Is Samsung Chromebook Plus The Perfect Chromebook?

Over the past couple of years I’ve been collecting a lot of chromebooks. As of the 13th of Feb, I now own 6, mostly Acer and Samsung devices. As much as I love the concept of a low cost, ultra portable and secure thin client with excellent battery life & then leveraging Citrix for my enterprise apps, it always felt like there was something missing. Some of the common complaints were display resolution, build quality, lack of offline access and lack of a good touch screen model under $500.

Needless to say I was extremely intrigued when Samsung announced the 12 inch Chromebook Plus and the price point. I pre-ordered the device and got mine earlier this week. My experience so far has been terrific. Lets look into why I feel this device is close to perfect.

Design

The Samsung Chromebook Pro is a  12.3-inch laptop that also converts into a tablet. It is powered by an OP1 Hexa-core (Dual A72, Quad A53) ARM processor with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. It comes with two USB Type-C ports and a microSD slot. It has various display modes, very similar to the Lenovo Yoga. It has a full metal design that weighs just 2.4 pounds. It comes with a stylus that pops out of the right side of the system, letting you take notes with Google Keep and other apps and smart enough to recognize characters, allowing you to search through your handwritten notes afterwords.

Display Resolution

Resolution has been one of my biggest gripes with chromebooks so far. And boy does this device address that issue. The Chromebook pro comes with a quad HD (2400 x 1600) pixel screen made with Gorilla Glass 3. with a 3:2 aspect ratio. The high resolution means my Citrix VDI instance looks absolutely spectacular on this device. Lots of real estate too!

Battery Time

Based on my testing so far, the battery time of the Chromebook Plus is on par every other chromebook I own. I’m getting approximately 9-10 hrs. Keep in mind that the resolution for this device is also one of the best. So that the battery time extremely impressive.

Android Apps!

This to me is a GAME CHANGER!! As you know, Google announced support for Android apps on chromebooks last yr. The challenge was that just a handful of devices were actually supported, and even among the ones where it was supported there was only one that had a touch screen. Personally I believe Android app support is pointless if there is no touch screen. Thankfully the Chromebook plus does have one! The combination of android app support, great resolution and touch screen makes it the perfect device. I now have a number of key productivity apps, many of which I can use offline. Some of my favorites so far are Citrix Secure Mail, Secure Web, Sharefile (Enterprise File Share and Sync), Slack and Skype for Business to name a few.

Touch Screen

The touch screen is extremely responsive. No lags whatsoever. Works great in tablet mode. Also great when using Android apps. All chromebooks moving forward need to be touch enabled IMHO. You cannot effectively use Android apps without touch!

Stylus!

The Chromebook Plus comes with a pressure sensitive stylus that is on par with others like the Surfacebook. Is it perfect? No. But its quite good. I can totally see myself using this device to do a white board or sketch a design while I am at customers. Very handy!!

Final Thoughts

Today was my first day out on the road with just the chromebook pro. I honestly did not miss my XPS 13. I accessed my Citrix VDI instance the entire time and the experience has never been this good on any of the other chromebooks I own. I also used a number of android apps including Skype for Business, Sharefile, Secure Web and others. The combination of VDI, chrome browser and native mobile apps is quite amazing. I used the the system for around 5 hrs and did not run into any issues during that time.

At $449, this device is a steal! If you are looking for a chromebook today, this should be in the list of favs! If I were to change one thing, I would add more memory to this device. Android apps can eat up memory fast!

Kudos to Samsung for a job well done!

Citrix acquires Unidesk: Here’s why customers should care!

Application layering has been a hot topic in the End User Computing space, specially the last 24 months or so. Layering allows you to decouple applications or groups of applications form the underlying operating system thereby enabling you to manage them indepedently. There are quite a few players in this space including AppVolumes by VMware and FlexApp by Liquidware Labs and Citrix’s AppDisk to name a few. But there is no arguing that Unidesk has been around the longest and has the most mature and comprehensive solution.

With today’s announcement from Citrix around the acquisition of Unidesk, customers have even more flexibility in terms of how applications and workspaces are delivered to their end users whether the workloads are running on premises or in the cloud.

Before we get into the key benefits of Unidesk and why this acquisition adds tremendous value, its important to understand some of the challenges that Citrix customers face. A good place to start is this survey that Unidesk conducted.

The Problem At Hand

1. Image Management – Today both PVS and MCS customers have to maintain multiple images. Larger environments sometimes manage and maintain over 10 images on a day to day basis. One of the reasons for this is business units needing one off applications leading to various silos. The administrative overheard involved in maintaining the images sometimes leads to needing dedicated resources who solely focus on image updates, testing and deployment.

2. Pooled desktops and assigning layers at runtime – Most Citrix customers are forced to use persistent desktops for certain use cases today due to users needing different sets of applications. If there was a way to decouple applications from the OS and deliver applications at login dynamically based on user privileges, then the same pool of desktops can be used for multiple use cases thereby reducing infrastructure costs and operating costs.

3. As customers move workloads to the cloud, there are new challenges that surface when it comes to image management. These need to be addressed in order to reduce cost, improve performance and thereby increase cloud adoption.

4. Not every application can be delivered via XenApp. Some applications need to be installed locally. App-V has been an alternate technology that a number of customers use but many still like to have the ability to install these locally.

5. While AppDisk provided layering, there were various limitations including the inability to attach layers at run time and the inability to use layers with persistent desktops. Appdisk also lacks true version management and rollback.

How the Unidesk acquisition helps address these issues

1. Unidesk already has a large number of Citrix customers and tight integration with both XenApp andXenDesktop. They are a proven technology at scale, a preferred MS partner for application and image management, and well regarded in the partner community.

2. Unidesk has connectors for PVS and MCS thereby simplifying application delivery and eliminating the need to manage and maintain multiple images.

3. Unidesk provides flexibility in terms of how the layers are delivered either at pre-boot or  and dynamically delivering apps into running session hosts without reboot. Unidesk has a feature called Elastic Layering that allows for layers to be attached at run time. So in a XenApp environment for instance, since applications are attached at run time, different users groups can be assigned different applications while connecting to the same server. This eliminates the need for silos.

4. Application compatibility is no longer a concern as Unidesk supports layering applications that have drivers and system service dependency and even apps that run while users are logged out.

5. Unidesk supports layering for persistent desktops in addition to XenApp and pooled desktops thereby addressing every use case. Also persistent layers can be assigned to users even while using XenApp. This allows administrators to provide users a more cost effective VDI option to their end users with persistence based off of XenApp.

6. Full Lifecycle Management of layers across your environment with version control, rollback etc.

7. Unidesk’s approach to layering is fundamentally different. A layer is assigned per application. Administrators the have the ability to create a profile so to speak consisting of the various layers for a user group. These layers are then combined into a single vhd that is then attached at boot or at run time depending on the assignment. When compared to other layering solutions since the number of vhd’s mounted is minimized, performance is greatly improved and login times reduced.

