User Group Summary: November 17th 2010

Thanks to everyone who attended, with special mention to those who made the long trek to London from such far flung parts of the UK as Cardiff and erm..Paris.

Attendees from Law, Finance, IT, Manufacturing and Government (if I missed you, stop mumbling) as well as AppSense, Centrix Software, Citrix and RES. We covered two main topics; an open discussion “XenApp 6 – why has its adoption been slow” and a presentation from Aaron Parker (http://www.stealthpuppy.com) on “An (un)biased look at Microsoft App-V vs. Citrix Application Streaming“.

Want a summary of what went on? Missed some content because of trains and/or you had other stuff to do?  Then read on.

XenApp 6 – why has its adoption been slow?

Of the attendees, about a third had a XA6 implementation in production – the rest split between “under development” and “we’re not touching what we’ve got as it works and/or we’ve got no money”.

The discussion conclusions can be summarised as:

Reasons to Move

  • Compliance: for many moving to Windows 2008R2 is not “an option”, it’s a requirement to adhere to compliance standards.  Windows 2000 is ended its extended support July 2010. Windows 2003 is in extended support and will be until 2014. While you can move to Windows 2008 (x64/x32) 2008R2 is the more recent offering and offers better value in terms of migration effort.
  • Better Performance : From the group’s experience, XA6 on W2k8r2 offers better performance using the same hardware than an equivalent W2k3/w2k8 XenApp service. Note the equivalent hardware i.e. regardless of whether the XenApp server is hosted as a VM, or running as a physical server – upgrading from W2k3+XA to W2k8R2+XA6 gives better performance. Best performance from when the entire infrastructure is W2k8R2, but “better performance” (i.e. faster logins, quicker app launches, more responsive, more users on the server, less prone to slowdowns) without hardware upgrade (provided your h/w supports W2k8R2)
  • Easier Administration: the new deployment features, management console and AD integration all combined to make managing XA6 a better experience for admins than in previous versions.
  • Desktop appearance: Given they’re running on Windows 2008, Published desktops can be made to look like Windows 7. For all the talk of providing desktops using VDI, XApp6 running on RDS can and does provide a higher density of users per server with less infrastructure requirements. Having the ability to provide an environment that looks like win7 rather than XP was an advantage for some.
  • Multi-media Performance: if you’re wanting to make best use of integrating voice & messaging services, XA6’s audio quality especially was much improved over previous version.
  • Printing: Improvements to the Citrix Universal printer drive – and the newly announced Citrix Print Optimisation Pack combined to make printing better in this version in some instances.

However, it was generally agreed that moving to XA6 was not a walk in the park.

XA6 Pain points

  • Application Compatibility: W2k8R2’s x64 environment caused those who had migrated no end of fun. It is known that win16 apps & DOS apps aren’t supported on W2k8R2 . While you may have a win32 application, bear in mind its installation routine may have a win16 component (especially if its an older app, or an in-house one). Native win64 apps aren’t in abundance – and for those that are (e.g. Office) it was found that the win32 versions were often easier to deploy as they integrated better with other applications. Tools like AppDNA can tell you what won’t work but they still need fixing. Application virtualization can help, but it is not a silver bullet.
  • Support for IE6: as an extension of app-compat issue, the lack of IE6 boxed pretty many attendees into some sort of corner. While it is possible to virtualize IE6, as its against the MS EULA no one had actively done it. In fact after our meeting, Microsoft announced that it is officially unsupported (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2020599). Valid solutions included keeping a Win2003 farm; using the local device and running sessions on virtual desktops. In all these instances, the end result (from a user perspective) was rarely “seamless”. Some hope was mooted regarding the upcoming beta of Browsium (http://www.browsium.com/) – but costs/licenses around the product are unknown.
  • Printing: The Universal Printer is better in XenApp6. The Citrix Printing Optimisation Pack may well be useful for some . However while Citrix’s tag line has long been ‘access any device, from anywhere‘ the admin/user gripe has long been ‘yeah, access – but not printing‘. Printing with XA6’s can still be very painful. Specialist printer drivers are difficult to get hold of. Universal printer relies on a client side printer. There is still no network universal printer function to allow printing to thin clients . Third party printing tools are available (e.g. Uniprint, Thinprint, SimplifyPrinting) – but these were reported as being expensive and difficult to manage and maintain. Printing as a function for users has not gone away; being able to print documents with the minimum of effort is still perhaps a holy grail of server based computing.
  • Migration Complexity: Its been a while since there was a major OS change underneath Citrix. And back in the day, the move from WinFrame to Metaframe wasn’t that much of a change if we’re being honest. Not the case now. Purchase and convert RDS CALs, test *all* applications, test printers, validate different profile types, re-write MFCOM scripts. All this effort yet from the user’s perspective, there can appears to be very little different. Advantages are more often ‘under the hood’.
  • Need for Legacy Environments: as a continuation of ‘complexity’ most XA6 implementations leave a shadow. The win64 environment often means apps get left behind. Few implemented XenDesktop or hosted desktops to provide legacy app access: in fact such a solution was regarded by many attending as disproportionately increasing complexity. The common solution – leave a legacy farm in place to support those unmigrateable apps. Not pretty; but functional.
  • Doesn’t look like Windows XP – No user likes change. For some, the fact that the desktop can look very different may well be a problem.

