RemoteFX, PCoIP, ICA in a WAN world.

Last week as you all know Microsoft announced RemoteFX, the name for all the work/technologies they acquired from Calista a couple years ago (amazing how long it took them to get here. Subject for another post). All nice and great for VDI and I am certain, with the licensing changes announced as well, it will help the industry moving forward towards the adoption of such model in a larger scale.

The main problem now is simple. As Shawn Bass mentioned on Twitter, ‘WAN is King’. And that is definitely true. With the rise of mobility, either on mobile devices like the iPhone/iPad or on full blown PCs connected through 3G cards, several companies do rely on these to connect back to corporate and more than that, are willing to expand such option for an ‘always connected’ solution. The problem is, once you hit the 3G/EVDO data network, latency and packet loss will be there. Guaranteed.

The end result is a much worse experience over the WAN, no matter what kind of magic Citrix, Microsoft or VMWare have as of today. Throw Riverbed and all other products like that to the mix too. They do help. But again, once packet loss/latency is there, they are also in bad shape.

That is where we come to the picture.

After years of development, we now have a hardware (appliance) or software solution (driver) that you can mix (HW-HW or HW-SW or of course, SW-SW) that drastically reduces packet loss (typically to 1/10 of what you had before using us – so to 0.5% if you had 5% loss before) and makes life on the WAN much easier for all the things mentioned on the title of this post.

The good news is this is a mature technology that we developed and that has been in use by some large people out there (no names at this point) for other things (video conferencing mostly) with impressive results. But once we realized how much we could do for SBC/VDI, after testing it internally, we decided to take it to the public, to validate and prove the results we have seen with RDP, ICA, PCoIP and other things. So our BETA program is officially open as of today.

If you are interested on testing our solution, all I ask is you to email us at BETA at IPeakNetworks dot com and of course let us know about your environment so we can assist you on how to get the most out of it. And yes, I do ask you to provide honest feedback. What you have seen before and after. Good or bad. We are here to listen.

For now we do not have our SW solution ready for all platforms but it is in the works (it is Win32/Linux for now) and the HW one we should have available as virtual appliances for all major virtualization solutions (VMWare ESX, XenServer and Hyper-V) shortly.

I do think the VDI battle will be decided on the WAN. Vendors, no matter which one, do realize that but may not want to say it, especially if whatever protocol they have sucks on the WAN. Again, with high speed wireless available everywhere it is just natural that more and more employees will be indeed connected to their desktop/session over a wireless connection. So the WAN is the battle ground. Period. 

We are the ammunition.


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Updates on my XenDesktop 4 on ESXi environment.

I think I owe you, readers, an update on what is going on with my XenDesktop 4 environment and where we stand at.

First of all, after reading the article Bridget Botelho wrote today, I do have a couple comments. I did have (and still have some) issues with my XenDesktop 4 deployment on VMWare ESXi. After discussing the issues with Citrix, note this is not a supported solution so now I do have a formal answer from them and again it is: ESXi is NOT supported. This does not mean it does not work. It just means they have not tested it or gave the same level of attention as for the full blown ESX or Microsoft’s Hyper-V.

My feedback on ESXi is, it does work and I do think this would be an awesome solution for small companies and a great way for Citrix to introduce XenDesktop to these small VMWare customers (for the small shops, I said many times memory overcommitment is indeed a great feature to have and as of today XenServer does not support it – I am all for testing XenServer once that is supported and recommending it to the small guys).

The issues I pointed out on my previous post, I have discussed with Citrix this week and they have been very helpful on determining the culprit. The first one, the video driver issue, is documented on CTX123952 as Calvin Hsu from Citrix pointed out and that was exactly what shanekleinert sent my way. That fixed it. My suggestion to Citrix is let’s leverage the power of Twitter and Blogging tools and make sure something this big that has the potential to affect tons of users gets posted everywhere ASAP, especially considering it has a very simple fix.

