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Be A Citrix Hero During the Coronavirus COVID-19 Outbreak

Be A Citrix Hero During the Coronavirus COVID-19 Outbreak

Photo of DJ Eshelman from 2019

Whether you consider the responses thus far to “Coronavirus” to be panic or sensible precautions, one thing is sure: There hasn’t been a sudden demand for working from home worldwide like this … So how can you be the Citrix Hero during a season like this?

@TheCitrixCoach – D.J. Eshelman

I despise opportunity-based marketing. Yet, whether you consider the responses thus far to Coronavirus COVID-19 to be panic or sensible precautions, one thing is sure: There hasn’t been a demand for working from home worldwide like this since Bird Flu (or, was it Swine Flu?). Certainly not one this sudden and wide ranging. However, this case has been way worse in my observation; not medically but how our fear response has taken over. So how can you be the Citrix Hero during a season like this? If you have been listening to me on my podcast (Better Than You Found It) or reading posts on LinkedIn and such, you’ll be aware of a saying by which I live: You will not rise to the occasion. You will only rise to your level of preparedness. This holds true in EUC as much as in life.

You will not rise to the occasion. You will only rise to your level of preparedness. This holds true in EUC as much as in life. #CitrixHero Click To Tweet

Rising to the Coronavirus Occasion

If there is one thing I see consistently in Citrix Assessments – it is that the systems housing Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop VMs (Single or Multi-Session OS) seem to be running past their maximums already. Adding on even more workloads suddenly is making this problem worse. Why? Because the IT systems were not PREPARED for this occasion. Time and again, I hear things like, “We’ll deal with that load when it comes.”

I hate saying I told you so.

How fast do you anticipate getting new servers given where the parts are manufactured? How will it get to you when delivery services start to become constrained? And if you believe the hype, how will you install them when you’re not allowed to go to work?

Citrix Hero Concept – Do More With Less

Something I talk about in my book Be A Citrix Hero is that with the right optimizations and design, you can do more with less. This is how YOU will be the Citrix Hero during the Coronavirus outbreak – you can set systems to perform at scale.

The “Be A CitrixHero” Book, Available on Amazon – https://ctxpro.com/book

Tweet This to your friends and do everything you can to let your boss know: The same optimizations that improve user performance can help you trade performance for scalability during a crisis.

The same optimizations that improve user performance can help you trade performance for scalability during a crisis. #CitrixHero Click To Tweet

By organizing resources properly (Chapter 3), optimizing the operating system to eliminate waste (Chapter 1), Utilize RAM properly for PVS and MCS workloads (Chapter 4), and using entitlements such as Citrix Workspace Environment Management (Chapter 6), the Citrix Hero is able to do more with less and be prepared for temporarily exceeding the design specifications.

I tell a story in Chapter 6 of an environment that I had done all of these things, and during an administrative glitch, they managed to shut down eight of their twelve 7.15 LTSR Server OS VMs. We had recently implemented just the basic settings I describe for WEM. Imagine their shock that all 300 users were on just four VMs, and no one had complained.

The Coronavirus scare is causing a similar scenario – suddenly, more users are on the system working remotely than before. Their expectations have not changed. They just expect to be able to work. Well, that and have ten browser tabs with Facebook, WHO, CDC, and various news outlets all open at once. So, are you prepared? There are some 40,000 words I wrote on the topic, so go get the book, so I don’t have to repeat myself. The good news is that what you implement during this crisis will set your company up to save money long term. Worth it.

Quick Coronavirus Citrix Hero Wins Not in the Book

I wanted to highlight a few things that are NOT in the book that you should be aware of as there is an increased need for users to work from home. Here are a few time and crisis tested ways you can rise to this occasion.

Implement RemotePC

Up to this moment, my go-to event for recommending RemotePC was during the Toronto floods. While systems were largely intact, many people could not get to their offices. Sound familiar? Oh, how quickly we forget this feature built into Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops! RemotePC allows the Citrix Hero to install a light VDA onto the users’ existing PC and add them to a Delivery Group. Just like that, the user has remote access to their PC.

