Author Archives: James Rankin

UK Citrix User Group XXVIII – a review

The 28th XL edition of the UK Citrix User Group (we only do XL over here in Blighty – none of this half day madness) took us to the north of England, to the lovely city of Manchester. Once the London lot had gotten over their shock of finding civilization beyond the Watford Gap, we settled down into the surroundings of the Renaissance Hotel, where our attendees were mad for a day of interesting and lively presentations and debate.

It always rains in Manchester, so we’ve had to use a photo from the Renaissance Hotel website 🙂

The last foray out of London into York had proved to be a perfect storm of travel disruption, severe inclement weather, and an absent Master of Ceremonies, so it was good to see that our Manchester event didn’t turn out to be similarly cursed. Although newly-minted CTA Jake Walsh threatened to force a rejigging of the schedule by his conspicuous absence not long before kick-off time, he turned up in true rockstar style at the last minute and allowed us to all continue as promised in the agenda.

UK Citrix User Group events are always free to attend, but it’s only through the generosity of our lovely sponsors that we manage to keep it so – so we should always give them a mention here! Our new Diamond sponsors are the people over at ControlUp, FSLogix, LiquidWare and eG Innovations fill the Platinum spots, and Flexxible IT provide the Gold. Please feel free to visit these vendors and if you feel the urge partake of their wares – they’re the reason we can provide our insightful speakers, tasty lunches, free sessions and of course post-event beers.

Where to start with the roundup? Well with Neil’s CUGC News section, naturally, once we’d established he was actually fit enough to present, contrary to pre-event rumours of plague. Neil did a wonderful job of managing to concentrate on positive things, despite the overarching interest being in a) Citrix’s much-publicized hacking incident, and b) Microsoft parking their Windows Virtual Desktop tanks on Citrix’s lawn. Also worth a mention is a community initiative from Kev Howell and Leee Jeffries to provide access to Citrix Cloud – worth signing up for. The details are included in the news slides – available here.

After that we had one of our three new UK-based Citrix Technology Advocate awardees, Jake Walsh, kicking off a very-much-network themed day with his Citrix ADC – nothing to GSLB afraid of presentation, which overcame his disastrously cheesy choice of pun to actually become an interesting guide on the theory and setup of GSLB in Citrix environments. If you’re after Jake’s slides, then download them here.

Following Jake we had a very unique session indeed, where we welcomed the world’s youngest CCA Charlotte Beijer to deliver her maiden presentation in front of her peers. She was due to be at the Dutch User Group, but wasn’t sure whether she’d have to go to school or not (a problem I haven’t had for nigh on thirty years), and eventually managed to simply do a Q&A session there, allowing the UK user group to have the exclusivity of her first session delivery. Charlotte’s session was very much a change from the usual fare as it was much more a personal and emotional story than strictly technical, and for a 17-year old to deliver this in front of a crowd of cynical old techies in a non-native language was doubly impressive. Hats off to Charlotte.

Charlotte’s slides are available for download here, and if you want to watch her YouTube video of the session (cos that’s what all teenagers do, innit), the link is embedded below.

Following on from Charlotte we had the diamond sponsors ControlUp trying to shoehorn all of their monitoring goodness into a 15 minute session, which is easier said than done. Kudos to Lindell and Rob for keeping it short and punchy. And I apologize for forgetting to take a photo of them – I was too busy loading up on cookies. To temper my forgetfulness, go out and ask them to do you a PoC 🙂

After the sponsor session we had another very interesting and potentially life-saving session, as Steven Wright from Citrix talked about the little known ADC feature of duress codes. This certainly piqued my interest, as the capability to avoid having your brains blown out while being forced to transfer millions of pounds to criminals is a much more flashy use for Citrix ADC than we would usually associate it with. If you don’t want your kneecaps smashing, you can download Steven’s slides from this link.

The pre-lunch session was occupied by my good self, and it was a chance for the three people in the audience who’d also attended the December event in London to catch up on some sleep as I was doing a slightly-updated version of the same presentation on Windows Virtual Desktop. Naturally, for the rest who hadn’t seen it before, all the talk here revolved around Office ProPlus, RDSH on Windows 10, and just what the hell Citrix are going to do now that the Microsoft beast is potentially eyeing up Citrix Cloud and licking its slavering lips. If you so desire, you can download my deck from this link.

