Category Archives: XenDesktop News

Synergy 2015 Recap, Better Than Late than Never

I have been going to Synergy since 2008. 2015 is the last year for Synergy to be held in Orlando as next year will be in Vegas. When I first went in 2008, XenDesktop had just come out, but today, one of the most talked about solutions is Workspace Cloud.

Let’s get down to business of what they announced and some of the trends I saw while I was there:

Session Stats:

  • 143 Presentations, 4801 Slides, Average Slide Count 47
  • Biggest PowerPoint, SYN416 HP Converged Reference Architecture 216 MB
  • Most Slides, 255, AOL case study NetScaler for security and scalability – SYN251
  • Least Slides, 10, Meet the Winners of Citrix App Challenge – SYN224
  • Lots of XenMobile Upgrade Presentations, aka you should upgrade
  • Lots of Workspace Cloud Presentations to try and set some expectations.
  • Lots of great content from non-Citrix employees.

Synergy 2015 Summary:

  • To put it simply, lots of cool stuff came out this year. However, time will tell (as always in IT) if all the new programs can install without catching on fire and how the actual upgrade process will work.
  • Citrix still loves XenApp. Citrix has realized XenApp is what Citrix started with and they have come to realize the popularity, as it is the most deployed software.
  • VDI has been a buzz word since 2008, but XenApp, in most cases, has been deployed more often based on the IO, CPU and RAM requirements. XenDesktop was only mentioned very few times in the keynotes and also had a lower presentation count than previous years.
  • Workspace Cloud was the most talked about topic in sessions and there is a huge push. Workspace Cloud is an interesting hybrid solution where the control plane (SQL, License, DDC and StoreFront) is out in the cloud and your resources (VDI, XenApp, PVS and Hypervisors) are still happy in your datacenter (Make sure your internet pipe is up).

Citrix Workspace 2015

  • Octoblu will bring Star Trek integration to your business for your Citrix solutions at first, but the sky is the limit. Only time will tell on how developers get things going by creating workflows.

Octoblu 2015

 

  • Workspace Hub – some cool, fanciness will be possible with mobility. Swiping a session from an iPad to a TV was the example shown, but there are also lots of other possible applications. Resembles a ChromeCast, but has a fancier retractable HDMI connection for a competitive edge.
  • Lots of great updates coming with XenDesktop\XenApp, ShareFile, XenMobile, NetScaler; which is great.
  • StoreFront 3.0 and Receiver X1 are hopefully coming in June.

Citrix Storefront 3.0 2015

 

  • User Experience is a huge focus and it shows in the demos, sessions and enhancements that are coming.
  • Concierge Customer Service system – this is a Tech Preview right now. This product is a great way to help support mobile apps with screen and control sharing to promote customer service.

Citrix Concierge

 

  • CloudBridge has been around a while, but now Citrix is getting into the network at a little higher level than just accelerate connections through them. Citrix talked about their new CloudBridge Virtual WAN, which helps glue different types of network connections together to use continuously (based on which protocol you want) instead of one just being passive. Then it is used to failover between failed connections faster than traditional IP systems. You are still using the same box that accelerates things, but now this box gets another very helpful job.

I personally cannot wait to get my hands on some of these. Cisco IWAN would be something that is in the same ballpark as this, but since Cloudbridge can also shape and accelerate traffic, Cloudbridge becomes a little cooler.

  • Citrix Melio is getting closer, and now has pricing released. We will see if there is still a need. If Citrix bundled Melio with Platinum to add value, I think it would be awesome. On its own, though, Melio can only be cost justified at larger deployments.
  • June was a very busy month for Citrix. I hope they can keep up with the pace of what they have set. Just a couple weeks left.
    • Receiver X1 (Tech Preview)
    • StoreFront 3.0 (Tech Preview)
    • XenDesktop\XenApp 7.6 FP2
    • FrameHawk (VDA Add-on and Citrix Receiver Updates)
    • AppDisk (Limited Tech Preview)
    • Signature Tablets (Tech Preview)
    • ShareFile Platinum Edition (Release, Electronic Storage and Unlimited Storage)
  • Q3 2015
    • Workspace Cloud (Release)
  • NetScaler SDX is the bomb diggity.

