fbpx
Configure Your NetScaler (Citrix ADC) 13 with Carl Stalhood’s new guides

Configure Your NetScaler (Citrix ADC) 13 with Carl Stalhood’s new guides

Carl Stalhood is at it again, with new build guides for Citrix ADC (formerly NetScaler). He has been so helpful over the years so I thought I’d boost the signal to his site a bit. He is a big reason I don’t currently make my own guides. Why would I need to? His are great!
We will keep this post up to date as best we can – Carl moves faster than we do, though!

(more…)
Proactive App Compatibility Testing is now Free with Login AT Express

Proactive App Compatibility Testing is now Free with Login AT Express

Those of you that have read a lot of what I write know that I am very much about being proactive in IT. Proactive means you are aware of issues before they affect work or worse, production. One of the major risk areas I have been seeing, however, is when applications are not tested against system changes or validated prior to being placed into a Citrix solution. Teams are forced into being reactive. And that’s bad.

Reactive = Bad

What is happening here is that IT is RE-active not Proactive. Today we’re going to look quickly at two primary problem areas and I’ll tell you about some friends that are trying to help.

That Compatibility Problem

I’ll be bold here and say that one thing that seriously irks me is when people just assume an application will work virtually – often without any testing in a physical realm. I’ve lost count of how many times this year I have heard teams frustrated because there is an initiative to upgrade to Windows 10 but management just assumed the apps on their Windows 7 (or Server 2008 – not R2) environment would ‘just work’. That’s bad.

Without good proactive tools, what ends up happening is that IT just tries to make it work and spends countless hours when it doesn’t. The worst part is that they typically don’t even know it doesn’t work until they are into the validation phase of a project, in most cases after several months have already been spent building the new environment. That’s really bad.

That Patch Tuesday Problem

What we *haven’t* yet addressed is updates. The other area that often causes a scramble is testing patches against the system. Problem as in… it is rarely done at this point. There may be a quick validation process before patches go out in maybe 1/3 of the customers I visit.

The vast majority of IT Teams managing Citrix are so overwhelmed at this point they rarely even test. They just deploy and hope for the best. They quite literally deploy and cross their fingers, knowing they’ll just react when the trouble tickets come in.

How Reactive Affects Work

The reality is that IT is being hamstrung before they even start. How can they address a backlog of work when they are constantly reacting to new issues or having to re-engineer solutions because they didn’t have the info they needed in advance?

Proactive = Good

So maybe I’m talking more to management here – what your IT team needs here are two things:

  1. Proactive Mindset of Management (solution AFTER problem, not before it)
  2. Proactive Tools (force multipliers with automation)

Proactive Mindset

When you are constantly chasing the latest issue, there’s only so much time in the day. Improving becomes relegated to lower and lower on the list, and in no time at all the team is only ever break-fixing. This problem has become so extreme that I have seen IT teams split between deployment and administration tasks completely, often trading roles mid-year just to retain sanity. Others have teams that don’t specialize at all, they just deploy and are never tasked with upkeep.

The problem here is that both of these solutions make innovation either not happen at all, or be so disconnected with user needs as to become worthless. I believe that the IT team supporting an environment needs to be in some way committed to improving it. Both in terms of them knowing the issues very closely and just raw sanity. Most folks in EUC do not want to spend most of their time doing only one thing. They want to grow. And this is where having a completely reactive mindset makes such things impossible.

What is required here is a cultural shift in the workplace to identify issues before they become production outages or “Resume Generating Opportunities”. Management needs to drive this – not the IT teams. Leadership must lead. There; I said it now I’ll jump off my soapbox and we can continue.

Once the mindset is set towards being proactive instead of reactive – workflows need to change to accommodate it. What one quickly realizes is that being proactive requires an investment of time and faith. The time is obvious, but the faith is knowing that historically, teams that invest proactive time spend less overall time troubleshooting issues and chasing outages. It is easy to forget this and take it as a given, falling back into old habits. Mind the new culture!

