Making The Case For A Heterogeneous Hypervisor Strategy In The Datacenter

When it comes to server virtualization in the datacenter, most customers tend to standardize on a single hypervisor platform, and VMware today clearly has the market share. The most common reasons for standardization are ease of support and skill set of resources. However for certain workloads, it can be argued that you do not need all of the bells and whistles offered by the main hypervisor platform and you could be overpaying significantly. An example of this would be a dev/test environment, where you might not necessarily have the same requirements for DR/HA as compared to your Tier 1 Mission Critical applications. In addition you could be limiting yourself from taking advantage of certain features and functions that could potentially help increase user productivity, protect intellectual property and drive innovation. An example of this would be VDI workloads. vSphere does not natively support in memory caching (Content Based Read Cache) for XenDesktop whereas XenServer 6.5 does. Another example of this would be high end graphics workloads, where there are definitely feature gaps between hypervisor platforms. And with regards to ease of support and skill set of resources, the top 3 hypervisors in the market – vSphere, Hyper-V and XenServer have matured to the point where supportability is not as complex as it used to be.

If you are a vSphere customer today or a EUC partner & if you haven’t already looked into XenServer 6.5, I recommend you do. The 6.5 release is the first version of XenServer that is 64bit through and through. At a high level, this means much higher user density/scalability and tremendous improvement in performance compared to XS 6.2. Below are some key features/improvements  that I want to highlight:

  • 300% improvement in Storage Read Throughput with In Memory Read Caching that can help you eliminate boot storms and improve VM boot times by nearly 300%.
  • 96 vGPU’s per host for high end graphics workloads – If you are not familiar with HDX 3D Pro and virtual GPUs with the NVIDIA GRID Technology. I recommend you review this blog. With the 6.5 release, each XenServer host can support upto 96 vGPUs and as a result, enterprises can deliver high end workloads to users at a much lower cost/user while guaranteeing the highest performance.
  • 700% improvement in Network Throughput (when compared to XenServer 6.2)
  • Simple, Intuitive and Comprehensive monitoring and alerting of your XenServer hosts and workloads
  • Workload Balancing (WLB) is better than ever and helps maintain performance thresholds and automate your workloads intelligently based on parameters you define. In addition, a ton of additional reports have been added that provide detailed insight into how your environment is performing. For more on WLB, review this blog by Rachel Berry.
  • Simplification of product packaging and reduction in cost – XenServer now comes in two flavors: Standard and Enterprise and is licensed on a per socket basis and the cost for XenServer Enterprise which includes in memory caching, distributed virtual switch, workload balancing among others is only $1250/socket.
  • Xendesktop Enterprise and Platinum customers own XenServer – Most XenDesktop customers run XD on vSphere even though they are entitled to run XenServer. With the improved performance and scalability and the new features added in XenServer 6.5, now is the time to move your XA and XD workloads to XenServer! It is important to keep in mind that as new features are added to XA and XD they are typically made available initially on XenServer. Moreover customers would have a single, integrated stack for desktop and app virtualization supported end to end by Citrix. You can find out more about licensing here.

To summarize, I believe a heterogeneous hypervisor strategy is something every enterprise should look into in order to reduce costs and to help create solutions optimized for use-case specific workloads, such as high end graphics, desktop and cloud workloads. With Xenserver 6.5, Citrix has proven its commitment towards server virtualization and will continue to innovate! For those interested in learning more about XenServer 6.5, be sure to attend the Master Class on Feb 10th!

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Why the X1 Prototype Mouse from Citrix makes perfect sense!

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At Summit 2015, Mark Templeton announced the prototype of a mouse named code named “X1″. The mouse is specifically designed for the iOS platform. As many of you probably know, Apple does not support pairing a bluetooth mouse with iOS devices. The X1 mouse bypasses this limitation by allowing users to pair the mouse with the Citrix Receiver app thereby enabling them to use the device with published applications, VDI and Hosted Shared Desktops.

If you look at the enterprise landscape, iOS still dominates the mobile market. While it has always been possible to access Windows applications and desktops via Citrix Receiver, its debatable whether the users are actually productive. With the mobility pack, desktops can be re-skinned to suit the form factor, but it was still not quite where it needed to be in terms of productivity. Not to mention, most native windows applications that have not been customized for the mobile form factor were generally not very usable other than viewing data. Thanks to these limitations, most of us generally had to carry a laptop in addition to our mobile device to get real work done.

