Time to Upgrade to XenDesktop and XenApp 7.5?

Part 1: XenApp

In this two-part series, I will be discussing the options necessary in making a decision to upgrade XenDesktop and XenApp 7.5. In this first part, we’ll discuss the features and benefits of XenApp.

XenApp CitrixA few of my clients have asked whether they should upgrade to the latest versions of XenApp and XenDesktop. In fact, this is a quandary that comes up every time there is a new release of a product.  Every environment is different; therefore there is no one-size-fits-all answer.  What works for one client does not always work for another.  So, we need to look at some of the factors that go into this decision.  Since both products serve different purposes, I am going to discuss each product separately.  If you are looking to upgrade your XenApp environment or your XenDesktop environment separate from the other, you are not required to upgrade both of them at the same time.  Let’s look at XenApp today. I’ll try to touch on what seem to be the major factors I have dealt with. Please feel free to post any questions you might have below.

At the time of this article, the latest version number for both XenApp and XenDesktop is 7.5.  In version 7.0, both technologies were included under the XenDesktop title and were both integrated into one console.  XenApp was referred to as ‘XenDesktop App Edition’.  XenApp has been given its own licensing from XenDesktop again due to a number of factors, but they are still both integrated into the same console.  XenDesktop still integrates XenApp as a feature in the licensing.  The reverse is not true though.  If you purchase XenApp only licenses, you do not get XenDesktop included.  For the sake of simplicity, I am just going to refer to it as XenApp even if I am referring to version 7.0.

So, what are some of the major decision points for XenApp?

Upgrade or migration

Can you do an in-place upgrade or do you have to build a new farm and migrate to it?  If you have XenApp 7.0 or 7.1, you can perform an in-place upgrade to XenApp 7.5.  If you have XenApp 6.5 or lower, you will need to migrate to a new environment.  There are some tools to help with this, but it is still a migration.

Deciding factors:

  • Is an in-place upgrade possible for you?
  • Do you have the resources (time, hardware, software, licenses, money, etc…) to perform a migration?

Operating System

What operating systems are supported by each version?  XenApp 7.x is only available for Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012.  Both are only 64-bit.  XenApp 6.5 and lower support Windows Server 2008 R2 and earlier (including both 64-bit and 32-bit versions).

Deciding factors:

  • Software compatibility – will my software operate on Windows 2008 R2 and/or Server 2012?  If not, I will need separate environments to host updated software and legacy software.  If you have software that needs to run on Server 2012, then you must utilize XenApp 7.x.
  • Do I have licensing for the newer operating systems?  Just because you have licenses for Server 2003 and 2008, does not mean you have licenses for Server 2012.
  • Do I have the expertise on the newer operating system?  Windows Server 2012 has a significantly different interface from previous server operating systems.  Applications and utilities are not where they used to be and are likely to be configured in a completely new fashion.  Remote Desktop Services is significantly different.


XenApp 7.x utilizes the latest Citrix architecture called FlexCast Management Architecture (FMA).  XenApp 6.5 and lower utilize Independent Management Architecture (IMA).

Deciding factors:

  • FMA enhances security and resource utilization/performance.  Pair that with the greater performance of Remote Desktop Services on the latest 64-bit operating systems and you are going to get better utilization of your resources.
  • IMA is a more mature product.  IMA has had the major kinks knocked out of it over time.  FMA is still relatively new and is still getting some major issues resolved.
  • FMA does not offer all the features we are used to from IMA.  Features we are used to with IMA either do not exist in FMA, are still in development, or require new methods to perform the same task.  For instance, SmartAuditor is gone and you will need an alternative.  Shadowing is gone, but MS Remote Assistance is utilized instead.  Single farm, multi-site support is relatively non-existent.  Session pre-launch and session lingering are still in development for FMA.
  • FMA does not use a local host cache.  If the database goes off-line, then so does the XenApp farm.  Existing connections will still operate, but there will be no new connections.  This means that XenApp HA (High Availability) is now dependent on the HA features you incorporated into your SQL server farm.  If HA of your SQL farm is not where you need it, then that also plays into your upgrade decision.

Other factors that may affect your decision:

  • Do you have the technical knowledge on the latest version of XenApp or will you need help?  XenApp 7.x is very different from previous versions of XenApp in implementation, configuration, and administration.
  • Is there a corporate policy/requirement forcing you to upgrade/migrate?
  • Web Interface support has been reinstated for XenApp 7.x, so that can still be utilized if StoreFront is not an option.  This is significant for many reasons.  One important reason is that StoreFront requires a NetScaler for secure external connections.  If you do not have a NetScaler configuration in your environment, you will need another solution for external access besides StoreFront.

As you can see, this is one of those times when an upgrade decision isn’t that simple. Can the same be said for XenDesktop 7.5?  I’ll let you know what I think in part 2 of this post. As always, please post any questions you might have below. Thanks!




Sr. Network Consultant




© 2014 Custom Systems Corporation

Too early to start thinking about the 2015 budget?

budget imageIf your business operates on a calendar year basis, now is the perfect time to begin planning for your 2015 budget and operating plan.  By now, the books should be closed on the first half of 2014, and the full-year outlook should be coming into focus.  With this updated vision of the current year, you can begin to gradually turn your attention to next year.