Best Synergy 2015 Sessions:

  • Faster deployments XenDesktop Setup Wizard (XDSW) and the Streamed VM Setup Wizard – SYN412
  • Troubleshooting Common Issues with XenMobile WorxMail – SYN403
  • Technical deep dive on Receiver – SYN321
  • StoreFront PowerShell documentation deep dive – SYN417
  • ShareFile Enterprise integration and field tips – SYN504
  • Technical deep dive on Receiver – SYN321
  • Notes from the field XenMobile deep dive and demo – SYN511
  • I’ve got 99 problems, and folder redirection is every one of them – SYN502
  • Dissecting the XenApp & XenDesktop logon process – SYN409
  • Tech update for XenApp and XenDesktop—May 2015 edition – SYN319
  • Getting the most out of NetScaler Gateway – SYN503
  • Successfully migrating your farm to XenApp 7.6 – SYN411
  • NetScaler Gateway with Citrix Desktops and Apps, The Ultimate How-To Guide for successful deployments -SYN407

Lots of great stuff coming and the rest of this year is going to be a really busy for Citrix. They have raised the bar against VMware right now in a couple areas and I’m excited to see what happens. In July, I will have a very detailed write up on Workspace Cloud as we get to finally kick the tires. I’m also working on testing with our NVIDIA GRID servers to find out which hypervisor is best for heavy GPU workloads because there has hardly been any testing yet.

XenDesktop 5.6 FP1 vs. VMware View 5.1

XenDesktop 5.6 FP1 vs. VMware View 5.1

Security

 

Citrix

Citrix has by far the most powerful policy system.  It can do endpoint analysis to ensure that the device meets a specific list of criteria for access or to have reduced access.  What this means in the real world is that is that everyone can Copy\Paste, Print save to local drives when their PC\iPad\MAC\Thin Client is on the internal network but as soon as they go home they cannot do any of those same things, but the real kicker is you can make trusted groups that are allowed to do everything internally and externally.  This is just the simplest security scenario for Citrix that most people use the sky really is the limit.

 

VMware

VMware works on Entitlements (kind of like Citrix) but the problem is that the entitlement gives them access to that virtual desktop anywhere in the world because they either have access or don’t have access there is not a dimmer switch like Citrix.  The only way you can secure stuff is to do it with Group Policy using AD only but it will not be able to detect the client IP so the internally to externally it will all look the same.  So in some deployments where View was a possibility the security limitations killed it.

Security Winner, Citrix (Everyone needs a dimmer switch instead of a simple light switch, especially if you are under any type of compliance)

 

Maturity

 

Citrix

Citrix has been doing application virtualization for over 23 years and Virtual Desktops was just new natural expansion of the same code so they didn’t have to reinvent the wheel they just had to put a new tire on it for VDI.  With that new tire they were able to keep all the same security and scalability and the conformity of their holistic solution.  XenDesktop 2.0 was released in 5-20-2008 and has sold millions of licenses, granted some of those licenses we just used for XenApp Published Desktops or to get Provisioning Server for XenApp but there are still some huge deployments of over 50k real virtual desktops in a single deployment.

 

VMware

VMware VDM\View was released on 4-30-2009 and it was pretty much a flop out of the gate for anything outside of the LAN or smaller deployments.    It wasn’t until version 4.0 in 2010 PCoIP was added and that helped out dramatically but across the WAN it would still start to fall apart with its bandwidth requirements or its slowness would just make in inoperable.  Things have got a lot better but the main thing to remember when it comes to history is that VMware was the king of virtualization and had never delivered a desktop across the LAN or WAN until 2009 when they got into the desktop virtualization game.  Their integration to ESX and vCenter their two oldest products has been great the whole time, there have been a couple hiccups along the way but Microsoft, VMware and Citrix had just as many along the way.