In terms of complexity to get a XenDesktop 4 environment going I must disagree with the feedback given on Bridget’s article. If you are used to Citrix products, it is very straight forward and actually extremely simple to get it up and running. If you are not familiar well then it is like any other unfamiliar technology/product: there is a learning curve for sure. Big or small I cannot comment as again, I am very versed on Citrix. But honestly, for a newcomer, I cannot see XenDesktop 4 as rocket science. It is WAY simpler than Microsoft’s VDI offering.

Back to the issues and where we stand at:
– The video one is fixed as per my comments above.
– There was some weird ‘hanging’ issue (the VM would seem locked up) and another one where I had to click multiple times on the ‘connect’ button to get to the VM. Once I upgraded the Mac OS X client to 11.1 (I was on 11.0) these issues are gone. So make sure you are on the latest client (tested with Windows 7 PCs as well and it is working good).
– The only one remaining is the major one and again, Citrix is on top of that trying to find the culprit. The problem, in case you are not aware, is the connection to the VM fails once I login to the Web Interface. If I then go to the vSphere client and launch the VM console and move the mouse around to somehow ‘wake up’ the VM, the connection then works just fine from the Web Interface. If I use it and logoff and try to login again, it works. But if I logoff and do not touch the VM for a while, it goes into this ‘standby’ mode. The vSphere console shows the VM barely using any resources when that happens. I played a little bit with the Power options on Windows 7 (as that could be the issue) but so far it seems the same. The one test I need to do is to try RDP first to see if it connects. If it does there is probably something going on between the VM and the DDC. To be determined.

So after using it for a couple weeks now, testing all sorts of apps and streaming video, on a heavily used ESXi host, this is what I have to say about XenDesktop 4: yes, I do have now one single issue that I am sure will be solved (I do appreciate Citrix’s help considering I am using an unsupported platform) and that issue aside, it works extremely well on both LAN and WAN and as Shawn Bass mentioned in one of his tweets, WAN is king for sure and to me that is the main reason why I think XenDesktop, as of today, is ahead of VMWare View.

Once my final issue is solved I will be a happy camper and for sure will be posting here the final chapter of this soap opera.

Stay tuned.


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XenDesktop 4. Not perfect.

I know tons of people will email me or comment saying I am a prick, an idiot and things along these lines. But after using Citrix XenDesktop 4 for a while, I have to give some feedback to tons of people that are probably trying the product the same way I am. That means the small shop willing to go for the free 10 licenses for XenDesktop 4.

First of all some background information here. I have been working with Citrix products for at least 15 years now. Yes, that long. I have seen it all. The good, the bad, the ugly. Citrix is indeed a company capable of great feats and at the same time, bottom crap shit. So I can safely say I am pretty versed on Citrix and its product line up.

On the virtualization frontend, even though I am no VMWare vExpert I have been using their stuff since VMWare Workstation 1.0. Used GSX, ESX, VMWare Server, VMWare Fusion, VMWare Player and so on. Deployed some decent size virtualization environments too (200+ servers). Pretty versed on it and decent knowledge on the underlying components.

Resuming: I am not as stupid as it looks like.

So what have I been trying to achieve? Very simple (and cheap). At home I have a Dell PowerEdge T105 box with 8GB RAM and 2x500GB disks (RAID 1) with dual NICs, connected to a Dell PowerConnect 2824 switch. The T105 runs ESXi 4.X (free version) and has always worked fine. Great product for sure. And yes, I do use memory overcommitment and for my needs it is simply perfect, with no performance issues whatsoever. Before you ask, yes, that is the main reason why a Citrix CTP decided to use VMWare ESXi instead of XenServer. The lack of overcommitment, for ME, is a show stopper. I wrote more about the topic here.

Back to the topic, as we are indeed a small shop, this little guy runs all for us. 2008 DC, 2008 Web, 2008 with Exchange 2007 plus two XP VMs. Actually this post you are reading is hosted on my 2008 Web Server, running under this ESXi box.

So I decided to test something very simple. As I got a freebie last year at BriForum (remember, I am the current champion of the Geek Out show that happens every BriForum) from Wyse (a Windows XPe terminal, notebook form factor) I decided to give it a try as a thin client for a XenDesktop 4 solution (by the way I had SEVERAL issues with the stupid Wyse X90 – probably will post about these later, so buyer, BE AWARE).

