite and all-around good guy — Solutions Architect at Cisco. We’re always happy to have perspectives from Citrix partners who help us work better together. — TS

Announcing a New CVD: FlexPod Datacenter with Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop 7.7 and VMware vSphere 6.0 for 5000 Seats

Welcome to what I believe is easily the best Desktop and App Virtualization high-scale solution and publication ever released. In terms of best-of-breed components, architecture, validation, and guidance, this one has got it all.

FlexPod Datacenter with Cisco UCS B-Series along with NetApp’s All-Flash FAS is the underlying building block for this solution that simplifies deployments while supporting outstanding density and proven mixes of XenApp and XenDesktop workloads. While FlexPod provides a cookie-cutter solution, this CVD demonstrates how a turnkey solution can also be quite scalable. Deployments share a common architecture, component design, configuration procedures, and management. At the same time configurations can scale and expand to accommodate greater user densities for hosted shared desktops (RDS) or hosted pooled virtual desktops (VDI).

The CVD describes a base 28-blade FlexPod with Cisco UCS B-Series configuration supporting 5,000 users (2,600 RDS, 1,200 Non-Persistent VDI, and 1,200 Persistent VDI users). Cisco UCS B200 M4 Blade Servers were added to the base configuration to support workload expansion and larger densities. All configurations followed a fault-tolerant N+1 design for infrastructure and RDS/VDI clusters. To size and validate workload combinations, we conducted single and multiple blade server scalability tests using Login VSI software. The complete FlexPod CVD documents the step-by-step procedures used to create the test environment and includes all of the test results, which are highlighted here.

Key Solution Advantages

The CVD architecture offers significant benefits to enterprise-edge or small business deployments:

  • Scalable desktop virtualization for the enterprise. Powerful Cisco UCS blade servers enable high user densities with the very best user experience. Twenty-eight blades provide support for 5,000 XenApp and XenDesktop users. The NetApp AFF8080EX-A features exceptionally low-latency flash storage over an end-to-end Ethernet fabric.
  • Self-contained solution. The FlexPod architecture defines an entirely self-contained solution with the infrastructure needed to support a mix of up to 5,000 Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop users. The solution consumes one full size data center rack—the 4 blade server chassis requires 24RU, NetApp storage with shelves takes 10 RU, and the switches occupy 4 RU. The entire design fits in a single data center rack, conserving valuable data center rack space and simplifying deployments.
  • Fault-tolerant design. The architecture defines redundant infrastructure and workload VMs across multiple physical Cisco UCS blade servers, optimizing availability to keep users productive.
  • Easy to deploy and manage. UCS Manager can manage Cisco UCS servers in the FlexPod solution along with other Cisco UCS blade and rack servers in the management domain. Cisco UCS Performance Manager provides monitoring insights throughout the environment. Cisco UCS Central can extend management across Cisco UCS Manager domains and centralize management across multiple deployments.
  • Fully validated and proven solution. The CVD defines a reference architecture that has been tested under aggressive usage scenarios, including boot and login storms. Test requirements mandated that each configuration boot within 15 minutes and complete logins in 48 minutes at the peak user densities tested. All test scenarios are repeated three times to ensure consistency and reliability.

Desktop Virtualization at High Scale

FlexPod configurations can easily accommodate very high densities while maintaining top user experience, allowing deployments at the enterprise to support greater amounts of RDS and VDI workloads. The Cisco UCS B200 M4 blade servers offer high performance to support high RDS/VDI densities, while the NetApp all-flash storage system and 10GbE connectivity optimizes storage-related operations.

In the full-scale test case, the NetApp storage easily handled load requirements with average read and write latencies less than 1ms. SSD drives in the AFF8080 significantly decrease response time latencies during the boot and login phases. During steady state, the storage experienced low IOPS for the RDS and VDI non-persistent datastores. PVS write cache was configured to use RAM with overflow to disk, which complimented the storage system by decreasing IOPS.

To see the full set of test results and learn more, you can access the full CVD here.

Find me in the Cisco booth at Citrix Synergy 2016 in Las Vegas May 24-26.

— Frank Anderson, Senior Solutions Architect, Cisco Systems, Inc.

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