IBM SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure: Citrix XenDesktop on IBM System x

IBM Redbooks Solution Guide

Abstract

The IBM® SmartCloud® Desktop Infrastructure offers robust, cost-effective, and manageable virtual desktop solutions for a wide range of clients, user types, and industry segments. These solutions help increase business flexibility and staff productivity, reduce IT complexity, and simplify security and compliance. Based on a reference architecture approach, this infrastructure supports various hardware, software, and hypervisor platforms.

The IBM SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure solution with Citrix XenDesktop running on IBM System x® offers tailored solutions for every business. These solutions range from the affordable all-in-one Citrix VDI-in-a-Box for simple IT organizations to the enterprise-wide Citrix XenDesktop. XenDesktop is a comprehensive desktop virtualization solution for every user with multiple delivery models that is optimized for flexibility and cost efficiency.

This IBM Redbooks® Solution Guide provides an overview of the IBM SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure solution with Citrix XenDesktop running on IBM System x. It highlights the key components, architecture, and benefits of this solution. It also provides integration scenarios and ordering and fulfillment information.

Contents


The IBM® SmartCloud® Desktop Infrastructure offers robust, cost-effective, and manageable virtual desktop solutions for a wide range of clients, user types, and industry segments. These solutions can help to increase business flexibility and staff productivity, reduce IT complexity, and simplify security and compliance. Based on a reference architecture approach, this infrastructure supports various hardware, software, and hypervisor platforms. Figure 1 illustrates the SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure offering.

The IBM SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure offering
Figure 1. The IBM SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure offering

The SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure solution with Citrix XenDesktop running on IBM System x® offers tailored solutions for every business, from the affordable all-in-one Citrix VDI-in-a-Box for simple IT organizations to the enterprise-wide Citrix XenDesktop. XenDesktop is a comprehensive desktop virtualization solution with multiple delivery models that is optimized for flexibility and cost efficiency.


Did you know?

The hosted virtual desktop (HVD) approach is the most common form of implementing a virtualized user desktop environment. With HVDs, all applications and data that the user interacts with are stored centrally and securely in the data center. These applications never leave the data center boundaries. This setup makes management and administration much easier and gives users access to data and applications from anywhere and at anytime.


Business value

Several key factors drive virtual desktops in today’s business climate:
  • Data security and compliance concerns
  • Complexity and costs of managing existing desktop environments
  • An increasingly mobile workforce
  • The changing ownership of end-point devices with bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs
  • The need for rapid recovery from theft, failure, and disasters

SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure offers the following advantages:
  • Lowers the total cost of ownership (TCO) over an extended period compared to traditional PCs
  • Simplifies desktop administration, support, and management
  • Enhances security and compliance management
  • Improves availability and reliability
  • Enables users to work anytime, anywhere quickly and easily regardless of location or device
  • Better supports growth initiatives for mobility and flexible work locations


Solution overview

IBM SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure solution with Citrix XenDesktop on IBM System x includes the following components:
  • User access devices
    • Desktop PCs
    • Thin clients
    • Notebooks
    • Other handheld mobile devices
  • Virtual infrastructure software
    • Citrix XenDesktop
  • Hardware platform
    • IBM System x
    • IBM RackSwitch™
    • IBM System Storage®
  • Integration services
    • Assess and plan
    • Design
    • Implement
    • Operate and manage

Figure 2 shows the functional components of the SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure solution.

Functional components of the SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure solution
Figure 2. Functional components of the SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure solution

The SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure solution consists of three functional layers:
  • User access layer

    The user access layer is a user entry point into the virtual infrastructure. It includes traditional desktop PCs, thin clients, notebooks, and other handheld mobile devices.

  • Virtual infrastructure services layer

    The virtual infrastructure services layer provides the secure, compliant, and highly available desktop environment to the user. The user access layer interacts with the virtual infrastructure layer through display protocols. The choice of HDX, RDP, and ICA display protocols is available in Citrix XenDesktop.

