Author Archive

Thank You Muziboo!

Muziboo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

AnonymousAccess

 

 

 

 

 

 

AnonymousAccess_Store

 

 

 

 

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)

SessionPrelaunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SessionLinger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Application folders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

VirtualIPLoopback

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

photo 1
photo 2   photo 3

2. Install agent on physical workstation.

3. Login

photo 4   photo 5

4. Access files on your iPad, preview files.

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

photo 5
photo 2

 

photo 1

 

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

photo 2

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

GIFSec.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Synergy Recap Part 2 – XenMobile Announcements

Continuing on the topic on Synergy, changes to the XenMobile product suite was the other big announcement..

Lets take a step back..

Up until the beginning of this 2013, Citrix’s approach to mobililty was Mobile Application Management through their CloudGateway product. The strategy was that enterprises would have the ability to deliver SaaS, Web, Windows and mobile applications all from a unified portal with integrated identity management. Enterprises could wrap corporate applications (MDX wrapped apps) and then deploy these applications to mobile devices.. These applications would then be containerized and live within its own bubble on the mobile device. Policies could be applied to each wrapped application and they could talk to each other but not with the users personal applications and data. Everything within the container could be wiped without affecting the users personal data. In addition, CloudGateway provided Federated IdentityReceiver would be the single client that would be used across all devices.

While this was a great strategy for BYOD, there was a lot of push back from companies who still wanted to manage corporate owned devices, where they wanted the ability to do full wipes, enforce various policies at the device level and also other features like Geo Fencing.

Fast Forward to Jan 2013..

Based on the market demands, Citrix felt that it needed add MDM capabilities to its mobile management solution and hence acquired Zenprise (Gartner Magic Quadrant for MDM) and re branded the product XenMobile. With the addition of Zenprise, Citrix had a complete solution in XenMobile with both MAM and MDM capabilities. As part of the initial offering, there were two editions, the MDM edition which was basically Zenprise rebranded and the Mobility Solutions bundle which offered both MDM and MAM functionality. The other unique feature about the licensing model was that Citrix offered a per user licensing model, which makes a lot of sense in this day n age where most users have at least 3 devices.

While this was all great, there were some customers who only needed the MAM functionality and others who felt the features did not justify the cost. Also from an end user perspective, the solution was a bit kludgy.  There were three clients namely the enroll agent (for enrolling the users device), connect (used to download profiles and enforce policies) and receiver (for delivering the containerized applications). All the clients were available through App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android)

So what did we announce at Synergy?

XENMOBILE EDITIONS UPDATED

Going forward, XenMobile will be available in three editions – MDM edition, APP edition and Enterprise Edition. I really liked this announcement as I know of a number of customers in my space that are only interested in the MAM piece and now they have an options as opposed to just having to purchase the Enterprise edition. I am not going into MAM and MDM much as it has already been discussed earlier in the post, but in short, MDM = Zenprise and APP Edition = CloudGateway functionality.

The Enterprise edition will include App Edition, MDM, Sharefile (Citrix’s own follow me data product) and GoToAssist. This definitely adds a great amount of value to the product suite and provides customers with an all encompassing solution that allows them to:

    • Manage mobile devices (both BYO and corporate owned) and enforce policies.
    • Deliver SaaS, Windows, Internal Web and mobile applications to mobile devices.
    • Identity management
    • A secure follow me data solution through Sharefile with cloud and on-premise storage.
    • Ability to remotely troubleshoot mobile devices with GoToAssist

 The solution keeps both IT management and end users happy as IT management gets the security profile they desire while the end users feel empowered and become more productive with all their corporate apps made available on their personal devices.

XENMOBILE COMPONENTS REBRANDED

As I mentioned earlier in the post, prior to Synergy the key end user facing Xenmobile components were Enroll and Connect. Receiver was used to deliver MDX wrapped applications. Going forward, the components will rebranded as Worx Enroll and Worx Home. Worx Enroll will be the device enrollment piece and Worx Home will be store for Mobile, Web and SaaS applications including Worx Mobile Apps (previously MDX wrapped apps) like Worx Web Worx Mail, Sharefile etc . Receiver will still be used to deliver XA/XD resources, but I think it is safe to assume that eventually XA/XD resources will be made available through Worx Home in the future. All the applications delivered via Worx Home will be available on the home screen along with all the other applications on your device. However each of these applications live within its own container and will be fully encrypted. Worx Home and Worx Enroll will be available through App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android).

Citrix also announced the Worx App Gallery, a place wheresoftware vendors/partners/independent developers can showcase their work enabled applications. Mark Templeton in his keynote mentioned that there are over 80 Worx enabled applications at present.

