Q&A with Citrix: XenDesktop on XenServer

In this Q&A, John Humphreys, Datacenter and Cloud Division, discusses the growing adoption of XenDesktop on XenServer

Q. Today XenServer now hosts over 50 percent of all XenDesktop seats sold, which in the last couple of quarters totaled over 1.5M new seats – what are the main drivers for this adoption?
A. The decision by customers to run their XenDesktop deployments on XenServer is rooted both in simple pragmatism and an overriding need to deliver the best performance in their virtual desktop environments. What customers have found is that XenServer leads on both these fronts.

In terms of performance or density, the XenServer hypervisor and its associated advanced features provide an environment that delivers faster VM performance and higher VM density while the “built together” approach means that customers can be assured the reliability and supportability of XenDesktop on XenServer is second to none.

Q. Are there unique benefits to combining server and desktop virtualization?
A. Absolutely, the attributes of server virtualization - namely the ability to encapsulate workloads inside virtual machines, isolate virtual machines from each other, separate the application stack from hardware and move live running VMs from one server to another – all enable IT organizations to provide more centralized, secure, available and agile desktop environments that improve service levels while reducing management overhead.

Q. What are some specific features in XenServer that XenDesktop users can leverage?  What are the resulting benefits?
A. There are a couple of features in XenServer that jump right to mind when thinking about the needs of customers who are virtualizing their desktops.  

First is dynamic memory control (DMC).  The capability enables customers to set maximum and minimum memory thresholds for each virtual machine and for the system to dynamically scale the memory associated with those virtual machines based on real time demand.  In this way a VM can grab some additional memory when it needs it and can share its memory when it does not. The benefit is that in enables increased VM density per host – something that improves ROI by reducing capital costs for organizations who are heavy into desktop virtualization.  

Another key feature of XenServer is StorageLink, which allows organizations to leverage existing storage infrastructure investments and processes thereby unifying the management of storage in both the “physical world” and the “virtual world”.  In addition to the storage management synergies, StorageLink combined with PVS helps organizations reduce their storage consumption by consolidating each desktop image down to a set of unique attributes. This means that not only does it save IT from having to manage hundreds or thousands of images, but it also reduces storage consumption – which can mean big savings as organizations go from relative cheap local disk to more expensive network storage to support remote desktops in the datacenter

Q. Do customers compromise by choosing a single vendor solution?
A. Quite the opposite – most organizations we are working with prefer the single-vendor solution as it provides better reliability, increased performance, and higher densities. Because XenDesktop and XenServer are designed and built to work together, Citrix can deliver a superior experience, performance and customer support which in turn leads to lower capital and operational costs for the IT organization.

Also, because the Enterprise edition of XenServer is included with XenDesktop purchases, customers are licensed everything they need for their desktop virtualization projects which makes deploying and maintaining a virtual desktop environment much simpler then with a multi-vendor approach.

Finally, because XenServer license is included, there is no additional cost of the server virtualization software costs – which adds up to a significant savings.

Q. Tell us about some customers using XenServer and XenDesktop together?
A. There are a lot of great case studies out there already. In the healthcare market, there is a good example of XenDesktop on XenServer with Emory Healthcare in Atlanta. In industrials and manufacturing there is Isola in EMEA. Isola is planning to expand their desktop virtualization programs as the roll out Windows 7. In education, Campbell School District is leveraging XD on XS and in the government space the Dutch Ministry of Defense is in the process of moving to enable desktop access for chain partners via XenDesktop hosted on XenServer.