The X1 mouse has fundamentally solved these problems. Users can now be fully productive on iOS devices  as they can not only view data, but can also quite easily edit and manipulate data. windows applications and desktops (both VDI and hosted shared) are a lot more usable and functional.  Walking around with just a tablet is now a reality. I really believe that the X1 mouse will encourage mobility and help move forward Citrix’s vision of a Software Defined Workspace!

The significance of the Sanbolic acquisition for existing Citrix customers

If you are reading this, you’ve probably already heard the announcement from Citrix today with regards to the Sanbolic acquistion. I wanted to share my thoughts on how this benefits existing XA/XD customers.

When you look at enterprise customers who have invested in XA/XD, 80-90% of these customers leverage PVS for workload provisioning. One of the most common architectural and operational challenge when it comes to PVS is image management, specifically the replication of images both among local PVS servers and also across datacenters. Customers typically leverage DFS-R/robocopy or some other replication tool provided by their SAN vendor but these solutions present unique challenges and increase cost. Sanbolic’s Melio will immediately help existing customers solve this challenge while also addressing high availability.  Sanbolic also helps with image management and high availability for customers leveraging MCS. Today, a number of customers have XA/XD farms built out as DR solutions that are completely under utilized. Sanbolic helps scale out existing XA and XD sites across regions in an active active configuration thereby better utilizing resources and reducing costs.

Another key feature is Sanbolic’s “Software Defined Storage” product, which aggregates and optimizes disparate storage whether in your datacenter, a private cloud, a public cloud (AWS/Amazon/Azure) or a combination of these, through the use of Melio. This will help customers reduce the overall infrastructure costs while delivering optimal performance and addressing DR and HA. Sanbolic has also partnered with Fujitsu, HP and Lenovo to offer hyper converged solutions providing cost effective scale-out solutions.

All in all, this acquisition is extremely exciting and something that will help existing and prospective XA/XD customers build highly redundant, scalable solutions at lower costs while at the same time improving operational efficiencies. Not to mention the infinite possibilities that lie ahead as far as the evolution of Sanbolic under Citrix and how it will be integrated into the Citrix virtualization stack.

No information available yet on product pricing and packaging, but we should be hearing something soon! Stay tuned!

 

 

Thank You Muziboo!

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Back in 2007-08, I was totally overworked and burnt out. I remember my wife telling me that I needed to get back into music just as a stress buster. It was around this time I got introduced to Muziboo through Sudeip. I remember how I felt after my first upload and the reading the first few comments shortly after the upload. I felt so happy to know that people actually took the time to listen to my amateur covers and moreover encourage me with positive feedback. Little did I know this was the beginning of something much greater. Over the next couple of years, my life revolved around Muziboo. I uploaded over 200 songs, collaborated on a number of projects with others, learned a great deal about the nuances of singing in different languages and genres, mixing and whole lot more. I even had the opportunity to pass on what I learned to others and mentor some youngsters. But the greatest gift that I received through Muziboo were the friends (too many to list.. you know who you are). Some of my closest friends today are friends I made on Muziboo and we have shared our joys and sorrows together. Muziboo has definitely made me a more versatile singer, not afraid to go out of his comfort zone.

It is sad to note that the site is shutting down, but it is what it is. I want to thank Prateek and Nithya for the community they created and for their hard work and determination to keep the site running through some very difficult periods. You both have a lot to be proud of! Rest assured, Muziboo has a very special place in all our hearts and will never be forgotten!

Why Every Citrix Administrator running XenApp 6.5 Should Consider Upgrading to XenApp 7.6

In my current role as a Sales Engineer covering some of the largest enterprise accounts, I have been preaching about the XenApp and XenDesktop 7.x architecture and benefits for about 1.5 yrs now. While the 7.x architecture was most definitely a step in the right direction, some of the earlier releases definitely had some gaps that needed to be addressed. And I would constantly hear about these gaps from my customers, who would then typically shoot down migration till these gaps were addressed by Citrix. I want to highlight some of the common themes as to why customers were not ready to move to the 7.x architecture and zxhow they’ve been addressed in XenApp 7.6:

No Local Host Cache under the new FMA architecture

In older versions of XenApp, with the Local Host Cache feature, users were able to enumerate and connect to applications and published desktops even if there was a database connectivity issue or a database outage. With the XenApp/XenDesktop 7.x FMA architecture prior to the 7.6 release, a database connectivity issue or outage meant that users lost the ability to access applications and desktops during the period of the outage. While larger customers addressed this issue by investing in highly available SQL infrastructures, smaller customers found this to be cost prohibitive in some cases.