Proactive Tools

But today I have some good news. Automation can be a ‘force multiplier’ for IT to accomplish the same goals in less time, especially with repeatable tasks.

Login AT from LoginVSI is an automated testing tool for applications that can tell you if applications are going to be able to run in a scenario… without the difficulty of maintaining AppDNA or ‘relying on the testing army’ to give proactive results before deployment. The software is able to automatically perform key tests against the software in a consistent manner (something that is often missed relying on human testing) and inform you in advance of potential trouble.

By doing this proactively and automatically, you can save your team a lot of wasted effort hours in finding the same thing.

Login AT Express = Free

I love the attitude at LoginVSI. If you’ve followed me for any length of time you know that I’m on a mission to Leave the World Better Than I Found It.

Here’s some text from LoginVSI’s press release about Login AT Express:

Current Login AT customers are very large enterprises with very large numbers of applications. In the past year we learned that small and medium sized enterprises are also suffering the same problem.
As of the start Login VSI has always been active to help ‘make the VDI world a better place’. With our product Login VSI as a free tool for the first years, our support of VDIlikeaPRO, the performance tests in our own lab and the active support of 3rd party labs with free licenses (such as ICT-R and others).
With so many organizations struggling to keep their applications running after each software update, and our relatively small organization to effectively help them all, we chose to adopt the freemium distribution model for this new product to enable us to reach the market in the most efficient way.

LoginVSI Login AT Express Press Release

I’m happy to announce that Login AT Express is now free for up to 50 applications. All you need to do is renew your 1 month license as often as you like.

I’m willing to bet this will benefit well over 3/4 of my audience, so I’m thrilled about this announcement.

Let’s get proactive and stop the grind!

Here’s what to do. Click the button below and fill out the form. Under Product of Interest, make sure you select Login AT Express (and the others). Do me a favor and let them know you heard it from ctxpro.com as a blogpost!

Earnings Disclosure: DJ Eshelman is a LoginVSI Technology Advocate and was not compensated in any way for this article or any links associated with it.

Don’t Write a Book. Go Byte-Sized.

Don’t Write a Book. Go Byte-Sized.

Introducing the Byte-Sized Book Project

Writing a book is… really hard. But what if you could easily help one be written?

Well, that is exactly the opportunity in front of you!

Instead of writing chapters, editing, more writing, more editing and then distribution, worry, stress and…

okay, I may be relating some personal experience here…

As I mentioned in my February Newsletter – You can participate in a unique project… by submitting just 250 words.

This is the collaborative effort of Christiaan Brinkhoff and Bas van Kaam – the Byte-Sized Book Project.

The question is – do you have something you’d like to say about Cloud design principles, leading practices or even recommended reference builds you’d like to relay to the world? This is your shot to be heard!

This is all about creating value for the community as a whole, but not asking for a ton from each person. I think it’s a brilliant approach!

So I encourage you to go for it! But don’t wait- the plan is to get the book edited and done in the next few months!

c’mon- 250 words is easy!

Learn a lot more detail here.

Support the project by going to https://www.bookprojectbytesized.com/  – Follow them on Twitter and spread the word!!!

THE IDEA BEHIND THIS PROJECT IS SIMPLE, WE ARE LOOKING FOR AS MANY CLOUD DESIGN PRINCIPLES, BEST OR COMMON PRACTICES, QUOTES, AND ARCHITECTURAL RECOMMENDATIONS AS POSSIBLE. FOR THE COMMUNITY, BY THE COMMUNITY!

Christiaan Brinkhoff

Counting the Cost of Chrome: Bad News for the Chrome Browser on Citrix Workspaces

Counting the Cost of Chrome: Bad News for the Chrome Browser on Citrix Workspaces

In the name of security, Google may have made Chrome an even larger burden for virtual workspaces. The change to the latest version of the browser will start rendering each page in its own memory and process space. This is good for security (think Spectre) … But a nightmare for virtual workspaces, especially Server OS VDA (XenApp).