AVAILABILITY?

The new XenMobile offerings should be made available by end of June/early July

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

I thought the XenMobile announcements were significant, offering solutions that fit most customer needs. There is significant value in the Enterprise edition with the addition of Sharefile and GoToAssist.  I feel the pieces are finally coming together and my hope is that the end user experience is painless (only time will tell) and that the backend infrastructure gets more streamlined in the future. Gartner has positioned Citrix in the Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Mobility Management and rightly so in my opinion. I believe Citrix has the most complete solution in the market at present and more importantly the right people at the helm to lead this forward.

 

Synergy 2013 Recap: Part 1- XenDesktop 7

I was fortunate enough to attend Citrix Synergy this year at Anaheim, CA. The event was great as always with around 6500 attendees, 125+ unique sessions, the ever popular Geek Speak Live and Maroon5 who brought the house down. For me though, the highlight was MarkT’s keynote and Brad Peterson’s demos.  Noone can tell a story like MarkT and BradP is the best at what he does. I wanted to focus this post on XenDesktop 7

XenDesktop 7 was probably the most exciting announcement for the traditional Citrix customer running XenApp and XenDesktop. Lets dig deep into the announcements around XenDesktop 7:

Unified Architecture: Flexcast Management Architecture

Today, with XA 6.x and XD 5.x, the infrastructure for each are completely independent of each other with around 22 consoles in all. So it is an understatement to say that the infrastructure could be simplified. Morever, the workflow for deploying Hosted Shared Desktops and Apps is different from the workflow for deploying traditional VDI.

The key goals for the XD7 release were mobility and simplicity while maintaining security. With XD7, Citrix is moving to a unified architecture aka Flexcast Management Architecture (FMA), thereby giving administrators the ability to deploy Hosted Shared Desktops, Physical PC’s, published applications and traditional VDI from the same console using the same methodology. The overall infrastructure requirements will significantly reduce for environments that run both XenApp and XenDesktop today. I was one of the early adopters and had the Tech Preview running in my lab back in November 2012. It took me less than 20 minutes to get the infrastructure up and running and another hour or so to have XA and XD workloads available to users. The process involved building a Windows Server and desktop image, installing the VDA on the image and then using Studio to spin up desktops and applications and assigning them to users. Citrix has really done a fabulous job in simplifying the installation process and more importantly making the process dummy proof (with various configuration checks along the way).

Director and Studio

The number of consoles have been reduced to two – Director (geared more towards Helpdesk staff for preliminary troubleshooting) and Studio (geared towards administrators).  With Studio, you can now build and assign server/desktop workloads to users, publish applications, create and manage user profiles, manage policies, monitor and troubleshoot infrastructure components, review logs, manage PVS infrastructure and manage Storefront, ALL FROM WITHIN THE SAME CONSOLE!! This to me is huge. In addition, Machine Creation Service, can now be leveraged to deploy XenApp workloads which drastically simplifies the deployment process. Ofcourse you can still leverage PVS as well (new release included with XD7).

The New Edgesight

Being an SE at Citrix and talking to customers all the time, I am particularly excited about the new Director! Citrix has also completely re-architected monitoring and reporting for XenApp and XenDesktop from the ground up. While Edgesight has always been an invaluable tool within a Citrix environment, the learning curve was quite steep and it required additional infrastructure. I have spoken to a number of administrators who have gone down the path of installing and configuring Edgesight and eventually not using the product because of the effort involved in getting meaningful data relevant to their environment. With XD7, the product management team clearly understood these pain points relayed by the customers and addressed them. What you would traditionally consider as Edgesight monitoring and reporting is now fully integrated into Citrix Director. All the information is presented to the administrator in the form of graphs/dashboards and administrators have the ability to drill down further as needed. There is also a helpdesk view which allows helpdesk to perform basic troubleshooting and remediation tasks such as shadow a user session, kill a hung process, clear the user profile and personal vdisk, log off a session etc. In XD7, Edgesight no longer requires additional infrastructure or an agent on the endpoint. The edgesight components are built into the Virtual Delivery Agent (VDA). XD Platinum licensing is required for historical reporting (>1 week of data)

HDX Insight

With Netscaler 10.1, Citrix has now introduced HDX insight which allows you to correlate network metrics with application behavior. HDX insight provides end to end ICA visibility. All the HDX Insight data and reports are available right within Director. HDX Insight requires Netscaler 10.1 Enterprise or above. XD/Netscaler Platinum is required for historical reporting.