  • Storage services layer

    The storage services layer stores user persona, profiles, gold master images, and actual virtual desktop images. The storage protocol is an interface between the virtual infrastructure services and storage services. The storage protocols include Network File System (NFS), Common Internet File System (CIFS), iSCSI, and Fibre Channel.


The virtual infrastructure services layer has the following key functional components:
  • Hypervisor

    The hypervisor provides a virtualized environment for running virtual machines (VMs) with the desktop operating systems in them. These VMs are called hosted virtual desktops.

  • Hosted virtual desktops

    An HVD is a VM that runs a user desktop operating system and applications.

  • Connection broker

    The connection broker is the point of contact for the client access devices that request the virtual desktops. The connection broker manages the authentication function and ensures that only valid users are allowed access to the infrastructure. When authenticated, it directs the clients to their assigned desktops. If the virtual desktop is unavailable, the connection broker works with the management and provisioning services to have the VM ready and available.

  • Management and provisioning services

    Management and provisioning services allow the centralized management of the virtual infrastructure, providing a single console to manage multiple tasks. These services provide image management, lifecycle management, and monitoring for hosted VMs.

  • High availability services

    High availability (HA) services ensure that the VM is up and running even if a critical software or hardware failure occurs. HA can be a part of connection broker functions for stateless HVDs or a separate failover service for dedicated HVDs.


A dedicated (or persistent) HVD is assigned permanently to the specific user, similar to a traditional desktop PC. Users log in to the same virtual desktop image every time they connect. All changes that they make and each application that they install are saved when the user logs off. The dedicated desktop model is best for users who need the ability to install more applications, store data locally, and retain the ability to work offline.

A stateless (pooled or non-persistent) HVD is allocated temporarily to the user. After the user logs off, changes to the image are discarded (reset). Then, the desktop becomes available for the next user, or a new desktop is created for the next user session. A persistent user experience (the ability to personalize the desktop and save data) is achieved through user profile management, folder redirection, and similar approaches. Specific individual applications can be provided to nonpersistent desktops by using application virtualization technologies, if required.

Figure 3 shows the logical connectivity topology that supports the VDI solution.

VDI solution logical connectivity topology
Figure 3. VDI solution logical connectivity topology

Three networks are defined in the VDI solution:
  • Storage network. Carries storage traffic between VDI servers and the NAS storage system.
  • Management network. Supports management, provisioning, and monitoring tasks.
  • Client network. Connects VDI clients (users) to VDI servers.

Functional layers and components are supported by a hardware infrastructure platform that must provide the following features:
  • Sufficient computing power to support demanding workloads
  • Scalability to satisfy future growth requirements
  • Reliability to support business continuity and 24x7 operations
  • High-speed, low-latency networking for a better user experience
  • Cost-efficient storage to handle large amounts of VM and user data
  • Centralized management of combined physical and virtual infrastructure from a single user interface to simplify and automate deployment, maintenance, and support tasks

IBM System x servers, combined with IBM RackSwitch networking technologies and IBM System Storage N series storage systems, represent a robust infrastructure platform that satisfies these requirements.


Hardware platform

Combined into a single infrastructure, IBM server, storage, and networking systems offer unique capabilities that make this infrastructure an exceptional choice for the deployment of the SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure solution:
  • IBM System x servers

    IBM System x servers are developed, quality tested, and certified by IBM, the leading vendor in technology patents for 20 years running, and they are backed by IBM's incomparable worldwide service and support. IBM System x servers deliver business value over the long term because of advancements in scalability, reliability, and performance, combined with flexible configuration options, energy efficient components, and robust systems management tools.

    System x servers provide sufficient processing capacity for the most demanding SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure deployments. x3550 M4 (1U rack-mounted) and x3650 M4 (2U rack-mounted) are dual-socket Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 product family-based servers. They support the most powerful 135 W Intel Xeon processor E5-2690, up to 768 GB of memory, and IBM Virtual Fabric I/O connections to provide scalable, high-density HVD deployments. The x3550 M4 supports up to eight 2.5-inch drives (hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid-state drives (SSDs)) and up to three Virtual Fabric I/O adapters. The x3650 M4 supports up to sixteen 2.5-inch drives (HDDs and SSDs) and up to seven Virtual Fabric I/O adapters.

