Better Together: Citrix and XtremIO for Desktop Virtualization

This blog was written by Chhandomay Mandal, Solutions Marketing Director for XtremIO

How many devices do you use for work today? And how many of those are your own personal gadgets? I am sure you will not be surprised to know that 43% of us use at least three, and a significant portion of these are “Bring Your Own Device” or “BYOD,” even if that’s not the official policy.

It is not about the devices though. It is about being empowered to choose when, where and how work gets done, having a new level of freedom, flexibility and choice. The days of the 9-5 job are long gone. As the reality of the new “24 hour work day” takes hold, IT must support this mobile work style to make us work better, be more productive, collaborative and creative.

Desktop virtualization – also known as VDI – is the technology that separates the desktop environment and associated application software from the physical client device that is used to access it. VDI gives IT the opportunity to centralize, virtualize and deliver apps, desktops and data with greater control, security, and efficiency, and ultimately lower costs.

Storage has been the Achilles’ heel for VDI. When you are centralizing all of your desktops in a data center giving your end users device-independent, on-the-go anywhere access, you are also moving them from consumer-grade storage to enterprise-grade storage, which costs an order of magnitude higher.

Citrix is a clear leader in the desktop virtualization market. IDC puts Citrix at the top right corner in the leader category for the client virtualization software market. Citrix XenDesktop, with its suite of desktop virtualization products, gives employees the freedom to work from anywhere while cutting IT costs. With industry-leading XenApp built-in, XenDesktop can deliver full desktops or just apps to any device, allowing you to choose the right delivery model for the right user at the right time.

On the storage side, XtremIO has taken the market by storm. We achieved $1B revenue run rate within one year of the first product shipment. We have more than 1,700 unique customers with nearly 2/3rds of Fortune 100 companies running XtremIO in production today. According to Gartner, we have the highest market share (31.1%) in solid state arrays, with the second placed vendor more than eleven share points behind.

For VDI specifically, it is totally amazing with XtremIO!

Whether you are rolling out 100 or 100,000 desktops – non-persistent or persistent, whether your users are call-center employees or sophisticated CAD designers, whether you are an 8 to 6 organization or you follow the sun with 24×7 operations, XtremIO delivers an incredibly cost effective, agile VDI storage platform with an amazingly consistent user experience.

XtremIO’s architectural advantages translate into very significant savings for our desktop virtualization customers. Today we have millions of desktops running on XtremIO, and our customers typically see 10:1 or more data reduction ratios for persistent desktops with 50% less cost per desktop than traditional storage.

A single X-Brick, which is the basic building block of XtremIO cluster with two storage controllers and a Disk Array Enclosure or DAE that can have up to 25 SSDs can host up to 2,500 persistent desktops and up to 3,500 non-persistent desktops.

Beyond storage, XtremIO helps in reducing server infrastructure footprint as well for VDI. As an example, we have had customers who could reduce the RAM allocation from 2 GB/desktop to 1.5 GB/desktop, that’s a 25% reduction in RAM, and XtremIO handled the resulting increased IOPS due to more swapping by the OS with the same latency for the same number of hosted desktops on the array.

So, Citrix & XtremIO together provides a great solution for your desktop virtualization. Here you have the market leader of desktop virtualization software joining forces with the market leader of flash-based arrays. Together, we can scale from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of desktops, delivering uncompromising end-user experience – at scale, all the time, for all user types. With XtremIO, your admins have a radically simple storage management experience where they can provision desktops really fast, on demand, as you scale. The net result for you is very low $/desktop, and better than physical desktops for performance, user experience and most importantly, economics.


Citrix & XtremIO just did a joint webinar – complete with many demonstrations – to illustrate the specifics of how we are better together. The recording is below, and you can find the presentation here.

In the webinar (as well as here), you will find a demo by our Field CTO Itzik Reich where simultaneously booting 2,500 desktops in the Citrix MCS VDI deployment creates nearly 200K IOPS requirements. As we saw, XtremIO easily handles this very high load while maintaining low, sub-millisecond latency. In fact, all these 2,500 desktops are available in approximately 10 minutes with an average boot time of 0.3 second (and that’s not a typo 🙂)!

