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XenDesktop 5, vSphere 4.1 and VNX Reference Architecture

May 23rd, 2011

A common theme that I see coming up up time and time again with customers is VDI using Citrix XenDesktop and vSphere 4.1.  It’s popularity generally stems from the previous success companies have had with the more traditional Citrix products such as Presentation Server / XenApp.  I know when I was looking at VDI solutions I was very much in favour of Citrix due to one thing, the ICA protocol.  It works and it works well over long distances, in a lot of companies it has proven itself over a long period of time, it is a protocol they trust to deliver.

Following a customer meeting recently I was desperately searching for an EMC reference architecture (RA) for a XenDesktop / vSphere deployment.  At the time it turned out we didn’t have a completed one,  we did however have one in draft format that was going through the final stages of review.  That RA has now been completed and released for public consumption, an overview of the documents purpose is below.

The purpose of this reference architecture is to build and demonstrate the functionality, performance and scalability of virtual desktops enabled by the EMC VNX series, VMware vSphere 4.1 and Citrix XenDesktop 5.  This solution is built on Machine Creation Services (MCS) in XenDesktop 5and a VNX5300 platform with multiprotocol support, which enabled FC block-based storage for the VMware vStorage Virtual Machine File System (VMFS) and CIFS-based storage for user data.

The RA covers the technologies listed below and details why the VNX array with FAST cache enabled is a perfect match for your Citrix VDI deployment.  One other interesting area that is discussed is the use of Citrix Machine Creation Services (MCS) which is a new feature XenDesktop 5 and provides an alternative to Citrix Provisioning Server (PVS).  For those new to MCS I suggest you have a read through the following Citrix blog post as their are some additional design considerations around IOPS that need to be considered.

  • Citrix XenDesktop 5
  • Microsoft Windows 7 enterprise (32-bit)
  • Citrix Machine Creation Services (MCS)
  • VMware vSphere 4.1
  • EMC VNX 5300 – (Fast Cache & VAAI enabled)
  • EMC virtual storage integrator (VSI) – Free on EMC PowerLink

If you are considering XenDesktop 5 and vSphere 4.1 then I suggest you download and have a read through the RA linked below.

EMC Infrastructure for Virtual Desktops enabled by EMC VNX Series (FC), VMware vSphere 4.1 and Citrix XenDesktop 5

Citrix, EMC, vSphere , ,

Virtualisation Visio Stencils – Microsoft, VMware, Citrix

May 13th, 2010

Every tech geek loves making Visio diagrams, admit it you do! I for one love nothing more than scribbling a design down on paper, tweaking and fine tuning it and then bringing it to life in a nice Visio diagram.  My original virtualisation Visio post back in 2008 is one of my most popular so I thought I would revisit it and update it for 2010. I’ve taken the opportunity to expand it to include Hyper-V and Citrix virtualisation products as well as a few other useful stencils.

VMware

 

VMware Official icons and Images – This is PowerPoint format but really quite good.

UPDATEDVMware Official Icons and Images 1 – PowerPoint update since VMworld 2010

UPDATEDVMware Official Icons and Images 2 – PowerPoint update since VMworld 2010

VMware Visio Stencil – This was on VIOPS but was removed, this is an alternative link.

vEcoShell VMware Visio Template

VMware VI3 Server Configuration Template

Veeam Visio Stencils for Visio 2003 and 2007

VMGuru Virtualisation template

 

Microsoft

 

Jonathan Cusson’s Hyper-V template

Microsoft Office Visio 2007 Professional Add-In for Rack Server Virtualization (Virtual Rack)

Microsoft App-V Visio Stencil

Citrix

 

Citrix Dynamic Delivery Center Visio Stencil – XenApp, XenDesktop, XenServer, WANScaler,etc

 

Non Virtualisation Products

 

Cisco Data Centre Visio stencils

Exchange 2007 Visio stencil

Office Communications Server 2007 and 2007 R2 Visio Stencils

Brocade Visio Stencil

VisioCafe – Good Selection of hardware vendor Visio stencils, HP, EMC NetApp, etc

Citrix, Microsoft, VMware , , , , , , ,

Citrix Branch Repeater – WAN Acceleration / Branch office in a box

August 8th, 2009

I’ve been meaning to write about the Citrix Branch Repeater product for some time now, so a timely reminder to actually do this was the release of Citrix Branch Repeater V5.5. Earlier this year I attended a branch office infrastructure event run by Microsoft and Citrix in Edinburgh.  This was the first time I had heard about this product, I luckily had the chance to follow up my interest at the recent Citrix iForum in Edinburgh.

