RDS-O-Matic live in the wild.

Ladies/Gentlemen,

Just a quick post to show you RDS-O-Matic in action. I just updated it to match what we have on the book I am releasing with Freek Berson. As I mentioned before this little handy Excel spreadsheet (Windows app will be ready and released at E2EVC Dublin) right now does the following:

  • Creates a complete RDS deployment with:
    • 2 RD Connection Brokers
    • 2 RD Web Access servers, load balanced using NLB on port TCP 443.
    • 2 RD Gateway servers, load balanced using NLB on ports TCP 443 and UDP 3391.
    • 2 RD Session Host servers with the desktop experience loaded.
    • 2 RD Licensing Servers, activated and set to whatever you choose (Per User/Device).
  • Creates a collection with the 2 RD Session Hosts on it.
  • Creates a test published application, WordPad, so you can try the environment immediately.
  • Enables HA on the RD Connection Brokers. For that you need to have SQL ready to go, the folder where the database will be stored has to be created and permissions for the RD Connection Brokers set. This is all detailed and explained in the book. We even cover the actual SQL install.
  • Retrieves the certificate (you enter the location for the certificate in PFX format) and deploys it to all roles. Here I assume you will be using a single, wildcard certificate for all the roles. If not the case, you can easily change the script you get to use different certificates.
  • Final warning, you must have the output folder created before you hit the ‘RDS-O-Matic’ button (i.e. C:\RDSOMatic).

Now that I am back at developing for iOS, is there any value in creating an iOS app that you can enter all this info and it will email you the script ready to be deployed?

Let me know.

Cheers.

CR

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VMware Horizon 6. The only article you will ever need to read.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We all knew this was going to happen and it happened yesterday. If you have no idea what I am talking about let me quickly summarize it for you and then give you my take on it.

VMware announced yesterday that it is adding support for Microsoft RDS Session Host (a.k.a. Terminal Server, Terminal Services, TS or simply RDS) on its product. So now they can deliver sessions from either Desktop OSs (what VMware View was all about since day one) and from Server OSs (with the RDS Session Host role enabled) using PCoIP.

Why I am saying this is the only article you will ever need about the subject? Well first of all I am the one writing it. Does not get better than that. Then I am not on VMware’s or Citrix’s payroll. Finally I am one of the so called ‘Dinosaurs’ in the RDS world (remember, I got the first MVP award ever for RDS specifically back in 2001). Oh and I drive a Lamborghini.

So seriously let’s take a look at the whole thing and what I think it is important with this release.

– RDS as a platform. I am very happy to see VMware doing this. Honestly. This just proves that all I have been saying all these years, that RDS is a solid platform AND not going to the grave in the near future is true. VMware now officially recognizes this. This also means a lot more work for all of us in this industry as now lots of VMware customers will start deploying this and will realize it is way more complex than a broker and a protocol. They have to deal with printing, profiles, logon times, session sharing, etc. The list goes on. For us, the industry dinosaurs, this is GREAT news. Be prepared to have hundreds of new customers lined up at your door, asking you to help them with their RDS issues.

– Citrix as a solution. There is no other way to put this. VMware is validating what Citrix has been saying for years WHILE acknowledging they (VMware) did have a big hole on their application delivery solution and that Citrix was correct all these years by addressing both the desktop and server OS application delivery mechanisms. Yes, a little tap in the back for Citrix.

