Cisco Systems, Citrix Unveil New Point-to-Point VDI System

In the first VDI partnership between the two well-established IT companies, the new package can be deployed anywhere in an IT system: in the WAN, in the data center, or in a private or hybrid cloud.

Networker Cisco Systems and virtualization provider Citrix on Oct. 12 co-launched a new enterprise virtual desktop system optimized for high-scale use of video and audio -- two rich media functions that often have fouled up VDI test deployments with unacceptable latency in the past.

This is the first VDI partnership between the two well-established IT companies. The new package can be deployed anywhere in an IT system: in the WAN, in the data center or in a private or hybrid cloud.
Cisco looks at the partnership as the next phase of its own Virtualization Experience Infrastructure (VXI) end-point product line, which focuses on upgrading desktop virtualization experiences for users. The two companies claim to have solved this longstanding latency problem by borrowing from the IP phone industry.
"Rich media has been been compromised, as has the user experience, especially in classic networking environments. This is due to proprietary protocols you can't optimize for the wide area," Manny Rivelo, senior vice president of Cisco's Engineering Operations and Systems group, told eWEEK.
Scaling for Mass Use Now Optimized
"Scaling for the masses also hasn't been optimized, thus deployment with confidence has been lacking."
In the first product to be made available in this partnership (later this quarter), Cisco Wide Area Application Services will be optimized for Citrix XenDesktop, which will enable customers to reduce bandwidth necessary to deploy desktops virtually over wide area networks - enabling better scalability and optimal end user collaboration experiences.
"With video and audio, you're dealing with megabits of data flowing across the environment over the WAN or Ethernet pipes into the data center, clogging up the virtual machine compute resources. We've converted this to make the traffic run point-to-point, through a new series of thin clients, no different than an IP phone; so we don't need to send the traffic to the data center," Rivelo said.
Therein lies the Cisco-Citrix secret sauce to cleaning up all that latency VDI has had to work around for more than a decade.
"Using our software, you can take a regular PC and repurpose it as a thin client in the software stack," Rivelo said. "Using the Cisco UCS [Unified Computing System] with this package, you'll be able to deploy 30,000 virtual machines or desktops per management domain (per UCS cluster). That's unheard of in the industry."
Rivelo also said that a deployment using the UCS and the new Cisco-Citrix VDI package can plug into the Cisco ICE (Identity Services Engine), which can "enable one set of (authentication) policies for both the traditional physical environment -- say, PC generation -- and the post-PC generation (VDI, mobile devices)."
Business Benefits
Benefits of the VDI package, according to Rivelo, include:

  • VDI and applications that send data up to 70 percent faster to remote devices. Cisco WAAS enables customers to optimize their WAN to increase performance of Citrix XenDesktop when accessed from remote devices, including PCs, Macs, laptops, thin clients, smartphones and tablets.
  • Scaling to "tens of thousands" of virtual desktop users while optimizing WAN usage, Riveo said. By optimizing the network for XenDesktop, many more virtual desktops can be accessed remotely, while bandwidth required per virtual desktop user is actually reduced, helping to lower networking costs.
  • Accelerating desktop virtualization deployments through simplified management. Each CiscoWAAS will be jointly tested, validated, supported and verified as a Citrix Ready solution at the time of availability, and will provide automated interoperability with Citrix's HDX protocol, including the Independent Computing Architecture (ICA) protocol.

Cisco WAAS also will be validated to work with Citrix XenDesktop encryption, compression and network management features. This is the only such licensing agreement Citrix has made with any other partner for this VDI deployment.
The new VDI package is scheduled for global availability during Q4 2011, Rivelo said.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...