Cisco Live – what’s on my mind

Cisco Live is just around the corner, July 10-14 in Las Vegas.  I was actually invited to attend, but unfortunately had to decline because we will be just starting our several week long consulting engagement to build my XenDesktop environment.  I hope to attend next year, but in the meantime, thought I’d summarize some of the things I’m considering as we move forward with our FlexPod and virtual desktop deployment.

The main topic I’d like to learn more about involves management of the integrated stack.  I know for some things we’ll be using vCenter and various plugins to manage storage and networking, but am thinking about management that spans virtual and physical servers, storage, networking, etc. I saw a tweet recently about a company called Cloupia and want to learn everything I can about their offerings (and anything similar) because I think there’s a gap between what we geeks/admins think we can do with the FlexPod with just vCenter & UCS Manager and the vision of the appliance (or toaster, as it is known around the office) model advanced by our C-level execs.  What are the alternatives, how do they compare, do they do management, monitoring, self-service/end-user portal, etc.? What are other IT teams using, and what are the pros and cons of various solutions? And, in addition to what’s available today and are the options likely to change in 6 or 12 months?

Other topics on my mind include:

  • Cisco UCS, especially with its support for enormous amounts of RAM, seems uniquely well-suited for large scale virtual desktop deployments. What’s the typical size of VDI deployment supported by UCS? How many virtual desktops are typically deployed per UCS blade?
  • I’ve been reading about Cisco’s VXI initiative. Is it real? How would VXI impact desktop virtualization deployments like ours?
  • We manage a large number of checkout laptops in our main campus library and see a potential win there for XenClient, so I’d love to get feedback from folks using XenClient in large numbers. In what types of environments is it being adopted?
  • I’d like to learn more about how other XenDesktop environments handle multi-layered security concerns / levels of access, particularly from folks having to manage resources governed by FERPA & HIPAA.
  • The OS X desktop demo shown at Synergy this year was great. I want to know more – specifically if that desktop was physical or virtual, and when/if we might see that as part of the XenDesktop product?
  • On the storage side, our initial tests of data I’d consider to be not ideal for deduplication (CIFS shares of hundreds of gigabytes of application installers) have surprised us in a good way.  I’m wondering what sort of dedupe rates we can look forward to, on average, on the storage dedicated to virtual machine images, as well as our more general user home directories, since that is our next target for transitioning from our old non-deduped storage to our new NetApp NAS boxes.
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7 Responses to Cisco Live – what’s on my mind

  1. Hi Mike,

    I’m sorry you won’t be able to make it to Cisco Live. One of the things you’ll miss is the Cisco Cloud Portal (aka newScale, recently acquired by Cisco: http://bit.ly/iYzO5b).

    As an example, check out this recent demo featuring newScale for self-service provisioning from a NetApp storage service catalog: http://youtu.be/ARFSqXvKSN0. I also did a webinar earlier this year with NetApp on this topic: http://newscale.com/netapp

    Adding our end user portal, service catalog, and lifecycle management software to your UCS deployment may help you get to the vision of that “toaster” model your execs talk about.

    Jason

  2. Shaun says:

    I too was supposed to go this year as our vendor was going to provide free tickets however with my wife being days away from giving birth it was not the smartest thing. I may try and get to VMWorld which is at the end of August (http://www.vmworld.com).

    I too would love to get more info on the whole Cisco UCS and FlexPod as I’ve mentioned we could potentially be looking at that for VDI, but first primarily for our DR site and Pre-Prod environment. Lots of potential there.

    As for Cisco and VXI, I know they have some pretty sweet phones that end up being your thin client among being your phone. Integration there is pretty cool. Defiantly like to get more information on that and what Cisco has to offer in this space.

    Great post, will keep on top of your blog and the FlexPod stuff

  3. DrDedupe says:

    Mike,

    VDI images usually see savings in the range of 70-90% reduction with NetApp dedupe. For home directories – 30% savings is a reasonable estimate. BTW the bible for NetApp’s dedupe is a document called TR-3505. It is full of best practices and tips on using deduplication. Also, for a quick primer on how our dedupe works you can refer to this blog entry:

    http://blogs.netapp.com/drdedupe/2010/04/how-netapp-deduplication-works.html

    Good Luck!

    DrDedupe

  4. Mike,

    Great post.

    Cloupia platform stack provides end-to-end management and infrastructure automation for both physical and virtual infrastructure in connection with public clouds to enable true hybrid clouds.

    As an example, check our our recent demo at http://bit.ly/oBdE2r
    This demo covers key aspects of a cloud offering including self-service portal, monitoring, management, chargeback and provisioning.

    Cloupia out-of-the-box approach enables customers to create private and hybrid clouds fairly quickly by enabling end-to-end orchestration of FlexPod elements such as Network (including FC), Storage, Compute and Virtual infrastructure.

    Please let me know if you are interested in seeing a live demo of Cloupia solutions and I will be happy to schedule one

  5. Hi Mike,
    you raise some great points in this post, including the aspect of what makes sense re: density of hosted virtual desktops per blade. While CVD’s help define the upper limit, I’ve not yet met a customer who would actually deploy 110 – 160 desktops on a single blade. Coincidentally, I just touched on this in a blog post on what makes UCS ideally suited for hosting virtual desktops. More to come this week at Cisco Live. There’s a lot to discuss about how VXI is enabling the convergence of virtual desktops with unified communications. Wish you could join us!
    http://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter/cisco-live-and-all-things-vxi-happening-next-week/

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