Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop 7.11 – Is this the version we should be on?

It is December 2016 and we hit that point again where I have been asked numerous times what version a client’s XenApp/XenDesktop (XA/XD) environment should be?  We have situations where clients are building new version 7.x XA/XD environments and others that are on lower 7.x versions and are wondering if they should upgrade.  Basically, I am being asked a few questions:

  • Is version 7.11 stable?
  • Should I build or upgrade to 7.11?
  • How great is the risk?

The quick answer to the first question is ‘yes’.  Version 7.11 is not a major change to the engine behind previous versions of XA/XD.  In fact, the VDA (Virtual Delivery Agent) is probably at its best in this version.  Issues where a server or desktop shows as unregistered have been addressed with this new VDA.  This version is more of a features update than anything else.  Version 7.11 has been out for a few months now, so you are not quite on the ‘bleeding edge’ by installing it.  I am not saying all the kinks have been worked out, but what is left should be minor.

In answer to the second question, I am going to say ‘most likely’.  I can’t say definitely because there are situations where you may not want or be able to go to version 7.11 at this time.  For instance, there are companies with policies that determine what level of a software release can be utilized.   These policies may prohibit from going to version 7.11.  I don’t agree with upgrading for the sake of upgrading.  This goes back to the old saying; “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”.  If you have a viable reason for performing the upgrade, then definitely upgrade to 7.11.  If you are building a new farm, then start at version 7.11.  One sure reason why you would want to go to version 7.11 is Windows Server 2016 support.  If you want to utilize Windows Server 2016 in your farm, then you have very little choice, but to install version 7.11.  In fact, version 7.11 is the first time that Citrix had a version released for day 1 availability on a new full version of Windows Server.

New versions of software always come with risks.  Proper testing and other precautions will mitigate some of the risks.  It has been my experience so far that upgrading from other 7.x versions to 7.11 has been very successful.  In fact, Citrix has taken a lot of the difficulty out of the upgrade process.  You can upgrade from versions prior to 7, but I prefer a migration path in those cases.  Migrations always give you more chances to test properly and run in parallel before going to production.

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

Issue: Printing – Solution: Tricerat

triceratAs is usually the case, the subjects of my blogs tend to correlate with situations currently being seen in a client’s environment. Recently, we have had more than one client with printing issues in their environments. The problems range from driver issues to an applications ability to recognize a user’s printers. In each case, we tried to handle the situation using the built-in tools within the Citrix products to resolve our issues. Do not get me wrong, I think the current set of printing utilities Citrix offers for their products is some of the best built-in solutions we have had. However, we still had issues they could not resolve. So, it was time to turn to a third party product. As the title implies, we tested Tricerat’s Simplify Printing product. I know this is starting to sound like a product endorsement, and in a way, it is. However, my intention is to share a solution to various printing problems we faced. To be fair, I am not saying that Simplify Printing is the only solution out there, but I have been using Tricerat’s products for years and it is one of my go-to solutions.

As I was saying, I am writing about this because of recent events. So, let’s take a look at those events.

Problem 1  – Solution – Tricerat ScrewDrivers

At the first client, we had a situation where users worked from a XenApp/XenDesktop environment, but would travel to multiple company sites. They needed to print at each site while accessing a virtual desktop back in the data center. Users needed to have multiple printers for multiple sites. Just assigning all the printers to the users did not work. Typically, the user would forget which printer was defaulted and send items to the wrong printers. Our original solution was to assign printers based on IP address of the client. The problem we ran into was that the number of printers at each site made it an administrative nightmare to work printer assignments/policies at an individual user level. Simplify Printing has a utility that allows the user to assign the printers that they need for themselves. Each printer in each location has its active directory name labeled where the users know to look. The Simplify Printing utility is a published application the user can open and select the printer they need. All they had to do was look at the name label and find the printer in the list. This did take a little bit of user training, but once the users got used to this process, calls to IT for printer problems dropped to almost none. There were other benefits from the installation of Simplify Printing. The product handled all the print drivers. We no longer have printer drivers in the Citrix environment for all of those various printers. The Citrix environment no longer had to fully process print jobs which saved on system resources. External users had a better printing experience once they installed the Tricerat ScrewDrivers client because all the features of the local printer were now available to them.