Connection leasing creates a lease file that holds information about a users active session, which is then replicated to all the other controllers within the site. In the event of a DB failure, XenApp and Xendesktop can reference the user’s connection history and provide the user access to a previous connection.

One can argue that the connection leasing methodology is in some ways better than the old local host cache as you no longer have to deal with corrupt/stale cache issues and recreating the cache on all your servers.

For a quick overview of Connection Leasing check out this video on Citrix TV

Here’s another great blog by Paul Stansel, that goes over various powershell commands to tweak Connection Leasing parameters

No Anonymous User Access

This was another feature than was available in XenApp 6.5 and earlier, most commonly used by healthcare customers which enabled users to launch applications without first having to authenticate to Receiver or Storefront, thus enabling users to access applications from any available device. XenApp 7.6 reintroduces this feature. A Server OS based delivery group within XA/XD 7.6 can now be configured to allow anonymous access. However, a separate Unauthenticated storefront store would be required.

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You can find a brief video that shows the configuration and demo of this feature here

Lack of support for Session pre launch and linger

For any user that is used to running local applications on their desktops and laptops, the first thing they would complain about in a Citrix environment was the launch time for the initial application. Depending on the environment, this could range from 5 seconds to in some cases, minutes. To address this issue, XenApp 6.x introduced session pre-launch and session linger. With this feature enabled and configured, when the user logs in to his desktop and authenticates to receiver, a session is already established. As a result when the user launches a published application, it launched instantly. In earlier versions of XenApp/XenDesktop 7.x, this feature was not available. 7.6 brings back both session pre launch and linger and its stronger than ever with even more configurable parameters (see below)

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Inability for administrators to create application folder hierarchy within Studio and Storefront

The average enterprise customer typically has hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of applications published via XenApp. Back in the XA 6.x (and earlier) releases, administrators had the ability to create folder hierarchies to organize applications to simplify management of these applications. Also when it came to user access, administrators were also able to group applications in folders based on departments, application suites etc that made things more intuitive for the end users. This feature has been brought back in XenApp 7.6 and should make a lot of administrators (and users) very very happy!

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Again, another video that goes over this feature in XenApp 7.6

Feature  gaps within Edgesight, particularly application usage reporting and license utilization reporting.

Back in mid 2013, Citrix introduced the new Edgesight and Director, which was completely rebuilt from the ground up. The new version no longer required a separate infrastructure and is agent less. There was also a lot of focus on incorporating dashboards in order to make it easier for administrators to find the information they need without having to dig through numerous reports. Overall, the redesign of Edgesight resulted in a more intuitive UI, and a reliable monitoring environment with less infrastructure requirements. However, there were some major gaps when compared to Edgesight 5.4. The two that I constantly heard about from customers were hosted application usage reporting and license utilization monitoring. These have now been added to XenApp/XenDesktop 7.6.

You can check out the full list of enhancements in Edgesight and Director here.

For more on Hosted Application Usage Reports, check this blog.

Virtual IP Loopback

While most applications work easily within a XenApp environment, some enterprise customers still have to support applications that require the end user application instance to have a unique IP address. This was possible in XA 6.x.

With Virtual IP loopback in XA 7.6, the XA server allocates a unique IP address to each session or a specific application, and as a result administrators are now able to support applications that require this functionality.

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BUT WAIT, THERE’S SO MUCH MORE!

I truly believe that there will be much wider adoption of the 7.6 release because it is so much more than addressing feature gaps and includes a number of key enhancements that further enhance the end user experience, improve scalability and reduce overall costs! Lets take a look at these features:

User Experience Enhancements

In addition to session pre launch and linger, some of the other key enhancements that improve the overall user experience include:

  • A new HTML5 Receiver for Chrome OS that supports printing, USB, clipboard, touch, webcam and 2-way audio!
  • DirectX Video Acceleration which allows the backend servers to utilize GPUs to decode H264 videos.
  • USB 3.0 Plug and Play
  • HDX Realtime Optimization Pack for Lync 1.5: The new HDX Realtime Optimization Pack (1.5) now supports HD audio and video within a XenApp and XenDesktop session and supports Windows, Mac and Linux endpoints. The current release supports Lync 2013 backend with a Lync 2010 client on the published desktop/VDI instance.
  • New enhancements to Receiver on iOS and Android: The new receiver for iOS and Android include significant improvements whereby the hosted applications behave like native applications. There are improved gestures for application switching and closing and improved keyboard popup sensing. In session application switching has also improved significantly and now shows live previews of open applications, much like the behavior of a native application.