 

Maturity Winner, Citrix (Older isn’t always better but they have been on the pulse of the industry to keep up with the needs)

 

Holistic Solution

 

Citrix

Citrix since they bought NetScaler in 2005 they have a load balanced and HA solution from the firewall back since then.  The integration with their networking product NetScaler has only got better in the past 7 years where if you are deploying any environment with more than 200 users or you have to meet SLAs Citrix has made it easy to buy one solution.  Since they own a Load Balancer(NetScaler), WAN Optimization (Branch Repeater), Hypervisor and XenApp + XenDesktop along with ShareFile, Podio, GoToMeeting, XenClient and all their Cloud connectivity options you are getting a full suite to do whatever you want.

 

VMware

VMware has only one strong ally in the View battle is their hypervisor ESX which has been dominant since its release in 2001.  Their hypervisor is definitely awesome and the things that it can do especially when there are more than one site.  What we have found over the years especially with XenDesktop and XenApp deployments the need for those higher end features are not needed because XenServer is bundled with XenDesktop licenses which keeps a nice support model when there are issues.  VMware has an agreement with Terradici to use the PCoIP protocol, they don’t own any load balancer so with their solution you have to purchase a load balancer to ensure the Connection servers availability.  Compared to Citrix the amount of products that support their technology goal are lacking you do get the best hypervisor but that’s it everything else has to come from somewhere else.

Holistic Solution Winner, Citrix (Having a big product line helps out here for anyone starting fresh)

 

Device Support

 

Citrix

Citrix really has done the best with this since its inception of those devices and XenDesktop and XenApp.  Citrix was the one who started to coin the term BYOD because with their technology it was finally possible and could become a corporate reality due to its security and product maturity.  LPS had great success with XenDesktop and XenApp when the iPad was released because Citrix had a client the day it came out and then as new devices are created Citrix has focused development on all the big sellers which gives your user base a choice of around a billion devices.  When it comes to Thin Clients almost all Thin Clients exist because of Citrix and regular RDP so there are thousands of models that are compatible from all the major vendors.  The WYSE Xenith family is my favorite thin client for XenDesktops or Published Desktops from XenApp out there due to its simplicity and its performance.  WYSE ThinOS would be the best model for XenApp and published applications.

 

VMware

They have been a little slow on the rollout of clients.  When it was first released in 2010 VMware relied on a WYSE iPad application until they released their own.  The same scenario play out with MACs where View 4.6 was when the first MAC client came out in 2010.  A dedicated thin client took a while to have ones that were Zero clients instead of just Windows 7 or XP thin clients being your only option.  The WYSE P Family is my favorite VMware zero thin client due to its simplicity and its performance.  Since 2009 VMware has introduced a client for Mac, iOS, Android and Linux to be competitive with Citri

Device Support Winner, Citrix (More Devices=More Better)


Image update Method

 

Citrix

Citrix since 2008 has been using Citrix Provisioning Server (formerly Ardence) to maintain the XenDesktop images.  Provisioning Server streams the operating system across the network which is very cheap to scale.  It operates under the simple deployment model is that a target device boots up it talks to the PVS server and with is MAC address it determine which operating system they will get (Windows 7 or Windows 8) which will point to one hard drive or another call the vDisk which is just a .VHD file.  This means updating from Windows 7 to Window 8 is as simple as changing a setting on the PVS server and rebooting the desktops.  We have updated thousands of desktops or hundreds of servers in just a couple minutes.  This is the biggest strength in my eyes because that is what matters, how longer does it take to patch and update a desktop and get it out to the users in a non-disruptive way that is fast and will not kill the storage or servers.  A 500 user deployment would cost you just cost around 5GB per desktop which would be 2.5 TBs.