Issue 2 – Solution – Tricerat Simplify

At another client, a law firm, the issues started in the XenApp environment. However, Simplify Printing was not implemented at the Citrix level. It was implemented at the domain level so all printer functions in the environment, not just the ones in Citrix, are handled by Simplify Printing. The original issue involved printers needing to be assigned based on user groups. However, just because a user was in a group, that did not mean they had the right to use all the printers the group had assigned. For instance there are users in the Marketing group that need to be in the group, but do not need rights to Marketing’s color multifunction printer. Citrix policies helped, but they got out of hand. Also, as stated before, this issue was not just at the Citrix level. The dashboard in Simplify printing made it easier to assign printing rights while also controlling exclusions. Assignments made at the domain level were inherited in the Citrix environment as well. It literally became an administrative matter of drag and drop to control printer assignments/permissions.

At a third client, we had an industry specific, third party application, which also had company specific modifications. The handling of printers in this application is archaic in my opinion and does not follow proper conventions. We also had extremely limited control over it. Built-in Citrix printing utilities could not give the application what it wanted because of how printers were named for user sessions. A script created by one of the administrators was a semi-viable solution, but still had issues. Simplify Printing’s custom naming allowed us to get a modification in the app to make the user’s printers recognizable. This is another location where Simplify Printing will soon be used for all printer assignments in the domain. They are also looking into another Tricerat product called Simplify Scanning to help with their scanning needs.

In some cases, it was a matter of trial and error to get to where we wanted to be. We even needed help from Tricerat support to get things just right. However, that is not a dig on the product. We just had some tricky situations to resolve. I am going to do a little more shameless endorsement and tell you that the support team really cared that they find a solution for us.

As stated earlier, Simplify Printing is not Tricerat’s only product. Besides printing and scanning, they have products that handle monitoring, profiles, clipboard sharing, and backup. They also offer their products in a bundle called the Simplify Suite. I have not had the opportunity to use each and every one of their products in production environments, but the scanning and profile management products are also go-to solutions for me.

As always, please feel free to post any questions or comments below or 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

 

 

 

©2016 Custom Systems Corporation

New Features in XenApp & XenDesktop 7.7

Help DeskThe latest version of XenApp and XenDesktop were released at the end of December 2015. Version 7.7 of both products will be followed up by another version (7.8) currently scheduled to be released sometime 1st quarter 2016. Citrix is being a little more aggressive with these releases because they are trying to accelerate their relationship with Microsoft, increase integration between products, and (re)introduce features.

With version 7.7, Citrix has given us these new features:

    • Zoning – Why does that sound familiar? Prior to version 7, zoning was has always been a part of XenApp and even MetaFrame. When version 7 was released, zoning was not included. With version 7.7, zoning is back. It has the same purpose as before. Zoning gives us simplified management across geographically dispersed deployments. One XenApp site can now be deployed in multiple geographical locations while enabling application control from one console.
    • Application Limits – Another feature being revived is the ability to put certain limits on published applications. This is where an administrator can control how many concurrent sessions can be active at one time, how many active sessions of a published application a user can have open simultaneously, and more.
    • Advanced Database Configuration – Previously, all database activity was installed in one location. Now, the site, monitoring, and logging databases can be installed on different servers and even in different locations. As a note along this path, SQL 2012 SP2 is now installed instead of SP1.
    • Improved Maintenance Notifications – Notifications to users about system maintenance can now be configured to go out at a specific time prior to the maintenance commencing and reminders can be sent at configured intervals.
    • Skype for Business functionality – This allows for a full installation of Skype using a desktop or a virtual app. The RealTime Optimization Pack will need to be installed to provide a user with the best experience while using Skype for Business.
    • Citrix Director Improvements –
      • Defined application limits (see above) are now shown in Director.
      • Director can use your windows credentials to authenticate you (single sign-on).
      • Better SCOM 2012 integration.
      • Proactive monitoring alerts to help improve reaction time.
      • New usage views for both desktop and server OS’s. Usage can be viewed at the site, delivery group, and machine level.Along with new features, there are a number of enhancements:
    • There are updates to platform support. This is to allow and improve performance with new hardware technologies.
    • New APIs are being introduced for developers. Using PowerShell SDK, session roaming can be tailored to an organization’s needs. Another API will allow for the access of templates, images, and snapshots across multiple hypervisor connections.
    • Windows 10 support for the VDA and Studio is now available.
    • Extended integration with Microsoft Azure – You can now use Machine Creation Services (MCS) from XenApp and XenDesktop to provision virtual machines in Azure.

