“When you look at how Citrix and Nutanix work together, it’s easy to just focus on the cost advantages that come out of that. But you’d be missing the amazing power of this combined solution to simplify IT and make it so much easier to adapt to the changing business needs.”
– Bill Burley, VP & GM Citrix (07/21/2016 – Citrix.com)
The challenges posed by SANs have long thwarted widespread VDI success. That is no longer the case as Nutanix enterprise cloud eliminates the risk and performance issues of legacy infrastructure. The partnership between Citrix and Nutanix delivers exceptional value to our mutual customers.
Obliterating the VDI Storage Problem
I’ve been a proponent of the concept of centralized desktops since 1994 when my Novell Platinum Partner business in the San Francisco East Bay started selling Citrix WinView, their OS/2 product. When we discovered that Citrix’ next product, WinFrame, could save our customers huge amounts of money, I refocused the business exclusively on server-based computing. By the time I sold the company in 2001, Citrix had named us their first Partner of the Year for the United States.
But while server-based computing, led by Citrix XenApp, has long been quite successful, Gartner projects VDI to still have only an 8% market share of corporate desktops by the end of 2017. VDI projects, using traditional infrastructure, frequently stall out not long after the pilot phase or fail completely.
The primary roadblock to broader adoption is the storage array which does not lend itself well to virtual desktop environments. High initial costs, inability to scale in synch with typical VDI migration patterns, performance challenges and political battles are just some of the hurdles organizations face in using centralized storage, even all-flash-arrays, for virtual desktop deployments.
Nutanix provides VDI customers with the exact opposite experience of a SAN. Customers can start small and expand as needed – one node at a time if they’d like. As they add nodes, they’re bringing the latest in CPU, memory, disk, and flash technologies to their environment. The cost per VM and total project cost plummets. The need to over-buy and the risk of under-buying are both eliminated.
On the performance front, SANs suffer from boot storms or read storms as hundreds or thousands of users congest the network and access the same part of the array. With Nutanix, each node is a virtualized storage controller which, when combined with shadow clones, brings the workload next to the CPU rather than accessing it across a network. This enables a high-performing and consistent user experience; a better user experience leads to enthusiastic and widespread virtual desktop acceptance.
Advantages of the Citrix/Nutanix Stack
“I can’t emphasize how much time we spent before Nutanix dealing with infrastructure and storage issues unrelated to our core competencies of virtualization, application delivery and security. Infrastructure problems quite simply prevented us from doing our job. Nutanix enables us to achieve our goal of providing users with a better experience than their physical desktop from day one.”
– Jim Steinlage, President & CEO Choice Solutions [A leading Citrix Platinum Partner]
The following picture is an example of the many products necessary for a typical legacy infrastructure based VDI deployment. The complexity and lengthy procurement cycles can delay the pilot while increasing the cost. And the SAN, typically a smaller unit sized for the pilot, is less likely to meet application performance requirements.
Ironically, one of the biggest dangers to a VDI deployment is when the pilot does work well, and IT begins adding users beyond the capacity of the SAN. Performance suffers, users become disgruntled, and the project stalls.
Even if the pilot works out, what is learned is generally not applicable to the expanded scaled-out 3-tier environment since the organization typically has to migrate to a larger SAN. The new array must be sized according to the best guess for resources required for a targeted end-user count such as 5,000, 10,000, etc.
As the following diagram shows, Nutanix dramatically simplifies the VDI architecture. Particularly if deploying Nutanix AHV Hypervisor, customers only have two manufacturers, Citrix and Nutanix, for procurement, implementation and support.
Citrix Machine Creation Services (MCS)
Citrix PVS runs well with, and helps mask some of the challenges of, 3-tier infrastructure. PVS writes with a cache to local disk, optionally assisted by a cache in RAM. With all the caching, the strain on centralized storage is reduced. PVS also runs well with Nutanix.
