The worst time to find out about problems in your Citrix environment is after they are already happening. But the built-in tools (Director) don't really always paint the full picture to give you quality Citrix monitoring. You need Proactive Citrix Monitoring and ControlUp is here to help!
Citrix Monitoring Webinar on 11-29-2017
Yoni Avital (Founder & CTO of ControlUp) and I had an hour long CUGC Connect webinar hosted by the Citrix User Group Community! Wednesday, November 29th 2017 at noon Central (US).
Yoni first showed me ControlUp almost 4 years ago and I've been enjoying watching them improve every year. I have loved the single-pane-of-glass approach they take to environment monitoring and engagement.
Why View the Replay?
Aside from hearing my soothing voice moderate… Yoni demoed ControlUp 7.1 which I believe excels not only at Citrix monitoring (as in XenApp/XenDesktop) but NetScaler monitoring as well!
New features also include adding nVidia vGPU at the VM and process level to your Citrix monitoring, metrics of your published applications (yay!) and a new troubleshooting feature.
Will there be a Demo?
YES- you'll be able to see this all in action live in the webinar.
As part of my article The Wait Is Over, I recently asked readers of ctxPRO.com if and when they were planning on upgrading to XenApp/XenDesktop 7.15 LTSR (Long Term Service Release). Not that I was surprised by the results but here they are!
Long Term Service Release (LTSR). It doesn't happen often. And here's why this is a big deal!
The Wait is OVER – XenApp and XenDesktop LTSR 7.15
Aside from “should I use PVS and MCS?” the most common question I have been getting this year is, “When is the next LTSR being released?”
When no announcement was made at Synergy, I think people started thinking they would be waiting for “the Citrix” for-ev-er.
Understanding Releases- CR and LTSR
Very briefly if you don't know already- Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop (yes, one product line with multiple license types, a discussion for another day) has two streams of releases:
CR – Current Release. Roughly every 3-9 months or so, as new features are developed they are released into the ‘wild'. CR has a shorter lifecycle of support but you always have the latest features. It's a great fit for environments that care about being on the cutting edge.
LTSR – Long Term Service Release. Roughly every 2-3 years a new version is released. This “Locks in” a feature set and only security and stability patches are released. Those that are paying attention will note that Microsoft and other vendors are doing the same thing, and it's important in the Enterprise.
Why Care About a Long Term Service Release (LTSR)?
There's a lot of reasons to care about LTSR. Here's my top 5:
Proven Stability. LTSR has been simply huge in high-availability 24-hr verticals like Healthcare because you can predict what it will do. A longer lifespan means more predictability. LTSR is the Honda Accord of Citrix releases. You just know it's going to work the same way 3 years from now as it does today. You know it because literally hundreds of customers are using the same version.
10 Year Support Possible. This is because with less changes being made, the support lifecycle is longer. This means in some cases an almost 10 year support lifespan (not that you would, but you could!) Given the amount of XenApp 5.0 and 6.0 farms I'm still seeing out there, I'm reminded that not everyone upgrades often. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?
App Vendors Like it. Sure, new features are great but there are times when the development lifecycle for an application is longer than the features of the underlying delivery. An LTSR release lets you specify a standard way of doing things knowing it will be easier to support in the long run.
Better ROI. I have to say this again- Return on Investment only applies if your Operational costs are lower. A standardized release means more people will learn how to administer the environment and get better at it over time. In fact- certifications are now aligning towards LTSR releases.
Better and Faster Support. Not just from Citrix, but from partners and application vendors and even web searches. Let's face it- for all the reasons above you'll get better quality and faster support using an LTSR than a CR.
So What's the Problem?
Well- 1.6 years ended up being a long time to wait for a lot of people. After all, there have been a LOT of useful features in the 7 releases that have come between LTSRs. So, what I have been seeing is a lot of ‘inbetween' adoption of versions to get a certain feature that have had consequences in the areas I note above. A full comparison of feature sets can be found here. Needless to say, a full 2 or even 3 years just wasn't going to work. Too many people were clamoring for features that they couldn't get in LTSR and making compromises in Enterprise environments, which totally goes against the whole purpose!
Key Features I've been waiting for in LTSR
There are a LOT of key features I've been waiting to see – the list is long but distinguished (DON'T say it…):
HDX Enlightened/Adaptive Transport (note, 7.6 locked in the last great advancement in ICA. This is the next and the single most common reason I've seen the switch to CR this year. Solved.)
HTML5 Redirection, Framehawk and H.264 SuperCodec if you're into such things
Windows 10 support
Local App Access
Local Host Cache. This may be the missing feature others were quick to use CR. Me, I say you still want to have a good SQL structure regardless but at least this makes a more assured stable environment.
MCS for Server OS. I'll admit it. I'd rather see some image management than none. PVS is not always appropriate despite it's UTTER AND COMPLETE SUPERIORITY. Bonus points to have access to RAM caching to further reduce the hit to IOPS for writes. [Edit 9/19/17: I noticed today that support for HyperV Gen2 VMs is now included with 7.15! Hello 2016!]
Federated Services and SAML.
Web Password reset
Azure and Nutanix Acropolis support!
Linux Desktops AND LINUX ON FREAKIN PVS!!!
Anything Missing in LTSR 7.15?
WebInterface Support. I try not to giggle, but the reality is that a lot of people are still stuck on WI instead of StoreFront. Some even have legit reasons. And for that I am sorry. But if you are in that very exclusive club, do NOT upgrade to 7.15 LTSR. You will not find WebInterface support follows you. Time to increase those consulting budgets!
