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Citrix, Cisco Partner on Desktop Virtualization Solution

Citrix Systems is on the move yet again, virtually speaking, having formed a desktop virtualization partnership with Cisco Systems.

Just a few days after Citrix announced it was acquiring lifecycle toolmaker VMLogix to enhance its cloud capabilities, the company disclosed a technology collaboration deal with Cisco. The two companies have created a packaged solution that promises to help organizations deploy desktops more easily. The solution combines Cisco's "Unified Computing System" with Citrix XenDesktop. Benefits include a higher density of virtual desktops per server, plus tight integration of hardware and software, amounting to cost savings for organizations, according to the companies' announcement.

Cisco's Unified Computing System is a blade server-based datacenter platform that brings together computing, network, storage access and virtualization resources.

Citrix XenDesktop delivers Windows desktops to users in virtual machines, 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 enables remote user access to desktops and applications at work. Mobile workers and telecommuters can use the universal Citrix Receiver software client to access the company network from various devices, including desktops, laptops, thin clients, smart phones and tablets.

The joint solution aims to make it easier for IT pros to deploy desktop virtualization. It includes preconfigured service profiles for hosted shared desktops and hosted virtual desktop infrastructure-based desktops. User scenarios can be set up using a kit in XenDesktop, supporting 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 services. IT pros get a tool to record a user's session for later retrieval and playback via Citrix's SmartAuditor technology.

Customers receive technical help through a single support number, according to the companies' announcement. Additionally, Cisco and Citrix are collaborating on providing consulting services. Sales will be handled through both firms' resellers.

Cisco has published a white paper describing an extensive test it ran jointly with Citrix and NetApp to validate the design of the combined solution. 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-based desktops while running a "knowledge worker load."

The new Cisco desktop virtualization solution incorporating Citrix XenDesktop is "available now through joint channel partners," according to the companies' announcement.

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.

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