Got the free XenDesktop 4 license (good for 10 users) and followed the whole installation guide. Setup another VM on my ESXi (2003 Server with IIS, etc, part of my 2008 AD) and also setup a Windows 7 VM (1GB RAM). The setup could be easier and certain things make no sense whatsoever. But I somehow expected that to be the case coming from Citrix (they are a bunch of smart people that sometimes find some very weird and cumbersome ways of doing things).

Once I had all up and running I faced the first problem: the Windows 7 VM would simply hang after logging in from the DDC Web Interface. Looking at the ESXi console I could see the VM there, up and running but I would not be able to login (when it was shown as available – more on that later). After ranting a little bit on Twitter someone facing the same issue mentioned a problem with the video driver and a possible workaround. Tried that and indeed that issue was fixed.

Great so I thought.

Not too fast there fellas. Once that was fixed now I had to deal with a more serious issue. When I login to the DDC WI, it tries to start my Windows 7 VM but fails and throws an error. I then go to the vSphere console and I can see the VM all good there and I can even logon to it. Once I do that, almost like waking it up from some sort of ‘standby’ then the web interface/DDC works!

I discussed the issue with several other people running a similar setup (small shop with free ESXi) and they all face some sort of issue with XenDesktop 4. Apparently if you use Windows XP, what I have not tried, it works. But that I refuse to do as I left XP for good and more than that, as my customers are all considering a similar Windows 7 approach I must stay with the latest and greatest technology. So I do not care if it works with XP. Citrix does say Windows 7 is supported and I cannot see anywhere saying the free ESXi is not supported as Mr. Joe Shonk mentioned (so I assume it is for this unmanaged desktops case).

The bottom line for me is simple. When it works, XenDesktop 4 is a great product. But there are still issues not only at the core but on other components from what I hear (Provisioning Server issues, XenServer reliability problems and so on) and what amazes me is some of these, like the first one I had, apparently are known issues. If that is the case why not adding a readme file that explains these and the workarounds? Or why not fixing that crap?

I do see the power of XenDesktop and where it can take VDI once it is integrated with XenClient. But for now, Citrix, please let me know what needs to get done to make this work. I am sure several small businesses would jump into the VDI bandwagon with the free 10 licenses everyone can get for XenDesktop 4 but it must work.

If I find a solution or if Citrix decides to take a look at my problem I will let you guys know.

If I disappear after this post you know Citrix got me. For good.


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Citrix and the iPad

No matter how much I try not to write about the iPad, there are several crazy things I have been reading lately about the Jesus Tablet and many have the word Citrix cruising along.

For some people, for unknown reasons, the iPad is seen as the tablet God himself handed out to Moses, or Steve Jobs for that matter. The solution for all our problems and the device that will bring VDI to the masses.


And I will explain why and complain about Citrix later.

Screen. It is awesome to see a bigger screen in a device that can be potentially used as some sort of thin client. There are a couple issues there. The resolution is fixed at 1024×768 and some apps, in this day and age, refuse to work on less than higher resolutions. Two options: you either keep moving around the screen (painful) or you scale the resolution down to match the native display one (what technically is bad and if you know anything about video you know the reasons why). So, yes, better than the iPhone but still not that incredible. But I could live with that.

Keyboard. Here is where the big problems start. The on-screen keyboard may be great for a quick ‘checking my email’ thing but to use that to reply to long emails or to write a document, that is just unbearable. Fanboys will say go and get an external keyboard! Yes, great idea. Now I need to carry a freaking iPad PLUS a keyboard. Awesome.

Mouse. No word so far if a bluetooth one is supported. As of today, based on what we know, no support. Even if it is added at a later date, great, another device to carry with the iPad and the keyboard above.

Ports. Where are the USB ports so I can plug headsets, webcams, scanners, etc (remember, this is the Moses’s tablet that will bring VDI to the masses as per God’s predictions)? Yes, there are none but for sure you will be able to get a cable that costs $40 that will give you USB ports. Yay, another thing to carry with the keyboard, the mouse and the iPad itself.