– Citrix as a company. One thing I have been saying to Citrix for YEARS, even though I am a Citrix CTP as well, was the fact Citrix was milking the XenApp cow for VERY long, without really innovating much. Minor improvements here and there, evolution (albeit slow IMHO) instead of revolution. Then the world, according Brian Madden, would flip everything to VDI and RDS would die, Citrix jumped into the VDI bandwagon and more than that, started to back stab the product (XenApp) that made Citrix, well, Citrix. Decided to rename XenApp to XenDesktop “Customers are stupid” Edition (ok, App Edition), chop off some features that made XenApp 6.5 a very solid platform and then released XenApp 7.5 “Phoenix” again, still a limping version of XenApp 6.5, not really offering anything better than its previous release. Basically screwing its customers, partners and itself along the way. Cannot get better than this, screwing up wise. Not sure who they hired for the job of screwing things up but whomever that is, this guy is a GENIUS at the subject. Next time I want to screw up something I will definitely give Mr. G a call.
So VMware announcement means two things for Citrix: first, RDS is indeed an important platform what leads to XenApp is important and has to be fixed, if you do not want people starting to test Horizon 6 to jump ship or not buy your product. Secondly, and the most important thing here is, Citrix now has someone on their back and if they want to stay on top they will have to become the Ol’good Citrix we, the dinosaurs in the industry (RickD, DougBrown, SteveG, SBass, Benny, etc) learned to love. The one that innovates, that pushes the industry as a whole forward. And not the current Citrix that looks more like a bunch of farmers that know nothing more than milking a cow. And supervised by a marketing clown. Yep, it is that bad. Hopefully this will be great for the industry, leading to the same type of war we saw at the protocol level, where years ago Citrix was the king by a huge lead and now for 99% of the use cases the protocol is almost irrelevant (this helped the industry so much that even Microsoft released something great, RDP8.1, what is something borderline mystical as they do have a history of releasing stuff from their asses – you know what that is). So the lesson here: this is great for the industry, great for Citrix – if they see this as a challenge and live up to the expectations – and great for VMware, that is broadening its reach and addressing the problem properly. Great.

– XenApp as a product. Well thanks to customer feedback (more like customer wrath really) Citrix had to bring it back from the ashes. Then VMware comes and tells the world RDS is amazing. I hope this is a wake up call to Citrix so they realize how important XenApp is and always has been for their strategy and more than that, for them as a company. This move by VMware hopefully will guarantee XenApp is a product customers can trust in the long run, what many feel was not the case since Citrix almost renamed itself Cindesktop.

– Horizon 6 itself. If you have been in the industry for long you know there is more to RDS than simply having a way for people to connect to an RDS Session Host over a protocol. Problems that are not there with VDI (app compatibility, session sharing, etc) will definitely be there when you throw RDS to the mix. Right now, no one has played with Horizon 6. No one knows what it can do as a complete solution, as something that goes beyond brokering a session to an RDS SH host using PCoIP. How does it handle printing? How does it handle the user environment? How does it handle the server build itself? How much automation there is to increase farm capabilities? The list goes on and for now no one has an answer to that. That is why no decent blogger should say Horizon 6 is great or it sucks. No one knows that. And I can bet things will change from what some analysts saw today to what will be actually shipping. My take is, if VMware is intelligent, they carefully looked at what is out there, the competition, and addressed most of the needs when it is out. If that is not the case, customers may get burnt with a solution that falls short from its promises and may go for a competitor. Or, if you are really loyal to the brand and NOT in a hurry to have that working, you may just say “Oh well it is a V1 product so half of the things not working properly is to be expected – they will get better”. My personal take is I hope it is good as again this will drive the competition and the industry forward. And I will have years of consulting on the RDS space still to go. Great. But until I see it in the wild I cannot say how good or bad it is. Period.

– UX is important. Yes, the user experience is key. And how seamless things integrate with all the platforms that can work as an endpoint is very important. As Shawn Bass mentioned, Citrix ignored a lot of platforms with their receiver, to the point the receiver on OSX for example sucks. I will say this is an industry trend in general as Microsoft apps on OSX do suck too. But there is one point we cannot forget: the AX (the Admin eXperience) has to be good. No matter how good the UX is, if the AX sucks big time and the whole thing is a PITA to get going and to maintain, IT departments will certainly back slash it and bury it somewhere. Lesson here is it has to be polished in all fronts, especially if you are the last player to the game, the one that had years of research available, studying everything that sucks with your competitors. So yes, we do expect VMware offering to be polished in all fronts.

