NetApp All-Flash FAS Solution For Persistent and Nonpersistent Desktops with Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp

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In this reference architecture, NetApp and Citrix validated multiple desktop deployment use cases at scale:

  • In the first deployment scenario, we validated 2,000 nonpersistent desktops with a Citrix XenDesktop– hosted VDI and XenApp-hosted shared desktop workloads.
  • In the second deployment scenario, we validated 2,000 persistent desktops with NetApp full-clone desktops that were cloned by using VMware® vStorage APIs for Array Integration (VAAI).

In both of these scenarios, we were able to demonstrate that, regardless of the deployment use case, the NetApp All-Flash FAS solution can eliminate the most common barriers to virtual desktop adoption, especially the concern about high storage costs. The testing covered common administrative tasks on 2,000 desktops (or on 4,000 desktops when tests were performed in a storage controller failed-over state). Including tasks such as mass virtual machine (VM) provisioning, boot storms, login storms, and steady-state operations made it possible to understand time to complete, storage response, and storage utilization. For the persistent desktop use case, we also tested virus scanning and patching of 2,000 desktops at the same time with the intent of understanding the time to complete the operation, storage response, and storage utilization.

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Join NetApp at Citrix Synergy 2015

Citrix Synergy 2015 is just around the corner, and we can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on with Citrix, as well as some insight to what is coming soon! If you’re interested in understanding how to provide mobile solutions to your customers, you need to come by the NetApp booth (#307) at Synergy in Orlando May 12 – 14. Storage is a key component to successful desktop virtualization, file sharing, and cloud solutions, which enable true enterprise mobility for your customers. Enterprise mobility can be simplified with NetApp Data Fabric, which helps you securely store, access, share and archive data consistently across the datacenter of your choice.

XenDesktop on NetApp All-flash FAS

Two other topics we’ll be covering in detail include desktop virtualization with NetApp performance optimized, always on data reduction using our all flash FAS systems and our new solutions and demos showcasing our work with Citrix, NVIDIA and Cisco for demanding visualization needs the high end users.

Partial list of Booth demos and mini-theatre sessions:


  • New Citrix Reference Architectures (CVS)
  • Citrix ShareFile Data Mobility for Enterprise
  • NetApp All Flash FAS Storage for VDI
  • FlexPod Datacenter VDI Solutions with All Flash Technologies
  • High Performance FlexPod with XenDesktop and NVIDIA GRID

Mini Theatre Sessions

  • NetApp Always-On Storage Efficiencies
  • NetApp All-Flash FAS for Your Mobile Solutions
  • High Performance Graphics Made Better with FlexPod and NVIDIA GRID
  • UCS-mini Powered Converged Infrastructure with NetApp storage
  • NetApp Clustered Data ONTAP 8.3: Optimized Performance and Always On Data Reduction


For the complete overview of NetApp at Synergy, go to

Customer Breakout Session: Denver Health Uses NetApp and Citrix to Make IT More Efficient

Denver Health is the only safety net hospital (safety net hospitals typically provide care to low-income and/or uninsured patients) in the US to be ranked in the top 10 in overall quality among 117 leading academic hospitals in the US.

We are proud and excited to share that David Boone of Denver Health has a dedicated session to describe how Denver’s primary hospital uses NetApp and Citrix to make IT more efficient by identifying and eliminating inefficient processes while supporting 1500 virtual desktops. This session is on Thursday, May 14 at 8:30 a.m.

Stop by the NetApp booth #307 and learn about solutions for Citrix including all-flash storage for high performance desktop virtualization and rapid deployment with FlexPod Datacenter. Learn how NetApp can help you reduce costs and improve reliability as you deliver applications, data, and services across your Citrix mobile environment.



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FlexPod Datacenter with Citrix XenDesktop and NVIDIA GRID

FlexPod Datacenter with Citrix and NVIDIA enhances virtual desktop infrastructure to encompass real-time 3D graphics capabilities. This new solution, FlexPod Datacenter with Citrix XenDesktop and NVIDIA GRID brings together best-in-class components to overcome the challenges graphics-intensive visualization workloads.


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OpenStack vs AWS

Service OpenStack Project Name Amazon
Virtual Machines Compute Nova EC2
Virtual Block Devices Block Storage Cinder EBS
Object Storage Object Storage Swift S3
Virtual Networks Networking Neutron (formerly Quantum) VPC
App Orchestration Orchestration Heat CloudFormation
App Monitoring Measurement Ceilometer CloudWatch
Tenant Auth / Namespace Identity Keystone IAM
Boot Images Image Service Glance AMI
GUI Dashboard Horizon Management Console
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Citrix XenDesktop RAM Cache – An awesome way to save your IOPS

We have been fighting storage IO battle since day one. There are many flash technologies on the storage vendor side. Now Citrix Provisioning Service has an awesome and easy to use feature called RAM Cache on the hypervisor RAM that can reduce  storage IO by 90%. RAM cache is great for PVS non-persistent desktops. For MCS or any persistent desktops, RAM cache is not ready yet.