HDX and HDX 3D Pro

With XenDesktop 7, Citrix is leveraging H264 based codec for all video workloads (as opposed to just 3D graphics in the past). As a result, there is a 2x increase in frame rate without an increase in bandwidth requirements. What this means is that you would be able to deliver high def videos to mobile devices, even over 3g connections. In the internal lab tests, Citrix was able to deliver 18 frames per second on an 800 kbps 3g connection. The new H264 based codec dynamically adjusts to network conditions and adjusts the quality accordingly. Also Windows Media redirection (client side fetching) is now being extended to Mac, iOS and Android devices. With the new Virtual Channel and HDX Realtime SDK for real time voice and video, there are significant improvements around Unified Communications. Microsoft, Cisco and Avaya are the first to embrace the new SDK.

One of the highlights of the keynote was the demo showing virtulized 3D workloads being delivered from the cloud leveraging GPU sharing. While GPU sharing was available in the past for XenApp, it was not supported for OpenGL workloads. For XenDesktop, the solution used to be cost prohibitive as there was no GPU sharing and each physical server typically supported only 4 GPU’s. With XD7,  HDX 3D Pro with GPU sharing is now supported on hosted shared desktops and published applications for OpenGL and DirectX workloads. GPU sharing is primarily targeted towards tier 2 3D Professional graphics users. This will significantly reduce the costs of delivering 3D workloads to high end users over high latency links while securing the intellectual property. In addition to GPU sharing via Hosted Shared Desktops, GPU sharing will also be available for VDI workloads. Tech Preview will be available in Q3 2013.

Reverse Seamless Applications

Reverse Seamless Apps has been one of the most requested features for quite a while. In essence it allows a local application window to be presented within a VDI/Hosted Shared Desktop window. So for instance, if your corporate delivered desktop is locked down and has only the core applications and the user wants to access his locally installed iTunes from within his VDI session, with reverse seamless apps, technically this would be possible. One caveat is that this is a PLATINUM ONLY FEATURE.

Desktop Player For Mac

As most of you are probably aware, XenClient a type-1 hypervisor for intel based workstations/latops primarily targeted for offline use of VDI was previously not able for Mac users. As a result it was not possible to access a VDI instance offline on a Mac. At Synergy, Citrix announced the Desktop Player for Mac, which is a type-2 hypervisor (much like Parallels) that allows users to check out a VDI instance and work offline. This VDI instance is delivered via the Xenclient Infrastructure and can be centrally managed. This adds a much needed piece to the Flexcast stack and helps Citrix compete in the Mac offline VDI space along with Mokafive, Mirage etc.

XenDesktop App Edition

With the announcement of XenDesktop 7, Citrix added a new licensing level for XenDesktop called the App Edition. This is intended for existing XenApp customers who would like to move to the new XenDesktop architecture but maintain only XenApp functionality, ie Hosted Shared Desktops and published applications.

RIP Application Streaming

Citrix has stopped developing application streaming and will not be supporting it on Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012. Customers can continue to use application streaming on existing XenApp deployments, however when the users migrate to Windows Server 2012, customers will have to migrate from application streaming to App-V. Current XenApp customers have App-V entitlements as part of the RDS CAL’s.

AppDNA for XenApp included in XD Platinum Licenses

A stripped down version of AppDNA is now included with XenDesktop Platinum licensing. This version of AppDNA allows users to test applications to see whether they are compatible to be hosted on XenApp. This functionality is available for unlimited apps.
I think that about sums it up from a XenDesktop perspective. I will be following up with posts on Sharefile, Merlin etc soon. Stay tuned!

My response to Vmware’s post – “Enhancing a Citrix XenApp implementation with VMware View and Thinapp”

Vmware published an article  a couple of days back on how they believe Thinapp and VMware View enhances Xenapp. My personal belief, on the contrary is that XenApp ELIMINATES the need for View and Thinapp in a lot of  use cases. In many scenarios, customers want “VDI” without really understanding whether it is the right fit and without understanding what else is out there. I will save this argument for another day, but for now, I want to try and go through VMware’s claims on why they feel View and ThinApp enhance XenApp:

1. “Requires only a single application instance: With ThinApp in a XenApp implementation, you need only one copy of the virtualized application stored on a ThinApp file share. With other applications presented with XenApp, you must install the same application on each of the XenApp Servers in your server farm, and each of these native installations must be individually maintained.”  

This claim is totally FALSE. XenApp includes an application streaming utility known as the Application Streaming profiler which I consider to be ThinApp on steroids. There is no need to install the same application on every XenApp server. Application streaming profiles can be stored on file shares just like ThinApp and deployed to servers. To take it a step further, the security model around the delivery of app streaming profile packages is a lot better. Based on my experience with ThinApp, it is great for virtualizing stand alone applications, but when it comes to cross linkages or any application that goes beyond a snapshot, it gets very complex with ThinApp. The application streaming profiler is a much more robust tool.

