Cisco partners with Citrix for Virtual Desktop Dominance

Cisco and Citrix announced a joint initiative to drive mainstream adoption of Virtual Desktop environments through a five-year agreement to integrate technologies and jointly market their respective desktop virtualization solutions.

The first fruit of this collaboration is the introduction of support for Citrix HDX in Cisco’s WAAS appliances.  This allows Cisco to offer many of the key features of Citrix Branch Repeater across its entire range of WAAS appliances. The announcement heavily promoted the agreement’s inherent opportunity, but it was lacking in technical detail.  HDX is a broad family of technologies with many opportunities for optimization and acceleration across the WAN.  Neither company was willing to answer questions about the level of integration provided to date or any future roadmap for WAAS/HDX development, only hinting at the possibility of further integration in the future However, digging behind the scenes revealed that in its initial incarnation support for HDX provides:

  • Transparent support for all levels of Citrix ICA Encryption
  • Full compatibility with Citrix Gateway Protocol (CGP)
  • Full compatibility with Citrix HDX MediaStream for multimedia client rendering
  • Dedicated optimizations (Context aware Data Redundancy Elimination) for Citrix XenDesktop

Cisco also hinted at the possibility of future enhancements to offer integrated support for additional Branch Repeater functionality, which suggests the possibility of climbing up into the Citrix Flex-cast stack.

Cisco claims that WAAS support for HDX will accelerate XenApp and XenDesktop performance by as much as 70%, and can double the number of users supported across a given WAN connection, although it did not share under what conditions these performance improvements could be achieved.  Regardless, for enterprise IT departments reluctant to adopt Citrix Branch Repeater, in a, perhaps, exclusively Cisco-based network infrastructure, any ‘free’ performance improvement will be most welcome.

Existing and possible future adopters of VMware’s View desktop virtualization platform should not read too much into Cisco’s decision not to offer equivalent support for the Teradici PC-over-IP remote display protocol.  In comparison to HDX, PCoIP acceleration is today both harder to achieve and will deliver fewer returns. the majority of VMware View installations are, for the moment at least, in smaller deployments where the ‘need’ for a Cisco native solution is likely to be lower.

Also announced, were a series of supporting initiatives including the introduction of Cisco Validated Designs for XenDesktop built using Cisco’s UCS and VXI platforms, consulting services providing guidance on the integration of XenDesktop with Cisco’s own voice and video services, as well as a integrated support service providing a single point of contact for all technologies covered in the Cisco Validated Designs.  These three service offerings should ease the introduction of Cisco’s data center and desktop virtualization solutions into more large enterprise environments where integrated communication services are playing an increasingly important role.  This ties in very closely with Cisco’s desktop hardware solutions that integrate a zero clients with Cisco’s current range of VoIP phones and extend that to the final announcement of the day which was the launch of new hardware and software appliances providing comprehensive integration of desktop, voice, and video services.

Cisco announced a new integrated thin client device for release in Q1 2012.  The VXC 6215 is a unified desktop hardware replacement platform offering voice, video, and virtual desktop in a single small form factor device, with support for both HDX, PCoIP and RDP.  By bringing together voice, video, and desktop in a single unified platform with an expected life span in excess of five years, large enterprises will be able to take advantage of dramatically reduced desktop operating costs, perhaps finally delivering on VDI’s promise of low-cost desktop replacement.

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