7. Cloud adoption has increased steadily over the past couple of years and customers are more inclined than ever to start moving workloads to public clouds, especially MS Azure. The Azure connector from Unidesk simplifies image management in the cloud. Layered Images can be assigned to different Azure collections. In addition all image collections can be updated by patching the OS and app layers only once. The Unidesk applicance can also run in Azure and is available via the Azure Marketplace. When you combine Citrix Cloud with Unidesk, there is definitely a better story now to be told around deploying and managing VDI workloads in Azure.

Final Thoughts

The Unidesk acquisition along with our recent acquisition of Norkskale helps customers further reduce infrastructure costs while increasing operational efficiencies and guaranteeing the most optimal end user experience. For customers running VDI in cloud or considering the move, Unidesk is a great new addition and will simplify image management. Citrix’s position as the industry leader in End User Computing is further solidified.

 

 

How to enable Local Host Cache in XenApp/XenDesktop 7.12

Local Host Cache (LHC), which was a key feature of the IMA architecture in XenApp 6.5 and earlier was reintroduced for the first time in the FMA based XenApp/XenDesktop 7.12 release.   You can learn more about LHC in detail in my previous blog on the topic.

Prior to 7.12, users were able to access resources (with some caveats) while experiencing site database loss using a feature known as Connection Leasing. When upgrading to 7.12 from an earlier release with Connection Leasing enabled, LHC is disabled by default.

To enable LHC run the following powershell command on the upgraded broker.

Set-BrokerSite -LocalHostCacheEnabled $true -ConnectionLeasingEnabled $false

The above command, enables Local Host Cache and disables Connection Leasing.

The Get-Brokersite cmdlet provides the current state of Local Host Cache (whether its enabled or disabled)

To disable Local Host Cache and enable Connection Leasing, run the following command:

Set-BrokerSite -LocalHostCacheEnabled $false -ConnectionLeasingEnabled $true

XenApp/XenDesktop 7.12 Local Host Cache Explained

With the release of XenApp and XenDesktop 7.12 Citrix brought back one of the most requested features from the XenApp 6.x days – The Local Host Cache (LHC). For those of you new to this term, it essentially provided a way for users to connect to their XA/XD published resources while the SQL based database is down but keeping a local cache on the XenApp servers themselves. LHC now replaces Connection Leasing in 7.x as the primary mechanism to allow connection brokering operations when database connectivity to the site database is disrupted. In this post, my goal is to dig into the architecture of Local Host Cache in 7.12 and how it works.

Architecture:

lhc-architecture

 

The above diagram from Citrix Documentation shows the architectural components that make up the Local Host Cache. The feature is disabled out of the box when XA/XD 7.12 is installed. If you are upgrading from a previous version LHC will be disabled under certain conditions. See the table below for further details.

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With LHC, users can connect to Apps and Desktops that they have previously not connected to. This was not possible with Connection Leasing where users could only connect to resources that they had previously connected to.

Every broker now has three new services. The primary broker service, the secondary broker service and the configuration sync service.

LHC sychronization during normal operation and central database connectivity is not affected

  • During normal operations, the primary broker service communicates with the site database while the secondary broker service remains idle. The CSS makes sure the local db on each of the controllers is synchronized periodially.
  • Primary broker service accepts connection requests from Storefront, then communicates with Site DB and provides users access to VDAs registered with the controller and that they request access to.
  • Every 2 minutes, a check is made to see if there have been any changes to the primary broker config.
  • If a change is detected, then the primary broker uses the Citrix Config Synchronizer Service (CSS) to copy configuration to a secondary broker. This is not an incremental copy but a full copy from the primary broker to the secondary broker.
  • Secondary broker then imports the configuration to a local SQL Server Express database on the controller.
  • Once the config is copied the CSS service confirms that the config on the secondary broker matches the config on the primary broker.
  • Local DB on the secondary broker is recreated each time a config change is detected on the primary broker (checked in 2 minute intervals)
  • Secondary broker runs as a Windows service called Citrix High Availability Service

What happens when there is an outage and database connectivity is lost

  • During an outage, the primary broker can no longer connect to the site database and stops accepting connections.
  • Primary broker instructs secondary broker to start listening for and processing connection requests. An election process ensues to determine which controller takes over the secondary broker role. There can only be one secondary broker accepting connections during a site db outage.
  • When the VDAs start communicating with the secondary broker, a re-registration process is triggered and the secondary broker gets current session information about the VDA.
  • During the outage period, the primary broker continues to monitor the connection to the site database and when connectivity is restored, it instructs the secondary broker to stop listening for connections and the primary broker resumes brokering connections thereby restoring normal operations.
  • When a VDA communicates with the primary broker after it has taken over brokering, a re-registration is triggered.
  • The secondary broker removes all VDA registration info during the outage and continues checking for config updates on the principal broker every 2 minutes and updating its LHC when changes are detected.
  • If an outage occurs during an LHC sychronization, the current import is discarded and the last successful imported config is used.
  • It is important to note that during an outage, only one active secondary broker is available. So from a scalability perspective this could be a limitation. The secondary broker as mentioned earlier is chosen based on an election mechanism.

Local Host Cache and Citrix Cloud

  • If you are currently leveraging Citrix Cloud for your XA/XD control plane, the LHC functionality ensures that connectivity loss to the control plane does not impact users from accessing their resources.
  • LHC synchronization occurs the same way as it would in an on premises XA/XD deployment and the config changes are synchronized from the Citrix cloud via the Cloud connector.
  • To provide fault tolerance when connectivity to the Citrix cloud is lost altogether due to a WAN link failure, Citrix Storefront and potentially Netscaler would need to be on premises.

Local Host Cache Restrictions

  • You cannot run Studio and Powershell Cmdlets when LHC is active and site database connectivity is down.
  • Site configuration changes cannot be made when the connectivity to the central database is unavailable. This is very similar to the IMA based LHC implementation in XenApp 6.x
  • New machines cannot be provisioned as hypervisor interaction is not possible when LHC is operational.
  • Users cannot be assigned new resources during the site database connectivity outage.
  • Machines with a “Shut down after use” configuration will be placed in maintenance mode when LHC is operational
  • Anonymous sessions launch requests are denied when LHC is operational.

Troubleshooting

The two main tools to troubleshoot LHC are the Windows Event Logs and CDF traces.

  • The Config Sync Service logs events in the Windows Event logs in relation to LHC synchronization. If no config changes occur during the 2 minute intervals, no events are logged. If CSS receives a config change, the event is logged with event id 503. If the update to the secondary broker is successful, the event is logged with event id 504. If the update fails, the event is logged with event id 505
  • When the secondary broker takes over during an outage, event log entries are made indicating that the Citrix High Availability Service has started handling brokering. Once services are restored, you would see logs indicating that the Citrix High Availability service has stopped brokering. There will also be events related to secondary broker election. Event IDs include 3502, 3503,3504 and 3505. When Citrix Cloud is in play, XA/XD proxy log events are present. CDF traces can also be used for advanced troubleshooting.