citrixbranchrepeater
Branch Repeater is the rebranding of the old WANScaler product, which, in its simplest form was a WAN acceleration product. The new branch repeater is still a WAN accelerator at heart;  however Citrix have added some clever branch office features as well as some new features for XenApp customers. From a topology perspective, you basically place a larger repeater appliance in your data centre and additional smaller repeater appliances in your branch office.  I was actually surprised to learn that this is not the only option available; there is also a repeater software plug-in for use by remote users.  The diagram below shows the basic topology overview.

screenhunter_01-aug-07-2210

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Branch Office Operations 

One of the most interesting aspects of the new branch repeater product is the branch-in-a-box concept.  You can purchase your Citrix Branch Repeater with Windows 2008 or Windows 2003 R2 built in.  This allows you to use your appliance to deliver DHCP, DNS, WINS, AD, DFS as well as file and print services through the onboard hard-drive.  Support for Microsoft’s read only domain controller configuration adds to the package, allowing you to actively consider consolidating an entire branch office infrastructure into one appliance.  Now it sounds like an appliance failure could have devastating consequences for your branch office and you’d probably be right.  It was one of the questions I had for the Citrix Consultants at the iForum, they informed me that you can cluster two appliances together for HA resilience.  Increases cost of course, but what price do you put on availability?

Citrix XenApp features

Citrix have added some nice features to encourage those of us who already use XenApp as a branch office delivery mechanism. ICA is already a very efficient protocol and Citrix have attempted to build on that with HDX IntelliCache and HDX Broadcast technologies.  HDX IntelliCache allows local caching and de-duplication of ICA traffic across multiple ICA sessions, it also allows for the local staging of XenApp streamed applications if that’s a technology you utilise.  HDX Broadcast on the other hand is the technology which optimises and gives granular control over the network elements of ICA.  The list of individual features is quite extensive so I won’t reproduce it,  you can check it out over at Citrix’s website by clicking the links above.  The benefits of the branch repeater when used with XenApp probably depend on the number of XenApp users in a branch or your current use of the technology. A branch with a small number of users may not see a benefit that justifies the cost, however  I can see immediate benefit if a branch office was to require expansion. Use these appliances and you probably wouldn’t need to change your WAN Links.  That has to work on the cost front!

Repeater Plug-in for Citrix Reciever

I mentioned the Repeater software plug-in earlier as this was one of the features that caught my eye, primarily because we have a lot of travelling Citrix users and home based users.  This part of the product set claims to “overcome bandwidth and latency limitations on WiFi, broadband and 3G Connections” while also delivering that high definition experience (HDX).  This in itself interests me enough to explore further, but then I find it also allows you to provide central administration of end devices covering software distribution and configuration settings.  It works seamlessly with the Citrix Access Gateway product and other leading VPN’s to optimise traffic within secure tunnelled network connections.  All in all it sounds brilliant and potentially allows you to deliver improvements for users who work outside the branch office, something that is becoming more common every day.

Conclusion

I mentioned before that this is a WAN Accelerator product at heart, with nice new shiny add-ons to meet a number of customer requirements.  I’m genuinely excited by this product as I think it has a place in companies global infrastructures, especially with remote data centres and Citrix based branch offices becoming more common place.  I myself am going to find this hard to sell to my current employer, mainly due to some nasty issues we once had with another WAN Accelerator called Riverbed.  However that was a long time ago and maybe the industry has moved on since then, maybe it’s time to take a fresh look.  Cost is the one thing I’m not 100% sure about at this point in time, there are a number of different models and it would appear that costs range from $5,000 for the branch side appliances to $11,500 for the data centre side appliances.

If anyone is using the Citrix Branch Repeater appliance, we’d love to hear about your experience of it and possibly you could clarify the cost element for us all.

Citrix, Gestalt-IT ,

How to run Citrix XenServer 5.5 on VMware vSphere

June 22nd, 2009

Well fresh from my return from the Citrix iForum I decided to fire head long into installing XenServer in my home lab so I could have a look at it.