What to do?

(more…)

Clearing the Air in the Cloud – Explaining Citrix Workspace Service & Workspace App

Clearing the Air in the Cloud – Explaining Citrix Workspace Service & Workspace App

Unfortunately, Citrix has done it again with Citrix Workspace… showing off something pretty cool and adeptly showing off how it works… but not really explaining very well at Synergy how it will be deployed. So I thought I would get some down-to-Earth thoughts together of what’s going on up in the clouds from an Architect perspective.

TL:DR Summary

Feeling lazy or just don’t like reading? The long and short of it is that you can aggregate Cloud Control and On-Prem Control for your resources by purchasing or upgrading to the Citrix Workspace Service. Still confused? I thought you may be. Maybe it’s time to take a few minutes and read this one… But before you do here’s an important methodology lesson:

  • User/Subscriber Layer – This is the users themselves and any peripherals they attach to. It defines how users use a product.
  • Access Layer – This is how access to applications is controlled. In the Citrix world we’re largely talking StoreFront, NetScaler Gateway and if you are still living in 2003, VPN.
  • Resource Layer – This is important! The Resource layer is the… you guessed it, resources the users need access to. Be it Applications hosted on Server OS, VDI Desktops or even SaaS apps. The Resource Layer defines what they are, where they are located and most importantly- how they are structured and maintained.
  • Control Layer – This is what we define in the Citrix world as the components that aggregate and control resources. It includes Active Directory, Databases, Licensing and services such as the Delivery Controller. An important element of the Control layer is policies.
  • Cloud (Hardware) Layer – All these services have to live somewhere, and this layer defines it.
  • Operations Layer – Someone has to maintain all of this- and the Operations Layer is where we define all of this.

#MethodologyMatters when you can aggregate on-prem and Cloud Control with #Citrix Workspace Service. Click To Tweet

Citrix Workspace a Subscription Service

First off- when we are talking Workspace SERVICE, we are talking about the ‘everything’ subscription. This means it is Apps and Desktops, Enterprise Mobility Management (MDM/MAM), File Sync and Sharing (ShareFile), and Networking (Which now includes both MAS and the Web App Security Service)… but also the Secure Browser service which is NOT included with the XenApp and XenDesktop service. You can find the full list of the checkboxes here.
Your mileage may vary of course, but if you are using even two of the ‘core’ services, Workspace makes sense.

Subscription plans for Citrix Cloud: Workspace Service $34.38 per user. XenApp & XenDesktop Service $22.50. XenMobile $8.31. ShareFile $15.00. Secure Browser $4.50. Prices as of June 11, 2018. Source: Citrix.com

Citrix Pricing for basic cloud services as of June 11, 2018 (source: Citrix.com)

At an estimated $34.38 per user per month (Beginning prices as of June 11, 2018), Workspace is certainly not cheap… but as far as powering productivity from any location… I have to admit, this is THE premium service to make it happen these days.

So what is it giving you? Essentially, we are Hybridizing elements of the Access, Control and Operations Layer. You are still ultimately responsible for maintaining your Resources, regardless of if their location!! This is an important part that is VERY often missed when talking about Citrix Cloud, so please don’t be one of those confused by it! In other words- you still maintain your own Cloud Layer. Citrix doesn’t magically start giving you VDI from their cloud. The exception to this is Secure Browser… but that’s a different topic.

In a Hybrid #CitrixCloud YOU are still ultimately responsible for maintaining your Resources, regardless of if their location. Click To Tweet

What is the Workspace App?