– VDI as a platform. Well thanks to the first point on this article, Horizon 6 puts the last nail in the VDI coffin. What I mean is, in the coffin that says VDI is everything, VDI is better than sex, I want to do a MILF with a VDI tattoo on her lower back (I bet you pictured it). VDI is simply another option, another tool in your tollbox and VMware finally acknowledges it. Plus this goes beyond Citrix and VMware. This is also a wake up call to all the VDI fanboys out there, that were blinded by Brian’s predictions (failed by the way) that VDI was going to take over the world and Claudio would retire due to lack of work for him as an RDS guru. Lesson here, VDI fanboys, go learn RDS and stop thinking BrianMadden.com is the bible. Brian is no Jesus. He does not even have a long beard. And he lives in San Francisco.

To conclude this post I just want to say this: 2014 is the fucking year of RDS and this is not a prediction.

Thanks VMware for confirming what I have been saying all along.

And VMware, welcome to the RDS world. I have my arms wide open.

[Hugging sound]
[VMware fanboys crying in background]

CR

18,121 total views, 2 views today

BriForum Boston 2014

This week Brian and Gabe announced the sessions for both BriForums (London/US). I am happy to announce I will be presenting two sessions in Boston and will almost certainly attend BriForum London as a regular peasant.

If you did not read the list of sessions, here is what I am presenting and why I think these will be useful and what the plan is regarding delivering them.

SBC Round Up 2014. I really like doing these. Plan is to go through the installation and testing of several RDS add-ons (i.e ProPalms TSE, Dell vWorkspace, 2X, etc) and see how the compare to each other and of course to RDS 2012 R2 by itself. What will change this year is I am actually recording all the installations and will post all videos as soon as BriForum Boston is over. Also creating individual PDFs for each product installation so at the end you will get an end-to-end guide on how to install every single major product out there. Neat.

RDS-O-Matic. This is basic the end-result of dealing with RDS installs almost on a daily basis for customers around the globe. The idea was to come up with an automated way to create all the PowerShell commands to deploy a full RDS 2012 R2 from scratch. For BriForum it will be able to perform the following tasks:

– Hyper-V only. Creates all the required VMs based on a sysprep’ed VHD. Of course this requires minimum services to be up and running already like your AD, your Hyper-V hosts, the clustering, etc. But if these are there you simply select the VHD you want and it will copy to all the required VMs, mount them, inject the Unattended.xml file and finalize the setup (add to domain, set IP, add to proper OU). This is optional (meaning if you do have all VMs ready to roll you can opt this step out). Yes before you bitch I have no love for VMware ESXi anymore.
– NLB. For every component that needs NLB you will be able to choose if you want it done for you (i.e. RD Gateway). It will create the VIP, add the ports, etc.
– UPD. If you want to enable the User Profile Disk on the deployment.
– Whole deployment. Of course it does that. Sets up the connection brokers, web access, gateway, session hosts, etc. The whole deal.
– SQL Bullshit. Ideally I will try to automate the turd Microsoft created when setting up the SQL for the Connection Brokers HA. It is a PITA (create folder on the SQL, create database, add proper security, etc – amazing how every other product on the market can do this but NOT Microsoft).

The main plan is to turn all this into a web service that anyone can hit, enter the information and get a text file ready to use for the whole deployment. Later iOS and Android apps so you can do that anywhere/anytime/offline.

And for the first time in 10 years of BriForum for me, I will be actually driving to Boston this time what may actually be faster than flying, assuming the cops do not stop me in Maine. Feel free to stop me and say ‘Hi’ if you see me around at BriForum. I will be driving ‘Ferrucio’ (yes, my kids name all the cars we have at home).

Lamborghini Gallardo

Cheers.

CR

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Flash and RDP7.0. Still relevant?

