THE BriForum Session

So this year for BriForum I have submitted two sessions so far and as one of these is potentially massive, here I am asking for help.

The session will basically attempt to cram in 75 minutes a review of the so called Citrix Best Practices and check which ones still hold water to this day. The main reason for that is I still see, believe me, people looking for the (in)famous “Metaframe Tuning Tips” that my buddy RickD wrote when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Seriously, the reasons are many. To this day I still see many projects being done following these best practices and I am certain, given how hardware, software and solutions in this space have been evolving, many do not apply or have to be slightly modified to still be valid today.

Now the question you are probably asking yourself now is, “Well you are the Mr. CTP/MVP so you know better what is valid or not, what these best practices are and so on. So why the hell are you asking us?”. Well first of all my time is limited. That means I cannot be working on 1,000 projects at the same time. But if I ask 1,000 people in the community that are currently working on projects I am sure we will be able to gather a lot of great info that I would not be able to get and/or see myself.

And finally I do not know it all. Well no one does. Not even Shawn Bass. The power of this community I think is what can make a session like this great.

All that said I would like to ask you guys a couple things:

– What do you see to this day in terms of so called best practices? As an example I see all the time “do not use virtual PVS servers”. So what are these best practices?
– Any best practices you know for sure should be discarded and never used again? Example: some NT4 registry settings I am sure do not do shit on 2008 R2 or they actually do shit on your environment, throwing shit at the fan for the fun of it.
– If you will be at BriForum, are you brave enough to join me and a bunch of other clowns on stage? As you know I am probably one of the most well behaved, polite and politically correct presenters at BriForum, not to mention the All-Time GeekOut champion. So fear nothing, you will be well treated and gain respect from your peers (not me. LOL).

Resuming: whatever you have to say in terms of best practices (good, bad, old, new, etc) PLEASE let’s talk. Feel free to either post here or to email me directly at CR at WTSLabs dot com. If you put [BriForum Session] in the subject, that would help a lot sorting out the two emails I am expecting.

Cheers guys, appreciated. See you (hopefully) at BriForum.

CR

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Thank you Citrix.

If you read my blog you noticed my post yesterday regarding my MVP status, not being renewed on the renewal cycle that happens October, 1st. As I mentioned in the comments, there is a lot of work we do in background (like replying to direct emails) that are simply ignored by the folks in Redmond. And no matter what they say, they have no grounds for an argument for the simple fact they never ask you questions like:

– How many direct emails did you reply in the past year helping people in the community with problems in your area of expertise?
– How many people downloaded the guides/articles you wrote?
– How many people watched videos of your presentations in the past year?
– How many people read the posts in your Blog in the past year?

Without all this information it is very easy to simply say ‘You have not done enough’.

But as not two companies are the same, the folks at Citrix, with a much better understanding on the dynamics between people like myself and many others and the community, decided I was good enough to receive their CTP award!

So as of today I am one of the Citrix CTPs, something I am very proud and honored to be! I join a group with people like Brian Madden, Shawn Bass, Ron Oglesby, Doug Brown, Rick Dehlinger, Benny Tritsch and a couple others!

The only thing is I now feel lonely as I became the only person in Canada to receive this award. 🙂

So Canadians, step up to the challenge and join me in the future!

CR

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Not a Microsoft MVP anymore.

Well before you go ahead and read this post, please note this is not a rant about it. It is just what I honestly think about how Microsoft is evaluating the work people like myself have been doing on the Terminal Services communities over the past year (that is all that counts when Microsoft comes up to a decision if they will or not re-award you).

So what have I been doing in the community this past year? Some may say a lot, some may say not too much. So here you have my take on that.

– I wrote and made available at no cost an 80-page guide about Terminal Services. It describes everything you need to understand what it does, how it does and how to properly set it up from start to finish. It is based on Windows Server 2003 (and I am now updating it to Windows Server 2008 R2). You can download it here.

