Nimble Storage SmartStack for VDI with Cisco and Citrix

Blog Post created by mmclaughlin Employee on May 2, 2013

It’s now well established that enterprise customers love reference architectures. Why? Because they provide organizations with a comparison, or reference point, for a particular configuration of a solution. The more of these reference points you have, the easier it is to understand how the solution works – and how the solution works for your organization.


In that context, reference architectures are more than just a list of supported configurations or a how-to guide, but really an overall blueprint for building Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solutions. They are something to help reduce the risk in your own efforts. The real value is comparing the reference architecture to your own situation and finding out what is common and what is different – that’s the best way to lower the risks and speed up the design and deployment process.


That’s why we are excited to announce a new Nimble Storage SmartStack for VDI reference architecture solution – this time with Citrix XenDesktop running on VMware vSphere and Cisco UCS (Unified Computing System).


As with our existing SmartStack reference architectures, we have leveraged the basic building blocks of Nimble Storage CS-Series data arrays and Cisco UCS, thus making it easier for many organizations to compare either of these documented configurations with their own needs:

  • Nimble Storage is still the required storage component to support the configuration, but we have upgraded from the CS200 series array to the CS400 series to allow for a greater desktop workload performance. On a side note, the CS200 series can be non-disruptively upgraded to the CS400 series through a controller swap.
  • Cisco UCS as the compute and network platform of choice – we connect to the storage via the Fabric Interconnect (FI). In this configuration, we added a 2nd B-Series chassis and some of the latest B-Series (Cisco UCS B200M3) servers. This can be extended with a Cisco Nexus switch to scale past the Fabric Interconnect.
  • VMware vSphere ESXi 5.0u1 as the hypervisor supporting the virtual desktops.
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Professional (x86) desktop operating system for the end users’ desktops.


The new components of this reference architecture include:

  • Citrix XenDesktop 5.6 as the desktop broker layer, and MCS (Machine Creation Services) as the deployment method.  Citrix MCS offers for a simplified deployment model for desktops. In this reference architecture, we used static pooled desktops for the testing.
    • PVS is also a viable option for deploying desktops – given the CS-Series strong write performance. We have customers such as Langara College and Oaks Christian School that use PVS for their deployments.
  • Login VSI as the workload testing tool – this provides a desktop and broker agnostic framework for exercising the desktops created.
  • The workload configuration used to test the desktops was the Medium configuration provided by Login VSI, with 1.5GB per desktop VM.
    • The client connection testing was through Citrix Receiver and Login VSI.




Most importantly – we increased the number of desktops configured in this configuration to 1,500 virtual desktops – all in 3 rack units of storage. We hope this latest reference architecture helps with your efforts in VDI deployments.


You can find more information on this solution and how it was tested here: Storage Solution for Citrix XenDesktop | Nimble Storage

     Cisco Desktop Virtualization Solution with Nimble Storage Reference Architecture


And be sure to stop by the Nimble Storage booth (#401) at Citrix Synergy being held in Los Angeles from May 22nd to 24th. You’ll get a chance to see the CS-Series system in action, capable of handling storage for thousands of VDI users in a single 3U array.