In the age of Windows Server 2012 and more than that, 2008 R2 SP1 that brought you RemoteFX, why the hell is someone (me) writing about RDP7.0 and Flash?
Well for many simple reasons. First of all, I get asked about this on a daily basis. My wife, my kids, my dogs. They always ask me that, before I even sit down in the morning to get my cappuccino going.
Seriously, there is a ton of Windows XP out there and more than that, a LOT of Windows Server 2008 R2 as not everyone took the leap and went all the way to 2012 RDS and its mighty RDP8.
So all that said, RDP7 is still out there and strong, thanks to legacy clients (XP) connecting to it. In this case does not matter RDP7.1 and RemoteFX are on your server as the client cannot handle it and will fall back to RDP7.0. You can see this here:

RDP7.0 Client on XP SP3
RDP7.0 Client on XP SP3

Now, is it possible to run Flash on RDP7? The final answer, video to prove, is…

YES.

It is possible.

But there are some caveats and potentially HUGE ones. Before anything let’s watch a quick video (well not that quick) I recorded last night. It does cover YouTube, Flash and Windows Media HD on a 2008 R2 SP1 RDS Session, through a Windows XP SP3 box.

As seen on the video the main issue here is indeed bandwidth. I passed the connection through my loyal and reliable Apposite Linktropy Mini2 and monitored the bandwidth in all three cases. This is what I found roughly:

Youtube: consistently over 30MBits. Some spikes over 37.5Mbits.
We Chose the Moon Flash Website: Stage 1. Peaks over 25Mbits. 10s average close to 20Mbits.
Windows Media HD: 10s average in the 7.5Mbits range.

The key thing to understand here is, Flash is accelerated but NOT redirected while Windows Media HD is indeed redirected and decoded on the client. Just watching the video you can see WMV HD 720p playing full screen. No lag, nothing. Pure beauty.

Even YouTube/Flash played extremely well (my recording software, iShowU HD, for some reason introduced some audio stuttering with the latest version – pretty bad – and an older version was much better but still not perfect like the one I had before). Very smooth, great frame rate and audio in good sync. Also note I probably recorded at 15fps. Again, real life looks really good.

The problem really gets down to bandwidth, link quality and of course CPU (for Flash) with RDP7.0. If you want to run 50 people over a 10Mbits link to watch YouTube (like one of my customers DID want to do), no way it will work. This gives in a perfect case scenario around 200kbps per user. As long as the YouTube video is sized 32 pixels by 24 pixels, yes, it will work perfectly. They will need magnifying glasses but that is another story…

And if we factor latency and loss, well than you are screwed. Seriously.

The lesson here is, RDP7.0 on older clients against 2008 R2 SP1, can deliver Flash as long as you have infinite bandwidth with very little latency.
As far as I know such connection does not exist yet as of 2013. Maybe in 3102 but by then RDP 308 will deliver Holographic 4D content, with a separate virtual channel for smell, no problem.

Until then, please avoid Flash on RDP7.0.

Keep an eye for another post now showing the effects of latency and a comparison between RDP7 and RDP8, from a Windows 7 SP1 endpoint.

Cheers.

CR

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RDS Projects

As many of you know I am kind of biased towards RDS, especially with 2012. That said it does not mean I will recommend or force down your throat RDS for all use cases. Our main concern as a company is to always provide the correct solution to a problem/business need and never the other way around, seen many times in this market, where they try to find a problem/business need that matches a particular product that has to be sold to the customer.

With that in mind, regardless of the product or solution to be used, it is important you do your homework before attempting to come up with a pilot. That is where things get weird with RDS. As it is now completely part of the OS, what means you do not need to call a reseller or download crap from a vendor, most people think “Well it is part of the OS and I know Windows so I am sure I can pull this RDS thing off” and guess what, these attempts either fail or create a wave of tweets saying RDS stands for “REGRET DAT SHIT”. Not the case.

There are many reasons for that. RDS, even though it is right there on the OS and can be installed with a couple clicks, it is still RDS. That means many things are still at play like RDS Flags, Shims, Profiles, Load Balancing, certificates (ahh these damn certificates) and so on. Exactly the stuff most people are not aware of or simply do not understand.

Add to that tons of resellers out there that need to sell product A or B to keep their Silver/Gold/Unobitanium status, and we have a mess. Now without the knowledge of what is under the hood (RDS) they are now recommending and saying the solution is product A or B and that RDS is shite. BS.

