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.Â 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). Â 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)
With Netscaler 10.1, Citrix has now introduced HDX insight which allows you to correlate network metrics with application behavior.Â 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, Â 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!