The Citrix Workspace App is the new way of aggregating resources FROM THE WORKSPACE SERVICES. It makes a lot of sense because you can aggregate multiple resources, control mobile enrollment and file management all in one- very nice. But this of course brought up a lot of other questions, which largely are answered here. Note that what was shown at Synergy does require the Workspace Service Premium edition. If you are looking at this and thinking there’s something familiar about it… you’re right. The concept comes from XenMobile’s Secure Hub- but is now brought to other devices as well as mobile. It will be generally available in Q3, with additional features coming in terms of what will happen with the ShareFile Service (that’s a whole other topic).

IMPORTANT- Workspace App WILL REPLACE Receiver sometime in Q3!

Workspace App is also important because it has significant areas of impact in the User and Access layers.

Workspace App WILL REPLACE #Citrix Receiver sometime in Q3! Click To Tweet

Workspace Service Can Aggregate Cloud and On-Premises Control

Up until recently it was true that if you have an on-premises (or on-prem, but never on-premise, please) Site or sites already set up, that you had to migrate to Cloud control for your resources if you bought that service. This is no longer true because of Site Aggregation. You’ll be able to run both on-prem services (including local NetScaler Gateway and StoreFront) alongside the Workspace App from the cloud!

Danny Feller explains in this video blog that the Workspace service aggregates between both on-prem XenDesktop and Cloud XenApp & XenDesktop Service control planes, using the same unified Workspace App. This capability does NOT exist for existing Cloud XenApp & XenDesktop Service customers, however.

Why This Matters

To date this has been an enormous barrier to adoption, especially in places where the skillsets already exist to maintain local resources. One thing that has not been talked about yet is how this impacts Multi-Site deployments: If you can install a connector and the account you’re using for logon is valid or federated… you should be able to aggregate multiple resources thru the Workspace App. This is significant for a lot of companies dealing with M&A because it allows at least the User and Access layers to be standardized more while they transition the Resources (typically a pretty huge undertaking).

Workspace Service vs Platinum vs Workspace Suite

What is Workspace?

Workspace is better thought of as a concept- where everything comes together. This is what Citrix demonstrated at Synergy with the Workspace App. The concept was that instead of keeping all of these apps up to date in Receiver, Sync, etc you could have one app that aggregates both Citrix-Hosted and SaaS apps. People LOVED this concept, I think especially a lot of the administrators and engineers in attendance. And you know what- I get it. Less to maintain? Serviced in the Cloud so it can be managed from anywhere without all the outages? It makes sense. But this concept needs to be broken out a bit because it still confuses especially those of us who have been deploying on-prem resources for over two decades that aggregate cloud resources on occasion. Now we’re being asked to flip the concept and use the cloud to aggregate on-prem???

Refresher- What is Workspace Service?

Put simply, any Citrix Cloud service is merely taking what was an on-prem Control mechanism and moving it to the Cloud as a service instead of as a VM. So Citrix merely provides you with a console to manage the polices and settings, you don’t need to maintain VMs. As for connecting to your cloud locations for resources, this is done via a Cloud Connector- a universal software that sits on a Windows server in your cloud to create an SSL connection to the Citrix Cloud. This has the added benefit of eliminating VPN and Firewall needs. The connector acts as a bridge between specific services within the Citrix framework only. Citrix doesn’t need VPN access to your network; it only sees what you allow the Cloud Connector to see (DNS and Active Directory, along with the Citrix Resources).

As far as the Service itself? That’s what you pay for – whatever service you are consuming. In the case of Workspace Service- remember that it is the inclusion of all the primary Cloud services. If that is too much or not needed- there are other Services to which you can subscribe. Keep in mind that Citrix uses a monthly per-user figure for pricing, but you typically need to pay for at least a year in advance.

Platinum and Workspace Suite are On-Prem Control

I probably shouldn’t even be talking about Workspace Suite because it’s essentially dead IMO, but the concept was the same- a bundled license of products which in this case included some cloud-based components; but your Resources and Control for Apps and Desktops remained in your cloud exclusively.
Platinum is still the best fit for most customers who push the edge of what can be used because it includes a boatload of useful stuff which I would get tired trying to go thru in detail. But for those that needed XenMobile as well as Platinum it made sense.