One example (real world) we had was a major company, owners of several high end brands in many spaces (from watches to wineries) that approached us regarding a Citrix project they were working on. Before moving ahead they wanted to understand if Citrix was deemed necessary or not.

After reviewing the whole thing with them I was confident we could pull it off with plain RDS and as XenApp runs on top of RDS I told them to go from pure RDS to XenApp down the road, if we do see the need after the RDS pilot, is not rocket science.

Making a long story short, the environment is pure RDS to this day and has been working great down south. And getting ready to get it upgraded to 2012 RDS!

The lesson here is simple. A proper assessment of your SBC/VDI plan by someone that understands all this craziness is a must have and something that at the end of the day will cost you only a couple bucks, with the potential for saving several thousand dollars down the road.

For this reason we were the first ones to offer such packaged service, properly named TSEspresso (that you can read more about it here, http://www.wtslabs.com/tsespresso.html). To give you a fair and correct assessment of your SBC/VDI plans, with quick turnaround and on the cheap.

It is not Aspirin but guaranteed it will save you from headaches with your SBC/VDI plans.

Cheers.

CR

970 total views, 1 views today

Tales from the Trenches: the Case of the Missing Server.

As most of you know, even though I run WTSLabs, I also spend quite a lot of time doing consulting work across the globe, having worked in all kinds of projects, from major App-V deployments to pure RDS Session Host setups. And that has been the case for several years and thanks to that I was blessed to be able to see all sorts of great and terrible things out there. So I decided to start a series of posts called “Tales from the Trenches” where not only myself, but other great names in the industry will share their best stories with us so we can all learn and realize there is indeed crazy people out there doing all sorts of unbelievable stuff.

So starting the series, this week, at one of my customers, very strange things started to happen with their XenApp 5 environment. Regardless of how it was architected and deployed (by the way, probably one of the worst environments I have seen in a LONG time, where pretty much every single worst practice out there was followed), the reasons and the outcome of how this whole thing happened is worth a post.

Couple weeks ago a maintenance window was scheduled due to some work on their electrical systems (generators, transformers, etc) and something went wrong. Really wrong. As far as I know one person got injured (or dead, do not remember – seriously) and power went out completely. No generators, nada. All gone.

This brought down the whole thing for a while and all Citrix servers were down. When power was restored, one of the six XenApp boxes (all Dell servers) had the hard drives toasted and it did not boot at all. They could access it remotely through the DRAC and it was indeed gone. So they let me know we had lost a Citrix server.

As I was away for that week after the power outage I told them I would check when back and to my surprise the farm was reporting the box as up and running and serving users. I checked my emails for any alerts from Resource Manager (yes, once I set it up for that, what they never did – please do not even start asking why EdgeShite is not there…) expecting to see a server unreachable message but no, nothing, nada.

So I go and RDP to that server IP address and indeed I get a session and it IS for sure a Citrix box, with the proper name, IP address and part of that farm. The funny thing once I started digging was this was no Dell server but an HP box…

At the same time most users started complaining their Outlook signature reverted back to what it was eight, nine months ago and some other very odd things…

After further investigation, here it is what happened… Someone had setup, back in July, 2010, a server for testing and as we had 5 boxes at the time on the farm, he created this sixth one and named it using the proper naming convention, just increasing the number at the end of the name so this became whatever-6. He also gave it a proper IP address and made the server part of the farm. Once he was done with his testing (what included allowing all users to use the server for a couple weeks) he simply shut it down, never removing it from the farm.

Later the need for a sixth server came up and a new Dell box was setup and given the EXACT name and IP as the now powered off HP one. When the power outage happened three to four weeks ago the guys at the data center powered on all servers that were off and as Dell #6 had a disk failure it did not boot but the HP one did and guess what? It started serving users immediately but as they keep the cached profiles on the servers, users started to get mixed things (meaning profiles started to get fucked up big time) thanks to 9 months old cached copies and the fact roaming profiles are not the most intelligent things in the world.