Security Enhancements

  • XenApp and XenDesktop are now FIPS 140-2 complaint and has achieved Common Criteria evaluation. Both XA and XD support end to end TLS encryption.
  • Clipboard Control: Unlike previous versions, administrators now have the ability to granularly control what content end users are able to cut/copy/paste when using XA/XD. The settings are extremely easy to configure via Citrix Policies. If the end user is connecting securely through a Netscaler, these settings can be further controlled based on the endpoint the user is connecting from and IP address information.

Migration Scripts From XenApp 6.5 to XenApp 7.6

  • With the XA/XD 7.6 release, customers also have access to powershell migration scripts that automate the migration of XA 6.5 IMA farm settings  to an XA/XD 7.6 FMA site. It also automates the migration of existing apps and policies from XA 6.5 to XA 7.5. Citrix Technology Professionals Jarian Gibson and Andrew Morgan worked on a blog together detailing the capabilities of this script that is definitely worth a read!

AppDNA Enhancements

  • XenApp and XenDesktop Platinum edition includes AppDNA, the market-leading product for assessing compatibility of Windows applications with any version of Windows desktop, Windows Server, XenApp,XenDesktop, and App-V among other things. AppDNA in XA/XD 7.6 adds even more compelling features including the ability to either manually or automatically analyze application dependencies! Even more bang for the buck!

Universal Print Server 7.6

  • Universal Print Server (UPS) introduced in XenApp 6.5 simplifies printer management by not having to install drivers on the XenApp servers/XD VM’s and instead print on the print server itself. The print traffic between the XA/XD VMs and the print servers is heavily compressed and optimized for the WAN. The code enhancements in the latest version of UPS makes the solution much more scalable and robust!

Final Thoughts

The XA/XD 7.6 release clearly proves that Citrix takes customer feedback seriously and makes every effort to make the necessary changes to address the feedback provided! XA/XD 7.6 is packed with amazing new features that make business sense for most enterprise customers. Moreover, most of the significant gaps have now been addressed. I believe XA/XD 7.6 will gain significant adoption. I would strongly encourage every XA customer to take a look at this release, kick the tires in a lab environment and start planning the production migration!

Some resources worth checking out!!

 

ShareConnect – Another gem from Citrix to enhance your Mobile Workspace

Yesterday (May 20th, 2014) Citrix released ShareConnect for the iPad, which is another Citrix SaaS offering that allows users to access files and applications on their remote physical PCs. While products like GoToMeeting (Citrix), RemotePC and LogMeIn provided access to remote PC’s, what truly sets ShareConnect in a class of its own is the optimized user experience. At the end of the of the day, as a user, the reason I want to connect back to that physical PC back at my home is to gain access to files or applications. While I do get access to these using the other products, the user experience is not optimal. I need to maneuver through my desktop using a mouse on an iPad, and this can be frustrating. Below is the user experience using ShareConnect:

1. Install application from the AppStore and sign in.

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2. Install agent on physical workstation.

3. Login

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4. Access files on your iPad, preview files.

photo 3 5. Access and launch applications on the iPad photo 4

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6. Access desktop on the iPad (if need be)

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As you can see from the screenshots, ShareConnect completely redefines “Access” to your remote PC by optimizing the user experience and providing a simple method to get to files and applications as opposed to just a desktop with its highly intuitive UI. I am really digging this product so far. I will update this post soon with a video as well.

The Future of XenApp and XenDesktop Image Management – A Utopian Viewpoint

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Over the past year or so, I have witnessed a number of heated debates around the future of image management for XenApp and XenDesktop. On one side we have the Provisioning Services (PVS) fan-boys and on the other we have the Machine Creation Services (MCS) gang. The PVS vs MCS topic has been beaten to death in the past and here are some of my favorite posts/debates:

I totally enjoy a heated debate by passionate individuals who truly believe what they preach With regards to Image Management both sides have their merits and there is no clear winner. The PVS camp is worried that eventually the technology will be deprecated in favor of MCS. Their argument (fully justified) is that 80-90% of all large scale XenApp and XenDesktop deployments leverage PVS, and MCS lacks the scalability and version management capabilities of PVS, not to mention the inability to support physical bare metal workloads. With the introduction of MCS for server based workloads in XenApp/XenDesktop 7.x, we have another camp that prefers Machine Creation Services mainly because of the simplicity of the solution and do not want to invest in additional infrastructure required for PVS and don’t want to deal with the added complexity of the PVS infrastructure. Before we delve into what the future could look like, lets break down the pro’s and con’s of each solution.