I already run VMware vSphere 4i on my home lab which consists of an HP Proliant ML115 G5.  Instead of buying another machine to install Xenserver on or rebuilding my current vSphere server I thought I would try and install XenServer inside a virtual machine.  As Eric Gray over at vCritical proved you can install vSphere 4 inside a vSphere 4 virtual machine so surely the same would be possible XenServer 5.5, shouldn’t it?

Well the screenshot below should prove exactly that,  Xenserver 5.5 successfully running on vSphere 4i

xenservervm

So how did I conduct the install,  well first of all I downloaded the ISO from Citrix’s website and then did the following.

1 – Create a Virtual Machine with custom settings.
2 – Select the new Virtual Machine version 7 hardware.
3 – Select Red Hat Enterprise Linux v5 (64-bit).
4 – 1 vCPU and 1GB of RAM will suffice.
5 – I used the LSI Logic Parallel SCSI Controller.
6 – Create a disk based between 20 – 30GB (less has caused issues, see comments below)
7 – Make it thin provisioned if you want,  why wouldn’t you?
8 – Connect the ISO image to the VM and start it.
9 – Follow the prompts on screen to complete the install.

I only had one issue during install and that was when the following message appeared,  I carried on installing XenServer and it completed without issue.

xenservervm3

However when It came to starting up windows based Virtual Machines,  like the message above indicated, I couldn’t.  XenCenter showed the following error.

xenservervm4

Basically because Windows requires the hardware virtualised assist features (Intel VT or AMD-V),  hypervisor on top of hypervisor masks this underlying virtualisation assistance and hence Windows can’t operate.  What I did manage to get up and running was virtual machines running Debian Lenny 5.0,  so at least I had something to play about with and test out XenServer features such as live motion. Linux machines on XenServer start up in a para virtualised mode and are therefore supported where hardware virtualisation assist is not available.

check out the Debian Lenny based DreamLinux desktop edition,  this should give you some VM’s to play within your virtualised XenServer environment.

So although I didn’t get XenServer operating like I wanted to in Vmware vSphere, I did get  it working enough to play about with it and it’s features.  To be honest that’s all I was after in the first place!!

Citrix, VMware, vSphere, XenServer , , ,

Citrix iforum – Xenserver 5.5 Citrix Essentials / Vmware Price Offer

June 18th, 2009

I was lucky enough to attend the Citrix iForum in Edinburgh this week, which was a first for me and a credit crunch alternative to VMWorld. I must admit I was looking forward to it as I’ve been meaning to take a closer look at Citrix XenServer for some time now.  I wasn’t disappointed as I got to spend some time on the demo stand and saw a few technical  and case studies presentation.  I have to admit I was impressed,  I was sitting here thinking Hyper-V was the only other hypervisor worth looking at,  how wrong was I.

So to quickly set the scene, Citrix XenServer 5.5 is completely free, and for that you get the following feature set .

xenserver

To get hold of the value add features,  known as Citrix Essentials your going to have to spend some money.  I got a quote today for the Citrix Essentials offerings, at the moment it’s £1,360 for Enterprise and £1,680 for Platinum. For this price you get the following, which on first viewing is pretty good,  especially when you consider the Lab and Stage management features which are separate products within the VMware product range.

xenserver2

 Citrix Essentials / VMware price offer

As indicated by the title of this blog post Citrix were advertising a special offer around the purchase of Citrix Essentials 5.5 starting in Q3 this year.  If you are willing to share with Citrix your VMware SNS renewal quotes they will give you a price for Citrix Essentials that matches or betters the price of your VMware renewal.  Technically resulting in you paying out no more than you were going to be spending from your budget anyway. now you’ve just got to find the resource to rip an replace your existing virtual infrastructure (joking!).  I’d suggest following up with your Citrix sales representative for more information as I can’t find anything official on the Citrix web site,  it was however mentioned on 4 different occasions during iforum so it must be true.

In all seriousness though,  I spoke to people at the iforum who were existing VMware customers like me.  One guy had a project to add three additional ESX hosts,  he reckoned he could do 3 XenServer hosts with the same functionality for the cost of one ESX host.  He was off to download it and set it up in their company lab the next day,  I have to say I can see why, especially with company budgets constrained the way they are.

I’m going to get my home lab setup with XenServer so I can do a few more blog posts on some of the interesting features such as Storage Link and the distributed management database.  I’m genuinely intrigued now.