Enabling Local Host Cache After Upgrading

Local Host Cache is not enabled by default when upgrading from an earlier version of XenApp and XenDesktop 7.x. I have written a blog on how to enable LHC after an upgrade.

Citrix Monthly Newsletter – September ’16

General Announcement and News

Citrix Acquires Norskale: Making the Industry’s Best App & Desktop Delivery Performance Even Better

Throughout our history, Citrix has been a leader in delivering the best secure app delivery user experience available, a key reason customers choose our products and services. That commitment to provide the best experience possible continues with the acquisition of Norskale, a privately held user environment management (UEM) company.

XenApp and XenDesktop 7.11 is Here!

XenApp and XenDesktop 7.11 embraces the latest Microsoft platform offerings establishing the foundation for Day 1 support of Windows Server 2016, provisioning of app and desktop workloads on Azure Resource Manager and enhancements for App-V integration.

Admins now have advanced management options for delivering apps and desktops across geographically dispersed sites based on criteria such as user location, app location or user profile. Ongoing site management improvements deliver new performance metrics and alerts, easier self-service password reset configuration, and more provisioning options. This release continues to enhance the user experience with improved graphics rendering capabilities, new application delivery options for Linux, and profile management improvements. All these new capabilities and more converge with the 7.11 release to reaffirm XenApp and XenDesktop as the market-leading solution for virtual app and desktop delivery.

StoreFront 3.7 Has Been Released!

Storefront 3.7 was released earlier this month and with it comes a number of new features like Self Service Password Reset, Zone Preference Improvement, Receiver for Web Small Form Factor support etc. Find out more in this article.

Unified, Focused: Worx Apps Are Changing to XenMobile Apps

In Q4 of this year, we will be consolidating the number of XenMobile sub-brands by replacing “Worx” with “Secure.” Worx apps will undergo a name change only. The apps will look the same and function the same. This change in naming will not require users to re-enroll their devices or update the XenMobile Server. During the regular application update process, end-users will receive the newly named app, but all application data and workflows will remain exactly as they were before.

Citrix SCOM Management Pack for ShareFile is Here!

We are pleased to announce availability of a new Citrix SCOM Management Pack for ShareFile—a specialized monitoring and reporting console to further improve availability, performance, security and capacity-planning for a ShareFile deployment. The Citrix SCOM Management Pack for ShareFile is an add-on to Microsoft System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) to monitor product-specific metrics for ShareFile.

Receiver 12.3 for Mac Has Landed!

Mac OS 10.12 codenamed Sierra was recently released. Citrix is happy to announce that Receiver 12.3 for Mac has also been released.

AppDNA 7.11: Added Security & Server 2016 RTM Reporting

The release of XenDesktop 7.11 comes with the new version of Citrix AppDNA with a new reporting module for Server 2016 RTM and added security algorithms for the Security reporting feature introduced in 7.9.

Citrix Named a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Application Delivery Controllers…Again!

Gartner has published the 2016 Magic Quadrant for Application Delivery Controllers. At Citrix, we are pleased to see that we are positioned as a leader in this space for the tenth year, and we are positioned furthest overall for completeness of vision.

Citrix XenServer Supports Microsoft Plans for Enhanced Virtualization Security

Today, Microsoft announced their intent to extend their Server Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP) with an Additional Qualification for third party hypervisors, such as Citrix XenServer, to support some Windows Server 2016 virtualization-based security features (VBS), notably Credential Guard (CG) and Device Guard (DG). Windows Server VMs running on SVVP validated platforms will be able to leverage the new VBS capabilities to strengthen the isolation of a number of security-sensitive components and deliver enhanced security for Windows applications and desktops.

Citrix wins virtual desktop interface shootout

Virtual Desktop Interface is becoming easier to do, with potentially killer graphics, reasonable port virtualization, fine-grained administrative control, and with potential hosts other than Windows.

While Citrix XenDesktop/XenApp remains the one to beat, two other VDI platforms we tested, Ericom Connect Enterprise and Parallels Remote Application Server, can provide for the publishing of diverse applications to desktops, while following “the rules” regarding resource accessibility and security.

In testing, we found Citrix leads the pack in terms of overall flexibility, although its vast feature sets can increase support burdens. If price-be-damned and you really want the venerable Full Meal Deal, it’s Citrix XenDesktop/XenApp Enterprise. We found it has almost everything you could ask for in a VDI product.

Is your security awareness training program working?

Employees at Axe Investment, the fictional firm of biollionaire Bobby Axelrod in Showtimes new series, Billions, were downright angry when they learned that surprise SEC raid was only a test. Axelrod, though, found the mock raid fruitful as it revealed the internal weak links of his organization.

These are metrics that enterprises should be using to evaluate the success of their security awareness programs. In order for awareness training to work, it has to keep everyone in the enterprise, well, aware.

Minimize Windows 10 migration headaches by freeing data from devices

Operating system migrations require detailed planning, as every part of the end-user computing “stack” – hardware, applications, data, and user profiles — needs to be assessed before proceeding. From an organizational productivity standpoint, maintaining the availability of the data people need to do their jobs is a top concern.

How to support Microsoft’s Skype for Business tool on virtual desktops

Microsoft was sluggish in providing a comprehensive enterprise unified communications (UC) product organizations could integrate into a virtual desktop deployment. Virtualization was always an afterthought with Microsoft’s Lync messaging platform, the predecessor to the Skype for Business tool before the company acquired Skype in 2011.

Now, the partnership between Citrix and Microsoft has spawned the HDX RealTime Optimization Pack 2.0, which puts the virtual desktop on par with its physical counterpart when it comes to UC support.

The reality is, in an enterprise environment, IoT will be much more complex than the individual smart device/smart thing relationship. It gets back to Tim O’Reilly’s point about systems. When we started talking IoT initiatives nearly two years ago, we found most people were not excited to talk about IoT as it related to a new sensor, device or gadget. Instead, they were intrigued when you talked about the potential for IoT to help solve complex business problems. As organizations become increasingly digital in all aspects of their business, new challenges in managing the connections, devices and applications that make up their digital business arise. This is especially relevant as enterprise applications evolve to be a collection of services and interactions spread across the cloud, on-premises systems and devices/sensors/things.

Why Citrix Is Better than VMware in Desktop Virtualization

Offerings that have to interoperate are always better between companies that cooperate than companies that don’t. And firms at war with each other seldom are successful with joint efforts. Often joint efforts between firms that actually want to work together fail due simply to cultural difference.

What gives Citrix the sustainable advantage is not only the fact it has a tighter relationship with Microsoft, but—because it appears to realize that it has to do most of the heavy lifting to maintain the relationship, there is none of the typical finger-pointing between the firms. Citrix owns the solution and responsibility and thus if Microsoft becomes distracted it is prepared to fill the gaps.

Yes, The Cloud Can Be A Security Win

There are so many different kinds of clouds — public, private, hybrid, internal — that many businesses and customers have difficulty deciding which is the right one for them. Furthermore, many businesses may use a few different variations of cloud environments — a private cloud for their own intranet, a hybrid cloud to keep some data on premises and some off premises to meet compliance regulations, and a public cloud for low-risk data.

