Category: Citrix

XenDesktop on Nutanix CE

Want to see how to install, deploy and update 99 desktops on an Intel NUC running CE while playing a game and getting education on how long a proper cup of tea takes to brew?  Of course!

One of the best things I was involved in while at Citrix was seeing the evolution of the flagship product.  From Metaframe 1.8 when I started to XenDesktop 7 when I left we always drove towards simplicity for the end user and eventually the admin.  It’s this simple idea of taking away complexity and either replacing it with something easy and intuitive or just making once manual tasks automated and invisible.

With XenDesktop 7 Citrix made great steps with Machine Creation Services and right from the start I’ve been a vocal supporter because it fit the beliefs of Citrix so well.  Nutanix brings this simplicity to another level by ensuring that not only is MCS easy to deploy but it’s also predictable and scalable – something that it has struggled with – much in the same way as linked clones did with Horizon View.

Over the last week or so I’ve been playing with my new Intel NUC and seeing what our free Community Edition can do.  I’ve completed some simple provisioning tests because I was naturally curious as to how quickly a little home lab system can spin up desktops.  The speed, as you’ll see below, is rather impressive but in this post I’m going to show you how easy it is to integrate XenDesktop and any Nutanix deployment running our own hypervisor AHV.  The steps you see below are identical to how a full production Nutanix cluster would work so let me take you from zero to hero in 16 minutes.  You’ll see what components need installing on the broker and how to set up a connection to, in this example, a single Nutanix Community Edition node.

In case you’re interested my NUC is a Skull Canyon model with two SSDs and 32GB RAM and was a lovely present from Intel for Nutanix being so bloody awesome.

If you like what you see and would like to try Nutanix CE out yourself then go to this link and register with your work email address:

There’s no music or voiceover so pick your favourite SAN killing tune, open a bottle of beer and enjoy one of the most poorly put together videos on the internet not involving cats.

Thanks for watching.



XenDesktop on Acropolis!


Just over a year ago I was hired away from Citrix to bring my skills and experience in desktop virtualisation to Nutanix.  Proof, if any was needed, that a well rehearsed and embellished interview can get you anywhere in this world.  Thankfully only three people including me read this blog so we’ll just keep that between us…

From that first day back in June 2014 I wanted to take something back to the Citrix customers and community because my reason for joining was down to how wonderfully Nutanix’s platform and its vision suits desktop virtualisation.  It is a perfect marriage and today I’m going to talk about something genuinely exciting for me and hopefully you too.

Today Nutanix and Citrix announced support for XenDesktop (and XenApp!!!!) on Acropolis and I could not be happier about it.  This is a huge deal for any customer running the number one EUC product in the market because it not only continues to solve the outstanding issues left by an archaic three-tier architecture it means that from top to bottom it can unshackle them from what was previously a finger in the air pointing at an estimation of performance, scaleability and cost.  Today is the first time a virtualised Citrix environment can be simplified from the hypervisor layer and married to an architecture that can be delivered and scaled with absolute confidence.  Also don’t forget that NetScaler VPX and ShareFile are also fully supported so a fully loaded Citrix stack is very much here.

Our distributed storage and app mobility fabric simplifies IT infrastructures.  It allows limitless scale, predictable performance, deep monitoring and analytics and no single point of degradation or failure.  After all VDI is only really ‘seen’ when it goes wrong so why put up with anything less?  Many consider VDI to be a second class citizen in the enterprise because “it’s just desktops” but it’s where 95%+ of productivity apps run within a business.  VDI needs to be up there with the CRM, DB, billing and mail applications of this world.  It’s a tier one workload and don’t let anyone tell you differently.

With Acropolis anyone can deploy build, manage and secure VMs in a matter of minutes with almost no training at all.  From rack to deployed in 30 mins or less – I do it in 10 but I forgive you.  Simplicity is power, and all that.

If you’re still a bit hazy on how tricky VDI environments can be to glue together let me refresh your memories about the stack of divisions you have to persuade to coexist:

— The End User —
— Endpoint Devices —
— Virtual Application —
— Virtual Desktop —
— Hypervisor —
— Server —
— Storage Fabric —
— Storage Controller —
— Storage Shelves —

Each one of those stacks behind the end user have to be carefully crafted to work together while being managed and updated (sometimes) by different teams.  Easy it is not.

Even if you forget the complexities with traditional storage and servers actually configuring the hypervisors and their typically clunky management could take days to get right – if at all.  With Acropolis it’s done in a few minutes.  It’s no coincidence that the simplicity of setting up XenDesktop is a great fit for Acropolis.  Leveraging technologies like data locality and shadow clones means that even under the most harsh situations the XenDesktop site will remain stable, available and always have best in class performance.

The job of a desktop admin is to deliver applications to users to make business’ function more efficiently.  In it’s most simplistic form end user computing  puts application icons on desktops for people to click on and consume.  There is no shame in boiling VDI or app virtualisation down to that sharp example.  The beauty is in how it’s delivered but also hiding the complexities and details from the end user; making it invisible.

Up until today the building blocks of VDI were far too visible within organisations.  They were disruptive, aided procrastination and evangelised finger-pointing.  Now, Citrix and XenDesktop have joined the Nutanix invisible infrastructure and the real measure will be that users never notice.  Other than high-fiveing the IT teams of course.

Here’s the link to the first announcement and the Citrix Ready page and if you want to know more there’s a webinar on the 22 of September that I would love to see you at.