There is another demonstration on Citrix PVS with RAM Cache Overflow to disk. Citrix introduced this new technology starting XenDesktop 7.1, and this is the least IOPS requirement use case for XenDesktop. However, even this option still needs the high performance with consistently low latency of XtremIO. As we see in the webinar (and here), the IOPS requirement went over 30K during the login storm. Of course, XtremIO handled the load with flying colors under sub-ms latency!

The final piece of “better together” story is the unique integration XtremIO offers for XenDesktop.

Beyond MCS and PVS, the last piece of desktop image management is where you have static builds for VMs. These are the dedicated desktops with full clones, essentially taking whatever you have – OS, applications, user settings – in your physical desktop today and making it a VM. XtremIO handles this use case very well with its performance and inline data reduction capabilities, as we don’t consume any extra capacity unless the data is globally unique. The clones and snapshots with XtremIO are fully based on in-memory metadata and deliver the same performance and data services like the parent volume.

We have many customers (including some big global banks with tens of thousands desktops deployed) who are doing dedicated, full clone desktops with XenDesktop. We have built a unique XenDesktop plug-in with automated workflows to support this. No other vendor offers this.

Let’s take a look at how this plug-in works for deploying 2,500 dedicated, full-clone desktops. All the steps I mention below are fully automated.


  • First it source a master VM to a datastore leveraging XtremIO’s unique copy data management technology. The clones do not consume any extra capacity.
  • Then it takes a snapshot of the parent datastore, again not consuming any extra capacity. It then Syspreps all the VMs in the snapshotted datastore.
  • It repeats these two steps till the total VMs created reach the desired numbers, in this case 2500 desktops. So 25 datastores with 100 VMs in each of them here in this example.
  • Then it populates the XenDesktop Delivery Group with these desktop VMs.

Note, you just created 2500 full clone dedicated desktops with the actual capacity utilization of the unique data that was there in the original master VM. That will be well less than 40GB that a typical source image has for the 2,500 dedicated, full clone desktops!

XtremIO gives you tremendous capacity savings with very fast desktop creation in an automated workflow!

The joint webinar presentation here has a nice, step-by-step animation and actual screenshots of the wizard showing how easy it is to set up this large environment.

Now, we have literally hundreds of VDI customers. In the webinar, I picked Georgia Tech as they bring out the true value of Citrix and XtremIO together. One area we didn’t cover in the webinar is GPU virtualization or vGPU, which solves the most challenging part of VDI where you are delivering graphics intensive applications to your users. XenServer as the hypervisor has been the true leader in supporting vGPU use case.


At Citrix Synergy this past May, Didier Contis from Georgia Tech recounted how XtremIO has been a game changer for his VDI infrastructure supporting performance-intensive engineering applications like MATLAB, AutoCAD, and CATIA. A quote from him from that Synergy session (# SYN249): “Before XtremIO, it took several minutes for his graphics applications to launch. With XtremIO, it came down to 20-30 seconds.”


To conclude, the XtremIO value proposition has been proven again and again in millions of desktops already deployed. XtremIO delivers an unparalleled user experience (think similar to MacBook Air performance and speed) for ALL user and desktop types at enterprise scale all the time. The deployment model is very cost effective—a lower cost than having physical desktops (while having an amazing end-user experience) and a quick deployment time – leading to a successful VDI project (from pilot to full scale).

XtremIO is a true ‘game-changer’ for VDI!

About the Author: Chhandomay Mandal

Dr. Chhandomay Mandal is the Director of Solutions Marketing at Dell Technologies. He leads solutions across artificial intelligence, analytics, business applications, VDI and HPC as well as industry-specific solutions for healthcare, media & entertainment, semiconductors and smart manufacturing. Prior to his current role, he led Dell’s all-flash storage solutions marketing efforts for desktop virtualization, server virtualization and private cloud. Dr. Mandal has been awarded 13 patents. He has a PhD from University of Florida, MBA from Indiana University, and BTech from Indian Institute of Technology.