Local OS. Sure the iPhone OS was revolutionary. For a phone. For a tablet, are you kidding me you are putting an OS that cannot even multitask on that? Not to mention that several things that make XenDesktop a decent thing, are NOT supported as the local OS cannot do shit about them. Examples? What about Flash redirection? Oh, did I mention that 9.7″ screen cannot even run Flash movies or access Flash websites? Not that I love Flash(it). But the reality is a huge percentage of the web relies on that (Citrix included – have you tried on your iPhone/iPad? Yes, it does not work).

As I mentioned to Chris Fleck, who called me a Nay-Sayer on his blog, sure I can see certain vertical markets using it for several reasons. One is healthcare, where for doctors, using a Win32 app that has an interface designed for touch input, it would be perfect. Small, light, relatively cheap and able to run their Win32 apps that require no flash, no decent video performance and no physical keyboard/mouse. It could be the same case for insurance companies (although the lack of a camera is potentially a big show stopper), warehouses and so on.

The thing is all the above use cases mentioned above are NOT the ones that will bring VDI to the masses. So how can such device do that as several people in the industry are bragging now I have no crazy idea.

As a final note, what really pisses me off is to see Citrix spending all this time twittering/blogging/working on the iPhone/iPad receivers while IGNORING the bugs still there on BOTH Win32 and OS X clients, MUCH bigger markets when compared to all the iCrap stuff above (at least I think that is the case; correct me if I am wrong).

So Citrix, before you keep promoting all these savior, God sent devices, please fix what we, the lower class citizens, use every single day: the Windows and Mac OS X clients. Once you get that going, go nuts with your iPad plans to take over the VDI world.

Riding the ‘what is cool/on the spot’ wave for marketing purposes is not cool. VMWare at least is not doing that.


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The main issue with VDI? Windows.

Yes, you read it right.

As the VDI debate continues, now heated up thanks to the iPad (piece of crap IMHO, subject to another post), I decided to write this post that has been sitting here, waiting for me for at least 6 weeks. It goes to the heart of VDI: Windows.

As of today when we talk about a hosted desktop solution, we like it or not, Windows is the OS of choice (the desktop versions is what we are discussing here like XP, Vista, 7). And the reason why I think VDI has a long, really long way to go, unless Microsoft takes action, is this same OS indeed. Windows.

Let me start by saying this. There are several posts and information on the web that clearly show that Windows was optimized over the years to run on, guess what, real, physical hardware. Why? By the simple fact until people started talking about VDI (circa 200X), all Windows deployments were 100% done on physical hardware! That is why the OS was tweaked/optimized to run on real hardware. Kind of makes sense huh?

Now if you look at a post by Ruben on storage  this is clearly shown and stated. And we are just talking about the disk subsystem here. There are for sure several other things/components that were changed/tweaked to get the best performance out of real hardware.

Add to that a very simple thing: Windows was never designed with things like application layering (explained on this post by Gabe), sharing a master image with differential vDisks and so on, in mind. These changes, required to make VDI an affordable, scalable and stable reality, introduce several issues. The main one for any serious, large deployment, will be what? Support. The next one, the simple fact that no single vendor offers all that is needed for a scalable, stable VDI solution. This means you will probably end up with VMWare on your virtual backend, Citrix XenDesktop as your VDI solution and several other pieces from several other vendors like Atlantis, MokaFive, McDonalds, you name it. Yes, McDonalds is jumping into the VDI bandwagon (what leads us to my post about VDI and Patchworking  – worth reading – bringing several issues to the table).

Back to the topic, even though some vendors may say their mechanisms are not that intrusive (like my discussion with John Whalen from Mokafive last night on Twitter), the bottom line is not 100% of your apps may work and more than that, if they apparently work and you find issues down the road and call Microsoft or any other vendor, chances are they will simply tell you to go ____ yourself. You can fill in the blanks.

