XenApp 7.6 – Are we there yet?
In 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.
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.
Craig R. Kalty (CCIA, CCEE, CCA, MCITP:EA, MCITP:SA, VCP)|
Sr. Network Consultant
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