Cisco Debuts Desktop Virtualization System

networking data center virtualization

Dubbed the Cisco Virtualization Experience Infrastructure (VXI), the system is expected to enhance traditional desktop virtualization for rich media and video streaming. The system will also, according to Cisco, offer a virtual desktop option for customers that's less fragmented, with better security, more virtual desktops hosted on each server, and easy access to a range of collaboration options.

The VXI utilizes Citrix's XenDesktop 5 and VMware View 4.5 desktop virtualization software. Cisco made the announcement in a Monday morning press conference alongside executives from Citrix, VMware and Wyse.

The time is now to sharpen Cisco's desktop virtualization attack, said Manny Rivelo, senior vice president of systems and architectures at Cisco, who named market drivers like data security, compliance, reduced TCO, agility and a standardized IT experience as reasons to adopt the technology.

Validated within VXI are Cisco Unified Communications products optimized for virtualized environments, including Cisco's forthcoming Cius tablet. Also validated are Cisco's Quad collaboration platform, Cisco ACE load balancing and application delivery, Cisco WAN acceleration software, Cisco ASA security appliances, Cisco AnyConnect VPN, Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS), Nexus and Catalyst data center switches, MDS multilayer SAN switches and Cisco Integrated Services Routers.

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The growth of video and the demands of mobility are not something networking professionals can ignore, said Barry O'Sullivan, senior vice president for Cisco's voice technology group. Neither is the diversity of networked devices, he added.

"It used to be all about BlackBerrys, but now it's iPhone, Android devices, tablet-based devices," O'Sullivan said during the news conference, adding that network architectures need to adapt to support end user choice.

"The keywords are any user, any content type, via any app, on any device, without constraints, without conflicts, without compromise, with security, and with the best user optimization out there," added Tarken Maner, president and CEO of Wyse.

VXI uses Citrix XenDesktop 5 and VMware View 4.5 desktop virtualization software, and supports management, security applications and storage systems from the likes of EMC and NetApp, as well as Microsoft applications. Cisco also worked with Wyse to test the responsiveness of VXI, and devices from DevonIT and IGEL have also been validated with the system.

Along with VXI itself, Cisco also debuted two Virtualization Experience Client devices to offer desktop virtualization with Cisco UC products. The Cisco VXC 2100 integrates with Cisco IP phones, supports Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) and connectivity for two monitors, and includes four USB ports for connecting peripherals. The VXC 2200 is a standalone device that supports PoE or an optional power supply, and includes four USB ports and two video ports.

Cisco's Cius, also PoE-enabled, fits alongside the devices in the broader portfolio, with the 2100 seen as the "integrated" option, the 220 the "standalone" option, and the Cius the "mobile" option. Cius, an Android-based tablet, was originally announced this summer at Cisco Live, and partners have previously noted the device's potential as a business tool.

VXI is available immediately from both Cisco and through Cisco data center and UC solution providers. Cisco plans to provide strategy, planning and design services -- under a banner of VXI professional services -- for helping IT departments implement desktop virtualization more effectively.

Both the VCX clients and Cius will arrive in March 2011, though Cisco has not yet confirmed pricing. According to Cisco, Cius will support Citrix Receiver, VMware View and Wyse PocketCloud.