Some may say that was the case with Terminal Services/Citrix years ago. Yes, in a way that is true. The difference is TS/Citrix was in several ways, way, WAY less ‘destructive’/’intrusive’ on its approach to make things work, than VDI is. VDI has to deal with sharing disk images, dealing with deltas for each user. Dealing with layers. And so on. If you know the internals of any OS you can see right there what sets VDI and traditional SBC apart.

As soon as Microsoft brought TS under its umbrella, making it an OS (NT4 TSE) or a service on Windows Server OSs (since it introduced Windows 2000 Server), things changed. All the sudden Microsoft had to support its own solution and products running on it. Vendors could no more ignore the fact people were actually using TS/Citrix to run their apps. And if you look at Windows Server 2008 R2 you can see how Microsoft changed the OS to make RDS (formerly known as TS) a better solution for hosting applications. Not to mention the release of tools like the RDS Application Compatibility Analyzer.

So at the end, Microsoft changed Windows Server to make it the ideal SBC platform (I will not go into discussing if they succeeded or not – I do think they have done, with Citrix, an excellent job over the years; still room for improvement, like anything else in life).

VDI is no different. The problem is we now have much deeper issues related to the OS than before. And the only ones that can actually fix these is Microsoft. Period.

Windows may need a big redesign to accomodate VDI needs/requirements. I am sure there are several things that could be changed on Windows to make it the perfect OS for VDI (what I do think most of you will agree with me, Windows is NOT perfect for VDI; for God’s sake, even on physical hardware it has its own issues). Once these changes are done (some may be fundamental changes on the OS) I am sure we will be able to scale a VDI solution without all the storage hassles, disk image sharing, disk deduplication and so on. And it will be supported and (knock on wood), stable.

Of course I assume you want VDI to be scalable, stable and supported. If you do not need all three, for sure you can deploy a VDI solution today. It will be scalable and stable but unsupported. Or scalable and supported but unstable. Pick your two options.

If you think I am nuts, go ahead and leave your comment or email me directly. The bottom line, at least for me, is simple: Windows was never designed with VDI in mind AND VDI has deeper ties than TS/Traditional SBC had at lower level OS components and these two little things introduce several issues.

And that is why, as mentioned several times, thanks to these issues that companies like MokaFive and Atlantis exist and the reason why VDI as a solution keeps moving forward (honestly, I think we all owe a lot to these guys, the ones trying hard to make the virtual world less virtual, more real).

This is simply put, people taking matters into their own hands, while we wait for the day Microsoft will release Windows-V, the first release tailored for virtualization.

Windows-V? You heard about it here first.


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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.


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VDI licensing in a Physical Desktop World.

I promise this is the last post on the subject. As you, I cannot stand talking about this anymore but I think I owe an explanation to the two readers of this lonely blog.

After all the comments and conversations I had with other CTPs, here is what I think about the licensing and to get there I will start with a real world example.

If you are a company now deploying 1,000 PCs to your users (let’s assume you have no PCs or that you are upgrading all these with new hardware), you are paying Microsoft, directly or indirectly, a license of Windows Whatever for each device you got, in this case, 1,000 PCs.

If you later enable RDP and allow your users to connect from home you pay nothing else. And if you have 3,000 users in three shifts (1,000 users working 8 hours shift for example), you are still buying 1,000 PCs that come with 1,000 OS licenses. So it is clear that on a physical desktop world the licensing is per device.

Considering that Citrix is really willing to compete head to head with the physical desktop world, why are they licensing XenDesktop on a per user basis if the real physical desktop world is licensed on a per device basis?

Yep, very good question. Let’s hope someone from Citrix reads this blog and is kind enough to give us an answer.

This would fix all the problems created for companies that were relying on the Concurrent User licensing model. Would that hurt their expected revenue? Maybe.

So Citrix people, where are you? We need answers. And fast ones.


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Is XenDesktop the right tool for the job?

So after the storm announced yesterday, people all over the world started complaining about the new licensing that came out with XenDesktop 4. This also prompted a heated discussion within the CTP community, with some explaining why they were frustrated with such licensing changes.