 

VMware
When View first came out its huge weakness was the amount of storage space that was needed.  For 500 desktops with 50GB hard drive would mean you would need 25 TBs just to store the VM, which is why it didn’t get anywhere for a while.  Then in 2010 VMware introduced Linked Clones which allowed them to use one parent VMs with their snapshotting technology to make all the desktops from that parent VMs.  With a 500 desktop deployment with 50GB image would just cost you around  8GB per desktop (in some cases less) would come up to just 4TBs which is more a whole lot better.  Then the biggest thing is its Achilles heel is the how the Re-Composition works when you have to do a desktop update it is a disruptive update and it can take as little as 15 minutes to as long as a couple hours depending on the number of desktops.  During the Re-Composition or update the storage is getting pounded and the VMs are being deleted and those couple of Gigs per desktop are copied to hundreds of desktops.  There are ways to make a VMware View update non-disruptive but in most cases it means that you have to have a N*2 deployment so you can get all the desktops ready and then just let the users cut themselves to the new image the following day.  We have had some clients that have found out the hard way that they cannot do a update to the desktops during the middle of the day due to the stress that is put on the storage and then the servers as each desktop powers on and gets back on the domain.  Since most of the update horsepower is happening on the storage instead of Citrix which is happening over the Gigabit or 10 Gigabit network which will become a lot cheaper.

 

Image Update Winner, Citrix (Non-Disruptive and fast updates)

User Experience

User Experience (LAN)

Citrix

Citrix has been the king in this space for around 10+ years when multimedia over Citrix was really starting to be needed.  They came up with Flash Redirection which was the biggest step because it allowed the YouTube age to get their fix without killing the server or having a horrible user experience.   Citrix has continued development on this and it works in a very adaptive way based on the horsepower the endpoint has and the connectivity to switch back and forth.  On the LAN there really isn’t a fight between VMware in most cases depending on what is going on.

 

VMware

When VMware View was using RDP things could get a little clunky on the LAN but now with PCoIP it will work pretty much flawlessly where it will look really really close to Citrix sitting right beside it with the same endpoint horsepower.   PCoIP has done a great job with Flash Video and Windows Media redirection\compression to rival Citrix on the LAN.  It will almost always in any side-by-side test use more bandwidth but on the LAN it may not matter.

 

User Experience (WAN)

Citrix

Citrix was created for the WAN when there was just dial up and RAS servers so it has had to be a very thin protocol that isn’t very chatty to ensure good user experience in a hub and spoke deployment.  Citrix without its WAN acceleration product  “Branch Repeater” it will do good in high latency deployments up to around 100-300ms depending on the workload, and it you have poor connections to your client offices you can just implement their product “Branch Repeater” and get even more out of the same Pipe while reducing the amount of bandwidth needed.  Depending on what version of XenDesktop or XenApp you purchase this WAN optimization is included you just have to purchase the physical or virtual appliance.

VMware

With the release of View 4.6 to 5.0 things have got a whole lot better on this front where it can operate okay on poor connections but in almost every head to head test we have done it always uses more bandwidth and there are not a lot of options to fix that since they do not have any WAN optimizations products.  At around 100MS latency doing the same thing on View and XenDesktop it will respond pretty similarly but if the connection gets worse than that the protocol will start choking itself.

 

User Experience Winner (LAN),  Tied (It is really close on the LAN)

User Experience Winner (WAN), Citrix (Above 100ms VMware can start falling apart)

 

Printing and Peripheral Drive Support

Citrix

Citrix used to have a bad name with their older XenApp versions MetaFrame and Presentation server for printing problems but since 2001 they have been working hard to fix it.  Now their universal print driver will work with around 70-90% of printers out there without having to install those print drivers on each desktop or application server.  They have even made a Universal Print Server which can take it to the next step in simplicity.  When it comes to things other than printers Citrix’s USB, TWAIN and COM redirection has been rivaled by none. There are some limitations just like with anything but it has been a long time at LPS that we haven’t been able to get something to work using those redirection methods.  The main thing they bring with their security is USB security to only allow or disallow certain types of devices globally or make exceptions for certain employees.

VMware

VMware has had a rough road with this but with their addition ThinPrint they helped to close the gap on printing where they are neck and neck with Citrix when it comes to printing.  USB support and other peripherals does work there are some limitations but the big thing for most clients is that USB pass-through is either on or off there isn’t a dimmer switch for certain users or exclusions to certain devices.