After a spot of lunch, we continued our ADC-themed day by welcoming back the artist formerly known as NetScaler Taylor, Al Taylor, to host a session around his continuing attempt to give away his stockpile of NetScaler-branded swag. Only kidding – Al was waxing lyrical on his favourite subject of SD-WAN and how we can apply it to a Microsoft world. Al’s slides are available here. And yes I continued my theme of forgetting to take photos, but fortunately Al took a selfie which I can use so he won’t get upset with me 🙂

Next up was Guy Leech, another freshly badged CTA who appears to be after my record for consecutive user group presentations. Having talked about dumps in London, Guy’s next subject was logs. Well not really, poor attempt at a scatological joke, it was really about dissecting logons. He even wore an appropriate t-shirt, which luckily you can actually see on the disgracefully poor-quality photo I managed to capture of him. If you want to dissect Guy’s slides, download them from this link.

Had we had enough ADC at this point? Of course we hadn’t, there’s always room for more. Terry Hooper of Citrix publicly gave up his CUGC presentation virginity by talking about everything around Citrix Application Delivery Management (ADM), formerly NetScaler MAS. Never let it be said that networking doesn’t get enough attention at the UK CUG. If you so wish, Terry’s slides are available for download here.

Round table time next, naturally minus the table and anything remotely round. Cue some lively discussion about all things Citrix, and if I remember correctly, a new record in that nobody complained about licensing.

Really what we should have done was take advantage of the facilities available in the room next door (see image below), but the chance for me to defend my E2EVC table tennis title never arrived. How disappointing.

And then there was nothing to do except network over a few beers and snacks. Of course, there were naturally prizes to be given away, and mere seconds after remarking to Jake Walsh that I never ever win any prizes, well, I won one. A robot, to be precise. However, mindful of the fact that my twin boys would never have shared the damned thing, I opted to give it to Charlotte’s younger brother Richard who was clearly intent on trying to steal it anyway 😉

All in all, a successful trip to Manchester. Next up for UKCUG is a June 6 trip to London, for which details will be available in due course. Unfortunately I will lose my consecutive presentations record there, as I will be in the middle of a 1600-mile drive to Sweden, but there will be plenty of engaging and thought-provoking sessions from the community to see – make sure you don’t miss out.

Citrix User Group XXVII review

To use the terminology of our CUGC colleagues from the left of “the pond”, this was the UK User Group’s 27th “XL” event (which means we, as always, dedicate a full day to our community sharing, and not just an afternoon like the Americans and Irish do). All jocularity aside, it’s a big effort to be able to consistently provide an entire day of presenters for the dedicated Citrix users, admins, consultants and architects out there – something which was stretched to the limit for this particular event, but which was once again managed successfully.

The venue was Societe Generale’s offices in the heart of Tower Hill (and fantastically close to the Tube station, meaning that I didn’t even have to invoke Google Maps to find the venue, for once in my life). Equipped with an excellent view and excellent staff (particularly the very friendly man who supplied Neil with batteries), it was a fitting surround for our final event of 2018.

Having finally been given a day off back in September, Neil was understandably forced straight back into presenting the news section, although this doesn’t excuse his failure to correctly insert the microphone 😉 Coming prior to Citrix Summit, there isn’t often a huge amount of news kicking about for the winter event, although the acquisition of Sapho was perhaps a signal of intent as to the future strategic direction of the company. There was of course the release of 1811 to be covered, along with any new features, and the deprecations – and also, bizarrely enough, the un-deprecation of Browser Content Redirection for IE11 (which I’m pretty sure isn’t even a word).

If you missed any of the content Neil covered, you can download his (now cat-free) news slides here.

It was our hosts from Societe Generale who kicked off the main part of the day, an engaging presentation from Paul Yates about their XenApp migration. Interestingly, there was also a debate within this (which is close to my heart) about the problems of Internet browsing and advertisements, which just goes to show that the tried-and-tested techniques of Citrix User Groups gone by are still bringing value to the community today. It’s always good to see people from the community bringing stories of their experiences to these events, and we can only encourage it more – Bring Your Own Session (BYOS) is something we’d love to see ramping up in 2019. More please!

If you want to download Paul’s session slides, they are available here.

Next up we had (maybe for the last time?) the inimitable Nigel Woods with his sidekick Steve Whitfield, talking about FSLogix and where they stand now they’d they’ve been absorbed into the behemoth that is Microsoft. Microsoft’s market positioning was something of a theme for the day, but Nigel and Steve gave an honest and frank assessment of where the acquisition leaves them, their partners and their customers. It was also a chance to reflect on how much FSLogix have achieved over the last few years, and hopefully we haven’t seen the last of them around Citrix user group events!

Of course, we couldn’t have an FSLogix presentation without some mention of UKCUGC’s own Jim Moyle, who rather than being present was away on his yearly “Rambo Retreat” battling injustice in the Far East – or more likely just drinking beer.

Nigel and Steve’s slides are available here.