For sure I can understand the issue for certain customers. For example, for some educational institutions with 25,000+ users but willing to deploy a VDI solution using XenDesktop 4 for only 1,000 people, what do they do? If it is licensed per user, how does this work now? Do they need to pay for 25,000+ licenses?

Using the old Concurrent User licensing, all they needed was 1,000 licenses. And that is where the discussion with the others CTP started from my standpoint. 🙂

I am posting here exactly what I told all the other CTPs. First of all I think Citrix wants to change the idea that XenDesktop is a remote access solution. They want to make the market aware XenDesktop is actually a desktop replacement solution, going head-to-head with what we call today ‘physical desktop’. In that sense, if you have 1000 PCs in your office and you want to go VDI you need 1000 hosted desktops. So if we do see XenDesktop as a replacement for the physical desktop, 1:1 licensing makes sense. And again, from a marketing perspective it makes sense if you want to get rid of the old stigma of being a ‘Remote Access’ solution.

If you have 10,000 users and you want to have only 100 connecting remotely to your hosted solution, it is clear to me you are really trying to deploy a remote access solution and for that, there is XenApp. Many, including my friend and fellow CTP Joe Shonk, argued XenDesktop brings simplicity to the table as you do not have to worry about your apps, what you do when using XenApp. Well my take on this is simple and I ask you to provide me feedback on this in the comments area.

As of today, at least for my customers (note I have been doing TS/Citrix since they were born as products, so at least 10 years), in 99% of the cases we were able to make the applications work. Sure, some we had to tweak but the bottom line is they worked. And as of today, with application virtualization, there is a chance you will get the ones that did not work, working. So the whole “XenDesktop is app friendly and XenApp is app hater” does not cut for me. Add to that the fact that several XenDesktop customers are using Citrix own app virtualization/streaming solution to package and deploy the apps so in this case, that exact same app could be used on XenApp, making it not better or worse than XenDesktop.

Even though using XenDesktop as a remote access solution works and works properly, I see this as using the wrong tool for the job in most cases. I do know I can load a web server on my iPhone but should I use it to then host my website? You get the idea.

I am aware in some very special cases XenApp may indeed not work and XenDesktop or similar alternatives would be the only way to go. If you are on that boat, good for you.

But for most cases, nope. XenApp delivers it. And it has concurrent licensing. 🙂

The good news is Citrix is listening and is dealing with such cases, people that are trying to use XenDesktop in weird ways (sorry I could not resist), on a case-by-case basis.

I also heard on the CTP program they are releasing a new version called XenRAS that is pretty much XenDesktop but tweaked to work as a RAS solution, only accepting dial-up connections and with concurrent licensing. Official announcement should come soon from Citrix.

Oh crap. That was under NDA.


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Citrix XenDesktop 4. Many changes.

So today here I am sitting in a CTP only webinar about XenDesktop 4. It will be officially announced in 12 minutes so by the time you read this we are not under NDA anymore.

The major changes, many that I see as REALLY welcome are:

– Now licensed per user, not per concurrent user anymore.
– Trade up program with savings up to 80% for customers running XenApp. Valid until June, 2010.
– Reduced costs per user (starting at $75, then going to $225 and $350).
– Now you can run XenApp served apps not only on XenDesktop hosted desktops but anywhere. This is indeed a great move.

XenApp licensing does not change, still remaining as Concurrent User. The reason for XenDesktop moving to per user is reasonable I think. Citrix says when accessing XenDesktop it means the user will have access to his desktop 24/7 while on XenApp he accesses the apps on a needed basis, not necessarily 24/7 so concurrent user makes sense for XenApp but not XenDesktop.