  • Networking

    SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure requires sufficient network bandwidth and efficient traffic management to host as many VMs as possible to ensure that all computing resources are not underused. IBM System Networking offerings can help to reduce communication latency and provide the required bandwidth, supporting 10-Gb Ethernet LAN connectivity with 10 or 40 Gb uplinks. Virtual Fabric Adapters offer virtual network interface card (NIC) capability to allow up to eight isolated logical ports on a single adapter, with controllable bandwidth allocation per port to manage traffic prioritization.

  • Management

    IBM Systems Director is a systems management software that drives efficiency and cost savings in the data center. IBM Systems Director provides a virtualized management environment across servers, storage, and networking that is easily managed from a single interface. A single focus point for seamless management provides an instant and resource-oriented view of infrastructure resources for IBM System x servers. You can reduce the number of interfaces, steps, and clicks it takes to manage IT resources. You can intelligently manage and deploy workloads based on resource availability and predefined policies. And you can manage events and alerts to increase system availability and reduce downtime in addition to reducing operational costs.

  • Storage

    As a virtualized storage system that provides block volumes and file volumes, IBM Storwize® V7000 Unified complements virtual desktop environments. The system offers robust enterprise-class storage capabilities, which include thin provisioning, automated tiering, internal and external virtualization, clustering, replication, multiprotocol support, and a next-generation graphical user interface (GUI). These features can be applied in virtual desktop environments in applications, for example, that optimize storage capacity and performance or that simplify desktop user profile management and backup. The Storwize V7000 Unified is flexible enough to support entry virtual desktop environments, but can also be scaled to support enterprise virtual desktop environments.

    The IBM System Storage N series systems provide powerful virtualization and thin provisioning capabilities to help you maximize storage utilization and minimize the use of power, cooling, and floor space. At the same time, you can improve staff productivity with an integrated suite of application-aware manageability software that offers policy-based automation to otherwise manual tasks, improving storage efficiency.


In summary, IBM System x server in a SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure solution can help to achieve the following advantages:
  • Better VM density because of large memory and I/O capacity support
  • Better network utilization with IBM Virtual Fabric virtual NIC capabilities
  • Simplified deployment and management of both physical and virtual infrastructures because of IBM Systems Director capabilities


Solution architecture

IBM SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure with Citrix XenDesktop can help to transform Microsoft Windows desktops, applications, and data into a cloud-type service that is accessible on virtually any device, anywhere. Citrix offers tailored solutions that range from the affordable, all-in-one Citrix VDI-in-a-Box for simple IT organizations to the enterprise-wide Citrix XenDesktop. XenDesktop is a comprehensive desktop virtualization solution for every user with multiple delivery models that are optimized for flexibility and cost efficiency. Both solution types deliver a rich, high-definition user experience across any network that uses Citrix HDX technologies.

By using the open architecture of Citrix XenDesktop, customers can adopt desktop virtualization quickly and easily with any hypervisor, storage, or management infrastructure.

The following XenDesktop features provide a familiar experience for the user:
  • Multiple monitor support
  • 3D graphics business application support
  • Multimedia support
  • Printing from a virtual desktop
  • Accessing USB devices and other peripheral devices
  • Roaming user profiles

XenDesktop offers several levels of security features, including the following features:
  • Multifactor authentication
  • Traffic encryption
  • Built-in password management
  • SSL tunneling to ensure that all connections are encrypted

The following Citrix XenDesktop features provide centralized administration and management:
  • Microsoft Active Directory
  • Web-based administrative console
  • Automated desktop provisioning and storage optimization

XenDesktop includes the following scalability, integration, and optimization features:
  • VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, and XenServer hypervisor support
  • Integration with VMware vCenter to achieve cost-effective densities, high levels of availability, and advanced resource allocation control for virtual desktops
  • Automated provisioning of desktop images that share virtual disks with a master image

Figure 4 shows the components of the Citrix XenDesktop on IBM System x solution.