Look for a future blog post detailing the changes coming in version 7.8.

As always, please feel free to post any questions or comments below or 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

 

 

 

©2016 Custom Systems Corporation

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

XenApp 7.6 – Are we there yet?

citrix-logo-webIn a previous blog, I discussed upgrading to the XenDesktop/XenApp version 7.x product lines. On the XenDesktop side, I briefly discussed that the decision to upgrade is a no-brainer. Just do it. For version 7.6, I still hold to that statement. However, for XenApp, I said to be careful before jumping in. The reason for that was the loss of many features that we had in IMA and not under the new FMA architecture. XenApp 7.6 does a great job of closing that feature gap. With the release of 7.6, we get back these features:

  • Anonymous login to enable a kiosk mode.
  • Session linger which holds a session in an active state for a little while in case we did not mean to disconnect from our session or realized there is something we forgot and needed to jump back in.
  • Application pre-launch which enables faster user logon.
  • Resilient connections (called Database Connection leasing) which is similar to the purposes of Local Host Cache in previous versions.
  • FIPS compliance which is important for security particularly with the government.
  • Application folder support to help us organize our published applications.

This feature set includes most of what I had said was missing in the previous blog. There are still a few features missing in the FMA architecture. For instance, one feature I wish to have back is the ability to specify that a server be able to publish applications across different sets of servers. For example, I used to be able to publish an application on Servers 1 through 3 and then publish another application on servers 3 and 4. Or, I could have published an application across a group of servers and then exclude some of those servers when publishing another application. We cannot do anything similar to that in XenApp 7.x. At the moment, you can put a server in one group only and all published applications are across all servers in that group. If you have multiple groups of servers, it is not possible to create just one published application across some or all the servers in different groups. Each group would have its own set of published applications.

We do get a lot of new features in the release of XenDesktop/XenApp 7.6. There are new features that have to do with hosting, provisioning, and more. However, I am focusing specifically on the XenApp side. New XenApp features since 7.5 include:

  • USB 3.0 support. This does not mean everything we plug in to a USB 3.0 port is usable within XenApp, but it does mean that USB 3.0 drivers are recognized and supported devices can be accessed through the port.
  • Improved graphics acceleration.
  • A new XenApp 6.5 to 7.6 migration tool.

While focusing on the new, let’s not lose sight of the other advantages of XenApp 7.x:

  • Support for Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2. So, if you want to utilize the latest server technology, XenApp 6.5 will not cut it.
  • The installation for version 7.x has been greatly streamlined. It is much easier than version 6.5.
  • HDX improvements.
  • Cloud compatibility and integration.
  • More.

So, the question remains: Upgrade or not? In my previous blog, I was more in the ‘not’ zone. With XenApp 7.6, I am now in the ‘maybe’ zone. If your XenApp 6.5 farm is working fine and you have no pressing reason to upgrade, then why fix what is not broken. If you want to work towards moving off XenApp 6.5 and can bring up new servers without touching the old, you can run both farms side-by-side. You can utilize Storefront or even Web Interface to make it seamless to the users.

Keep in mind that I am not saying that XenApp 7.x is a bad product. It is not. If you are building a new farm then you definitely should be going to XenApp 7.6. I am just talking about the upgrade decision. I believe that XenApp 6.5 is a great product and should not be dropped because a new version of XenApp is out. I am a consultant. It would be in my interest for my clients to upgrade their environments. However, I also work at being a trusted advisor for my clients and would not have them perform an upgrade for the sake of going to the latest and greatest.

What do you think? I’m always interested in hearing about your experiences with Citrix XenApp. 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

XenApp 7.6 Gives Us More Features

citrix-logo-webIn a previous blog, I discussed migrating from previous releases of XenApp and XenDesktop to version 7.x. In short, I recommended Migrating to XenDesktop 7.x because it was a good step forward. With XenDesktop, we were offered more features and improved performance. However, my thoughts on XenApp 7.x were the opposite. Unless you had a requirement to migrate to a Windows 2012 server implementation, I could not justify going to XenApp 7.x. Though there were a number of reasons for this, the primary reason was the loss of features.