From the Citrix website: “The Citrix Workspace Suite is made up of the XenDesktop Platinum and XenMobile Enterprise products – inclusive of all the additional products included within, such as XenApp, XenMobile MDM, NetScaler SD-WAN (formerly CloudBridge), AppDNA and NetScaler Gateway user licenses.”
In other words- don’t get it twisted: same name but very different functionality. The Workspace Service is much more all-inclusive and offers you the ability to run the control plane from the cloud. With Workspace Suite you administer both Control and Resource Layers.

What does all this mean to the average Enterprise customer?

Very little… for now. If I’m being honest – in my travels out in the world, most customers on Enterprise licensing aren’t even fully taking advantage of what can be done with what they have. I’m actually doing some private research on this and what I’m finding is that some are even aware of benefits their licensing already has such as AppLayering and Workspace Environment Manager… but they are not utilizing them at all!
When I’ve dug into ‘why’ this is happening, in almost every case I’m finding that there was either simply no awareness of the entitlement or in more cases there simply isn’t the time or HR capital to manage said features. This is a shame because they are already paying for it. Now, I’ve begun addressing the problem as I can by launching a membership site where people can keep up to date and learn more about these kinds of things (and you should totally check it out!).

But I will admit this: Moving the Control and integration of these features to the Citrix Cloud makes a lot of sense. All Administrators will have to learn is how to use the consoles. Engineers will simply need to learn how to make it all fit together without having to do much of the grunt work, freeing them up their 1,713 other tasks. This has impacts on your Operations Layer! But you are essentially exchanging one cost for another… So is it valuable in that regard? Probably. But time will tell if we see any real movement there. Why?

THIS IS TOO EXPENSIVE! Well- I mean, sort of. In truth, it really isn’t when you look at what you are getting. But if you are not taking advantage of the features, then it totally is not worth it.
That being said- if your organization doesn’t have the ability to fully support a mobile workforce both in the cloud and on-prem… this may be worth taking a look… when you’re ready. I’m not a fan of buying things because they are shiny. You really need to understand what you are getting!
That said- be mindful of your spend on this- especially around upgrade season. If you are running 50 users and have no admin staff… does maintaining on-prem really make sense? Are you really getting the value out of it? From what I’m seeing in the field right now I’d have to say no; but there is still resistance to the price point. It’s a quandary for sure!

But consider this: I recently helped a customer with their upgrade to 7.15 LTSR. You know what took the longest? Dealing with their database issues! It added a whopping 10 hours of effort onto what should have been a relatively simple upgrade. So I decided to look at more of these upgrade projects. Another with issues with Windows services that disrupted the controller services. 20 hrs of effort. Another that had some massive issues with about every member of the Control layer… 80 hours of effort! Another with an issue of a sudden departing Citrix lead right before a major go-live- 80 hours + a few hundred more I couldn’t catalog. The vast majority would have been avoided, which is sad.
The reality is that the skillsets aren’t there any more- hiring qualified Citrix help is extremely difficult right now. This means relying on consultants. So if you are paying someone $200+/hr this can really stack up in a hurry! I think people need to start putting this into their calculations of going to the cloud, because it really does significantly reduce how much you need to spend to maintain the control; you simply need to administrate and upkeep the Resources. Not saying that’s easy- but it’s less work by those needing specific qualifications that are hard to find. That is very significant.

I’m Here to Help

So- is your head still spinning? Mine too in some ways. But hopefully using some fundamentals helped in some way.

But I want your feedback! I’m considering doing a comprehensive, real-world course that would help better explain the Methodology and what is needed to maintain all of this both if you use Cloud and if you remain On-Prem or do the Hybrid approach discussed here. If you are interested- please contact me and let me know! I encourage you to join the membership site or even our free Facebook Group and chat with your peers and myself about it!

Categories

By With a Little Help from Our Friends

ByteSized Book logo