These different types of environments make it difficult for IT and security teams to monitor every cloud on every device, or to monitor access requests for each different type of cloud environment. If you don’t control the cloud or where your data and apps reside, don’t manage them, or don’t know what you have in the cloud, your risk starts to sprawl and you don’t even know what’s happened when there’s a breach — or where to start to remediate. Follow these guidelines to make sure you avoid the cloud’s possible pitfalls.

Best Practices/Reference Architecture Documents/Blogs

XenMobile Touch ID Restriction Configuration & End User Experience

This blog describes how to configure Touch ID restriction on XenMobile Server and end user experience when Touch ID is enabled/Disabled for iOS devices.

Skype for Business from the Azure Cloud!

Times have changed! Today, calling from a cloud has a whole new meaning, with Skype for Business Online and Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop for Azure. Co-developed by Microsoft and Citrix, this unique solution brings not only telephony, but a full repertoire of Unified Communications features to the Azure cloud.

Introduction to Isolation Groups in XenDesktop

By design, App-V applications are isolated from each other and each AppV application is run within its own separate virtual environment—they do not share any data with other AppV applications. While this application isolation is welcome, as it promotes application compatibility by preventing any cross-application conflict, there is a need, at times, to overcome this restriction in certain strategic scenarios.

What Does Windows Server 2016 Day 1 Support Really Mean?

Citrix will support Windows Server 2016 on Day One! But what does that really mean? Does that mean that if I got my hands on the released bits of Windows Server 2016 on X Day of X Month (remember, I can’t tell you the actual release date) that I could then install XenApp and XenDesktop 7.11 on it and start using it? Immediately? Well, in a word, yes. Yes, it does. It’s really that simple. So, you see, there is no need to take the old approach to a new server OS and wait years to start working on it. You can truly start deploying and testing your own apps on Day 1 with XenApp and Windows Server 2016.

XenApp 7.11: Scalability & Economics on Microsoft Azure

Deploying Citrix XenApp 7.11 workloads from the Microsoft Azure cloud can give your IT organization a strategic advantage since it enables the delivery of desktops and applications in an agile way – you pay only for what you use. In fact, the price point for deploying a XenApp farm on Microsoft Azure can be as low as $6.89 per month per user.

XenApp & XenDesktop 7.x Server OS VDA Staggered Reboot Framework

This is the second version of the reboot framework for XenApp/XenDesktop Server OS VDAs.

Citrix Linux VDA 1.4 Introduces App Publishing with XenApp & More!

Linux VDA continues to evolve with every release, enabling more and more use cases. The Linux VDA 1.4 release is part of XenApp and XenDesktop 7.11 and it adds support for Linux application publishing with XenApp, anonymous login, policy management, USB redirection and expands HDX 3D Pro support on Linux.

Security and End-User Productivity with XenMobile & Office 365

Keeping pace with the rapid change from corporate-owned data centers to cloud services while maintaining tight control of your data and identity is a challenge.Mobile devices add an additional level of risk. However, Citrix XenMobile is built to bring a higher level of security to these platforms, no matter the location of your assets.

Configuring GSLB for XenMobile

Customers have many requirements. As I usually deal with large customers, a disaster recovery solution is always one of them. With XenMobile 10.x, things have gotten a lot easier: clustering is a piece of cake, and to direct traffic to the right data center we have NetScalers and GSLB (Global Server Load Balancing) at our disposal. This post is about configuring GSLB on NetScalers for XenMobile.

Self-Service Password Reset for FMA!

Learn more about Phase 2 of the Self Service Password Reset capabilities introduced in XenApp and Xendesktop 7.11.

Using Citrix Director in a MultiForest Environment

Citrix Director is capable of monitoring a XenDesktop and XenApp environment spanning a forest configuration where the users, XD Delivery controller, VDAs and Citrix Director can be located in same/different forests.

Step-by-Step Guide to Mac OS X Enrollment with XenMobile

Citrix has released XenMobile 10.3, which supports enrollment and management of the Mac OS X. Once the Mac OS X is enrolled, the administrator can manage the device by deploying multiple policies and perform various administrative tasks remotely thus making sure that they are complainant.This guide contains the step-by-step instructions accompanied with screenshots for a hassle-free Mac OS X enrollment. This guide also contains steps to collect the Mac OS X logs for troubleshooting when needed.

Using XenApp & XenDesktop in Azure Resource Manager

The recent addition of Azure Resource Manager support to Citrix Cloud’s XenApp and XenDesktop service provides a powerful new tool for creating and managing cloud hosted VDAs

nFactor authentication – MFA on steroids

The latest version of NetScaler has deeper integration with nFactor and can now be used with NetScaler Gateway and Unified Gateway. With nFactor you can configure an unlimited number of authentication factors. You are no longer limited to just two factors and you can get creative on how to chain them. Configuration will depend on the security policy and many times, user adoption and training are considerations to look at.

StoreFront Aggregation Groups Revisited

Over the past 12-18 months, we have seen a dramatic shift with the number of deployments using Web Interface versus StoreFront to the point that StoreFront is the de facto standard in new environment builds and migrations that we are seeing within Citrix Consulting. The majority of these deployments are also leveraging advanced multi-site settings in some way: either Optimal Gateway Routing to enable the use of HDX Insight for internal (non-Gateway users), user farm mapping to assign different groups of users to different farm sets, or aggregating resources from multiple farms/sites to collapse duplicate applications and/or desktops behind a single icon.

Extend the Microsoft RDS platform in Azure through Citrix solutions

Recording of a session from MS Ignite showcasing the new XenApp Express service in Azure that will replace RemoteApp.

Events/Webinars

Solution Webinar: How to deploy NetScaler Unified Gateway for Hybrid Cloud and secure access to Microsoft Office 365

Deep dive into how NetScaler Unified Gateway provides secure access to Office 365 and hybrid cloud workloads.

Register Now

Oct 5 – Master Class: NetScaler Rate Limiting and NetScaler and AAA

Live technical webinars to learn about the most critical elements of cloud infrastructures and enterprise datacenter architectures.

Register Now 

Desktop Master Class: September 2016

Register Now 

Solution Webinar: What’s New in XenApp and XenDesktop

Register Now  

Master Class: Mobility Master Class: September 2016

Register Now  

Solution Webinar:  Avoid Ransomware with a Published Browser

Register Now

Master Class: NetScaler 101- TCP optimizations and compression: delivering applications effectively across the Internet.  In the Spotlight – NetScaler in Citrix environments: remote access; high availability and visibility for XenApp/XenDesktop solved

Register Now 

Solution Webinar: Why Healthcare IT Prefers Citrix over VMware: A Dose of Security in an Unsecure World

Register Now 

Solution Webinar: Top six things you might not know about SD-WAN

Register Now 

Citrix and Microsoft: Making Cloud Simpler, Business Faster

Register Now

Getting Started with the Citrix HDX Pi – A step by step walkthrough

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A few months back, I wrote a blog on how to configure the Raspberry Pi thin client to access Citrix workloads. If you are completely new to the HDX Pi and want to learn more about the benefits, this is a good place to start. Since then Citrix announced the HDX Pi and I have received requests from members of the community to blog on configuring the HDX Pi. So here it is!

