Xi Frame: The Ultimate VDI Solution
by cStor’s Engineering Team
With COVID-19 came social distancing and the eventual rolling quarantine of the world. Many found themselves furloughed or worse, laid off. Fortunately, most were still employed, though barred from being in the office where work is conducted. When your desktop PC is an essential component of your daily work, how do you continue to be operational when at home? While you have a computer at home, it’s your PC at work that has all the applications you need to get your work done. One possible solution that various IT departments across the globe have leveraged is a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).
In the Beginning, There was HCI
Nutanix is a company best recognized for its outstanding Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) platform. While it can be debated who came up with the technology behind HCI, Nutanix is widely accepted as the organization who popularized the phrase. During the early days of HCI, many felt as though HCI was only suitable for VDI, leaving the more critical workloads of server virtualization to the tried and true 3-tiered architecture. Fast forward a near-decade later and we now have a Gartner Magic Quadrant dedicated to HCI platforms and IDC has written numerous articles on the topic. With the emergency of HCI and it’s rise to prominence for running farms of virtual servers, we often forget about the great relationship it had with VDI in the beginning. However, Nutanix never forgot.
Enter Xi Frame
Nutanix continues to grow its platform to empower the Enterprise Cloud. After coming out with Software-Defined Storage (SDS), which is the magic sauce enabling the movement back to HCI, Nutanix went on to add its own Hypervisor, AHV. Continuing to be a great platform to run VDI workloads, Nutanix wanted to grow its software functionality, and in August of 2018, they announced the acquisition of a company called “Frame.”
True to Nutanix’s vision of the Hybrid and Enterprise Cloud, Frame, now called Nutanix Xi Frame, is a solution that is cloud-native (If you want more information on the private cloud, public cloud, hybrid cloud, and enterprise cloud, check out my article here). With the addition of Xi Frame software, Nutanix now has the backplane to run the VDI instances and the control plane to manage the VDI environment. Xi Frame’s control plane and management interface are hosted in the public cloud. If you can access the Internet, you can access Xi Frame. This is critical when considering and empowering a remote workforce.
Simplified Setup and Ultimate Usability
Where do the virtual desktops reside? Add a gateway appliance to your on-premise Nutanix cluster running AHV 5.10 or later, connect it to the control plane in the public cloud, and now you can provide access to a corporate-managed VDI instance to anyone, anywhere with Internet access. If that’s not easy enough, or in the case of COVID-19 where you need to unexpectedly provide the capacity needed to host your VDI instances, that’s not a problem. Just connected it to your public cloud account, and you’re off to the races. In true hybrid cloud form, Nutanix’s Xi Frame enables VDI instances hosted off your private cloud, AWS, Azure and GCP, even all at once if you’d like.
Other than being amazingly simple, Nutanix Frame has another trick up its sleeve. While most VDI solutions deliver the application interface through the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), Nutanix Frame instead uses an optimized version of H.264. This is important because the end client is interfacing with the virtual desktop infrastructure and needs to have the right user experience. What IT may not have control of is the network connection between the VDI host and the end-user interacting with the VDI instance. This is quite common with the remote workforce. On an insufficient network, your mouse may skip around or letters typed may not appear as you type them. This is an undesirable experience for anyone and will bring productivity to a halt. With Xi Frame, you can adjust the visual settings to be less graphically intense, enabling a lower impact or reliance on the network. If the best your end-user has is a wireless hotspot with 2 bars, no problem. Through Xi Frame, you can scale down the visual interface all the way to black and white if needed. This is a fantastic idea and used by a common system we all know today, Netflix. While binge-watching your favorite Netflix series, you wouldn’t be happy if the video kept pausing or the sound didn’t match up with the video due to a poor network connection. To address this issue, Netflix will adjust the video stream coming to your TV. If your network can’t handle 4k, maybe 1080p is enough, or it may even scale down to 720p. If everyone is stuck at home all trying to stream their favorite show, you may only have enough bandwidth for standard definition. While this might be less than ideal, at least you still get to watch your show.
There’s one other challenge, common amongst VDI solutions that Xi Frame also solves and that’s the device you access the VDI instance from. Most IT departments don’t have control over someone’s home PC and therefore won’t have control over what applications are installed on it. If a special client is required to be installed on the local PC in order to access the VDI instance, then it would be a troublesome barrier. What comes free and pre-installed with every Mac or Windows PC is a web browser, which is all that’s required to access the VDI session when using Nutanix’s Xi Frame. Xi Frame is completely browser native!
VDI has been around for quite a while now and so have remote workers. In the post-COVID-19 world, the new normal will include an increase in remote workers, and as such, an increase in reliance on VDI. With the variety of deployments, the ease of use, as well as a true cloud-native and browser-native solution, Nutanix’s Xi Frame is an excellent choice for VDI whether it be a complete on-premise solution or enable a remote workforce.
Nutanix acquires Frame: www.nutanix.com/press-releases/2018/nutanix-announces-intent-acquire-frame
Impact of Cloud in a Gaming World: https://cstor.com/experts-blog-impact-cloud-gaming-world
Nutanix Frame Documentation: https://docs.frame.nutanix.com
Nutanix Bible: https://nutanixbible.com
Frame Demo Next 2019: https://youtu.be/jFguFqgeIzE?list=UUWpj3JNtbBxs-7dFZk19dWA
IDC Complexity Report: https://go.nutanix.com/idc-converged-infrastructure-it-report.html