On the HDX side, some of the new stuff:

– Support for VoIP and Webcams. On the Audio side several enhancements. Broad support for SoftPhones and a much better audio codec (three settings – high definition, Optimized for Speech and Low bandwith – amazingly, high definition uses only 96kps, way way less than the high setting we had on Presentation Server, remember that???). Webcams, for now on LAN (2 to 7 MBits used and latency is for sure killer).
– 3D Graphics support (some specific hardware/hosting requirements do apply – meaning you need a blade PC with specific requirements like CUDA enabled GPU, not working on a VM). The Client that supports the 3D stuff is still not combined with the other one so a specific client is required.
– Enhanced MultiMon support so you can now have that Mickey Mouse monitor arrangement working just fine on your hosted Desktop. Awesome.
– Enhanced Plug-and-Play. I heard about the ‘Bloomberg’ keyboard. First time for me. Living and learning I guess.
– Up to 30fps on server side rendering! Default is 24fps but a registry change allows you to bump it up.
– MediaFoundation support, now used on Windows Media Player on Windows Vista/7.
– HDX MediaStream for Flash. Animations, HD video, all the goodies. Access to local webcam/audio/microphone is supported.
– HDX IntelliCache with Branch Repeater Integration. In certain cases, where the content ends up on the client side, of course there is quite a reduction on bandwitdth (up to 25x). Nice improvement for sure in several cases but remember this does not mean everything will be greatly improved in terms of bandwidth. According to what Citrix showed us, much better than the PCoIP solution from Teradici.

It is great to see Citrix moving on this space and if XenClient comes to the picture (as you saw on Project Independence), this is really how I see the future for sure. Being able to run my Desktop, locally or hosted, from anywhere, anything.

For the first time in years I am excited about what Citrix has up on their sleeve. Impressive.

Cannot wait to download it and give it a try! And if I were VMWare I would be concerned as right now VMWare View seems VERY outdated, at least in my opinion. Others may not agree with me…


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Why all this drama now?

If you have been around the SBC space for a couple of years, you are probably aware if you had a Terminal Services/Citrix solution in place at your company you were treated in a different way. Not necessarily a good one.

In most cases the ‘Citrix’ solution was left on its own by the ‘Server’ guys. The ‘Citrix’ guys were the ones responsible for setting it up, making sure it was up and running, that performance was good (at least from their end – you cannot do much regarding Outlook performance when your ‘Server’ guys decide to run a 1000 maiboxes Exchange 2007 Server using VMWare Player) and so on.

That of course caused some interesting issues. When you had a performance problem the ‘Server’ guys almost automatically would blame ‘Citrix’. As the tools available evolved, it became much easier to prove to these douche bags the issue was actually on the way they setup their SQL servers (all in one single disk!), their Exchange boxes, their AD and even their switches/routers. And not on Citrix.

Fast forward to today’s world, where VDI is the next big thing (well, funny pause here: years ago, when everyone started talking about VDI, the CEO of a very large company that is a MAJOR player in the SBC space told me during BriForum that for him ‘VDI was one of the dumbest ideas ever but as everyone is talking about it we are now supporting this…’), and now people are all concerned about how to treat the ‘VDI’ guys at the datacenter. Read Gabe’s post on the subject here.

My point here is simple. Why all this now? ‘Citrix’ people have been used to this for years and in most cases, the guys pushing VDI forward are the EXACT same guys that had to push ‘Citrix’ forward years ago.

These people are used to that and learned how to deal with that separation at the datacenter at the time. In the past the user’s desktop was hosted on a server at the datacenter (that ran Windows Whatever with TS enabled and Citrix WinMetaXen or QuestProvisonvWhat) running on server grade (hopefully) hardware and users would access it over RDP/ICA. Today’s hotcake, VDI, has the user desktop hosted in a datacenter, running on server grade hardware and they access it over RDP/ICA. So where is the difference?

There is no difference. The ‘Citrix’ guy is now the ‘VDI’ dude (as guy is really ‘out’ – dude is ‘in’). And the same way the ‘Citrix’ guy had to fight his battles with the ‘Server’ guys and had to find his way to manage his loved puppy, all the ‘VDI’ dudes need to do is basically the same.

With a huge advantage: they have all the history, everything we, ‘Citrix’ guys, had to go through, discussed/documented/explained all over the web.

If these ‘dudes’ can learn with our past mistakes/battles/history, they will see this is not rocket science and that in several ways they are no different than what we were 5, 10 years ago.

Grow up guys. VDI is not that different from TS.

Before you thank me for this post, You are Welcome.


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