What you need:

  • One or more HDX Pi’s ( Microcenter edition)
  • ThinLInx Managment Software

Configuration

The HDX Pi comes pre licensed for the ThinLinx Management Software (TMS). So you can go to the ThinLinx website and download TMS and install on a windows PC. Once installed, run TMS.

Connect the HDX Pi to the network in addition to the obvious (keyboard, mouse, display). Once the Pi boots up, you will see the client within TMS.

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You can now update a number of parameters and push files to the device within TMS

  • Change the name
  • Change protocol to HDX if you prefer
  • Push SSL certs if needed (If you are using private certs on Storefront for instance)
  • Change network parameters (if you dont want to use DHCP for instance or use a custom DNS server)
  • Change display parameters.

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TMS is also how you would push new firmware to the device.

Once you are done with the configuration changes, reboot the device. Once rebooted, you should see the updated parameters within TMS.

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Once rebooted, you will have to specify the URL that you want the Pi to connect to. This is your Netscaler Gateway URL.

After you enter the URL, you will be prompted for credentials.

Once authenticated by the Netscaler, you get prompted to pick the Store after which you see your applications and desktops.

Some Caveats to keep in mind

One catch with TMS today is that the URL does not persist unless you save it at the Pi itself. To do this, while at the storefront screen, use the Ctrl+Alt+C key combination and hit “Save Settings”. Now reboot. The HDX Pi will now authenticate and take you right to your apps once rebooted.

The TMS server will only discover devices on the same subnet. So make sure that your TMS server and Pi are on the same subnet will configuring the devices or else discovery will fail.

Viewsonic version of the HDX Pi is also available. However the configuration procedure is a little different and will be covered in a future blog post.

Once the configuration URL is saved, as mentioned earlier the device will boot straight into storefront using credentials provided initially. In order to configure a new store, you can clear config and reset to default on the device or you can factory reset the device via TMS.

Keyboard Shortcuts:

  • ctrl alt r twice to factory reset
  • alt f4 to exit HDX screen
  • ctrl alt v – volume
  • ctrl alt c – config screen
  • ctrl alt t – terminal

To learn more about performance check my previous blog. I look forward to your feedback!

 

LUMA SURROUND WIFI SYSTEM – MY INITIAL THOUGHTS

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Back in February, I noticed Luma on Kickstarter. What made it compelling to me was the concept of a mesh network, which could in theory remove all deadspots around the house and guarantee excellent network throughput everywhere.

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As most engineers out there, I have a large number of wireless devices throughout the house and consistent throughput has always been a concern. In addition Luma promised some interesting security features including the ability to link users to devices on the network and then apply parental controls on a per user basis. The product also promised to proactively monitor the security posture of connected devices (done through a cloud based service). So for these reasons I pre ordered a 3 pack and received my devices earlier this week. I finally hooked up the devices and wanted to share my initial thoughts.

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SETUP

Setting up the Luma is a breeze! You literally hook up one of the devices to your modem or router, download an app via Google Play or the Apple Store and it walks you through the entire setup step by step.  I have my Linkys 1900ac and Luma running in parallel, both hooked up to my modem. I use the Luma primarily for media streaming devices. One of the access points did not successfully configure the first time during setup and i had to go through the process again. The process was extremely simple and intuitive nonetheless. Luma is geared to those who have zero knowledge about networking. Even my mom would be able to get through the configuration process successfully.

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The tool recommends ideal locations to place the access points but following the recommendations, I noticed that the throughput was not optimal. I eventually ended up placing the access points as close to each other as possible on the three floors and that seemed to give the best throughput.

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THE GOOD

  • As discussed above, the setup is extremely intuitive and simple
  • The product will appeal to most consumers who are not tech savvy due to the simplicity of the setup and exceptional network coverage.
  • Linking devices to users and applying parental controls on a per user basis is an awesome feature that appeals to parents like myself.
  • You can completely eliminate deadspots throughout your house while maintaining consistent throughout everywhere
  • Network security scans that monitor the security posture of all your connected devices is a nice feature. However it is cloud based.
  • The iOS and Android apps are very well designed, although they are pretty limited in features as of now.

THE NOT SO GOOD

  • Zero configuration options from a network perspective besides setting up a WiFi network. Not even the most basic settings.
    • No DHCP configuration options (scope, reservations, lease time etc)
    • No port forwarding
    • No advanced firewall options
    • No QoS settings
  • Cannot configure multiple Wireless Networks (beyond the guest network). Cannot separate 2.5 and 5 Ghz networks
  • Requires you to setup a cloud based account and uses cloud based network scanning solution that cannot be turned off. This is a major concern for some.
  • From what I can tell, the Luma acts as a forward proxy and also handles DNS resolution which is NOT CONFIGURABLE. I can see why this is necesary to filter traffic and apply parental controls. However I noticed a significant delay in DNS resolution (up to a 5 second delays) when trying to resolve URLs. This is extremely unappealing and a major show stopper for me. I also assume that this data is also flowing through their cloud service which is concerning.
  • While handling streaming video, so far I am noticing periodic network drops and freezing which I never noticed with my Linksys 1900ac. I will need to investigate further.
  • The throughput offered by the first wired Luma that you setup is almost three times higher than the rest. I am getting 300 Mbps on the main Luma and only about a 100 on the other two Lumas. I had read some reviews that claim the same flaw. With that said, 100 Mbps is not bad 🙂
  • A bunch of features that were promised on Kickstarter have not made it into the initial release. However, the support team tells me that they are extremely aggressive about updates and are updating the mobile app twice a month and releasing firmware updates pretty aggressively. So I’m pretty certain that they’ll catch up.

THOUGHTS OVERALL

In addition to Luma, there are a few other products out there that offer a similar solution, Eero being the most popular. The real differentiator with Luma (at least in theory) were the advanced parental controls and the fact that the devices itself are much more beefy with quad core processors and such. While I am honestly a little disappointed with my initial experience, especially with regards to all the missing advanced network features, I am cautiously optimistic that these will be rolled into the product soon. So here are my initial thoughts:

  • If you are not tech savvy and want a really simple solution that just works, provides you consistent coverage everywhere and you dont care about advanced network features, then LUMA IS FOR YOU!
  • If cloud hosted services are a concern, then Luma is not for you.
  • If you already own a Linksys 1900ac or a similar advanced router, I would honestly hold back for now and wait to see how the product evolves. Too many gaps as of now.
  • If your main reason for looking at the solution was parental controls, it might be a fit however not all the features have been rolled out. You could look at Circle from Disney to complement your existing wireless solution. You could also take a closer look at Eero.

I will update this post as I have more information to share!

Breakout Sessions That You Dont Want To Miss This Year At Citrix Synergy!