– I posted about the industry in general here on my blog and on other places several times.

– I presented a session again at BriForum regarding Windows Server 2008 R2 RDS (as I have been doing since BriForum’s inception).

– Helped people through my website (direct emails) and on the Microsoft public newsgroups.

Apparently, this is not enough for Microsoft. I just wish they had a more palpable, clear policy on what is indeed required to get your MVP status renewed. Several other MVPs did probably way less than above and are still MVPs.

Will I be back next year? Assuming all I have been doing means nothing (as it is the case as I have not been renewed), then no, I am not coming back (as I see no need to do more than I am actually doing and more than that, I do think I have done a lot for the TS community over the past year AND over the years).

See you guys!

CR

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Quest for VDI

I do respect Brian. And a lot. For sure he was the guy that brought the whole TS community at the time together (Ron Oglesby, Shawn Bass, Tim Mangan, Jeff Pitsch, Benny Tritsch, myself and several others) and kept it like that. BriForum, the child of endless discussions among everyone mentioned above is now a well known conference and a great place for everyone looking for SBC/TS/Citrix/VDI/Virtualization info.

If you read his website he is always saying something (well at least lately) about VDI. Even the discussions we have with Microsoft and their RDS team (sorry, most stuff under NDA otherwise I would post about these here) are now moving towards VDI. For God’s sake, even the lady that comes to clean my house every once in a while is now talking about VDI. So in a way, it is becoming mainstream. Wait. I do not mean people are actually using it. I mean it is mainstream in terms of discussing it, talking about it. Not implementing it.

Problem is even on these discussions with all the other Microsoft MVPs (I think all mentioned above are part of this group) I am not sure exactly what every single one of them think about it. So today when thinking about it I decided it would be a good idea to talk to every single one of them, one-to-one talk, record all that and then publish every day/week these conversations here on our blog. Once I have all the recordings I will then create some sort of final analysis, based on what all these guys said, resuming all that, and publish it here.

The reason for that is in a way I want to know what all these big shots in the industry think and see if they actually agree on something. 🙂

Secondly, I want to stop talking about VDI for at least six months. Why six months? Well that will bring us to 2010, the year when according to Brian, VDI replaces the whole world and we throw everything we know/have out of the window.

And the most important reason: that will give me a six months break discussing VDI with the cleaning lady.

CR

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My take on VDI.

In the past year if I could get a penny everytime I heard the word VDI I would not be here writing this post anymore. In the Server Based Computing/Virtualization industry, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is “the” topic and as mentioned, has been like that for a while.

Some people in the industry (mostly the Microsoft MVPs for RDS – the new name for Terminal Services) do know what I think but as not everyone is part of that group, here you have my take on this:

1. I am not sure why people like Brian and others do not compare VDI to real desktops. In a typical VDI scenario virtual machines running a desktop OS like Windows XP or Windows Vista are accessed by users using some sort of protocol (RDP, ICA, etc). For example Citrix XenDesktop uses ICA and Provision Networks/Quest uses RDP. But today, with client hypervisors (a local hypervisor installed on your PC) you can run all these virtual machines directly on your own PC and not on a remote server. So VDI in a way is evolving. In the future I do see users using their VMs over ICA/RDP when at work and when disconnected, using them locally through a local hypervisor. Get back to the office and all changes are replicated. Cool.

If we think about how many companies simply skipped the whole Server Based Computing thing, that never ran any application or desktop off a centralized TS/Citrix farm and how many companies are just now taking off the ground I do think it is simply natural their IT guys willing to compare how a VDI solution compares to a full blown desktop (real desktops/fat clients – whatever name you want) approach. Especially now that local hypervisors can be seen in the wild.