Common Criteria Certification and FIPS Compliance. FIPS may actually have a leg to stand on with 7.15 LTSR, but Common Criteria is notably missing. I'm not yet sure why but… if you need to be sure, stay with 7.6 LTSR.
Multiple license editions per farm. Sadly- still missing since sometime around the 6.5 days 🙁
SA Licensing. In a move I'm sure will cause a backlash, only CRs are currently eligible under SA. You must have Customer Success Services active to get the new licenses. Sorry, holdouts. It's the future.
Mixed component versioning. As with LTSR 7.6 – you must maintain all components at the same LTSR version to get support for the full timeframe.
With XenApp 6.5 going End of Life in… less than a year… (June 30th, 2018… or August 24th, 2016 if you broke your active SA agreement- long story but do you really want to take the chance of calling support and finding you have none?) I'd say it's probably time to upgrade, and this is the release that should make it practical!
Unfortunately this release has come at a busy time for me but… I downloaded it yesterday (8/14/2017) and am looking forward to getting this live!
Interested in help with your migration? Questions about licensing? My team at Accordant Technology can help or contact me below.
So, how about it? Will you be upgrading this Fall?
(note- this website is not maintained by Accordant Technology, it's where I work 😉 )
But what good what I be doing to just say “Ditto”? Here's what I brought this year and why; in the hopes you'll see this before you pack and benefit (or benefit next year):
My Citrix Synergy 2017 Packing List
First off, I've arrived early for Labs, staying for all of Synergy and also staying for E2EVC – so that's a solid 6 days of walking, sitting, walking, sitting, standing, walking, walking, walking and some more walking. I'm going to estimate roughly 11 miles each day for me. I should also mention that my hotel is a little over a mile away on foot. I'll be trying the Trolley this year (Thanks, Neil!) – $9 for the week will work for me; I'll try to remember to report back on that here.
Given the schedule and how IN-SANE certain days and nights can get at Synergy, I use a layering strategy in everything from what I wear to how I pack. (Note- I'll provide Amazon links when I can)
Layer 1: Clothing
Polo Shirts (note- this is the first year I've decided against long sleeve shirts. We'll see how it goes! The key is be comfortable without being unprofessional.)
Light Fleece (this is the most overlooked item. Trust me- I have never been in a session in all of these years that hasn't kept the room over 70 degrees. If you don't have a sport coat or something like that, bring something to take the edge off the cold) – LAYER!!!
Swim Trunks and Shorts (just in case, I've rarely used them – count on being so busy you won't need to)
Layer 2: Accessories and Equipment
Water Bottle (Thanks to Dr. Tobias Kreidl for reminding CUGC in including this critical item.) Pretty much every session will have water stations, but it's so very important to keep the ability to hydrate with you. Sure the air is humid outside, but inside- cold and dry. More so important if you plan on taking part of any of the numerous occasions for adult beverages.
Vitamins (critical for recovery – I triple my dose round Wednesday just to recover from various adult beverages and late nights that I am never ready for.)
17″ Laptop (I have a Samsung laptop I bought in 2017 that is still rocking. It has HDMI, Display Port and VGA output- which is important for Labs) – used Sunday and Monday and then left at the hotel
ASUS Transformer Chi Tablet with detachable keyboard – cheap and effective for note taking and signing into my work's XenApp Applications all week.
2 Battery Packs (I anticipate getting more from Vendor Partners this week)
Layer 3: Luggage and Bags
I usually travel with a carry on bag- but mine has the ability to expand. Why is this important? Because you will leave with more than you came. You will. Even if you only take the conference official bag, you will be getting SWAG (Stuff We All Get) from vendors that want you to take their stuff.
Leave space or the ability to expand your main luggage
Always bring stuff back for your team that didn't have the privilege of going to Synergy
Anticipate things like batteries, shirts, various prizes and fascinating solutions to everyday challenges like multiple charging cables.
LAYER YOUR LUGGAGE
Main bag for laptop (mine is a bag I won in Orlando a few years back that I use every time I travel)- after Monday it stays at the hotel
New bag to hold SWAG, tablet, water bottle and battery packs
More Synergy Advice
You're going to walk and stand. A LOT.
You're not going to sleep much.
Go to the parties
Visit the Vendors
Visit me and others at the CUGC booth!
You're going to get tired.
Your Brain may try to explode.
You'll go home brimming with new information and confidence.
It may be time to take another look at XenServer, folks.
The new PVS Accelerator feature caches the PVS stream, drastically reducing the CPU and Bandwidth required. For XenDesktop PVS-based VDI… this would solve a lot of boot-storm issues and makes the “Pod” configuration a great option.
My advice- always go with the Hypervisor you know you can support, but if you have a large scale deployment of VDI- it may be very much worth your time to learn how to support XenServer in addition to vSphere ESX.
Why? Because you can put your “Control” layer, now including your PVS servers, on your hardened and HA VMware cluster… and deploy cheaper XenServer pods for your VDI- which doesn't require HA and would now not really need to have PVS servers on the same XenServer cluster since the data being accessed could be cached. The implications of this in a multi-datacenter or Cold Recovery DR environment are actually really big.
Generally speaking, not doing this can lead to serious problems with speed and even stability. With the way point releases are happening, you should NEVER count on your AV provider to hard-code exceptions for you.
So even if you think an exception is happening by default, I still recommend testing the full list.
But by and large, in my experience with non-persistent VMs- disabling realtime antivirus scan on read and scheduled scans has the largest impact on your scalability. So, work with your security team to get that exception made and make sure they actually do it!
You'd be amazed how many assessments I have done lately where people thought the exceptions were there only to find that they had either been changed or never put in place!