For the past couple of years, I have tried to filter through all the breakout sessions and compile my top picks. The purpose is to help my customers build their agendas, especially if this is the first time they are attending and are not familiar with the speakers. This year I have broken it down by the top 10 overall, my top 15 technical sessions, top 10 sessions for management level attendees and other picks that just missed the top 10.

General Tips For First Time Attendees

  • Do not miss the keynotes!
  • Networking with peers from the industry is one of the best aspects of attending Synergy. Make sure you take the time to reach out to others while attending sessions. Also spend as much time as possible at the expo and meet the various vendors.
  • Do not decide on attending a session just based on the title. Always check the speakers and agenda as well.
  • Provide your feedback on the sessions you attend. This will help Citrix improve future breakout sessions.
  • Do not hesitate to ask questions to the speakers either during the session or after the session. The breakout sessions are a golden opportunity to get some face time with some of the brightest minds and you should take full advantage!
  • If you are new to the products or have not played with the latest and greatest versions, make sure you stop by the Solutions Sandbox and get your hands dirty.
  • Follow Synergy on twitter. You will receive great insights on the sessions, keynotes etc. An unfiltered perspective I might add.

My Top 10 Overall

SYN115: The inside scoop on workplace transformation: five digital imperatives

SYN106: AppDisk and AppDNA: the unbeatable combination

SYN101: Citrix CTO Perspective: The Application Delivery Continuum

SYN105: GPU State of the Industry: Intel, NVIDIA and AMD

SYN145: Security: the never-ending balancing act between users and hackers

SYN206: What’s new in Workspace Cloud Services

SYN112: What’s new and next for ShareFile

SYN212: Seeing is believing: a side–by–side comparison of Citrix XenDesktop and VMware Horizon

SYN305: Architect Citrix on Microsoft Azure

SYN322: Security–hardening XenApp and XenDesktop

Top 15 For Technical minded attendees

SYN108: What’s new – XenApp & XenDesktop

SYN302: Best Practices: Optimizing XenApp infrastructure with Lifecycle Management

SYN210: Containers or Virtual Machines? It’s not necessarily one or the other; get the best of both worlds!

SYN304: Deployment best practices for the newest XenApp and XenDesktop HDX technologies

SYN220: XenApp and XenDesktop security best practices

SYN204: Deep dive into the Workspace Cloud Apps and Desktops Service: use cases, features and best practices

SYN307: Single-sign-on pass through with Receiver

SYN212: Seeing is believing: a side–by–side comparison of Citrix XenDesktop and VMware Horizon

SYN322: Security–hardening XenApp and XenDesktop

SYN323: XenApp and XenDesktop tech update – May 2016

SYN213: Managing an application from procurement to deployment in XenApp and XenDesktop using Citrix AppDNA

SYN243: Simplify application access with NetScaler Unified Gateway: tips from the field

SYN305: Architect Citrix on Microsoft Azure

SYN321: Securing the published browser

SYN315: SD-WAN deep dive: what, why and how

Top 10 for Management level attendees

SYN107: Deliver Skype for Business with XenApp and XenDesktop

SYN106: AppDisk and AppDNA: the unbeatable combination

SYN101: Citrix CTO Perspective: The Application Delivery Continuum

SYN202: State of the DaaS industry in 2016

SYN145: Security: the never-ending balancing act between users and hackers

SYN203: Tips for XenApp and XenDesktop organizations expanding to Citrix Workspace Suite

SYN115: The inside scoop on workplace transformation: five digital imperatives

SYN206: What’s new in Workspace Cloud Services

SYN129: What’s new: NetScaler Unified Gateway

SYN112: What’s new and next for ShareFile

Other Recommendations

SYN226: Make the most of your Microsoft Office 365 subscription with ShareFile

SYN512: Bloomberg: secure and isolated app hosting

SYN223: I bet on ShareFile and won: a customer’s ShareFile journey

SYN327: (Re)design your Active Directory

SYN509: Transforming student experience through secure virtualization and mobility

SYN105: GPU State of the Industry: Intel, NVIDIA and AMD

SYN225: How XenMobile stacks up to other enterprise mobility management solutions

SYN237: Five features that set NetScaler apart from the competition

SYN205: Best practices for leveraging Microsoft Azure as a hybrid resource location in Workspace Cloud

SYN219: Getting up close and personal with MCS and PVS

SYN311: Deep dive on ShareFile security options: keep your data safe

SYN215: Monitoring best practices for your Citrix infrastructure with new SCOM management packs

SYN325: XenDesktop 7.x high availability and load balancing cheat sheet

SYN327: (Re)design your Active Directory

Citrix Monthly Newsletter – March ’16

General Announcement and News

Synergy Session Catalog Is Live

“Citrix Synergy is the premier industry conference on digital business transformation. Synergy provides attendees with the tools and confidence they need to say yes to workforce mobility, security and compliance, BYO, workplace redesign, hybrid cloud infrastructure—and whatever comes next. This year Synergy is in Las Vegas from May 24th-26th. Find out more about the various sessions, keynotes and hands on lab by reviewing our session catalog which is now live at citrixsynergy.com”

Driving Digital Transformation – Kirill Tatarinov, Citrix CEO

“Citrix is an enabler of digital transformation, helping customers in all industries to unlock their business potential. It has been terrific to hear resounding support for this mission in my many conversations with our customers and people around the world.”

Shelton Public Schools Saves Two Million Dollars Using Citrix Technology

“One of the most influential trends in education today is differentiated learning, whereby educators provide students with different pathways to learning in the same classroom. Shelton Public Schools, a K-12 school district in Western Connecticut, has addressed this trend by using Citrix technology to support the Google Chromebox computers that mount on the back of a monitor and retail for less than $200 – a fraction of the nearly $500 per device Shelton Public Schools would have had to spend on desktop computers for its classroom learning centers. ”

Citrix Radically Simplifies the Secure Delivery of Browser-based Apps

Citrix Secure Browser product family provides a quick, simple way for any IT organization – even those that have never used a Citrix product – to securely deliver web and SaaS applications to any modern browser. In minutes, an administrator can set up any web application to be securely delivered to any device, even internally hosted web apps, without intrusively installing anything on an employee’s device.”

Hospital CTO finds virtualization and security in Citrix

“As associate vice president and chief technology officer of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Sean Updegrove works to make sure his physicians get their patients’ health data safely, quickly and conveniently whether they’re on hospital rounds, at home or in the clinic. For this task, he chose Citrix technology for virtualization and security of the physician portals and workflows that transport data from Children’s Cerner Corp. EHR to clinicians as they move around the hospital.”

Biggest EMM Trends of 2015

” Serving as the “invisible middleman,” enterprise mobility management (EMM) gives IT and employees the tools and confidence they need to just say yes to workforce mobility. With empowering employees to work and collaborate the way they prefer as a baseline (hearkening back to today’s trend for organizations to adopt BYOD policies to let people use their own PCs and mobile devices for work), Citrix recently polled customers that deployed EMM in the cloud using XenMobile last year.”

iOS 9.3 – What’s In It For the Enterprise?

