Yesterday Cisco announced something called Cisco "Virtualization Experience Infrastructure" (VXI), which is a "complete system" which addresses "the current state of fragmented solutions which complicate virtual desktop deployments." The VXI website has dozens of documents and videos about this thing (good for them!), and I've spent the past few hours skimming through them and trying to figure out exactly what the hell VXI is.
And to be honest, my explanation of what VXI is after hours of reading is really no different than Gabe's tweet based on about 30 seconds of reading yesterday afternoon. He wrote: "This Cisco VXI thing looks to me like a reference architecture that they stuck a SKU on to."
As you know, Cisco has a lot of different products: UCS blade-like virtualization hosts, virtual switches, WAN accelerators, unified communication and corporate collaboration, VoIP phones, soft phones, VPNs, load-balancers... and if you take everything Cisco makes and combine it together into a single environment, ya know... you'd have a decent desktop virtualization platform. (Assuming you can get through the 50,000 pages of documentation.) Throw in some Citrix XenDesktop or VMware View and maybe some thin clients, and BAM!--you've got yourself a virtual desktop environment. (Err.. "Virtualization Experience Infrastructure," to use their words.)
And really that's what yesterday's announcement was. Once you get through all the marketing-speak and press release quotes and reasons why they claim we should virtualize our desktops, Cisco VXI is just a gigantic virtual desktop reference architecture where they throw in just about every Cisco product they can. And what does that look like? Here's an overview from Cisco's 724-page VXI configuration guide: (And that's just the Cisco hardware... this diagram doesn't show the logical VMware View or Citrix XenDesktop components, databases, servers, brokers, etc.) Yikes!
The other part of yesterday's VXI announcement is that Cisco will be entering the thin client business. Well, actually the press release said they collaborated with Wyse to create some client devices. They're creating a couple different form factors, including one that looks like a traditional thin client as well as one that physically integrates with their IP phones.
You might also remember that last June Cisco announced an Android-based business tablet called Cius. They'll also support that as a client. Of course you don't have to use Cisco clients--their marketing materials pointed out that they'll also support Wyse, Devon-IT, and IGEL thin clients. (So pretty much anyone except for hp.) Other than the inclusion of Cisco's unified communication client in the remote Windows VM, these clients and the way they access the environment are just like any other thin client.
Cisco is saying that this whole VXI thing is available immediately, with the thin clients coming out next March. They're selling it via a few different SKUs (right on Gabe!), with a base SKU that's good for ~300 desktops and then additional add-on SKUs for more desktops and other options. Of course in the 1,000+ pages of documentation I skimmed through last night, I didn't come across any pricing information.
So where's this leave us? I'm not blown away by anything here. It's good to know that if you'd like to put a Cisco sales rep's kid through college, you can now do so with an end-to-end virtual desktop solution too. Other than that, this is sort of like, "Virtual desktops? Yeah we do that too."