Quick Look: This Week’s New Citrix Releases

Citrix released new versions and feature packs for a number of products this week. For some products we received new versions. For other products we received new Feature Packs. Feature Packs are additional features we have the option of including in our deployment. Keep in mind that some features are restricted by licensing.

Let’s take a look at what has been released:

  • NetScaler Gateway 11.0 – Many, many modifications, updates, and new items are included in this new version. The items affected in this new version are DNS, GSLB, Load Balancing, Application Firewall, CloudBridge, Clustering, Gateway, Insight, SSL, Optimization, Policies, etc. Because he NetScaler has many features and many different uses, the list goes on.
  • Citrix Storefront 3.0 – This is a significant face lift for StoreFront. In my opinion, it is a much better look. Enhancements include:
    • The already mentioned new look.
    • Receiver customizations enable functionality with this new look.
    • Google Chrome support has been added so the HTML 5 client is no longer the primary option.
    • An improved SDK.
  • Citrix Receiver 4.3
    • Windows 10 compatibility.
    • StoreFront 3.0 integration.
    • Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome support.
    • Improved Session Reliability
    • FrameHawk graphics mode support with XenApp/XenDesktop 7.6 FP2
      For those that don’t know, FrameHawk is a technology for accelerating graphics in low latency connections to Citrix.
    • ADMX support for Receiver group policy
  • XenApp 7.6 Feature Pack 2:
    • FrameHawk enabled content
    • XenServer 6.5, Service Pack 1
    • Linux Virtual Desktop 1.0
    • HDX RealTime Optimization Pack 1.8
    • Session Recording 7.6.100
    • Storefront 3.0
    • New Receivers
  • XenApp 6.5 Feature Pack 3:
    • HDX RealTime Optimization Pack 1.8
    • Director 7.6.300
    • Storefront 3.0
    • New Receivers

Please post your comments or questions below. You can also reach me directly by email.

AZS-3

 

 

Craig R. Kalty (CCIA, CCEE, CCA, MCITP:EA, MCITP:SA, VCP)|
Sr. Network Consultant
craig.kalty@customsystems.com

 

 

 

©2015 Custom Systems Corporation

Time to upgrade to XenDesktop?

Part 2: XenDesktop

 citrix-logo-webAs stated in Part 1; a few of my clients have been wondering whether they should upgrade XenApp and XenDesktop.  Every environment is different; therefore there is no one-size-fits-all answer.  What works for one client does not always work for another.  We need to look at some of the factors that go into this decision.  Since both products have different purposes, I am going to discuss each product separately.  You are not required to upgrade both your XenApp environment and your XenDesktop environment at the same time.  We are going to focus on XenDesktop for this article (See my previous blog for XenApp).  With so much to cover, I’ll cover some of the major issues I’ve dealt with. Please feel free to post questions below, for issues I may not have time to mention.

At the time of this article, XenDesktop 7.5 is the latest version.  When you purchase XenDesktop licenses, XenApp utilization is included as part of the XenDesktop license.  In part 1, I was hesitant about upgrading to XenApp 7.5.  That is not the case for XenDesktop 7.5.  To upgrade to XenApp most likely required a change in architecture (from IMA to FMA).  For XenDesktop, the FMA architecture has been utilized for a while.  So, unless you are upgrading from a really old version, you will stay within the same architecture.  If you are on a really old version of XenDesktop, time to perform a migration.

Deciding factors for XenDesktop:

  • 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 a version of XenDesktop lower than 5.x or you are on Express edition, then you will need to perform a migration.  There are migration tools for XenDesktop 4, but anything lower and you are in essence building a new implementation.  If you are on version 5.x or higher, then Citrix eDocs tells you to do an in-place upgrade if you want to keep your original farm configuration.  You can have an older XenDesktop and a XenDesktop 7.5 farm in operation at the same time, but they are separate.  Components of versions below 7.0 will not recognize the 7.x components.  And XenDesktop 5.x settings cannot be imported into XenDesktop 7.5.  They must be brought in by upgrading the delivery controller and VDAs.
  • Architecture: As mentioned previously, there is no drastic change in architecture unless you are on a version of XenDesktop prior to version 5.
  • Complexity: Complexity has been decreased in many features.  In the past, larger XenDesktop farms required Provisioning Services (PVS) for a number of reasons.  PVS is can be complex to implement and administer.  In XenDesktop 7.5 Machine Creation Services (MCS) has been improved to the point that the gap in performance between PVS and MCS is not significant.  PVS may now only be needed for large enterprise farms.  The significances of this are that without PVS, we remove a demanding architectural piece, MCS is easier to administer than PVS, and we conserve server resources.

o   As stated in Part 1, do you have the technical knowledge on the latest version of XenDesktop or will you need help?  The difference in XenDesktop 7.5 to older versions depends on how old your previous version is.  The older your previous version, the greater the difference in the latest version.  If you are going from 7.0 or 7.1, then the differences are mostly in feature set.  Anything older and significant differences are involved.

o   Features: The HDX feature set in XenDesktop 7.5 has been improved.  For example, greater client resource and peripheral utilization.  Better storage resource usage and storage support.  Platinum licensing includes AppDNA and XenMobile utilization.  Web Interface support has been reintroduced for XenDesktop 7.5, 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.