Components of the Citrix XenDesktop on IBM System x solution
Figure 4. Components of the Citrix XenDesktop on IBM System x solution

The core hardware components of the solution are IBM System x servers (x3550 M4 or x3650 M4), LAN switches, and the external storage system:
  • IBM System x servers

    The x3550 M4 or x3650 M4 servers contain an embedded VMware ESXi hypervisor to host VMs that are used for virtual desktops and for management and provisioning tasks. The servers are combined into three groups: stateless HVD pool, dedicated HVD cluster, and management cluster.

    Stateless HVD pool nodes are configured with local SSD storage that hosts VM files. The nodes use NFS storage to get local VM images from the repository. High availability is provided by the connection broker (XenDesktop Controller). That is, if a VM or node failure occurs, the connection broker redirects the user to another available virtual desktop.

    The nodes in a dedicated cluster are configured with no local storage. All VM files are placed onto an external NFS-based shared storage. High availability is provided by failing over the VM to another server with the VMware High Availability feature.

    The nodes in management cluster host VMs run controlling instances, such as connection broker, centralized management tools, and database for storing control information. These nodes are connected to external NFS storage, such as IBM System Storage N series, that stores VM files. Also, VMware HA provides high availability for management VMs.

  • LAN switches

    IBM RackSwitch G8124E switches provide redundant high-speed, low-latency 10 Gb Virtual Fabric connectivity across servers, clients and NFS storage.

  • IBM System Storage N series

    IBM System Storage N series storage systems provide primary and auxiliary storage for midsized enterprises, consolidating all of their fragmented application-based storage and unstructured data into one single-code system. Easily managed and expandable, this platform can help IT generalists increase their effectiveness. These systems offer integrated data access, intelligent management software, and data protection capabilities.


The Citrix XenDesktop core services have the following software components:
  • Citrix Receiver

    Citrix Receiver is a client software for accessing virtual desktops by using the Independent Channel Architecture (ICA) protocol. The client software can run on different types of user access devices, including desktop PCs, notebooks, and thin clients.

  • Citrix Virtual Desktop Agent

    Citrix Virtual Desktop Agent is installed on virtual desktops and supports Citrix Receiver direct connections through the ICA.

  • Citrix XenDesktop Controller

    Citrix XenDesktop Controller is a software service that is responsible for connection brokering, authenticating users, and starting virtual desktops and user persona management if required. Authentication of users is performed through Windows Active Directory.

  • Citrix Provisioning Services or Machine Creation Services

    Citrix Provisioning Services and Machine Creation Services create and provision virtual desktops from desktop images. Provisioning Services support stateless HVD pools, and Machine Creation Services can support both stateless and dedicated HVD pools.

  • Citrix License Server

    Citrix License Server manages licenses for all XenDesktop components.

  • Citrix Data Store

    Citrix Data Store is a database that stores configuration information for the XenDesktop environment.

  • VMware ESXi

    VMware ESXi is hypervisor that is used to host VMs.

  • VMware vCenter

    The VMware vCenter service acts as a central administrator for VMware ESX/ESXi servers that are connected on a network. vCenter Server provides a central point for configuring, provisioning, and managing VMs in the data center.



Usage scenarios

In the healthcare industry, staff are constantly on the move, but need fast, security-rich access to patients’ electronic medical records that are in compliance with data privacy regulations. By combining single sign-on (SSO) capabilities with a virtual desktop infrastructure, healthcare staff can access multiple systems and applications to obtain medical records or images with a single, more SSO.

In the education industry, a virtual desktop infrastructure can help schools to extend the lifecycle of existing PCs, in addition to allowing the schools to adopt new technology. Students can receive the same quality of education, regardless of the availability of hardware, device or location. At the same time, IT staff can reduce the time, cost, and complexity that are associated with maintenance, upgrades, provisioning, reimaging, and repairing the school’s technology assets.

For the public sector, local, state, and federal agencies must extend support to an ever-increasing collection of personal devices and must do so under stringent security measures. A virtual desktop can give personnel the anytime, anywhere access they need to maintain productivity. It can also provide the centralized security and control that are necessary to help maintain extreme data confidentiality. Agencies can also expedite provisioning and upgrades to multiple devices at a sustainable level of cost and effort.