I fully recognize a primary challenge here: The Desktop Workstation has been dead or dying for a long time. Most desks today have a docking station for a laptop or a thin client (or PC converted into a thin client thanks to my friends at IGEL). I do NOT recommend installing RemotePC onto a laptop. They tend to be configured to go to sleep or save power. This is not typically a great combination. That said, in a pinch – having a user leave their laptop, pushing the RemotePC VDA along with some Group Policy to control the power state, and then removing all of that after the crisis may be viable.

The key with RemotePC is twofold in a crisis like Coronavirus (COVID-19):

  1. Provide Remote Access to company resources without additional risks, such as enabling VPNs. Because RemotePC utilizes your existing CVAD licensing, there are no added licensing or differences in external networking. This also means no added compliance requirements. It will, of course, consume a license – so keep that in mind.
  2. Lessen the burden on VDI and Server Desktops and provide continued access to user-specific applications and configurations.

Prepare for Increased Citrix Gateway Bandwidth Use

I’m going to ‘fanboy’ for just a moment. I have always loved that you can increase bandwidth allowed to a NetScaler (sorry… Citrix ADC) with just a different license key. No ripping out the appliance or having to deploy a completely new virtual machine. But what I do anticipate is that many companies out there may double, triple, or further increase the amount of staff accessing remotely to apps, desktops, or RemotePC. Each of these connections uses bandwidth – even when it is as highly optimized as Citrix protocols are.

You will want to keep an eye on your ADCs or set up monitoring to alert you if bandwidth is consistently exceeding 70% or more of your licensed limit. In some cases, the bottleneck may be external bandwidth. Either way, I have a quick win tip: Reduce the Bandwidth consumed per session. There are a few different ways to accomplish this, but first, there is an important concept to make sure management understands, and that is that the experience must be less rich.

  1. Reduce ICA Channels. Remember that each component configured that uses the ICA protocol will have a level of bandwidth assigned, and there is always a reserve, even if the components aren’t in active use. This means that if you can reduce the number of unused ICA channels, you can save bandwidth. Remember that these are user-context settings, by and large, so you can make reductions in just the users connected via Gateway with a policy. Here are a few that should be on the chopping block if you can work without them:
    • TWAIN redirection (what year is it?)
    • Port Redirection (it’s 2020)
    • USB Redirection (if not needed, which would be rare for remote access anyway)
    • Audio, especially microphone
    • Printing
    • Disk redirection & mapping
    • Clipboard redirection
  2. Restrict ICA Channel Bandwidth. This is an often missed setting where you can set a limit of bandwidth (or combined with our next tip a percentage of the overall session bandwidth) for certain channels that need to stay active. This has two benefits.
    • Reduces overall bandwidth for features that provide business value such as clipboard redirection or local drive mapping.
    • Prevents spikes in usage from exceeding your Gateway or connection maximums, which can cause pauses for other sessions. For example, if you set Printing to use a maximum of 500 kbit/sec, you will cause the print job to take longer but will not impact the other sessions as a result. During a crisis, we all make sacrifices. An extra 15 seconds to print doesn’t seem like much to ask.
  3. Restrict Session Bandwidth. Especially used with setting a percent of a session for channels, this setting can be great in constant-access scenarios. This setting is rarely used because to be effective, you must do a little bit of fortune-telling… you essentially need to predict how many active sessions will need bandwidth, padding against inactive, and all divided by the overall bandwidth available. This is not an exact science so don't treat this as an authoritative formula… but a quick and dirty way to figure out your initial settings. For example:
    • 500 active sessions
    • 100 inactive sessions (connected, just not actively using the screen) estimated at 1kbit/sec to maintain
    • 100Mbit Connection/Licensed Speed
    • 100,000,000-(100×1,000=100,000)=99,900,000 bits/sec
    • 99,900,000/500= 199kbit/sec per connection.
    • No problem. But make that 5000 active sessions, and we have a completely different dynamic.
    • Your session bandwidth restriction for connections over the Gateway should not exceed the math above us.
  4. The Big Win: Reduce Visual Transmission. This highly depends on the version of CVAD you are running, but there are a lot of options to reduce the bandwidth required to conduct this miracle we call remote display. All of these should be validated before simply pushing out via policy and very much keep in mind that they can be applied with additive filters (such as X user group when accessing thru a Gateway gets rule A, but Y user group in the same scenario may get rule B.)
    • Use Video Codec only for Actively Changing regions – this setting is time-proven.
    • If bandwidth is very constrained, set Do Not Use Video Codec. This is an “approach with caution” setting in my mind as it will often cause complaints. This setting will force Thinwire encoding, which can cause video to appear ‘choppy.’ Again – if we communicate with users that during the crisis they will have less capability, we can ready them to work differently.
    • Set a maximum framerate for the session. You can often reduce this to as low as 8 fps and still maintain a usable environment for task workers, but you may need 12 fps as a minimum. The point here is to set something, observe, and fine-tune.
    • Reduce color depth. Let’s face it, we all like the pretty, but going from 16-bit to 24-bit color was a huge jump. 32-bit color is a lot of information to have to send. I have, however, seen much less need to control this setting than in decades past. The codec is good at only sending what it has to. This is usually the last resort setting.
    • If you feel like going deeper into this, head over to the Citrix Tech Zone for a briefing.
  5. Avoid Handshakes During this Time of Crisis. Go with UDP based protocols if you can. Enlightened Transport is brilliant. After all – remember that we aren’t supposed to be shaking hands to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, so let’s take the same attitude as much as we can with ICA, shall we? A few caveats here:
    • Using UDP doesn’t reduce bandwidth; in fact, it may increase it slightly. This changes in high-latency situations where TCP causes retransmits.
    • Make sure your firewall has 443 UDP and TCP open to the Citrix Gateway VIP
    • Make sure your Gateway is configured for UDP using DTLS.