MCS, while much simpler than PVS, has never really been a good technology to use in conjunction with SANs because of array performance hits when accessed by high numbers of virtual desktops. And even though SAN throughput has improved with innovations such as all-flash, the performance of each desktop still decreases as SANs have to divide performance and capacity over more desktop VMs, and traffic is constrained by network latency.
Running MCS on Nutanix hyperconverged infrastructure speeds deployment by eliminating multiple image copies. It simplifies the environment through eliminating the need to retain multiple datastores. And it increases performance by eliminating IO hotspots.
AHV is unique in that it is a feature of the infrastructure rather than a stand-alone hypervisor. AHV includes built-in high availability of hypervisor management, eliminating the need (and time) to design and deploy SQL, clusters, etc.
Running Citrix XD on AHV includes benefits such as management simplicity, scalability, security, resiliency, analytics, and support of the entire stack. Studio-integrated MCS provisioning works faster and better with AHV native provisioning and with shadow clones. And AHV is included for free with every Nutanix node.
Other Citrix & Nutanix Synergies
“With a Nutanix hyperconverged system preloaded with XenApp and XenDesktop, you can deploy Citrix virtual desktops in under 30 minutes”
– Bill Burley
- Nutanix InstantON VDI for Citrix: Joint solution starting as low as $415 per desktop SRP including Nutanix & Citrix
- Nutanix Dedicated Citrix stack improves performance & uptime: Nutanix’s data locality makes the write cache data local to the new host automatically as VMs migrate (vMotion or Live Migration)
- Only Enterprise Cloud solution to have Citrix Validated Design
- Simple, consumer-grade management experience with 1-click operations
- Shadow Clones
- Data Tiering
- Flash Mode
- Integrated DR
- Hundreds of Thousands of Users deployed
- Proven in the market/shipping as joint solution for 4+ years
- Using a controller VM rather than building storage into the kernel (eliminates upgrade challenges among other benefits)
- Built-in clustered file server for user profiles & home drives
I wrote a post late last year that details the infrastructure-based cost savings resulting from deploying Citrix XenDesktop on Nutanix enterprise cloud. But as compelling as these savings typically are, the business benefits tend to be still far more compelling.
The ability, for example, of St. Luke’s Health System Boise to increase revenues by enabling improved remote access for its medical billing coders (among its soon-to-be 15,000 Citrix XD users). Or of another health care provider (in process of migrating 40,000 users to XD on Nutanix) saving an average of 47 minutes per physician per day – equating to two patient visits. Or MBB Radiology who increased application performance by 50% while eliminating downtime.
Then there are organizations such as U.S. Navy which was able to resolve security constraints to successful XD on Nutanix and the 10,000 FBI XD/Nutanix users that were able to enhance both productivity and security by delivering desktop as a service. Other organizations are slashing developer build times, accelerating application deployment, enabling much faster growth, adapting much more easily to changing requirements and enabling far better data protection – among many other advantages – of running the Citrix/Nutanix stack.
Delivering Business Value with Partners like Nutanix. 07/21/2016. Bill Burley. Citrix.com
Moving the Nutanix-Citrix Product Integration for AHV to the Next Level. 06/10/2016. Raghu Nandan. Nutanix.com
Citrix XenDesktop Deployment? Here is Everything You Need to Know about Nutanix vs. Other SDS. 05/24/2016. Andre Leibovici. myvirtualcloud.net.
Nutanix & Citrix Better Together with Shadow Clones. 05/13/2016. Marius Sandbu. Msandbu.com
Overcoming the 3 Biggest Challenges with Citrix MCS. 12/21/2015. Kees Baggerman (CTP). myvirtulvision.com
7 Reasons Why Acropolis is the Next Generation Hypervisor. 12/01/2015. Steve Kaplan. Nutanix.com
Thanks to Kevin Bacon (@BaconInTheCloud) for much of the content and to Andre Leibovici (@andreleibovici) Kees Baggerman (@KBaggerman), Martijn Bosschart (@mbosschart), @Andrew Mills (@drutanix), Dan Cowan (@kcdan) and Chris Brown (@rtpchris) for suggestions and editing.