Next up was my good self, James Rankin (all alone this time, despite the promises on the agenda), with a not-deliberately-controversial-at-all-title to my presentation “Windows Virtual Desktop – is this the end of Citrix?” All click-baityness aside, the advent of Windows Virtual Desktop is a significant change in direction from Microsoft and one which certainly cuts across some of Citrix’s core markets. We are expecting announcements further around this at Summit as Citrix reposition themselves around this, and obviously the WVD service will develop as it is revealed through 2019, but in true consultant style, I managed to answer the question posed by own presentation with an emphatic “it depends”. And I also, it must be noted, managed to get through an hour’s presenting with only three uses of sweary language – a new record.

The slides from James’ session are available to download here.

After this we handed across to rapidly-becoming-a-regular festively-attired PowerShell guru Guy Leech for a session where he talked for the most part about dumps. The content of dumps, when to take dumps, what his dumps look like, what dumps are good for, how to make yourself take a dump – this content just writes itself. Guy’s deep technical sessions are always good for the hardcore amongst us and this one didn’t disappoint. And neither did his shirt.

The content of Guy’s dumps are available for the curious here.

After a (very nice) lunch we resumed with another deep technical session, this time a community presentation from Priya Saxena of Cloudhouse discussing the intricacies of MSIX. Priya gave us a great rundown of the internals of MSIX application packaging and the fun you can have with PSF, and the depth of technical detail was very impressive. All the more impressive given that she spent a chunk of time sidestepping late arrivals back from lunch (you know who you are) and still managed to wrap it all up a full ten minutes ahead of schedule 🙂

Priya’s session is also available for download here.

Now, prior to the event the agenda had to be quickly re-jigged due to Steve Atkinson falling ill, and much kudos is due to CTA Ronnie Hamilton offering to fly in from Dublin at short notice to fill in. What’s also worth mentioning is that he was also out on a Christmas party the night previously, so there was always the chance that fate might conspire to keep him away from the airport the next morning. But no – despite looking slightly under the weather he not only arrived on time but also made a fantastic effort to deliver his session even more quickly than Priya did. His presentation was about his favourite subject (Nutanix) on Citrix Cloud and even an unfortunate collision with the microphone couldn’t stop him from delivering it, well done to Ronnie!

If you’d like to go through Ronnie’s slides at non-warp speed (and yes the irony of James “speaks faster than Andy Morgan” Rankin making jokes at rapid-pace presenters is not lost on me), you can get them here.

Given that we were running ahead of schedule (and we had to have a plan C in case Ronnie’s plane crashed), we also need to give kudos to Dave Holborn from the UKCUGC steering group for coming up with a quick presentation at short notice and delivering it, which brought us nicely back onto time. Dave has spent a long time dealing with issues around Office365, Azure AD and Citrix Cloud and was more than happy to complain about them some more in the interests of community discussion. Again, great show for being willing to present at such short notice!

After the afternoon break we then had another community session from familiar face Andy Cooke, who gave us a presentation on Security Risks That Citrix Admins Aren’t Aware Of. As usual for Andy’s sessions it was pretty much an open discussion, and there were some frank conversations had around the security arena, and particularly about the age-old battle of security versus usability. There were also some salient points made around how we use application management technologies, and whether we should still adapt them as a security mitigation.

Andy’s slides are available to download here.

Andy’s session more or less merged into the round table session, with the security discussion feeding this very adequately. As usual, there was a lot of frank and forthright discussion, even in the absence of usual #1 Round Table Contributor Jim Moyle.

And that was that – naturally we followed on with plenty of industry and non-industry conversations in the networking drinks and food afterwards, but all in all a good community day with a broad range of subjects covered off for the attendees. Also, the raffle we hosted managed to (in the end) raise a total of £400, so thanks to everyone for participating.

So 2018 has managed to be a good year for the UK CUGC again, but it’s not something we can do without our sponsors, so a shout out to all of those again, particularly LiquidWare who have occupied the Diamond sponsor slot. The great bunch of sponsors that we have are the only people who keep the UK CUGC events free to attend, and hopefully we can continue this into 2019 and still maintain the great level of presenters that we’ve done in 2018.

And like I was saying in the bar afterwards – let’s try and get more sessions from the attendees next year. I have personally presented at each meeting this year and although I enjoy doing so, there’s always a need for new, fresh voices to shake things up. So even if it’s for just ten minutes- there’s no need to tie yourself down to a long slot – bring your experiences and ideas to the table. You can even bring problems – present issues that you have and put them out there to the community experts in the room. As long as it ties in to Citrix, no subject is off the menu.

So here’s wishing you a happy Christmas and New Year, and hope to see you back at events again in 2019!