PROVISIONING SERVICES

  • Whats hot?
    • Highly Scalable
    • In built Version Management Capabilities
    • IOPS efficiency and reduced storage requirements.
    • Supports both physical and virtual workloads.
  • Whats not?
    • Additional Infrastructure
    • Complexity related to network configuration
    • Difficult to troubleshoot
    • Designed primarily for non persistent read only workloads

MACHINE CREATION SERVICES

  • Whats hot?
    • Simplicity
    • Technology built into core product and no additional infrastructure required.
    • Better suited for cloud provisioning.
    • Ideal for both persistent and non persistent workloads
  • Whats not?
    • Scalability not upto par with PVS, however has been tested upto 10000 endpoints.
    • Images have to be copied onto every hypervisor which increases time to rollout updates.
    • Storage requirements higher than PVS. Higher IOPS hit on the storage back-end (although not a big difference)
    • No native version management capabilities.
    • Does not support physical workloads

Clearly, both solutions have their strengths and weaknesses and there is no clear winner. So what should the future image management solution look like? I believe the future solution has to be a hybrid solution that combines the merits of both PVS and MCS. Here are some of the key elements that I would expect in an ideal scenario:

  • Most customers are currently looking at the public cloud or have already starting using the public cloud in some limited fashion. With that established, it is fair to assume that cloud providers are not going to like the network complexity associated with a PVS infrastructure and might not support it. So the solution would fundamentally have to be based on the MCS platform.
  • The solution needs to have some form of version management capability similar to what we have in PVS today.
  • Should support both persistent and non persistent workloads
  • High availability and disaster recovery should be addressed and simplified as much as possible.
  • Scalability of the solution has to be similar to what the users are used to with PVS.
  • No additional infrastructure should be required and the solution needs to be integrated within the core product. Administration should be possible from within Studio or some other central console
  • Troubleshooting should be simplified.
  • The solution should minimize storage requirements and should be IOPS efficient. There should not be a requirement to copy images onto every hypervisor supporting the virtual workloads.
  • Ideally the solution should be able support image management for physical machines as well, although I dont see this as being a key requirement 5 years from now.
  • Rapid provisioning and tear down of workloads.

While the above list seems daunting, I don’t think its far fetched to expect a solution in the future that addresses a majority of the features listed above. Unlike some, I am not in either the PVS or MCS camp. There are use cases for both solutions, which is why a hybrid solution would make the most sense. To all those out there who think PVS or MCS is the be-all end-all, let me quote George Bernard Shaw: “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds, cannot change anything” I would love to hear your thoughts, especially with regards to what the future of image management would look like. I l look forward to an engaging conversation!

Citrix Workspace Services and Microsoft Azure: A new chapter in the Microsoft-Citrix relationship!

At Citrix Synergy this year, Citrix announced what is called the Citrix Workspace Services (CWS), which is a hosted service that can be used for the creation, management and orchestration and monitoring of the end users mobile workspaces which encompasses not just their Desktops (XenDesktop), but also their apps (XenApp) and data (Sharefile). CWS can also be used to deliver mobile applications (XenMobile). CWS will be hosted on Microsoft Azure. Customers can build their mobile workspace infrastructure in their own private cloud , a public cloud (Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Cisco InterCloud, CloudPlatform, SoftLayer) or a hybrid cloud. 

The Workspaces control plane will be hosted on Microsoft Azure. The ability to deploy agents on hypervisors and then dynamically build the whole Workspace infrastructure (apps, data, desktops) while handling the entire management and automation via CWS on Azure is a pretty cool idea!  I believe that CWS being hosted on Azure will further bolster the Microsoft Citrix relationship and thereby increase customer confidence in a joint solution:

Most customers considering public cloud are thinking Azure or already on Azure especially with O365. So hopefully CWS being in Azure should mean tighter integration and faster adoption, not to mention better SLAs.