I tested RAM Cache last year. The result was unbelievably good. I shared at NetApp Insight Vegas and Berlin. In January, I attended Dan Feller‘s session “Technical Update for XenApp and XenDesktop – 2015 Edition” at Citrix Summit. Now it is time to promote RAM Cache.

How to use RAM Cache? At PVS console, select vDisk properties and choose Cache type as “Cache in device RAM with overflow on hard disk”. This will use hypervisor RAM first and then use hard disk. Choose the RAM size based on OS type.

RAM sizing consideration

  • 256 MB for Win7 32bit
  • 512 MB for Win7 64bit
  • 2GB-4GB for XenApp VM

More detail on sizing RAM cache, check  Size Matters: PVS RAM Cache Overflow Sizing.  Also as a best practice, defragment the vDisk before deploying the image and after major changes.

ram cache conf

Now let me share the test setup and result:

Physical hardware

Cisco UCS Server CPU:  20 CPUs X 2.799 Ghz   Intel CPU E5-2680 v2@ 2.80GHz

Server RAM:   48 GB

Hypervisor: vSphere 5.5


 NetApp FAS3240 with 2 shelves HDD disks

 VM Configuration

Win7 VM:



VM OS: Windows 7

vDisk: 20GB

VM write cache: 6GB


Load generation tool

LoginVSI 4.1

 Test procedure: 

I ran 4 tests to find out if RAM cache is useful and what is the optimized RAM Cache size compared to Citrix’s recommendation.

1. Baseline without RAM cache

2. With RAM cache size as 256MB

3. With RAM Cache size as 512MB

4. With RAM Cache size as 1GB

Test result: I use NetApp perfstat to capture the write cache NFS volume total IOPS.

ram cache testing

The blue line is the result without RAM Cache. The IO saving is tremendous.

What is the lesson learns?

Increase your write cache when you use RAM Cache

Storage is 4k based and RAM is 64MB. “If transitioning an environment from Cache on HDD to Cache in RAM with overflow to disk and the RAM buffer is not increased from the 64MB default setting, allocate twice as much space to the write cache as a rule of thumb.”

Different performance on different hypervisor 

Reduce storage IO. The data is from Dan Feller’s deck at Citrix Summit.

– By 99% with XenDesktop

– By 80% with XenApp on Hyper-V

– By 24% with XenApp on vSphere

Defragment your vDisk to save your write cache size

“Defragmenting the vDisk resulted in write cache savings of up to 30% or more during testing.”



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Hope I can meet you at Vegas!

Hope you are as excited as we are for Insight 2014 Las Vegas! I will have 6 NetApp break sessions and a XenDesktop on Hyper-V lab. This will keep me busy.  Also you can find me at virtualization booth.  Hope I can meet you in Vegas!

MB-1-2025 – Citrix ShareFile Data Mobility for Enterprise
Date/Time: Tuesday, 10/28/14, from 13:30 to 14:30

MB-1-2025 – Citrix ShareFile Data Mobility for Enterprise
Date/Time: Wednesday, 10/29/14, from 14:45 to 15:45

VI-3-2132-TT – Citrix, VMware, and All-Flash FAS: A Reference Architecture Deep Dive
Date/Time: Monday, 10/27/14, from 13:00 to 15:15

VI-2-2024 – VDI Design, Architecture, and Best Practices for Citrix and VMware
Date/Time: Tuesday, 10/28/14, from 16:15 to 17:15

VI-3-2132-TT – Citrix, VMware, and All-Flash FAS: A Reference Architecture Deep Dive
Date/Time: Tuesday, 10/28/14, from 11:15 to 13:30

VI-2-2024 – VDI Design, Architecture, and Best Practices for Citrix and VMware
Date/Time: Wednesday, 10/29/14, from 16:15 to 17:15

VI-3-2132-TT – Citrix, VMware, and All-Flash FAS: A Reference Architecture Deep Dive
Date/Time: Thursday, 10/30/14, from 11:00 to 13:15


Screenshot 2014-10-24 10.55.10

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Citrix XenDesktop Design Guide is published

Design guide for Citrix XenDesktop on NetApp Storage is published today. The Citrix XenDesktop 7.5 system, which now incorporates both traditional, hosted Windows 7 or Windows 8 virtual desktops, hosted applications, and hosted shared Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows Server 2012 R2 server desktops (formerly delivered by Citrix XenApp) provides unparalleled scale and management simplicity while extending the Citrix HDX FlexCast models to mobile devices.

NetApp clustered Data ONTAP—with its key capabilities such as nondisruptive operations, unified storage, multiprotocol architecture, secure multi-tenancy, storage efficiency, read and write performance, and cost efficient data protection—is ideal for cost-effectively designing and deploying end-to-end storage solutions for desktop virtualization based on a single or mix of various XenDesktop FlexCast models.

This technical report provides key storage design and architecture best practices for deploying a mix of FlexCast technologies on a NetApp clustered Data ONTAP storage array. It also includes performance testing results and solution scalability guidelines that prove that NetApp clustered Data ONTAP can cost effectively scale to thousands of desktops without adding complexity.

Screenshot 2014-10-23 12.51.31

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