If you want to read a little bit more about the usage of XenServer in the real world,  you might want to read about Tesco’s use of XenServer to virtualise 1,500 servers.  Alternatively you might want to read the following performance review of hyper-v, ESX 3.5 and XenServer to understand a little more about how they compare (vSphere obviously tilts the performance balance back in VMware’s favour).

Citrix, VMware, XenServer , ,

iPhone Citrix Reciever V1.0 – Untrusted Certificate

May 8th, 2009

Once again,  no sooner had I written an article on the Citrix iPhone Receiver tech preview release  and Citrix announce the release of V1.0 at Citrix Synergy.  I should have known that was going to happen to be honest!

So I downloaded it as I was keen to see if it worked with my companies existing XenApp 4.5, Web Interface and Secure Gateway configuration.  I entered the details of the server, username, password, domain and configured the access gateway settings.  Straight away I was prompted to enter my passcode,  so far so good I thought. Then the error message “untrusted server certificate”  appeared, for some reason I was expecting an error,  I just knew it wasn’t going to be that easy.

I’ve been troubleshooting this for a couple of days now,  I don’t appear to be the only one having issues as there are a few posts on the Citrix forums on this problem.  I’m still actively troubleshooting but I appear to have two specific problems, server certificates on the iphone and the need for a PNAgent site on our external facing web interface server. 

UPDATE

I’ve now had a chance to spend some time looking into this and with the help of Scott from Citrix on the Citrix forums I’ve managed to get this working,  all be it without the 2 factor authentication that I require. So how did I get it working.

- Create a PNAgent site on your external facing web interface server
- Following the instructions in Thomas Koetzing article on creating an external facing PNAgent site
- Configure the iPhone reciever to connect to https://FQDNofCSG/Citrix/PNAgent/Config.xml
- Turn off the access gateway access,  it then uses domain authentication only. 

You may also find that you need to install the certificate of your Web Interface server on your iPhone in order to connect.  To do this I extracted the certificate and then sent it to my iPhone email,  opening the attachment allows you to install the certificate easily.

I’m trying to follow up on the lack of 2 factor authentication with the Citrix guys on the forum,  my fear is that if a user selected “logon automatically” then a lost iPhone gives access to your corporate network which could be very damaging indeed.

Citrix, Smartphones ,

Citrix Online – GoView Beta

May 7th, 2009

A lot of you will have used Jing in some shape or form for recording actions on a screen.  If you haven’t check out the link and get yourself a copy,  it’s superb for documentation and how to video’s.

The other day I was catching up with Shannon Ma’s blog when I spotted a demo video he’d done using GoView.  I decided to take a look and found out that it was actually a service being offered by Citrix online, I’ve had a little play around with it and have to say it’s pretty good. 

Sign up for your free account complete with 1GB of storage and it will prompt you to install the Go View agent.  This actively streams the audio and video back to the Citrix GoView servers during recording.  Once your done you just click the agent and select stop recording,  your immediately taken to a web page so you can save your recording with a title, notes and a password if necessary.  

On the next screen you can view your recording, get a link to the video or get the code to embed the video in a website.  You also get the option to edit your video,  where you can easily cut out sections of the video and insert title pages,  a great way of breaking a demo into sections. You can see a very quick demonstration of what it can do below.

 

So in summary it’s free, it’s easy to record, easy to edit and easy to share,  a good alternative to the more expensive Camtasia. It is a Beta and that has to be remembered,  when I first started using it I couldn’t play or edit my videos. Sometimes it goes slow and other times I get a message saying “Our servers need to take a rest, try again later” I suppose it is a beta after all. To Sign up for your free account or to view the Citrix demo video, just click on the links.

Citrix, New Products

iPhone Citrix Receiver Application

May 3rd, 2009

I’ve Just been doing my usual monthly catch-up on the Citrix iPhone client project to see what progress has been made.  Well Citrix have now released a tech preview of the new Citrix Receiver software for the iPhone and you can download it directly from the Apple App store using the link below.

 Get it at the App Store

I downloaded the application and went to use it,  only to find that it can only be used if you have a direct connection to the XenApp 5.0 server.  Basically this currently limits users to those who have a wireless network infrastructure or who can make a VPN connection from their iPhone.  One beta tester was using the new Citrix receiver with a XenApp server hosted on Amazon’s EC2 cloud platform, with good results according to the feedback

I was myself slightly disappointed as we currently run Xenapp 4.5 and have an existing web interface and secure gateway remote access setup.  So I can’t use this application to access my companies systems when I want to check something whether it be email or IT admin related.  I though perhaps Citrix would develop a client that would act like a standard ICA Client,  so that when I connect and log in to the web interface the new Citrix software would allow me to use Citrix within the Safari web browser.  Unfortunately that’s not the way it’s been designed.