Integration

IBM SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure enables easy integration with optional security and endpoint management technologies, including the following technologies:
  • IBM Security Access Manager for Enterprise Single Sign-On offers streamlined user access with automated sign-on and sign-off plus a single password for all applications. This technology can reduce help desk costs, improve productivity, and strengthen security for virtualized desktops.
  • IBM Tivoli® Endpoint Manager combines endpoint and security management into a single solution. With this solution, your team can see and manage physical and virtual endpoints, such as servers, desktops, roaming notebooks, and specialized equipment such as point-of-sale devices, automated teller machines (ATMs), and self-service kiosks.

IBM SmartCloud Desktop Services

Transitioning to a virtualized environment from traditional desktops can be a time-consuming effort, often requiring specialized skills that are not readily available in-house. You must carefully manage implementations to support many users, applications, and complementary software to help provide the security and management functions that are necessary to succeed.

By using time-proven methods, proprietary tools, and extensive expertise that are developed through real-world client implementations, SmartCloud Desktop Services can accelerate your transition to a less complex, virtualized desktop environment. Robust services, which include assessment and planning, design and implementation, and operation and management, in addition to a phased delivery approach, help to speed your return on investment and reduce the risk of business disruption. Through these services, a broader range of users, from power users to disconnected users, can have faster, more security-rich access to resources, helping to improve their productivity and increasing business flexibility.

Figure 5 illustrates the services approach.

SmartCloud Desktop Services
Figure 5. SmartCloud Desktop Services


Reference design

The Citrix XenDesktop on IBM System x solution has the following key building blocks:
  • Servers that support stateless and dedicated HVD pools
  • Server cluster that runs management and provisioning tasks
  • Networking switches
  • External shared storage system

Table 1 shows the building blocks of the Citrix XenDesktop on IBM System x solution that are used in small, medium, and large deployments, with a 50/50 split between stateless and dedicated HVDs. The actual number of users or virtual desktops per node depends on the user type and memory, processor, and storage requirements for those VMs.

Table 1. Building blocks of the Citrix XenDesktop on IBM System x solution
Building block
Number of elements in a building block
Element type and configuration
SmallMediumLarge
Stateless HVD server pool
(N+1 redundancy)
248HVD server (x3550 M4 or x3650 M4)
  • 2x Intel Xeon processor E5-2680
  • 256 GB memory
  • 2x 200 GB SATA SSDs
  • 2x 10 Gb Ethernet ports
  • 1x Embedded ESXi hypervisor
Dedicated HVD server cluster
(N+1 redundancy)
248HVD server (x3550 M4 or x3650 M4)
  • 2x Intel Xeon processor E5-2680
  • 256 GB memory
  • 2x 10 Gb Ethernet ports
  • 1x Embedded ESXi hypervisor
Management cluster
(N+N redundancy)
222Management server (x3550 M4 or x3650 M4)
  • 2x Intel Xeon processor E5-2680
  • 128 GB memory
  • 2x 10 Gb Ethernet ports
  • 1x Embedded ESXi hypervisor
Network switches222IBM RackSwitch G8124E
External shared storage111IBM System Storage N series

Figure 6 and Table 2 show the components that are used in a typical small-sized reference design of the Citrix XenDesktop on IBM System x solution, with a 50/50 split between stateless and dedicated HVDs. The solution can also be scaled to a medium or large configuration by adding more HVD server blocks.

Consideration: x3550 M4 servers are used in the configuration, but x3650 M4 servers can also be used.