Thanks to great documentation and procedures in place no one knew or remembered about the HP server that was hiding somewhere in a rack. And of course due to the fact profiles were not properly handled with a decent and robust solution, hundreds of users got screwed up big time.

Next time you are done with your tests on a production environment (yes, this was production) try at least to disconnect the ethernet cables on the back.

Oh and do not forget to disable the wireless card on it, in case your company does think it is a great idea to use laptops as Citrix XenApp servers, serving users over the wireless card.

Well that is another story for another great post…

CR

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Ericom Blaze Review

This week I had some time available to give Ericom Blaze a try. For those not familiar with the product, it is basically an add-on for Remote Desktop Services that accellerates RDP performance using compression/shaping techniques. It also reduces the overall bandwidth utilization and the effects of latency. Ok, this is all they say on their marketing materials in a nutshell.

The bottom line for me, when running the tests, was to determine two things: does it work? And given its costs, is it worth? After some not extensive testing, this is what I found out.

Installation

Dead on simple. Just load a server component that does not even require a reboot on all your RDS Session Hosts (or Terminal Servers as it is compatible with 2003/2008/2008R2) and their client on all your PCs and Thin Clients. They cover all sorts of clients, from Linux/OSX to Windows XP/Vista/7 and even Windows CE. Nice. I even recorded videos to show you how simple the install really is. Here you have them:

Server

Client

Performance

So here is the deal. No matter how good marketing is, the bottom line is if the product works. For these tests I simulated two different connection scenarios using an Apposite Linktropy Mini2 (a great device that deserves a review on its own). To determine how much bandwidth and latency I was going to use, I used the Speedtest.net website and the iOS app 10 (ten) different times and got the average numbers for each case. With these in hand I first created a baseline video where I use a plain RDP7 client on an XP SP3 box to connect to a 2008 R2 RDS SH and opened a simple PDF file and the Adobe Flash player website. Here you have the videos:

Baseline

With that out of the way I then proceeded to simulate the two scenarions: cross country connection and 3G. For the cross country, my ten tests returned a 2.5MBits down/1.9MBits up connection with 108ms latency, from Ottawa to San Francisco. For 3G, 2.2Mbits down/330kbps up, 112ms latency (using the Rogers network in Canada from a metro location like Ottawa). Again let’s watch the results:

Cross Country

3G

So what do I think of Ericom Blaze? Well the videos do not lie. It does help your RDS Session Host for sure but depending on the conditions this does not necessarily mean it is usable. IMHO Flash does get better but not to the point that makes it usable. Of course it will get down to the Flash content you have. I do expect Flash websites to work great. For video, at least on my tests, the audio was very choppy, choppier actually than with plain RDP7. But again, your mileage may vary. Bottom line is do I think it is amazing and that it greatly enhances RDP? No.

The second thing to consider, and to me the most important one, is the cost/benefit and here, again, IMHO, it fails miserably. At US$ 100-110 per USER, I cannot understand how anyone can justify such solution, considering Quest’s EOP does offer similar (if not better) capabilities in terms of RDP enhancements PLUS a lot more on the RDS SH side. And if you stretch your budget you are now in Citrix XenApp territory and its ICA protocol what does work great indeed.

Resuming: Blaze does work but it is not the silver bullet and may not be that great under certain conditions. Plus it costs. Way too much for my wallet.

CR

7,607 total views, 2 views today

ICA behavior on lossy networks.

I guess a picture is worth a thousand words. So what about a video?

Yesterday here at Citrix Synergy 2010 I had the time to record a quick video that shows how ICA, normally a very robust protocol for the WAN, suffers from packet loss. Before you go ahead and say the conditions of the test are not really ‘real world’ all I can tell you (and I can show it in person if you want) is the loss I have seen yesterday over the connection provided by the Marriot Hotel in San Francisco spiked during certain moments to more than 15-20%. So on the real world you will face packet loss at one degree or another. Guaranteed it WILL be there.