Again, these companies simply missed the SBC bandwagon. Like several companies I know that never deployed Windows 2000. Jumped straight from NT 4.0 Domains to Windows Server 2003 Active Directory. For them, whatever Microsoft introduced or did with Windows 2000 was completely irrelevant. The same applies here. These companies never cared about SBC/TS/Citrix. They are/were a full blown PC/Desktop shop. Now that virtualization is becoming widespread they simply want to know how a regular PC environment compares to a virtualized one. Dead simple. And I can totally see and understand their reasons.

2. So far, there is always some performance hit associated with VDI. The problem here is simple. If you are trying today to deploy a VDI solution for running Windows 2000 or XP, with a 4-7 years old application, chances are scalability will not be that bad (meaning you will be able to squeeze quite a lot of users in one big server, reducing the cost per user at the end). But if you are always trying to keep up with technology and if your company always goes for the latest and greatest, this means you may be going down the road with Windows 7 with Office 2009 sometime soon. And probably your applications will be written relying on the .NET Framework 4.0. Yes, I do know these are not out today. But keep in mind that with cheap hardware comes lazy programmers and huge frameworks. Long gone are the days when we had to squeeze as much performance as we could out of a DOS app because an extra 1MB of RAM on each PC would break the company.

I cannot see .NET ZZ getting leaner or faster; same for Office 20XX, Windows YY (replace X, Y and Z with any integer). They may look faster but that is the result of much faster hardware with much more memory. That is why I came up with the ‘Claudio’s Law’ like in the ‘Moore’s Law’ (that old dude from Intel): “The time it takes for Windows XXX to boot and load Office YYY on its current generation hardware is constant” and you can try that for yourself. Get an old PC (PII 266MHz with 64MB RAM) with Windows 98 and try loading Office 97. Now fast forward to today and get a typical machine running Windows Vista with Office 2007 and do the same. The time it takes to load is virtually the same!

Where do I want to go with all this? If you keep running the latest and greatest I cannot see VDI being a scalable solution. It is a solution for sure but if scalability is not there it means a much higher cost per user as you cannot run hundreds of VMs in a single box. Plus if you want to do it properly, you will not be hosting 100s of users on cheap hardware. You will go for the good stuff. And good stuff comes at a price. An 8-CPU box with 32 cores and 64GB RAM, RAID and fast hard disks does not come cheap. And now, in a recession, I am 100% sure costs will decide the fate of several IT initiatives out there. The bottom line in many places will be indeed this: money.

Unless Microsoft/Intel/God comes up with a new way of doing things that will allow us to run 100 VMs on the above hardware, all running the latest and greatest OS and apps, I cannot see this changing.

3. Local Hypervisor. Ok this adds quite a bit to the picture as now you can run the VM directly on your PC, without sharing resources with anyone else. Sounds great, doesn’t it? The problem here is there are several OS enhancements that are now dependant on the hardware. For example, Snow Leopard and Windows 7 are now offloading certain tasks to the GPU. Several other components on the OS rely on that low level direct access to the hardware. When a hypervisor layer is present, as of today, several of these enhancements are lost. This means a performance hit. Of course there are several benefits with that approach (i.e. your ‘master images’ become hardware independent, running pretty much anywhere, as long as the hypervisor is there) but in an age where users can go to Best Buy and get a decent, fast PC for under $600, are they willing to work on something that is slower (potentially much slower depending how OSs evolve) than what they have at home? If hardware manufacturers start implementing changes that will allow things like a virtual GPU and so on that will probably be minimized/eliminated and VDI may take off.

But then we may break the whole cycle of software/hardware Wintel upgrades and the industry behind that. Companies like Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc do rely on users and companies buying and replacing computers every couple years. So at the end, what impact such approach will have in the industry? I do know we, human beings, always adapt and I am sure these companies would have to adapt to survive the new way of doing things.

Well that is what I think. As you can see I do not think VDI is bad, ugly, beautiful or great. I do think it has its own merits, it is capable of solving problems other approaches may not work well and it is still in its infancy. But I cannot simply see how all its drawbacks/issues/costs will be addressed by 2010. Sorry Brian.

CR

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