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SmartStack by Cisco, Nimble & VMware

Last week Nimble Storage announced a new reference architecture  called SmartStack, with Cisco Systems and VMware for 1.000 simultaneous VDI users, requiring only 3U of rack space, for $43 for storage per desktop. A pre-configured, fully-integrated system – built around the reference architecture, which consists of a Nimble CS220G-X2 array, Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) B-Series Blade server platform, and VMware View 5.1 – enables customers to rapidly provision VDI, realize significant savings over deployment of physical desktops, and achieve high levels of security and central manageability.


  • Fully validated and tested Nimble Storage, Cisco and VMware reference architecture that eliminates the complexities of configuring compute, networking and storage;
  • Nimble Storage conducted load stress tests, including tests for boot storms and software patches, that optimize the system configuration;
  • Optimized desktop storage density: $43 per desktop for 1,000 users in 3U of rack space;
  • The architecture was tested with a moderate profile steady-state workload;
  • Modular product architecture provides easy scalability and support.


  • Cisco UCS B-Series Blade server platform including six UCS B230 M2 blades, each with dual-socketed 10-core Intel CPU and 256GB RAM;
  • Dual, redundant 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections between the Nimble Storage array and Cisco UCS Fabric Interconnect;
  • Windows 7 Enterprise virtual desktops with 1.5GB vRAM and one vCPU per desktop;
  • One Nimble Storage CS220G-X2 array with twelve 1TB hard disk drives and four 160GB flash SSDs;
  • VMware View 5.1 with VMware vSphere.


The founder and driving force behind VMGuru. With over 19 years experience in IT, he now works as a Cloud Management Specialist at VMware Benelux. Long time VMware VCP, VCP Desktop, VCA, VSP and VTSP and 8 year vExpert.

  • Kristopher Linville

    Erik, I appreciate the news but the article is a little misleading in the regard that you position it as being “only 3U of rack space” which is far from accurate if you’re referencing the complete architecture of the VDI solution. That 3U is for the storage array only. The UCS B-Series Chassis is an additional 6U and then you have to also include the Fabric Interconnects and most likely a couple of Nexus 5k switches which would bring the total rack space requirement up 13U. The difference in 3U and 13U is quite a large margin for error if you ask me. That’s 7% of a rack vs. 31% of a rack.

    • The article says: “requiring only 3U of rack space, for $43 for storage per desktop” and “Optimized desktop storage density: $43 per desktop for 1,000 users in 3U of rack space”.

      So it never states that the whole solution uses 3U of rack space, the article is written from a storage point of view.

      As the additional components are concerned: I think this will be a ExpresPod-like setup with C-series rack servers and Nexus 3000 switches, so with 200 VDI users per server, five servers you can get the whole solution in 10U (5 x 1U server, 1 x 3U storage, 2 x 1U switch)

  • Tom Courtney

    This is an interesting option, however you don’t talk about other costs. Such as, is the $43 just the storage component or does it include the associated hardware and software licenses?

    • “Optimized desktop storage density: $43 per desktop for 1,000 users in 3U of rack space” so the cost is only for the storage. The additional cost depends on the VDI solution and servers used. The article is written from a storage point of view.