I can see why Citrix have gone for this approach,  they’ve introduced a number of gestures within the software that activate features you would need on the Citrix server side.  For example,  right click within applications like microsoft word or selecting, copying and pasting of text.  If I was able to log in through my iPhone safari browser without these kind of features, I can imagine it would get quite frustrating after a very short period of time.

It’s important to remember that this is by no means the completed application, this is a tech preview and as such is not fully feature laden just yet.  For instance through a little searching I’ve found out that CSG / WI + 2 fator authentication will be in the final release  but are not included in the technology preview.  For more information regarding features, demo videos, requirements, forums, etc check out the main page for the new Citrix Reciever

Citrix, Smartphones, XenApp ,

Citrix on the iPhone – Silverlight and Cut and Paste

January 19th, 2009

Just been catching up with the progress on the new iPhone Citrix reciever software over on the Citrix community website.  They’ve been busy,  they’ve posted a number of new posts showing off their latest work and they’ve also been out at MacWorld doing demo’s of the new Citrix reciever software.  The MacWorld demo’s interestingly enough utilises a Citrix server in the cloud,  on Amazon EC2 to be precise.

So what new stuff have they been working on for us,  well first off was a demonstration of a silverlight website on the iPhone.  Now most of you who have iPhones will know that it is seriously let down by it’s lack of flash support,  well maybe silverlight is ready to step in and fill that gap?  well with the iPhone at least,  check out the demonstration video below.

The other cool thing I spotted while I was looking through was Cut and Paste on the iPhone.  Now watching the demo video you will see that the user appears to be within the Citrix reciever application,  if you look closely you will see sharepoint as well as office applications in the app list.  As the demo moves on you can see the user accessing office 2007 as a published application,  looks excellent so far.  The user in the video then proceeds to cut an paste some text from PowerPoint into Word 2007,  check it out for yourself.

Now it appears I missed one video last time I was on the site,  this time it’s the keynote from the Citrix Summit 2008. It’s a great demonstration of the smooth roaming capability that Citrix supports,  showing the session jumping from one iPhone over to an iPhone simulator on a Mac and back again.  It also shows some of the traditional benefits of Citrix,  only screen refreshes and keyboard presses are transferred allowing a 16Mb picture to be opened quickly over 3G.

1st half of 2009 is what’s being talked about for the release,  I can’t wait!!!

 

Citrix, Smartphones, XenApp ,

Citrix Print Detective

December 27th, 2008

Anyone who has worked with Citrix XenApp (formerly Presentation Server) will know that printers and drivers  are a very big part of your farm design and its stability. A print driver that causes instability is a nightmare for Citrix Administrators,  now there is a handy tool to help you troubleshoot print driver issues.

The Citrix Print Detective application can be downloaded by clicking the link and is described on the web site as follows.

Print Detective is an information-gathering utility that can be used for troubleshooting problems related to print drivers. It enumerates all drivers from the specified 32-bit Windows computer, including driver-specific information. It can also be used to delete specified print drivers. It also offers logging capabilities and provides a Command Line Interface (CLI).

I can see this being most use for identifying exactly what drivers are installed on your XenApp server.  If you’ve not configured your farm(s) to use driver compatibility lists or policies to prevent driver auto install from print servers you can end up with all sorts of drivers installed on your XenApp server.  Any of these can cause you stability issues with the print spooler service or even cause a dreaded blue screen of death,  nothing like a print driver crashing a server and dumping 50+ Citrix users out of their sessions. 

A couple of screenshot of the application can be found below with some details on use, the full instructions on use can be found on the Citrix Print Detective page.

To run the Print Detective software against a remote host , enter the name and click the enumerate button. 

 

Once the drivers are displayed for your local or remote host you can delete a selected driver, (requires administrator privileges)

Now I haven’t used this application in anger myself, as always I’ll keep this in reserve for the next print driver issue in my employers Citrix farm. If anyone has any experience of using this in a real world scenario please feel free to share your experience by leaving a comment or two.

Citrix, XenApp ,