I could go on with more detail, but it all comes back to the basic question: Should you upgrade your XenDesktop environment to XenDesktop 7.5?  The answer actually depends on your environment, corporate policy, and resource availability.  If the needs and abilities are there, then go right ahead.  XenDesktop 7.5 is an improvement over previous versions.

What have you decided – is it time to upgrade?

 

AZS-3

 

 

 

Craig R. Kalty (CCIA, CCEE, CCA, MCITP:EA, MCITP:SA, VCP)
Sr. Network Consultant
Craig.Kalty@CustomSystems.com

 

 

 

© 2014 Custom Systems Corporation

Hidden Treasures in Citrix MSP

In another blog “Citrix Offerings”, I discuss the extreme rate of growth and diversification in the Citrix product catalog.

Recently, I was assigned the task of looking into MSP (managed service provider) software. With all the changes I have been following in XenDesktop 7, XenApp 6.5, HDX, NetScaler and more, I let the growth of GoToAssist slip by me.  Originally, GoToAssist was a remote support offering that provided a method of connecting to another person’s workstation, allowing all parties involved to see what is on the  screen of one person’s workstation and utilize remote control of the workstation if needed.  For support people, this is an incredible tool by itself.  The original GoToAssist product of today can still be stand-alone as previously described with some great feature enhancements (i.e. in-session file transfer abilities between remote workstations).

However, GoToAssist has grown beyond that individual offering.  GoToAssist is now the brand name of a relatively low cost suite of products that offer different managed service features.

GoToAssist is now a package where you can license features individually or as a suite.  It still has the ability to connect to other workstations as previously described, but now you can also license the following offerings:

  • Remote Support – Allows you to connect to servers and workstations while working with another person or while utilizing an unattended connection either through an email link created for the session or through an existing GoToAssist program.
  • Service Desk – A help desk incident tracking service that includes a portal for users to report issues that can be self-branded.
  • Monitoring – Remote monitoring and alerting for servers, workstations, network appliances, printers, and more.

As I said before, licensing for the suite can be done for one, two, or all products combined.  Here is the Account Management screen from the product:

GoToAssist

Click to enlarge.

Notice that the three products have separate sections.  This shows you how they can be licensed individually.  For Remote Support, you license the number of technicians and unattended machines.  For Service Desk, you license the number of technicians.  For Monitoring, the number of devices is licensed.  So licensing can have different combinations based on your needs.  We licensed the product as a suite.  Of course, in the IT industry, there is no one-size-fits-all.  However, that ratio of servers to devices should work out in many companies where the server licenses are all used and many of the device licenses go unused.

I have been investigating (pronounced “playing around with”) the products for a little while now.  Here is what I have observed for each product:

Remote Access

Remote Support

Click to enlarge.

The screen shot above shows the Remote Support console.  It lists the devices that have the remote support agent installed on them.  During the install of the agent, it phones home to your server to register itself in this console.  You can see that one device is off (my laptop).  Notice that there is an option to power it on.  PXE enabled devices can be turned on remotely to allow access to it.  As for the agent, there is a Windows .MSI and .EXE installer and a MAC installer.  The agent can be pushed out utilizing existing software push options within the company (at the least, using AD tools).

Click to enlarge.

For iOS devices (iPhone and iPad), an access profile can be created and an app can be downloaded from the Apple store to allow remote support.

Also shown is the link to start a support session.  This is for when you have a user on the other side (attended) and you need to see their workstation.  Once the session is started, you can e-mail a supplied link to the user or you can direct them to a web site that will list your session so they can click on a link there.  This web site is part of this product, so you do not have to do any web development.  Notice there is an option to record sessions.  This comes in real handy when you need to review what was done, keep records, record instructions/procedures that users can play back and more.

The Inventory and Reports sections allow you to view the remote supported devices in groups and to generate reports about previous remote support sessions and technician (named seats) activities.

I really like the remote support option.  There are many other products on the market that allow you to connect remotely to another person’s workstation, but how many of them offer unattended connections with PXE boot if the device is off.  I have tested the features and they work very well.  There are other big name MSP products that have similar features, but for the price point, this product provides the basics very well.

Service Desk

There are two parts to the service desk.  One part is the portal where your users can report an incident, check the status of incidents they previously reported, and review messages posted to users that may have the solution to the issue.  This screenshot shows the incident reporting screen:

monitoring

Click to enlarge.

