NCS aims at VDI with hyper-converged infrastructure

NCS launches hyper-converged systems with storage, compute and networking to handle a virtual desktop infrastructure with up to 5,000 VMs.

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Computing systems manufacturer NCS Technologies Inc. is moving into the hyper-converged infrastructure market, rolling out a virtual desktop infrastructure portfolio for companies that deploy up to 5,000 virtual machines.

The product line includes the NexServ XRV-8252 virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) appliance that combines computer, networking and storage in a single hardware platform. The standard design of the NexServ is a 2U eight-drive system that can be configured with NAND flash-based solid-state drives and PCI Express flash hardware accelerators for SATA and SAS spinning media. Each tray can accommodate up to seven flash accelerator drives to deliver throughput up to 25 gigabytes per second (GBps).

Capacity can be customized for more or fewer drives, based on customer requirements, said Mike Turicchi, NCS chief product officer.

The system includes NCS's Cirrus DT zero-client virtual portal and Cirrus LT zero-client laptop. The Cirrus zero client is a stateless device that serves as a front-end connection to virtualized infrastructure. Unlike traditional thin-client devices, it contains no local operating system (OS) or random-access memory for storage. Users log in to a Cirrus LT device to access a persistent virtual machine (VM) image that contains the OS and all their applications. Services such as patch management and configuration management are provisioned on the back end rather than the VM itself.

The Cirrus LT uses PC over IP protocol by Teradici Corp. for data reduction. Data is compressed, encrypted and encoded, but only pixels of changed data blocks are transmitted across the network.

NCS introduced the Cirrus DT zero client in February and expects to ramp up full-scale production in August. The system's end-to-end management capability for VDI "gives us access to a whole set of customers that we didn't have before. It puts us on the enterprise map," said John Callahan, NCS's vice president of marketing.

The product will be marketed mainly to enterprises with 500 to 5,000 VMs. The integrated system includes software licenses, hardware, flash accelerator cards and storage components -- priced at approximately $1,200 per user.

Advanced graphic processing units feature more than 1,000 processor cores, enabling the video cards to be sliced across multiple VMs to reduce CPU load and enhance performance. Network components include support for 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE), 40 GbE, 56 GB InfiniBand and Fibre Channel interconnects for storage.

NCS's VDI system natively includes VMware's Horizon View VDI software as a standard offering, but support will be available for Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer. Turicchi said enterprises will be able to tailor the mix of individual components to suit their VDI infrastructure.

"What we really want to do is have a conversation with each customer to see what best fits their requirements. We're not trying to shoehorn something foreign or new that users aren't comfortable with," Turicchi said.

Privately owned NCS was founded in 1996 and makes customized computer systems for independent software vendors. It also sells its own branded systems directly to select government and commercial customers.

Hyper-converged infrastructure vendors Maxta Storage, Nutanix, Pivot3, Scale Computing and SimpliVity all consider VDI a primary use case, but only Pivot3 has a system configured specifically for VDI.

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