Reference configuration for the Citrix XenDesktop on IBM System x solution
Figure 6. Reference configuration for the Citrix XenDesktop on IBM System x solution

Table 2. Reference configuration for the Citrix XenDesktop on IBM System x solution
Diagram
reference
Description
12x x3550 M4 servers for stateless HVDs (N+1 redundancy)
2x Intel Xeon processor E5-2680
256 GB memory
2x 200 GB SATA SSDs
2x 10 Gb Ethernet ports on Emulex Embedded Virtual Fabric Adapter
1x Embedded ESXi hypervisor on a USB key
22x x3550 M4 servers for dedicated HVDs (N+1 redundancy)
2x Intel Xeon processor E5-2680
256 GB memory
2x 10 Gb Ethernet ports on Emulex Embedded Virtual Fabric Adapter
1x Embedded ESXi hypervisor on a USB key
2x x3550 M4 servers for management cluster
2x Intel Xeon processor E5-2680
128 GB memory
2x 10 Gb Ethernet ports on Emulex Embedded Virtual Fabric Adapter
1x Embedded ESXi hypervisor on a USB key
2x IBM RackSwitch G8124E network switches
1x IBM System Storage N series external shared storage


Ordering information

Table 3 shows the part numbers and quantities for ordering the reference configuration in Figure 6.

Table 3. Ordering information for IBM System x running Citrix XenDesktop solution
Diagram
reference
DescriptionPart numberQty
1Servers for stateless HVDs (N+1 redundancy)
x3550 M4, Xeon 8C E5-2680 130W 2.7GHz/1600MHz/20MB, 1x8GB, O/Bay 2.5in HS SAS/SATA, SR M5110, 750W p/s, Rack 7914L2x*2
Intel Xeon Processor E5-2680 8C 2.7GHz 20MB 1600MHz 130W W/Fan69Y56802
16GB (1x16GB, 2Rx4, 1.5V) PC3-12800 CL11 ECC DDR3 1600MHz LP RDIMM00D496832
IBM 200GB SATA 2.5" MLC HS SSD43W77184
Emulex Dual Port 10GbE SFP+ Embedded Adapter for IBM System x90Y64562
IBM System x 750W High Efficiency Platinum AC Power Supply94Y66692
IBM USB Memory Key for VMware ESXi 5.0 Update 141Y83072
2Servers for dedicated HVDs (N+1 redundancy)
x3550 M4, Xeon 8C E5-2680 130W 2.7GHz/1600MHz/20MB, 1x8GB, O/Bay 2.5in HS SAS/SATA, SR M5110, 750W p/s, Rack 7914L2x*2
Intel Xeon Processor E5-2680 8C 2.7GHz 20MB 1600MHz 130W W/Fan69Y56802
16GB (1x16GB, 2Rx4, 1.5V) PC3-12800 CL11 ECC DDR3 1600MHz LP RDIMM00D496832
Emulex Dual Port 10GbE SFP+ Embedded Adapter for IBM System x90Y64562
IBM System x 750W High Efficiency Platinum AC Power Supply94Y66692
IBM USB Memory Key for VMware ESXi 5.0 Update 141Y83072
Servers for management cluster (N+N redundancy)
x3550 M4, Xeon 8C E5-2680 130W 2.7GHz/1600MHz/20MB, 1x8GB, O/Bay 2.5in HS SAS/SATA, SR M5110, 750W p/s, Rack 7914L2x*2
Intel Xeon Processor E5-2680 8C 2.7GHz 20MB 1600MHz 130W W/Fan69Y56802
16GB (1x16GB, 2Rx4, 1.5V) PC3-12800 CL11 ECC DDR3 1600MHz LP RDIMM00D496816
Emulex Dual Port 10GbE SFP+ Embedded Adapter for IBM System x90Y64562
IBM System x 750W High Efficiency Platinum AC Power Supply94Y66692
IBM USB Memory Key for VMware ESXi 5.0 Update 141Y83072
Network switches
IBM System Networking RackSwitch G8124EVaries2
5 m IBM Passive DAC SFP+ Cable90Y94338
External shared storage
IBM System Storage N seriesVaries1
* The x in the part number represents a country-specific letter. For example, the EMEA part number is 7914L2G, and the US part number is 7914L2U. Ask a local IBM representative for specific details.


Related information

For more information, see the following documents:

Special Notices

This material has not been submitted to any formal IBM test and is published AS IS. It has not been the subject of rigorous review. IBM assumes no responsibility for its accuracy or completeness. The use of this information or the implementation of any of these techniques is a client responsibility and depends upon the client's ability to evaluate and integrate them into the client's operational environment.

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Publish Date
14 May 2013


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