Cisco VXI Integrates Desktop Virtualization, Collaboration

Cisco is rolling out its VXI desktop virtualization solution, which brings together virtualization, communications and data center technologies from itself and partners.

Cisco Systems is using its broad product portfolio and extensive partner ecosystem to offer enteprises a complete desktop virtualization offering of collaboration, data center technologies and high-level connectivity capabilities.

Cisco's VXI (Virtualization Experience Infrastructure), introduced Nov. 15, integrates a wide range of Cisco technologies with desktop virtualization offerings from the likes of VMware, Citrix Systems, Wyse Technology and Microsoft. Company officials said businesses are anxious to take advantage of the cost savings, streamlined management capabilities and greater security offered by desktop virtualization, but the disparate offerings from a wide range of vendors is slowing adoption.

VXI is designed to give businesses a more complete offering with best-of-breed technologies, officials said.

"The challenges for users is that it's a fragmented market," Phil Sherburne, vice president of architecture and systems at Cisco, said in an interview with eWEEK. "We're pulling together products from leading vendors."

Cisco also is addressing what Sherburne called the natural intersection of the enterprise desktop between video, unified communications and virtualization, all strengths of the company.

VXI integrates a host of company technologies, including the Quad business social networking platform, the ACE load balancing and application delivery offerings, Adaptive Security appliances, the AnyWhere VPN (virtual private network) client, SAN (storage-area network) switches and ISRs (Integrated Services Routers).

The company also is introducing two new zero-client devices, and officials said that customers will be able to use Cisco's Cius business tablet PC in virtualized environments, thanks to new applications from virtualization vendors VMware, Citrixt Systems and Wyse Technology.

Desktop virtualization is gaining interest in businesses, particularly given the promise of reductions in both acquisition and operational costs.For example, analysts have put the savings in PC support costs at 51 percent.

VXI supports both Citrix's XenDesktop and VMware's 4.5 destkop virtualization software, as well as management and security solutions from EMC and NetApp. In addition, Cisco's platform runs various Microsoft offerings, including Windows XP and Windows 7.

Cisco's goal is to offer access to its desktop virtualization solutions, including all the company's collaboration capabilities, through a myriad of devices, including the Cius tablet. Cisco also is offering two VXC (Virtualization Experience Client) devices, the VXC 2100 and 2200. The VXC 2100 is a compact device that can be integrated with Cisco's Unified IP Phone 8900 or 9900, supports PoE (Power over Ethernet) and connectivity with up to two monitors. It also offers four USB ports for keyboard and mouse connectivity.

The VXC 2200 is a standalone zero-client device that businesses can use as a virtual desktop that offers access to applications running in a virtaulized environment. It also has optional PoE capabilities, four USB ports and two video ports.

To increase the integration of communications and desktop virtualization, Cisco officials said their UC clients-including Quad, Unified Personal Communicator and Unified Presence-can be used in virtualized dekstop environments. Through these clients, Cisco is bringing such communication capabilites as visual voicemail, instant messaging, employee directories, video and Web conferencing to virtual desktops.

The desktop virtualizaition offering is the latest effort by Cisco to offer end-to-end solutions for businesses that offer a heavy dose of Cisco products combined with products from a wide variety of partners. The approach has drawn the criticism of competitors, who say Cisco is forcing customers to make heavy investments in new technologies to replace what they already have, rather then enabling businesses to build upon what they already have in place.

David Hsieh, vice president of marketing at Cisco, said that any innovation means change, which requires some level of investment by customers. However, that doesn't mean that businesses have to toss out everything they have in place.

"Cisco's focus on an end-to-end architecture provides customers with a key benefit: you only have to change what is different, but you can continue to use everything else you have," Hsieh said in an e-mail to eWEEK. "Said differently, unless you have a well-defined architectural approach, customers will be forced to do -forklift' upgrades, which affect their entire infrastructure instead of containing the changes to what's really new. This is a form of investment protection that Cisco prioritizes and it's why we spend so much effort on defining and socializing our architectures."