While some customers might want CWS on premise, majority will be fine with a cloud hosted solution. Look at Sharefile as an example and the mass adoption in spite of the control plane being hosted. The fact that the control plane is in the cloud essentially means we can take the upgrade woes away from the customer and simplify the whole experience. I think we can all agree that the future of applications is the SaaS model with a pay as you go option.

Much like every license of XenApp results in RDS license revenue for Microsoft, Citrix running CWS on Azure could lead to more customers moving to Azure which is a win win for MS and Citrix just like the old days.  Microsoft today announced the Azure RemoteApp service at TechEd and Brad Anderson today stated that MS will continue to work with Citrix in relation to the Azure RemoteApp announcement. He also spoke about Citrix Workspace services and I believe Azure RemoteApp can be integrated with CWS.

MS and Citrix have been working together for a long long time, and in lieu of the recent announcements, it seems like they have a lot up their sleeves that at the end of the day will benefit the ones that matter the most – their customers!

There has been plenty of buzz in the blogosphere around the CWS announcement. Here are some articles that I recommend:

Desktop as a Service (DaaS) – Is it the Silver Bullet we’ve been waiting for?

With Amazon’s recent announcement of Workspaces offering and VMware’s Horizon DaaS offering, customers have started to inquire about to relevance and reality of such a solution.  As a Sales Engineer, I address these questions from customers on a daily basis. While I believe DaaS is here to stay and might be a perfect fit for some (especially in the SMB space),  I dont think it is a solution for a majority of the enterprise customers out there today. I thought I would post my views why I believe DaaS is not the Silver Bullet. I want to be clear that the views expressed here are my own.

Cost:

While upfront, DaaS seems like a cost effective solution (Amazon Workspaces and VMware Horizon DaaS offering starts at $35/month), it offers you a very limited environment. When you size something similar to what end users are used to having as their corporate devices (beefy processor, 4Gigs of Memory, 100 GB HD), all of a sudden that cost is  higher (upwards of $65). Now how about your power users? You get the idea. This does not take into account applications. So when you factor everything and the costs associated with maintaining some multi tiered applications on premises, I would argue that the cost of DaaS could be a wash or higher when compared to an on premises solution. I am sure over time the  cost of DaaS will come down significantly and the application architectures will change and will suit the DaaS model. But as of today, cost is not a reason to move to a DaaS model for most enterprise customers.

Uptime, Reliability & SLA’s:

When considering DaaS, keep in mind is that the customer has no control over the backend infrastructure and is totally at the mercy of the service provider when it comes to reliability, DR and uptime. If a large service provider like Amazon can have outages, and be down for extended periods of time, you have to seriously question the reliability of DaaS. One way to mitigate risk is to define a robust Service Level Agreement (SLA), but this can be challenging due to lack of flexibility by the service provider. In an on premises XenDesktop implementation, the customer can architect a fully redundant and fault tolerant solution that the customer has full control of.

Performance/Complexity:

For customers looking to provide a desktop with just Office productivity applications, DaaS could be a viable option. Small businesses would be an example where such a solution would be a good fit. However, in the Enterprise space, the application portfolio is much larger and consists of a variety of tiered client server applications. Most customers are hesitant to move the backend data into the cloud for various reasons. So in order to make the DaaS solution work for enterprise customers some sort of a VPN tunnel is required that bridges the cloud infrastructure with the customer on premise infrastructure. The customer has to manage infrastructure on premises and in the cloud. This adds complexity, makes troubleshooting harder, could lead to performance issues, and could make DR and SLA agreements extremely complicated. Also in a scenario where users connect from different parts of the world and have data living locally, there could be various challenges as well. To summarize, some of the key technical challenges are:

  • Performance issues – If the DaaS provider does not have a presence across the globe, there could be serious performance issues when accessing the desktop. Few cloud vendors have presence outside the US. In a lot of cases, businesses or clients might control where the data is stored. If certain application data is stored locally in a different part of the world, there could be challenges in having the data synchronized at all times and could also lead to performance issues. In a traditional VDI model, desktops move closer to the applications in the data center which leads to better performance whereas with DaaS, desktops move further away from applications which is bound to impact the application performance and user perception.
  • Connectivity and bandwidth issues: One of the assumptions when going down the DaaS route is that the user is always connected. The challenge is that if there is any form of connectivity issues either at the service provider or the user, user loses access to the desktop. Also for a large enterprise to access thousands of desktops in the cloud, there could be a significant bandwidth requirement that could drive up the cost of the DaaS solution.
  • Maintaining infrastructure both on premises and in the cloud: In a lot of cases, data and application infrastructure will reside in the customer’s private cloud with the DaaS infrastructure living in the public cloud. This leads to added administrative overhead, challenges in troubleshooting end user issues, added bandwidth requirements and costs to list a few challenges.