Although most calendar-year companies don’t really roll up their sleeves and begin budgeting in earnest until the fourth quarter, a lot of the groundwork for this concerted effort can be accomplished during the dog days of July and August.  Then, after Labor Day, preliminary communications can be disseminated throughout the organization to increase awareness and stimulate thinking about the planning process for the coming year.

But what exactly can be done at this early stage in the planning or budgeting process and who should be involved?  The answer depends on your company’s planning process, but this is typically the time of year when information can be gathered and planning assumptions can be developed.  The summer months are also a good time to review your experiences from the prior year budget and develop a process and schedule that incorporate your key learnings.  Finally, and most importantly, now is the perfect time to update and test financial planning software or spreadsheet-based budget models.  These preparatory tasks are typically performed by the Financial Planning department in larger organizations and the CFO and his staff in small to mid-sized companies.

These may seem like simple tasks, but significant information gathering is often required to develop overall planning assumptions that are relevant to your particular industry.  For example, assumptions about employee benefit rates, such as health insurance, can require input from outside benefit advisors who must gather information from insurance carriers.  Your outside advisors will appreciate the additional time that you give them by requesting this input now, rather than in October (when everyone else does).

And, unless your company has an effective process for producing rolling financial forecasts, significant effort may be required to develop the most important assumption of all:  the full-year forecast for 2014.  This, of course, is establishes the basis for the 2015 budget, so it is a critical “assumption”.  It is seldom sufficient, and never optimal, to use a full-year forecast that consists of actual results for the first half of the year plus the budget for the second half of the year.  A little extra effort devoted to developing a sound full-year forecast during the third quarter will yield a much more meaningful budget in the fourth quarter.

Finally, it is easy to forget that the current full-year forecast and all budget assumptions will require senior management approval prior to the start of the official planning season.  And waiting until the fourth quarter to obtain the attention of senior management is never a good idea.  Other, more immediate, issues tend to occupy their attention as year-end approaches.

So, if you start laying the groundwork for your annual planning or budgeting process now, your efforts should produce a better outcome later.

Lou ButcherLou Butcher

Practice Leader




© Copyright Custom Systems Corporation 2014

What Is SEO and Why Is It Important?

So what is this thing they call SEO and why does it matter? For your company’s website, it matters. It matters a lot. Careers are launched around it. Certifications gathered in it. Sites are developed to maximize it. Okay, it’s not saving lives, but it’s pretty important.  And as a marketing specialist, I know just enough about SEO to make me dangerous… I mean helpful.  For our purposes, I’ll explain how it impacts our company site and what we’ve done to maximize SEO on our WordPress site.


Define: SEO

SEO stands for search engine optimization: the process by which a website is prepared or affected for visibility in organic search results as opposed to paid search results. Back in the day, key words were hidden within the site’s code and captured by search engines, thereby enabling your site to rank higher in search results. Today, those same keywords aren’t hidden, but almost exploited. And with today’s incredible web volume and the importance of visibility in marketing, SEO has become more significant than ever.

Choose your keywords carefully

Your keywords, or the words that a potential client would use to search for your business, and keyword research are crucial to creating a good SEO plan. Too few, and your site won’t show up in in the first page or two of a search. Too many, and you’re attracting unqualified leads. Your keywords should appear in your page titles, headlines and copy. But that’s not all. The rules and guidelines to obtain the correct balance is mind boggling. Employing a trained SEO expert in your initial site set up, as we did at Custom Systems through SemDrive will give your site a huge advantage. Our SEO expert implemented a plan and optimized our site, page-by page. Maintaining our SEO utilizing a WordPress plugin like “WordPress SEO” takes the guess work out of proper and improper key word use and placement. The plugin gives each page a red, yellow, or green light to indicate the success of that page’s content. It also makes recommendations on where to add key words to improve SEO.

Wait and see

SEO doesn’t happen overnight. Once the WordPress SEO plugin gives each page an SEO green light, you won’t see an immediate bump in traffic. It can take up to three weeks for your site changes to catch up to Google and Bing. Once this happens, hopefully you’ll see an increase in traffic or even an increase in blog spam. Both are good, and show you that your plan is working. Eliminating that spam through a WordPress plugin is another story, for another blog post.

It doesn’t end here

SEO is a moving target and should be monitored constantly. I review our SEO strategy and analytics monthly.  I rely heavily on my WordPress dashboard and plugin to help me to update and tweak keywords, SEO titles, meta descriptions and page content. I also use Google Analytics to track and capture the success of our program.

While seeing those improved numbers in your analytics is pretty cool, real-life confirmation is even better. I recently spoke to someone, now a client, who told me that we must be exactly who his company needed because every time he searched for their necessary IT solution, there we were. That’s when you know your SEO is working.

I’d love to hear more about your SEO strategy. What’s worked for you and what have you found to be most challenging?


LynnLynn McGinnis
Marketing Specialist




© Copyright Custom Systems Corporation 2014