XenMobile provided same-day platform support for the release of iOS 9.3. With every new iOS release I’m always curious to see what’s in it for the enterprise and 9.3 doesn’t disappoint.

Citrix Unleashes Industry-First Integrated Platform for SD-WAN

Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN) offers the reliability, visibility, control and flexibility businesses need today to address the demands placed by new bandwidth intensive applications on their wide area networks—and in 2016 there is strong momentum toward mainstream adoption. Citrix unveiled a complete solution for enterprises on this path: CloudBridge Enterprise Edition, a single platform with fully integrated WAN virtualization, WAN Optimization, enterprise-grade security, and end-to-end visibility.”

The Fastest PoC in the Cloud – XenApp in the Azure Marketplace

“I am pleased to announce that you can now try XenApp 7.8 in the Microsoft Azure Marketplace. This offering is the latest addition to our already existing portfolio in the Azure Marketplace, which includes NetScaler VPX (BYOL) and ShareFile StorageZones Controller.”

Best Practices/Reference Architecture Documents/Blogs

Citrix Appdisks How To Guide – Administration Basics and Gotchas 

AppDisk, an application layering solution was part of XenApp/XenDesktop 7.8 released in late February this year. This post is not meant to cover the basics of application layering or image management as a whole. My goal in this post is to cover the administrative aspects of application layering using Citrix AppDisks.

Remote PC Access for XenDesktop: Not Flashy, Just Fantastic

“With over 1,500+ customers and 500,000 systems actively enrolled and using Remote PC Access, it is gaining visibility everywhere as a valuable standard in deploying XenDesktop. And who wouldn’t adopt it? Combining the power of HDX, energy cost savings with Wake on LAN (WOL) and security provided by NetScaler, its simple deployment model appeals to every vertical and every customer size.”

Session Recording in XenApp & XenDesktop 7.8 Ensures Compliance & Productivity

“Session Recording, available in XenApp and XenDesktop Platinum Editions, allows administrators to record on-screen user session activity and play it back at a later time as required. It has been available for server-based desktops and published applications for some time, and now, VDI desktops are supported as well. Policy control and notification options provide flexibility to meet environment requirements and regulations.”

Configuring XenMobile Unified Gateway

“Where remote users needed to access their SaaS and Enterprise apps along with XenApp/XenDesktop published apps via their web browser, they used to launch the NetScaler Gateway’s URL. Post authentication if the AppController was integrated with StoreFront, they get access to apps published by AppController and StoreFront. Unified Gateway is integrated into NetScaler 11.0 release. When configured, Unified Gateway provides consolidation via one URL to access multiple secured services.”

Updated Guidance on PVS Ports and Threads

“Recently, I had a chance to talk with our PVS Sr. Architect Jeff Pinter-Parsons who led me to believe that we need to reevaluate the details surrounding this leading practice. Per our discussion, PVS is actually not using a standard threading model where each client gets it own port/thread much like a TFTP server does. Instead PVS has a listener for each port that receives a request and dumps it on a port specific thread pool. The threads in the pool process each request, one per thread. If there are more threads than cores, the leftover threads simply block. Adding more threads than CPU logical core is not going to help on performance.”

StoreFront Message Customization

“This is a newer version of a customization I wrote about last year. This version will work with StoreFront 3.0 and up. (Previous version StoreFront 3.0 Message Customization)”

Delete Local User Profile Folders on StoreFront Servers

“As many of you might be aware, the Citrix StoreFront authentication service provides an option for users to change their passwords when they expire. By default, this option is disabled when the authentication service is created, which prevents users from changing their passwords even if the passwords have expired. If you decide to enable this option in Citrix Receiver for Web, keep in mind that StoreFront creates a local user profile to check whether a user’s password is about to expire. Hence, sufficient disk space is required on the local disk of the StoreFront servers.”

Machine Learning with Octoblu and Microsoft Azure

Octoblu enables companies to create IoT services with secure realtime exchange of data. The services are built on open communications and management platform that supports a variety of protocols for physical devices to communicate seamlessly with each other, people, legacy applications, and cloud services. Through public, private, or hybrid clouds users can connect, design, process, and analyze the flow of information. All services have been designed to operate over a robust security and right management architecture.”

Support Articles/Security Bulletins

Events/Webinars

Webinars

Mar 30 Solution Webinar: Who’s driving your Windows 10 migration – employees or IT?

Join Citrix and Windows IT Pro contributor Theresa Miller to learn how to support employees on Windows 10 devices, cut the time and effort of application migration to a fraction of past projects, rollout standardized Windows 10 that’s easier to manage and update and measure your OS migration in hours (not months and even years).

Register Now 

Mar 30 Solution Webinar: What’s Your Biggest Worry with Windows 10 Migration?

Join us as we take a technical deep-dive into the tools built into XenApp and XenDesktop that you can use today to make this your best Windows migration ever and avoid the headaches of the past.

Register Now 

Seminars

Oct 2015 – Mar 2016 Seminars: From vulnerable to secure: Strategies to mitigate mobile security threats

Join us at a city near you for a mobile and virtualization security focused complimentary luncheon, filled with use case scenarios and live demos, to learn how you can protect apps and data and mitigate security threats with Citrix.

Register in a city near you

Mar – Apr 2016 Seminars: Q1 NetScaler Master Class Seminar Series

Join us at a city near you for an in-person master class covering best practices for installing and securing your website with Citrix NetScaler and a deep dive on the role that NetScaler plays in SDN.

Register in a city near you

Mar – May 2016 Seminars: Cisco on the Road (Formerly Cisco Live Local Edition; Cisco Tech Days)

One day educational and training event, organized by Cisco Enterprise, Commercial and Public Sector Teams. Customer attendance rate ranges from 100-500 attendees per event, in which 80% are Technical Contributors and the rest 20% are in IT Management, Sr. Management and Executives.

Register in a city near you

Apr — June 2016 Seminars: Technical Demo Days

Join us in a city near you for a demo-driven, interactive technical seminar showcasing the entire Citrix story through dynamic “day in the life” end-to-end demonstrations across a range of devices.

Register in a city near you

Deminars

Every Tuesday and Thursday Deminars: Intro to Citrix Mobile Workspaces

Join us for an interactive, technical session on the benefits and capabilities of Citrix Workspace Suite in these demo-focused webinars.  Each session will begin with a valuable use case review that you do not want to miss! Register now to select the date that works best for you.
Register Now: Tuesday SessionThursday Session  

Every Wednesday Deminars: Intro to Citrix NetScaler

Join us for an interactive, technical session on the benefits and capabilities of Citrix NetScaler in these demo-focused webinars.  Register now to select the date that works best for you.
Register Now: Wednesday Session

On Demand

Mar 2 Master Class: Back to basics: Server Load Balancing on NetScaler and Admin partitions

Register Now 

Mar 8 Solution Webinar: What’s New in XenApp & XenDesktop 7.7 and 7.8

Register Now 

Mar 9 Master Class: EMM for Windows 10 and the latest Citrix XenMobile MDX features

Register Now 

Mar 15 Solution Webinar: Deploying Skype for Business with Citrix NetScaler

Register Now 

Mar 23 Desktop Master Class: Browser Apps, Better Management and Brilliant Graphics

Register Now 

Citrix Appdisks How To Guide – Administration Basics and Gotchas

AppDisk, an application layering solution was part of XenApp/XenDesktop 7.8 released in late February this year. This post is not meant to cover the basics of application layering or image management as a whole. You can refer to my blog for a quick overview. My goal in this post is to cover the administrative aspects of application layering using Citrix AppDisks. With that said, lets dig right in!