In addition to the application streaming profiler, the XenApp platinum license also includes Citrix Provisioning Server which provides the ability to have one golden image streamed to thousands of XenApp servers. So when there is an application update that needs to be rolled out to large number of servers, you only need to update the golden image.

2. “Application conflict is eliminated: To avoid application conflicts, Citrix isolates applications from each other via XenApp silos, which requires additional hardware. ThinApp isolates applications with software, not hardware. ThinApp virtual applications are isolated from each other and therefore can be placed on the same XenApp Server.”

Again this is FALSE.  XenApp provides multiple ways of addressing application conflicts. One way is to create silos or worker groups which host certain applications. The other method is to use application streaming profiles to co host conflicting applications on the same XenApp server. For instance you can run Office 2010 and Office 2007 on the same server, or IE 6 and IE 8.

3.  “Recovery is simpler: If a XenApp Server fails, you have to reinstall the XenApp server. However, if you have stored your virtual applications separately on a ThinApp file share, you have only the baseline XenApp server to reinstall, and you do not have to reinstall the applications.”

My response to the first claim addresses this as well, but to summarize, all of what can be done with ThinApp can be achieved with application streaming profiles. In addition with the help of Provisioning services, we can easily provision additional XenApp servers within minutes since all the servers can boot off the same golden image that is streamed to the server.

4. “Updates are simpler and faster with ThinApp: With a standard Citrix XenApp setup, you must update each natively installed application on each XenApp Server, and you need to take each server offline to update the applications. If you use ThinApp to virtualize applications, you update only the single application on the file share, and ThinApp applications can be updated automatically while in use.”

This once again is a repetition and is already addressed above. Application streaming profiles can also be updated while the application is in use.

5. ThinApp can virtualize IE6, and the migration to Windows 7 is eased: ThinApp allows you to virtualize Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 (IE6), and you can package IE6 along with a legacy application that depends upon IE6 or an older version of Java. Users can run virtual IE6 alongside a later version of native IE on the same desktop. The migration to Windows 7 or to later Windows versions becomes easier if you have the option of carrying forward any IE6-dependent legacy applications.

Application streaming has the same functionality. In fact, application linkage is a lot easier in the application streaming profiler as compared to ThinApp thanks to Inter-Isolation profiles. One of the clients I was recently working at (which by the way was a VMware shop with NO citrix) wanted to evaluate ThinApp and Application streaming profiler. After seeing the complexity of application linkage in ThinApp, which includes text file editing among other things, they decided to to give XenApp application streaming profiler a shot. We got the application packaged and deployed in less than an hour. They had invested over 10 hrs on ThinApp and failed.

So while XenApp can definitely do IE 6 linked to other legacy apps, the important point is that we can virtualize a lot more legacy apps that are complex in nature as compared to ThinApp.

6. “Users have their own desktops, with their own operating system and applications: XenApp provides users with a shared operating system and shared applications, and users can conflict with each other. VMware View provides users with their own desktop environments, with their own operating system instance and their own applications. Users do not conflict with each other.”

I am not sure how this claim proves that “VIEW ENHANCES XENAPP”. XenApp does provide users with a shared operation system, but users run their own instances of application within their session. The claim that users conflict with each other is FALSE! Published desktops in XenApp has been around a long time and is a proven solution. Users can have their own customization using profile management solutions. The look and feel can be completely skinned to look like a desktop operating system. This is much more cost effective as compared to a solution like VMware View. Not to mention, if we want to talk apples for apples, Citrix does offer XenDesktop!

7.”You can eliminate physical desktops and cut costs: Eliminating the maintenance of physical desktops saves time and money. See The Business Case for Desktop Virtualization.”

HUH? And XenApp does not? I thought the whole premise of using XenApp is to virtualize your applications and thereby reduce costs on desktop hardware refresh!

8. “The underlying infrastructure is familiar: If you have used VMware vSphere to virtualize your XenApp Servers, you can use your vSphere expertise to run View virtual desktops on the familiar infrastructure.”

Ah! I was waiting for this one. VMware’s favorite point to convince customers to go View! Just like View, XenDesktop also runs on vSphere. Oh but wait, XenDesktop also runs on XenServer and Hyper-V! In addition, in a lot cases, there wont be a need for View or XenDesktop when XenApp is in place!

Bottom line is that View and ThinApp by NO MEANS enhances XenApp. If anything, XenApp eliminates the need for View and Thinapp in a lot of scenarios.

1 2 3