It is year end… Again..

2016 to 2017

This is going to be a quick/brief blog.  The point behind it is to get you to read or reread two previous blogs.

A couple of years ago, we discussed the significance of year-end in IT in two previous blogs.

In the first blog “ Year-End – What to Expect in IT”, we discussed why many companies incorporate a change lock-out policy for the end of the year.  Though that blog is two years old, almost everything discussed is still valid this year.  The biggest difference is that I did not have to camp out for the door-buster deals.  This year, Black Friday started on Thursday around 5 or 6pm.  Luckily, that annoying holiday called Thanksgiving did not get in the way of retailers having their employees on hand.  (Please add a note of dripping sarcasm when you read the previous sentence.)  In fact, most of the sales started on-line Thursday morning.  I did not have to go to the store or wait in a line to get what I wanted.

In the second blog “End-of-Year IT Tasks”, we discussed the tasks that may need to be done to prepare for the end of the calendar year.  Everything in that article is still valid today.  Please use the links provided to review these previous blogs.  If not both, at least read the tasks article.  It may help you remember a task you needed to do to prepare for the end of the calendar year.

 

As always, please feel free to post any questions or comments below or reach me directly by email.

Craig Kalty

 

 

 

 

 

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

©2016 Custom Systems Corporation

One of Those IT Moments: Why won’t it work?

If you are in IT, then you have probably had an experience like this. You have been trying to get something to work properly and no matter what you do, it just won’t work. You know (or are at least very sure) you have done everything you were supposed to and it still does not work. You finally give in and have someone else look at it. What happens? They figure it out within minutes. They find the one spelling or punctuation mistake, the check-box that should or should not be checked, or even the capitalization mistake. They notice the one thing you did not. Once you are done banging your head against the wall, you wonder how you could have missed that. It had been staring you in the face the whole time. I recently had another of those moments and I thought I would share that experience and others with you. I am sure many of you who are reading this have experienced these moments.

I know I have had moments like this a few times in my career.

The first time in my IT career I can remember it happening was back in college. I was in a programming class. I think the language was COBOL, so that should give you an idea how long ago I was in college. I had almost finished the assignment, but had one problem. The program gave the correct response, but then changed it. I had my buddy who was in the class with me look at it. For a short while, he was also stumped as to what was happening. After reviewing it together over and over, he finally looks at me and calls me a name that had a similar meaning to idiot, but not as nice. In the main body of the program, I had forgotten a period after the ‘Stop Run’ command. One little dot. Because it was not there, instead of the program ending where it should, the subroutine directly after the main body was run one extra time. Over 20 years later, I still remember that incident. That’s how frustrating (and revealing) it was.

Last week, I was doing a VMWare server refresh with a client. We needed to swap out some host servers that were past their prime for some new servers with up-to-date hardware. On the first server we swapped out, we hit a point where the server seemed to be configured properly in vCenter, but would not talk to the SAN. I looked into the obvious areas first like cabling and configurations, but could not find anything. Admittedly, I found a couple of little things to adjust. However, there was nothing significant. I was looking at it going nuts knowing that it should work. My client was looking over my shoulder trying to see if he could catch something. I compared settings from new to old. I checked everything over and over. I changed settings I knew were correct, but had to try anyway. We finally gave up and called VMWare support to see if they could find it. The first support person knew right away that this was not his area of expertise and handed us off to someone else. That second person, took five minutes to find it. On the SAN, in the WWN name, the letters ESX were capitalized. In the host server’s configuration, they were lower case. That was it. We had been staring at it over and over and never saw it. It was past 2 am, so we were not likely to see it. Also, in my defense, I had copy/pasted the WWN from the SAN console to the VMWare console configuration. However, there it was. One of those moments where the answer was extremely simple, staring us in the face, and we were not going to see it. By the way, I observed what happened when we did the second host server replacement. I copy/pasted again and it did the same thing. On the paste, capital letters were converted to lowercase. The wise guys reading this are thinking: “Sure, that is your excuse.” However, we are replacing more hosts this week, so I can video it happening as proof. I am not saying that I am not losing my mind. I am, but this was not a symptom of that.

Let’s face it, you don’t have to be in IT to have one of these moments.

I remember helping my kids build LEGO sets. One of them could not figure out why they were unable to do what the directions show. I would look at it and realize that they had previously used a brick with three studs when they needed one of the exact same color and similar shape that had four studs. Ever try a video game where you just can’t figure out what to do next? You go on to the Internet and find a walk-through or watch a video showing you how to do that level only to realize that the answer was staring you in the face. You did not realize it was there, but it was. Like I said, we have all ‘been there, done that’. If you haven’t, think of this article when it does happen to you (and it will). It won’t help you feel less “stupid” at that moment, but you will know you are not alone.

If you have any stories like this, feel free to share them in the comments of this blog.

AZS-3

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

©2016 Custom Systems Corporation

What is an MSP?

MSP, managed services providerAn MSP (Managed Services Provider) staffs highly certified and highly trained IT Engineers to remotely monitor and maintain your organization’s network.

 

 

When you bring in an MSP you should expect that the following would be included in any monthly cost:

• Alerts – Storage, Server and Desktop
• Data backup and recovery for different devices (desktops, notebooks, servers, etc.)
• Patch management
• Security

For any small or medium sized business an MSP may act as a Virtual CTO for your company. They can not only take care of the above tasks but they help with an overall IT strategy that will easily be expanded as your company grows.  In larger corporations an MSP may act as an extension of your IT department. The MSP would take the day to day monitoring, patches and updates and free your IT staff to focus on the projects they need to focus on.
In hiring an MSP, you are not losing control of your IT. You decide what you need help with. It is after all, your company.

Like to learn more about the benefits and features of an MSP? Please feel free to visit our Managed Services page or email me directly. Questions or comments are always welcome below.

 

Suzanne

 

 

 

 

Suzanne Chambers
Account Executive
suzanne.chambers@customsystems.com

 

© Copyright Custom Systems Corporation 2016

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.

Architecture

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!

AZS-3

 

 

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

 

 

 

© 2014 Custom Systems Corporation