Features we were used to in previous versions of XenApp were not there in version 7.x. In versions 7.1 and 7.5 we were given back a couple of features and introduced to some new ones, but still not enough to change my mind. Now that XenApp 7.6 has been released, I am going to recommend giving it a look. It still may not be worth the migration from XenApp 6.5 for some organizations because XenApp 6.5 is fairly solid. Keep in mind that, for now, XenApp 6.5 has product maintenance through February 24, 2016 and has an end of life date of August 24, 2016 according to Citrix. That is about eighteen months from now. For smaller infrastructures, making a migration may not need that much time. However, larger infrastructures probably want to start making plans and testing. Those organizations on the verge of migrating may be more willing to make the move now that XenApp 7.6 has been released.
Previously, I had listed reasons not to make the move to XenApp 7.x yet. With version 7.6, I am saying to consider it. Here are some reasons for migrating to XenApp 7.6:

  • Windows Server 2012 support.
  • Much easier installation which lends to easier expansion.
  • A clearly defined path for migrating from XenApp 6.5 with the tools to bring over previous configurations.
  • Missing features are back:
    • Application Folders in StoreFront and Web Interface.
    • Session Prelaunch.
    • Session Linger.
    • Support for anonymous users (kiosk mode).
    • Ability to function when the database is offline (connection leasing).
    • Virtual IP and virtual loopback.
  • New and improved features:
    • Improved reporting features.
    • Improved Remote PC Access.
    • SSL/TLS connections.
    • A tool for converting Citrix Application Streaming profiles to App-V 5 packages.
      (XenApp no longer does application streaming. You need to incorporate Microsoft’s App-V to gain the same functionality.)
    • Improvements to Director:
      • Licensing Alerts.
      • Monitor hotfixes.
      • Director is compatible with XenApp 6.5
      • View hosted application usage.

Keep in mind that a proof of concept is the proper course for determining if XenApp 7.6 will support your organization’s needs. There are also tools like Citrix’s AppDNA to help determine compatibility of applications before you migrate. So, as I have said, now is a good time to look into migrating to the latest version of XenApp.

Questions? As always, please post your questions or comments below.

 

AZS-3

 

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

 

 

 

© 2014 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

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

Citrix XenApp is Back! Actually, It Never Left.

XenAppCitrix has announced and is gearing up for two significant releases: XenDesktop 7.5 and XenApp 7.5.

This announcement was met with a few different reactions like:

          • Great! Citrix is bringing XenApp back!
          • Wait! What happened to XenApp version 7.0?
          • Bringing XenApp back? You mean it was gone?!?

XenApp 6.5 with Feature Pack 2 was the last release of XenApp. When XenDesktop 7.0 was released, there was a bit of confusion over the fate of XenApp. Some thought that XenApp had just not been updated and XenDesktop 7.0 was just a release for XenDesktop with new features and support for Server 2012. Which then brought then brought on the question of when will XenApp get a release for Server 2012? The reality was that XenApp never disappeared; it was merged under the umbrella of XenDesktop 7’s release.

Citrix has been working to unify the XenApp/XenDesktop product lines for some time. A feature of the unification was to bring about a single control panel for the different Xen products and their features. Previously, the number of control panels for different products and features was becoming a big issue with Citrix customers. XenDesktop 7 solved that issue and more. XenApp was rolled up into the XenDesktop 7.0 release. It was referred to as XenDesktop App edition, but it was really just another name for XenApp. It even had Server 2012 support built in. In fact, it has to be the easiest installation for the desktop and application virtualization line (XenApp / Metaframe / Winframe) ever. Admittedly the installation is easy, but proper configuration required more effort and was a little more difficult. The point is, XenApp’s capabilities never went away.

The release of XenDesktop 7.5 will also coincide with the re-release of XenApp 7.5 as a standalone product. This is due in part to the ongoing confusion from XenDesktop 7.0, new marketing decisions and previous licensing issues. The important thing about this release is a number of features that were missing when XenApp was part of XenDesktop 7.0 will be available again. This release will also feature upgrade paths for XenApp 6.5 and XenDesktop 7 installations. Tighter integration with other products including the new mobility line of products will be available as well. Look for the release of XenApp 7.5 soon.

AZS-3

 

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