The conclusion? “XenApp 6 adoption has been slow because its a hard and complex upgrade, that is expensive.“.  But it has to be said, a XenApp 6 upgrade is not without benefits to your company: better performance, easier management, a win7 look and feel desktop, print optimisation and support for the new and whizzy v13 client – all good. All of benefit. Those that had moved, liked it.

Its a bit like getting fit: fundamentally its good for you, if you stick at it, you’ll feel better and in the end likely live longer. But starting is very painful, its going to hurt, and if you don’t put effort in you’ll likely get no benefit and end up wishing you’d never begun maybe thinking who dreams up these BMI calculations anyways..red wine is healthy… etc.etc.

Thanks again to Stephan (@archynet) for his blog entry XenApp6 Why Doesn’t it Spread which prompted a lively and informative discussion.

An (un)biased look at Microsoft App-V vs. Citrix Application Streaming Aaron Parker (www.stealthpuppy.com) gave an informative presentation on the features of Application Virtualization, architecture of App-V and Citrix Streaming, Licensing, Do’s and Dont’s. You can download the presentation here – An (un)biased look at Microsoft App-V vs. Citrix Application Streaming

We’ve uploaded Aarons presentation for you all to enjoy.

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9besBJYKCk
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BFIIzXlfi4
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTraTZCeRvE
Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYjHI2TocdU

And finally..

Congratulations go to Darren for winning the “I-filled-in-my-feedback-form-wine”. David from Appsense would have won – but he left early. Thanks to Allen and Overy for making us welcome and providing refreshments.

We had a brief chat around “should there be a subscription for attending the user group?”. From that, for the time being, we’re going to keep attendance free and seek sponsorship from vendors and so there’ll likely be a short commercial break in future proceedings. If you’d like to sponsor a future event by all means get in touch.

The next user group meetings are planned for February. Yes plural, we’re trying to target two events in the UK one in London and one … somewhere else.

In the meantime, if you’d like to ask questions, offer suggestions or add anything to the above please join up and use our UK Wide group

Don’t forget the Citrix UK USer Group is on LinkedIn and on Twitter as @citrixuguk

Cheers,

a.

  1. … and by that you mean that there were two Steve Atkinsons – rather than two attendees … obviously 🙂

  2. … And the first of the video content is online now – Apologies for the background noise, the projector above the camera was obviously louder than I had realised!

    Still, you can hear Aaron’s dulcet tones 🙂

    Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9besBJYKCk
    Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BFIIzXlfi4
    Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTraTZCeRvE
    Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYjHI2TocdU

    The remaining videos (of the XenApp 6.0 discussion) will be online in the coming few days.

    Due to my awesome video recording skills, the last part of Aaron’s presentation was not captured. Obviously video at future CUG events will be flawless 🙂

    Cheers.
    Andy Eccles

  3. Ah, don’t fret Andy – this is what is known in the industry as “a teaser” :).

    Hey, maybe we should miss the last 10 mins off of every presentation – helps with attendances 😉