Cisco & Citrix join forces for virtual desktops with video

Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) this week filled out its desktop virtualization product line by adding a thin client that improves processing and bandwidth utilization for voice and video.

The VXC 6215 thin client joins Cisco’s VXC 2000 and 2200 devices. It adds more sophisticated media processing to the portfolio by reducing the processing and bandwidth required to support voice and video on virtual desktops.

Videoconferencing on virtual desktops can consume megabits of bandwidth and up to 50 per cent of processing cycles because it requires a data centre to be an intermediary between two desktop environments. Requests to set up a videoconference and responses to those requests are processed in the data centre, which consumes a lot of CPU and bandwidth resources, Cisco says.

The VXC 6215 performs the video processing – such as encoding and decoding – at the desktop, offloading that processing from the data centre. As a result, CPU utilization can be lowered to single-digit percentages, and bandwidth utilization to kilobits instead of megabits, the company claims.

Only signaling data is sent to and from the data centre, Cisco says. The multimedia connection between virtual clients is point-to-point instead of “hairpinning” voice and video processing between clients and data centers, Cisco says.

Cisco also unveiled a software application designed to transform a laptop into a desktop virtualization thin client. The VXC 4000 software allows users to configure the laptop as a dedicated thin client or to run alongside other applications, Cisco says.

Both products support Citrix XenServer and VMware View hypervisors. Currently, they both support Microsoft Windows 7 and XP operating systems, but Cisco left open the possibility that they could be extended to Google Android and Apple iOS environments as well.

Cisco’s Cius tablet, which can also function as a virtualized thin client, runs Android.

Cisco also enhanced its WAAS WAN acceleration appliance to better support Citrix XenServer environments. All versions of WAAS running software release 4.5.1 – including those introduced last week at Interop New York – are Citrix “HDX aware,” meaning they are optimized to deliver a high-definition experience to Citrix virtual desktops.

This effort is the result of tighter collaboration between Cisco and Citrix under an expansion of their strategic alliance to drive desktop virtualization, Cisco and Citrix officials said.

This augmentation will enable a single WAAS appliance to optimize WAN bandwidth for both physical and virtual desktops, Cisco said.

Lastly, Cisco unveiled validated designs and professional services for virtual desktop implementations.

The VXC 6215 will ship early in 2012. The VXC 4000 will ship this quarter but video capabilities will not emerge until 2012, Cisco said.

WAAS appliances optimized for Citrix HDX will also ship this quarter.

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