 

Printing and Peripheral Drive Support Winner, Citrix (Slight lead because of security)

 

Doing it Differently

Citrix

Citrix has the options with it suite of technologies to use it XenApp technology to publish a desktop that looks just like Windows 7 and feel like it to hundreds of users per physical server unlike a traditional VDI deployment from Citrix or VMware.  In a typical VDI deployment you will only be able to fit 100-175 desktops on a single physical server.  The density differences have lead us down the road in the Citrix practice to use XenApp Published Desktops and Applications first before using VDI and only doing true virtual desktops for a minority of users unless there is a compelling reason to do VDI only.  Then with Citrixs new RemotePC technology takes VDI to a whole new level by using the PC at your desk and layering Citrix security and session brokering to allow you to access that PC from anywhere in the world with just a couple virtual servers and database.  This will take off for people who want the VDI experience to their existing PCs without buying all the physical servers or storage.  In almost all cases real VDI vs. XenApp will cost and take around 3 times the resource for the same number of users.

VMware

Citrix just does desktops right now even with version 5.1.  They have introduced Horizon late 2011 and it hasn’t really taken off because of its scalability and security limitations just like VMware View.  Their ThinApp technology is powerful but it doesn’t have the security and same delivery infrastructure like Citrix does.  Horizon is a direct competitor to XenApp but in our eyes it will have around 10 years to catch up.  From the first release there are some nice features that gave it a good head start against Citrix but it has a long way to go.

Doing it Differently Winner, Citrix (Flexibility gone right)

Management Consoles

 

Citrix

Citrix was the worst at this point since XenDesktop 2.0 but in 4 years it has got a lot better.  They have cut them in half but they still have more management consoles when you add in all their other supporting technologies but when you compare VDI Only management consoles it is a little more fair to Citrix because they have a whole lot more products, this isn’t a excuse but it is just a simple fact.

XenDesktop Management Console List:

  1. Desktop Studio (MMC, Manage the Deployment)
  2. Desktop Director (Flash Based Web Page, Help Desktop Management)
  3. Provisioning Server Console (MMC, Manage the Images and vDisks)
  4. Web Interface\StoreFront Services (MMC, Mange the Web Servers)
  5. vCenter, XenCenter or SCVMM (EXE, Manage your VMs)

XenApp Management Console List:

  1. AppCenter (MMC, Manage the Deployment)
  2. Desktop Director (Flash Based Web Page, Help Desktop Management)
  3. Provisioning Server Console (MMC, Manage the Images and vDisks)
  4. Web Interface\StoreFront Services (MMC, Mange the Web Servers)
  5. vCenter, XenCenter or SCVMM (EXE, Manage your VMs)

VMware

VMware has been the winner here for the least number of consoles since its creation.

VMware View Management Console List:

  1. View Connection Manager (Flash Based Web Page, Manage the Deployment)
  2. vCenter (EXE, Manage your VMs)

 

Management Consoles Winner, VMware (Less is better)

 

Hypervisor Choice

 

Citrix

Pick from the three main leaders VMware, Citrix and Microsoft.  This has helped make the decision for some of our clients due to the cost of ESX alone and not the really the features that XenServer has over VMware.

 

VMware

You can only use VMware ESX to host your desktops.  The good thing is that they changed their pricing model to reflect when you run desktops vs running servers so it is cheaper that it was just a couple years ago but there is a cost you have to be aware of.

Hypervisor Choice Winner, Citrix (More Choices=More Better)

 

Conclusion

From what we have seen over the past 4 years with the Virtual Desktop craze Citrix is the leader in almost category and with its maturity and product depth it makes it a simple choice.  There are some specific deployment types that VMware View makes sense but due to its two main weaknesses security and image rollout keep it away from most clients deploying it.  Using XenApp instead of real VDI from either partner is in almost in all cases better and cheaper in every way and with the XenDesktop Enterprise or higher license including it just takes it to the top of the options list and then we will VDI what XenApp cannot do.