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Citrix, Cisco Partner for Desktop Virtualization Kit

Citrix Systems is on the move yet again, virtually speaking. Just a few days after the company announced it was acquiring lifecycle toolmaker VMLogix to enhance its cloud capabilities, the company has gone into business with Cisco to deliver a packaged setup that promises to help organizations deploy virtualized computing environments more easily. The solution, which combines Cisco's Unified Computing System with Citrix XenDesktop, will, the companies claimed, reduce the cost per desktop by 20 percent by lowering data center infrastructure expense through high user density per server and tight integration of hardware and software.

Cisco's Unified Computing System is a blade server-based data center platform that brings together computing, network, storage access, and virtualization resources. Citrix XenDesktop delivers Windows desktops to users, drawing on two proprietary technologies, FlexCast and HDX. FlexCast, the delivery mechanism, makes sure XenDesktop is delivering the correct virtual desktop and applications to a specific user. HDX (High-Definition User Experience) does network and performance optimization to deliver an acceptable user experience over the network, even in instances where there's low bandwidth and high latency network connections. XenDesktop is hypervisor-agnostic, which means it can work with Citrix's own XenServer, as well as Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere.

The integrated system will enable users to access their work desktops and applications from desktops, laptops, thin clients, smart phones, and tablets using the universal Citrix Receiver software client.

The two vendors indicated they hope to gain ground in this nascent market by offering IT an easier way to adopt and deploy desktop virtualization.

The new, combined offering will include preconfigured service profiles for hosted shared desktops and hosted virtual desktop infrastructure-based desktops to reduce installation time. Likewise, customized kits for XenDesktop user scenarios are expected to expedite the work for customers in setting up environments for up to 300 virtual desktops. IT can scale to thousands of additional desktops and users in a plug-and-play modular fashion through an expansion kit.

On the network management side, Cisco is contributing VN-Link, which provides a means for the IT administrator to have changes made in one environment rippled out throughout the network; for example, when a virtual machine is moved from one physical server to another, VN-Link communicates that event to the network, the storage network, and other services that need to know. Citrix is including its SmartAuditor technology, which provides a way to record a user's session for later retrieval and playback.

The companies said customers will receive technical help through a single support number. Additionally, Cisco and Citrix service teams are collaborating and cross-training to handle consulting engagements. Sales will be handled through both firms' resellers.

Cisco has written a paper describing an extensive test it ran jointly with Citrix and NetApp to validate the design of the combined architecture. That project used Cisco B250 M2 Extended Memory Blade Server with 192 GB of memory, allocating 1.5 GB of memory per virtual desktop machine. The testers said they were able to scale to 110 Windows 7 desktops while running "knowledge worker load."

Neither company said when the new offering would be released.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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