February 2015 archive

Making The Case For A Heterogeneous Hypervisor Strategy In The Datacenter

When it comes to server virtualization in the datacenter, most customers tend to standardize on a single hypervisor platform, and VMware today clearly has the market share. The most common reasons for standardization are ease of support and skill set of resources. However for certain workloads, it can be argued that you do not need all of the bells and whistles offered by the main hypervisor platform and you could be overpaying significantly. An example of this would be a dev/test environment, where you might not necessarily have the same requirements for DR/HA as compared to your Tier 1 Mission Critical applications. In addition you could be limiting yourself from taking advantage of certain features and functions that could potentially help increase user productivity, protect intellectual property and drive innovation. An example of this would be VDI workloads. vSphere does not natively support in memory caching (Content Based Read Cache) for XenDesktop whereas XenServer 6.5 does. Another example of this would be high end graphics workloads, where there are definitely feature gaps between hypervisor platforms. And with regards to ease of support and skill set of resources, the top 3 hypervisors in the market – vSphere, Hyper-V and XenServer have matured to the point where supportability is not as complex as it used to be.

If you are a vSphere customer today or a EUC partner & if you haven’t already looked into XenServer 6.5, I recommend you do. The 6.5 release is the first version of XenServer that is 64bit through and through. At a high level, this means much higher user density/scalability and tremendous improvement in performance compared to XS 6.2. Below are some key features/improvements  that I want to highlight:

  • 300% improvement in Storage Read Throughput with In Memory Read Caching that can help you eliminate boot storms and improve VM boot times by nearly 300%.
  • 96 vGPU’s per host for high end graphics workloads – If you are not familiar with HDX 3D Pro and virtual GPUs with the NVIDIA GRID Technology. I recommend you review this blog. With the 6.5 release, each XenServer host can support upto 96 vGPUs and as a result, enterprises can deliver high end workloads to users at a much lower cost/user while guaranteeing the highest performance.
  • 700% improvement in Network Throughput (when compared to XenServer 6.2)
  • Simple, Intuitive and Comprehensive monitoring and alerting of your XenServer hosts and workloads
  • Workload Balancing (WLB) is better than ever and helps maintain performance thresholds and automate your workloads intelligently based on parameters you define. In addition, a ton of additional reports have been added that provide detailed insight into how your environment is performing. For more on WLB, review this blog by Rachel Berry.
  • Simplification of product packaging and reduction in cost – XenServer now comes in two flavors: Standard and Enterprise and is licensed on a per socket basis and the cost for XenServer Enterprise which includes in memory caching, distributed virtual switch, workload balancing among others is only $1250/socket.
  • Xendesktop Enterprise and Platinum customers own XenServer – Most XenDesktop customers run XD on vSphere even though they are entitled to run XenServer. With the improved performance and scalability and the new features added in XenServer 6.5, now is the time to move your XA and XD workloads to XenServer! It is important to keep in mind that as new features are added to XA and XD they are typically made available initially on XenServer. Moreover customers would have a single, integrated stack for desktop and app virtualization supported end to end by Citrix. You can find out more about licensing here.

To summarize, I believe a heterogeneous hypervisor strategy is something every enterprise should look into in order to reduce costs and to help create solutions optimized for use-case specific workloads, such as high end graphics, desktop and cloud workloads. With Xenserver 6.5, Citrix has proven its commitment towards server virtualization and will continue to innovate! For those interested in learning more about XenServer 6.5, be sure to attend the Master Class on Feb 10th!

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