PVS vs MCS (again)

Your move, creep

A few weeks back a colleague of mine, Martijn wrote an article regarding Citrix Provisioning Services.  Recently Citrix came across, by accident, a rather natty new feature where by the write cache could be homed in RAM but also spill over into HDD should it become saturated.  Quite clever and obviously blisteringly fast if all the writes and reads sat in RAM all the time.

Some of the comments on his blog are really interesting and, as I found when I was at Citrix, the PVS vs MCS debate has many sides.

I think the point Martijn is trying to make is while there are many ways of doing things the majority of people are striving to do things better which could be less complexity, more integration to the application and systems that are easier to implement.

I was at Citrix long before Ardence was acquired and while it’s a great technology to deploy servers and VMs from it’s not one to implement unless you are 100% in control of it and all the other ancillary services it needs. If you are then great but the upgrade path was a real pain before and when it’s the core system keeping things working that can be a bitter pill to swallow.  MCS was driven by a requirement for simplicity, actually by how easy Linked Clones were to push out.  It used to take several days to get a small XD POC up and running and that was all down to PVS.  MCS reduced that to a few hours because we were doing things the way customers understood.  MCS has grown up a lot since the first FMA implementations too and scales just as well as PVS, with a lot less moving parts.  It’s without complexity, integrated into XD and is overall a simple concept to adopt by customers.

PVS is non of the above. DHCP, networking, target config not 100% spot on? Potential issues. That’s before the PVS config even gets implemented.

To address the latest feature in PVS, while sticking everything RAM sounds good you have to be extremely accurate on how it’s implemented and know pretty well how things will change in the future. There’s also the question about the HDD that it still needs – place that back on a SAN and you’re back to square one, put it on a local HDD and no easy live migration, at least not out of the box*. A rather large issue if upper management have a session on the XA at risk after a hardware failure on a host.

Hoenstly I couldn’t care less whether someone uses PVS or MCS so long as it works but in my experience technology needs to be easy to adopt, change and grow. Stick PVS on a Nutanix cluster and we address some of those things. Put MCS on anything and it does the same. Put MCS on a Nutanix cluster and all of them go away.

There’s a place for both and the customer should decide which they want and a consultant (vendor or not) should be there to support and advise regardless of whether it benefits them or not.

We’re all in the same fight and the enemy is not change.


*Thanks to Jarian Gibson for pointing out that you could do a vMotion/live migration with a local HDD through other means using this sort of thing.  Additional steps we mitigate in PVS or MCS 🙂

A marriage made of convergence

MAWAGEDearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate the union of two former foes.  Through the church of Dell and the readings of the Nutanix Bible we bring together Citrix and VMware who, after many years of agreeing to disagree, have found a common ground from where both can smooth their once choppy waters.

While both of our (possibly unaware) fiancees argue and bicker at times, they crave the same things in life; happiness, prosperity, a more simple existence and one that extends further than before, and I’m pleased to announce the nuptials appear to be well under way.  Even if they’ve been mailed in rather than being completed in person.

In case you weren’t already aware Dell signed an OEM agreement with Nutanix to ship a new range of servers, powered by our software, called the XC Series starting in November this year.  For me this is really great as Dell has a huge reach and dependable name and for them to take on a reletively young upstart such as ourselves to lead their own charge into the hyper-converged world, it is a real tip of the cap to what we’ve done so far.  But anyway, back to the chapel…

Today a couple of blogs came out from Citrix and VMware praising the new XC which is odd on a few of levels but very pleasing on many more.  You see from the Citrix side of the church they have some really good things to say:

citrix-580x224_tcm21-26525“the new Dell XC Series of web-scale converged appliances combines server and storage hardware technology with Nutanix software-defined storage into a single chassis”


OK, we’re much more than just SDS, and I’ll let that go, but look at what VMware are saying too:

vmware-logo“The world’s most widely deployed, feature-rich, software-defined platform for server, network and storage virtualization”


Now that’s more like it! Nutanix is the most widely deployed software defined platform in the world and it’s great to see our friends at VMware and Citrix putting us up so high on their guest list on such a special occasion.  VMware are also kind enough to ask “So what makes this solution better than the alternatives?” Lots, actually :o)

But what about the other most important guests at this gathering?  You know, the ones who actually buy and implement all this technology?  That would be you then, dear reader.  What do you get out of all of this?

Again both Citrix and VMware see the value of Dell servers powered by Nutanix.  Check out these examples of the spooky love-birds almost finishing each others sentences (awwww!):

Predictable performance with scaleFaster time to value, with a streamlined process, from design, to ordering, to install/provision…Simplified, unified manageability across every layer in the solution, spanning data center to end-point”

VMware on the Dell XC

“As simple and fast to purchase and deploy as Dell laptops; you can get the maximum number of seats up and running in a matter of hours instead of days….Predictable scaling…This lets you grow incrementally…add additional units to increase seats or scale up to a different configuration to increase performance….Monitor and manage…through a unified management console.”

Citrix on the Dell XC

It all sounds like they’ve been wanting the same thing all along, don’t you think?  In fact it’s the same thing all our customers have been doing for many years now; a simple, scalable, high performance platform for all their virtualisation needs.

Read more about the new Dell XC here and take a look at the blog posts from Citrix and VMware while you’re at it.  Is there finally a common ground for these both to work towards?  It certainly seems that way.

Oh and if you want to know more about the vows they’re all taking just have a look through the Nutanix Bible written by the Right Reverend Steven Poitras.

Anyway, has anyone seen the ring?

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