From here, the technician can open the incident to review, link similar incidents, add instructions or comments, add a resolution, and close the incident.  Notice that in the customer section in the upper right-hand corner, there is a button to start a support session (GoToAssist).  Below that is an area where this incident can be linked to other knowledge base articles, changes and modifications in progress, and other incidents.  This all makes it easier to recommend a solution to an incident that has previously occurred to others.  There is a lot more power to this product, and we would love to provide more customized details based on your organizations needs.

Monitoring

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

The third product is the Monitoring piece.  This was a very easy product to roll out.  I installed an data collection application on a server.  That application then went and sniffed the network.  It did a very thorough job and found almost everything.  The manual labor comes in for those devices that were not discovered, those devices that were listed as unknown, and those devices that need more information than what was discovered.  These devices need to be modified or added manually (which is still not difficult).  Some devices you may not want to be monitored, so you just go into the console and tell it to not monitor that device. For SNMP enabled devices, you may want to configure customized alerts.

Looking at the picture above, you can see there are options for inventory, alerting, data collection, reports, server health and logging.  All of these features do a nice job of keeping track of what you have out there. The reporting feature does a great job of creating simple reports to hold for inventory purposes or to hand off to other business units or executives.  I will say that I find the Monitoring product’s feature set to be mostly reactive with some items allowing for proactive monitoring.

For all three products, you are going to get a solid feature set. Keep in mind that this is a relatively new offering from Citrix. And considering Citrix’s track record for improving products, you know they won’t stop here.

AZS-3Craig R. Kalty (CCIA, CCEE, CCA, MCITP:EA, MCITP:SA, VCP)
Sr. Consulting Engineer
Craig.Kalty@CustomSystemsCorp.com
© 2014 Custom Systems Corporation

Citrix Offerings: Did You Know?

For more than a decade, Citrix has been expanding its product line to diverge from being the “remote desktop” guys into being an extreme, enterprise provider.  Over the past few years, that product line expansion has been extremely fast paced.  So much so, that as a consultant that specializes in Citrix offerings, it is very hard to keep up as the “Citrix expert”.

Recently, Citrix introduced XenMobile.  XenMobile is a mobile device manager (MDM) and more.  This product is different from almost any other Citrix offering and yet has an interface that is very similar to other products which helps reduce the learning curve.  I am sure many of you have heard of one or more of Citrix’s GoTo products.  To date, there are six, including: GoToAssist, GoToMeeting, GoToMyPC, GoToWebinar, GoToTraining, and GoToMeeting. Have you recently looked at all the products Citrix offers?  This is what their product catalog looks like as of December 2013:

  • AppDNA
  • ByteMobile
  • Citrix Receiver
  • CloudBridge
  • CloudPerform
  • CloudPortal Business Manager
  • CloudPortal Services Manager
  • DesktopPlayer for Mac
  • GoToAssit
  • GoToMeeting
  • GoToMyPC
  • GoToTraining
  • GoToWebinar
  • HiDef Corporate
  • NetScaler AppFirewall
  • NetScaler Application Delivery Contoller
  • NetScaler for SDN
  • NetScaler Gateway
  • Podio
  • ShareFile
  • VDI-in-a-Box
  • Worx Mobile Apps
  • XenApp
  • XenClient
  • XenDesktop
  • XenMobile
  • XenServer

A few of the products in the list could be condensed under the NetScaler header, but that would be misleading.  NetScaler is the Swiss Army Knife of the network appliance world.  Too lengthy to list here, the full catalog of Citrix NetScaler products can be found on the Citrix website. Please feel free to contact a member of our team through our contact page or live chat, if you need any help with this.

To make matters more interesting, the products in the list above can be broken out into more offerings.  For instance, GoToAssist has grown much larger than its original offering.  Originally, GoToAssist was a simple remote support offering.  Now, you can license managed services features as part of the GoToAssist line.  If you count the primary functions in GoToAssist that can be licensed individually or as a package, you could add three more products to the catalog shown above.

Back in the days of Citrix Metaframe, Citrix acquired NetScaler and then XenServer.  At the same time, it was working towards XenDesktop.  I can’t remember how many times back then I would tell people about Citrix’s other offerings and they would say; “You mean the remote application guys?”  They were always surprised to find out the Citrix was not a “one-trick-pony”.  Considering the difference in offerings from then to the diversified product catalog of today, Citrix has come a long way from the “application” or “remote desktop” guys.  It might be worthwhile for you to look at their product catalog.  You may just find a few tools that you needed and did not know were out there.  If you are already a Citrix customer, you will probably get better pricing for being an existing customer (Custom Systems can help you with that.).  If you are new to Citrix, you really need to find out how many of these products can help you (Custom Systems can help you with that too.).

Craig Kalty

 

 

 

 

Craig R. Kalty
CCIA, CCEE, CCA, MCITP:EA, MCITP:SA, VCP
Sr. Consulting Engineer
Custom Systems Corporation
Craig.Kalty@CustomSystemsCorp.com