Licensing challenges with DaaS

Licensing is one of the key challenges in a DaaS implementation. Microsoft does not offer a Service Provider License Agreement for desktop OS. As a result, most DaaS implementations are based on shared Windows Server OS or a dedicated Server OS/user. While the shared/dedicated server based DaaS environment could work fine for some users, it does not offer the same level of personalization/customization that true VDI solution based on a Desktop OS offers.

In order for a service provider to host a true windows desktop based VDI solution for a customer,  customer needs to own the Desktop OS licenses and transfer it over to the DaaS provider. Such a configuration leads to increased costs for the customer.

Persona Management:

The degree of user customization offered within a DaaS solution can be significantly limited as compared to on premises VDI solutions. These include USB peripheral support, printer management and profile management to name a few. Peripherals such as those that rely on a fast USB connection will not be able to communicate quickly with the service provider data center. Login times can be impacted if some of the profile data lives on premise. Printer driver support can become challenging as most DaaS providers rely on universal print drivers. Print job spooling could consume a lot of bandwidth and impact user performance.

Security/Trust 

Most companies are still very reluctant to host their confidential data in the public cloud where they do not have full control. In some cases, companies are not allowed to host data in the cloud due to regulations and compliance laws. At the end of the day, who owns the data? If the service provider is subpoenaed it is likely that can they divulge customer data without the customers consent.

No Offline Access

DaaS providers do not provide any form of offline access. Users need to be connected at all times in order to access their desktops. An on premises Citrix XenDesktop implementation on the other hand offers solutions that allow the user to access their desktops offline with bidirectional synchronization of data with the datacenter. If offline access is a requirement, then the DaaS solution is not a fit.

While this post might make it seem like I am anti DaaS, that is not the case. There are definitely use cases for DaaS in every enterprise, but it is not a solution for ALL use cases within an environment.

 

My Rebuttal to the latest VMware FUD: Citrix XenDesktop is for “Purely Virtual” use case

I recently got hold of a sales campaign email from VMware which focused around “taking out” existing XenApp customers by upselling them the VMware Horizon suite. The objective was to prevent customers from upgrading to XenDesktop. While I am all for competing with VMware and having a healthy debate on our competing strategies when it comes to Desktop Virtualization, I don’t appreciate FUD being spread that is ABSOLUTELY BASELESS. A lot of times, I walk into customers who have been completely misinformed on our solution. Below is the latest claim from VMware that I’d like to address in this post.

“Coach the customer in keeping XenApp and complimenting it with Horizon Suite for best in class virtual desktops, to manage physical desktops (this is key – Citrix is pure virtual, we on the other hand can do it all including physical via H. Mirage and virtual via H. View) “

Citrix is purely “Virtual”???? REALLY ??

Much before VMware acquired Wanova Mirage (2012), Citrix had XenClient which is a type 1 hypervisor that runs on physical endpoints and allows for centralized management of virtual desktops while providing offline access and bi directional synchronization. With XenClient 5, Citrix has further enhanced this product to integrate the personal vDisk technology thereby allowing for a single image to be shared by thousands of users while allowing customization and personal applications to be installed leveraging personal vdisk. Moreover, the users personalizations stored in the personal vDisk is available both in the hosted VDI environment and within XenClient. We’ve also extended this solution to Macs with the Desktop player for Mac which provides the same functionality via a type 2 hypervisor. XenClient is an ideal solution for physical desktops and laptops alike providing offline access, centralized management and layering of user personalization, apps and data.

Provisioning Services has been around for a long time as well as part of the Citrix XenDesktop suite which allows for streaming of images to physical endpoints, physical servers, virtual desktops and virtual servers. PVS also allows for centralized management of these images and to easily scale up/scale down capacity, rollout/pull back updates etc. Granted this solution is not an offline solution and not for mobile users, but it is a solution for physical endpoints and scales to thousands of endpoints from a single PVS server

If I were a customer, I would feel insulted with VMware’s strategy of shoving pure BS down my throat and insulting my intelligence.

 

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