This quick test (runs for 6 minutes) shows a XenApp 6 server running on Windows Server 2008 R2 with no load whatsoever. We injected a 3% loss but again, were able to see huge spikes on it (remember, our solution, hardware or software based, sends a beacon between both ends all the time to determine how network conditions are at any given time and adjusts how mildly/heavily we do our magic and with all this data we can plot what is going on over the link in real time).

The results? Well see for yourself. My take on this is XenDesktop/XenApp do suffer. Period. In certain cases your users would experience serious lags when typing, very choppy video/audio and so on. Unusable? I would not go that far. Fixable? Yes as the video clearly shows. And also keep in mind this was all done over a hotel internet connection (the type you get on your room) in a conference where probably every single person IS using the hotel link AND this was done on a XenApp 6 box running in Ottawa, Canada, a couple miles from San Francisco (probably around 3,000 miles).

If you want to understand how we do this (remember, we are a layer 2 solution so we fix ICA, RDP, PCoIP, etc – we do not care what you run; we fix it) feel free to stop me at Citrix Synergy for a chat or just follow me on Twitter (crod).

Bottom line: even though these protocols do have their mechanisms to cope with packet loss, ICA, the king of the kings in the VDI world IMHO, does suffer. If it does, I can only imagine PCoIP will suffer even more (and RDP too). Oh we have tested them.

Yes, they suck.

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Windows Server 2008 R2 TS. What have they done?

As you know Windows Server 2008 R2 has been around for some time now but as several of our customers are still on 2003 or 2008, I did not have a change to get deep into it.

Of course most of the new features (i.e. two-way audio, virtual IP addressing, etc) I had a chance to play a long time ago and even presented about 2008 R2 at BriForum.

Now as I am working on updating the guide I wrote (“Terminal Services A to Z”, available here), I had to go through all the stuff Microsoft blessed us with on 2008 R2: RDS Web Access, RDS Session Broker, RDS Gateway and so on. What did I find?

If I had to define in a single word, the experience of setting up a load balanced solution with a web interface and a gateway using only 2008 R2, that would be the word: frustration.

To understand the reason for that, you may need a little bit more information and history about me. Back in the days when Citrix was the only solution, with Provision Networks still in its infancy, I envisioned and designed a solution that was not only modular but dead simple to setup and use. This idea, or dream,  turned into real products that many here will remember: WTSPortal, WTSGateway Pro and so on. People all over the world used our solutions and everyone seemed to agree at the time that we did it in such a way that we had pretty much NO support calls whatsoever. It simply worked and worked in a way that even your grandma could set it up and manage it. The Library of Congress used our products. So did the Jet Propulsion Lab and NASA. Warner. Disney. Hilton and so on. All these people trusted a three men shop.

So years ago (2003/2004) we had all that sorted out: RDP over HTTPS, Published Applications, Resource Based Load Balancing and so on and no kidding, it would not take you more than 30 minutes to get all going.

Simple and elegant design. More than that, I would say, smart design.

Today after going through all the stuff required to get RDS Web Access, RDS Gateway and RDS Session Broker up and running I am simply baffled. Stunned. This is for sure the epitome of bad design. I am still banging my head in the wall just thinking about how the setup of all this makes no sense and more than that, what a steep learning curve this will be for anyone that is now on Windows Server 2003 TS.

In laymen terms, Microsoft simply made it difficult and hard. Add to that a bad design to start with and you have a solution that, even though it works at the end, is simply stupid. To put in perspective how bad it is, it makes Citrix and its 12,000 consoles look great.

What amazes me the most is Microsoft had YEARS to watch what others did and learn with their mistakes and then come up with something clean. Smart. Unfortunately that was not the case. Not even Jesus Christ can set this thing up without reading AND reading AND without banging his head somewhere. And trust me, at one point he will call his dad for help.

The weird part is I know most of the developers or the people involved with RDS in Redmond and they are indeed good, smart and hard working people. This creates a paradox in my mind. How such great resources could create such a piece of junk. Junkware.

