A NetApp Architect’s Perspective on Citrix XenDesktop 7 and Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V

Guest post by Robert Briggs, VDI Reference Architect, NetApp


This week NetApp is heading to Citrix Synergy to join in the discussion on what’s next in the world of desktop virtualization. More to the point, XenDesktop 7.


I’ve spent the past 5 months tinkering with several beta versions of XenDesktop 7 in my Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V lab here at NetApp. The “tinkering” environment, for the most part, is setup like most proof of concept labs with previous versions of XenDesktop. All of the infrastructure components have been virtualized to create a portable environment and one that’s very scalable. Much like other joint Microsoft solutions, Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Failover Clustering has been used to provide redundancy for all of the infrastructure components.


From a storage vantage, the entire environment was created using boot from SAN LUNs (utilizing FCoE) for the physical hosts and CSVs LUNs for the virtualized infrastructure components. Citrix has taken XenDesktop through many changes, including integrating XenApp into it, but kept the storage architectural considerations pretty much the same. This is great news for architects out there on the fence of deciding whether to move forward with older solutions or jumping in with what Citrix and Microsoft offer today.


So if it’s the same, then what are all these changes being talked about? One differentiator from previous XenDesktop incarnations comes in the form of added support for Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1.  Additionally, the new version of Citrix XenDesktop takes advantage of Windows Server 2012 Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX). ODX is a new initiative in Microsoft Windows Server 2012 allowing storage sub-systems, rather than hosts, to perform file copy operations. This “offloads” heavy data movement through all levels of a system and potentially across a network transport.


The net result being a faster copy and a less “bogged” down system. Using NetApp and ODX, all file copy operations are dramatically sped up and the copies are pre deduped. This means the copies take up no additional space on the storage. To accomplish this, NetApp uses its (Single Instance Store) SIS-Clone functionality, which eliminates the data copy process by only creating pointers. This speeds up back-end operations and improves the performance of ODX on NetApp’s platform when compared to ODX implementations by other storage vendors.


Now with all of that cool stuff mentioned, Citrix, Microsoft and NetApp are also working closely together to even further simplify desktop virtualization. Plans for reference architectures and setup automation capabilities are in the pipeline. Soon there will be no excuse to put desktop virtualization on the back burner in your businesses.


So digest that for a bit and if you happen to be at Synergy this year, be sure to stop by the NetApp booth #207. We’ll treat you nice and show you how Citrix and NetApp are working together to further virtualization in the enterprise. And let us know what you think - #NetAppSynergy.