Creating an AppDisk

There are couple of approaches to creating an AppDisk. The first method is to manually create it at the hypervisor level and then import it within studio. The second approach is to create and assign the AppDisk right from within Studio. You can read more about both approaches here.

To create an AppDisk from within Studio:

Click on the AppDisks node within Studio and then select “Create AppDisk” from the Actions menu.

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On the next screen, select the size of the disk. There are predefined options of 3, 20 or 100 GB or you could pick a custom size. This is also where you would import an existing AppDisk that you have created manually. Keep in mind that on a 3GB AppDisk a good chunk of the space is already used up and you would most likely get less than 1 GB for any new applications you are looking to install into that layer. 

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Next, you select the machine catalog you would use for the VM used to install applications into this AppDisk. Only the compatible options will be made available. For instance in the screenshot below, the only two options available are the NonPersistentVDI catalog and the Win 7 Pool. Reasons are provided as to why the remaining machine catalogs are not made available. Also worth noting that AppDisks can only be assigned random pool catalogs. The machine catalog should have at least one available VM for the AppDisk creation to work.

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Next, give the AppDisk a name and the AppDisk creation process initiates. In my lab, I have seen anywhere from 10 minutes for a 3GB disk and under 20 minutes for a 20GB AppDisk (SATA storage). Creation of these disks on SSD storage was about 30% faster.

Once the AppDisk is created, you can install the required applications.

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Installing Applications within an AppDisk

Within Studio, click on the newly created AppDisk. It should say “Ready to Install Applications”. Under the details section for the AppDisk, the preparation machine information is provided. Within the hypervisor management console, login to the preparation machine and install the required applications.

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Once you have installed the applications, within studio, highlight the AppDisk and under the Actions pane, select “Seal AppDisk”. This starts the sealing process and once that is completed, you can run AppDNA compatibility analysis for that AppDisk.

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Keep in mind that AppDisk Layering cannot be used for applications that have file system drivers and services.  AppDisk does not include application isolation. App-V or Turbo.net provides that functionality. 

Configuring AppDNA and Analyzing an AppDisk for Compatibility Issues

The main differentiator between AppDisk and the other layering technologies out there is the integration with AppDNA for Delivery group compatibility analysis. For instance, once we create an AppDisk we can test compatibility against multiple XenApp Images or a pooled Windows 10 delivery group as examples. This gives the administrator the assurance that the AppDisk is going to work with that delivery group without having to go through extensive regression testing. When you have multiple AppDisks assigned to a delivery group, the AppDNA compatibility analysis also makes sure that all the AppDisks play well together and reorders the AppDIsk assignment if need be based on the analysis. AppDNA integration is a XenApp/XenDesktop Platinum Only feature. 

Before you can run any compatibility analysis, AppDNA needs to be configured within Studio. Click on the AppDNA section under configuration and specify the AppDNA connection settings. Make sure the connection test passes.

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Getting back to where we were in the AppDisk creation, we had just started the sealing process. Once this process is complete, the AppDNA compatibility analysis will automatically kick in if AppDNA connection settings are configured. The compatibility analysis is done against the machine catalog that the preparation machine belongs to. When you assign an AppDisk to a delivery group, compatibility analysis is carried out automatically against that delivery group. If there are multiple AppDisks assigned, then the AppDisks will be reordered if needed based on the analysis. There is an option to “Auto Order” the AppDisks when you assign an AppDisk to a delivery group. 

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To view the report, click on “View Report” next to the AppDisk that you just sealed.

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You can also view the reports from within the AppDNA console under the reports section. Here you have various views including the Application Issues, Application Actions, Issue View and Action View.

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Assigning an AppDisk to a Delivery Group/Groups

To assign an application to a delivery group, click on Delivery Groups within Studio, highlight the Delivery Group that you want to assign the AppDisk to. Under the Actions pane, select “Manage AppDisks”.

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The next screen shows you the currently assigned AppDisks and gives you the ability to add AppDisks. Once you assign your AppDisk, select Auto Order.

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You can then select the rollout strategy. You can either reboot all the machines within that Delivery Group immediately or you can assign the AppDisk at the next machine reboot. You can then review the configuration and then click Finish. This initiates an AppDNA compability analysis if you have XenApp or XenDesktop Platinum entitlement and have configured your AppDNA server within Studio.

You can assign an AppDisk created with one OS to delivery groups running other OS’s as well so long as the application is compatible with the target OS. Within my lab, I tested assigning two AppDisks created with a Win2k12 preparation VM to a Win 7 random pool.

To assign an AppDisk to a delivery group, that delivery group needs to using the same storage. To assign an AppDisk to a delivery group on different storage, you would have to create a new VM at the hypervisor level tied to the target storage, clone and associate the AppDisk to the new VM and the reimport it within Studio. I am hoping this process will be simplified in upcoming releases of the product.

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Updating an AppDisk

Currently there is no version management built into AppDisk. This means that each time you need to make an update, you are essentially cloning the existing AppDisk, making changes to it and then reassigning the new AppDisk to the Delivery Groups. It is also worth noting that you CANNOT resize an AppDisk when creating a new version.  

To update an AppDisk, click on the AppDisk node within Studio, highlight the AppDisk you would like to update and select “Create New Version” from the Action pane.

On the next screen, select the Pooled Random machine catalog that you would like to use for the preparation VM. Again a VM needs to be available within that Machine Catalog to perform the update.

You then name the AppDisk with version information and click “Create New Version”. This kicks off the AppDisk creation process as detailed earlier. AppDNA compatibility analysis will be carried out against the preparation VM machine catalog once the new version of the AppDisk is created.

Once the new version is ready, you can assign the AppDisk to the required delivery groups and unassign the old version. This will once again kick off the AppDNA compatibility analysis.

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Resizing an AppDisk

There are no options to resize an AppDisk from within studio today. You would have to resize at the hypervisor level and then reimport and reassign the AppDisk. I am hoping that this is addressed in the near future.

Deleting an AppDisk

To delete an AppDisk within Studio, click on AppDisks, highlight the AppDisk you would like to delete and select “Delete AppDisk” from the Action pane.

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Final Thoughts

As I described in my previous blog on Image Management, AppDisk takes us one step further in simplifying Image Management. However App Layering is not a one size fits all solution and should be used in conjunction with other solutions like application isolation and the likes. I am quite impressed with AppDisks for a v1 product. The performance has been very good considering I conducted most of my testing in my lab using SATA storage. However, I do hope that certain administrative tasks (like AppDisk resizing and versioning) improve in the near future.

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