Again, I am not debating if the solution at the end works. It does. I am discussing how easy it is to setup, how smart the design is and so on. And in that respect, they simply failed to deliver. I am telling you that based on 15+ years of experience doing nothing else other than TS/RDS/Citrix deployments and starting companies focused on TS/RDS development. I may look stupid indeed but I know some shit about these things.

Simplicity and clean design are key elements on any good piece of software, what someone in Redmond seems to disagree.

Light up a candle, hold hands and pray for changes in Windows Server 2010 RDS. They are needed.

CR

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Patchworking and VDI.

I actually started writing this post a couple weeks ago but got sidetracked with other things and it just sat here on this blog with a title. So after reading Brian’s posts on why use and not use VDI, I decided to finalize this post. So here we go.

 A word on the title of this post, Patchworking, if you have no idea what it means (take a look at the formal definition on Wikipedia), is putting together small pieces of different fabrics into a larger design. Awesome stuff. For quilts and bed sheets.

Not for IT.

I remember another thread at Brian’s website where I posted a comment exactly about this issue that IMHO plagues VDI as of today. In order to get it working properly you need to rely on pieces (solutions) from several different vendors and that is where the problem begins. You may end up with a solution that runs Citrix XenDesktop that requires Windows Server 2003/2008 for its components, all these running on top of VMWare vSphere running on top of HP Blades connected to a Brocade SAN, all that tied into ILIO, vScaler and vDeDupe from Atlantis Computing. Sounds great and reliable, doesn’t it?

I see this type of solution as a house of cards. As soon as the first one falls, you are in for a great ride. Downhill. Spiraling. Imagine calling Microsoft to report an issue you are having with your virtualized Windows 7 that is using a virtual profile solution from RTOSoft (you can buy me a beer later Kevin) and that the actual VM image is based on a master clone and deltas handled by another product from vendor VDI-MILFs. I am almost certain Microsoft will hang up on your face. Right there at the spot.

Not to put you down on your VDI thoughts; in a way this is what happened in the TS/Citrix world 10 years ago. Remember the experience of calling vendor A and telling them you had their masterpieshit installed on Citrix? They would tell you nice things along the lines of ‘go screw yourself ok?’.

The point is, it took TS/Citrix almost a DECADE for God’s sake to become something we can consider ‘stable’. Note I am not using the words ‘rock solid’. TS and Citrix were not and probably will never be 100% reliable (or 95% for that matter). Remember people, we are talking Microsoft and Citrix here. Using Microsoft, Citrix and rock solid stability on the same phrase creates a paradox. Always keep that in mind.

So why would this be different with VDI? Brian thinks (I hope by now, he realizes his prophecy about VDI will fail) 2010 is the year VDI will take off and become the #1 priority for all IT departments. TS/Citrix took 10+ damn years to get to what it is today. Why VDI will be able to become an easy to deploy, cheap and stable solution in 2 years is beyond my comprehension. Call me dumb, stupid or anything else similar but I fail to see this happening now.

Will it get there? Sure it will. In 2010? No. More like 2020. 🙂

And as Jeroen nailed with his comment on the ‘Why use VDI’ thread, deploying the whole thing is complex to start with, even when using a single vendor (i.e. Citrix all the way or Microsoft all the way). After you start you realize several components are not there so you need to start sewing together all these pieces from other vendors. Now you got your patchwork.

I am not saying there is no place for VDI and that you guys all are nuts. No. I am just saying, like I have been doing with the whole UIA (User Installed Apps)/BYOPS (yes, I coined the term Bring Your Own Piece of Shit), that there are several hurdles and issues not only to get VDI going but to support it and many people in the industry, inebriated by the chance of putting their hands/making a career on a new, exciting technology, are simply not mentioning and/or ignoring them.

Not the case at this end. I see both sides of the coin. One is pretty and shiny. The other one…

So before you try to convince your boss to spend ten times more on a VDI solution (when compared to a real desktop one or to a 10+ year old mature solution like TS) just because you do need iTunes to run in a hosted environment and figured out it does not work on TS, hold on your horses. There is more to VDI than most vendors are willing to tell you.

You will thank me later.

CR

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