Focus on Quick Wins, Citrix Hero

There’s much more I can say here that gets way more complicated and take more time.

Now is not the time to get it perfect. That time was last month before people started working from home more, hoarding toilet paper but missing the canned goods. #CitrixHero #Citrix #Coronavirus #COVID19 Click To Tweet

I watch Citrix Engineers and Admins go down rabbit trails all the time, chasing blog after blog of perfect recommended settings. If you have the time to fine-tune – great. But the book Be A Citrix Hero, as well as this article, reflect my philosophy when dealing with times like dealing with Coronavirus, or any for which you may not be fully prepared. For example, this is not the time to try and implement complicated settings like Browser Content Redirection – even though it may be perfect for reducing server loads during times like this. If you have the time and can test it well enough, fantastic. Just keep a few things in mind for any changes you’re making during these times:

  1. Your Support Desk is probably already overwhelmed. Be their hero, not their villain.
  2. Focus on the highest positive impact in the shortest time
  3. Set expectations appropriately – Be Scotty, not _________ (insert politician full of empty promises here)
    • Don’t promise everything will be the same with a sudden increase in consumption. It probably won’t be; even if you take these steps, there will still be compromises to make.
    • Be extremely cautious, estimating timelines. Users that have not used remote access are now using it. This typically means a dramatic increase in handholding and trouble tickets.
  4. Don’t skip testing. I know the timeline is immediate. But if you have to stop everything else you’re doing to validate changes – do that. You will ruin more than just your day in a scenario like this by putting out untested best intentions. I don’t care what any blog or book, including my own, say – TEST BEFORE YOU DEPLOY, HERO.

I hope this was helpful to you.

Now go forth without fear. I know that in times like this, the fear of the unknown often takes over from the real problems in front of us. This is your chance to lead. Confidence is just as contagious as… well, come on, don’t make me say it.

Now for the marketing thing I’ll say and twitch while I’m typing it:

Working from home? Perfect time to pick up a copy of Be A Citrix Hero! No one’s watching – go for it!

I know, I know.

I’m the worst.

But I wouldn’t say all this if I didn’t genuinely believe that this will help you!

Be safe out there, and for the love of all that is holy, wash your hands!

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!

XenApp & XenDesktop 7.15 LTSR! The Wait is OVER!

XenApp & XenDesktop 7.15 LTSR! The Wait is OVER!

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.

"Please wait for... the Citrix"

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  • Application Groups
  • 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!
  • Zones!
  • 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.

Read More about the release here: XenApp & XenDesktop 7.15 LTSR – The Blockbuster Release of the Summer | Citrix Blogs

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!

LTSR Release

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?

When are you upgrading to 7.15 LTSR?

(note- this website is not maintained by Accordant Technology, it's where I work 😉 )

And, how about some celebration music?

(Buy this song on our affiliate Amazon: http://amzn.to/2fJtPqi)

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