Citrix, what’s on the roadmap

By | June 25, 2011

With the last Citrix Synergy in San Francisco in May, and this week Citrix CiTIE in the Netherlands, I’ve heard a lot of new stuff coming up. In this blog I will give an overview of it.

XenApp

Citrix XenApp 6.5 is on the roadmap. New features are:

  • Session prelaunch and session lingering. When users logon to their desktop and the receiver is sending its first ping to the farm, it’s likely that the user will start an application on the farm in the near future. So an empty session is already started for the user. This can also be scheduled, based on time. When the user eventually starts an application, this is started within the empty session. As you can imagine, this is much faster than first going through a logon process. The same is done after closing an application. When the user closed the application, the session remains running for a certain time, but is empty. This is called lingering. This has the same effect as the prelaunch.
  • XenApp Streaming with VHD mount points. This is especially useful for streaming to VDI. The problem when streaming to VDI, and also with other streaming methods, like App-V, is that the stream is cached locally on the VDI disk. When the VDI reboots, the changes to the local disk are destroyed and the VDI is reset to a clean state. The cache must be rebuild every time again. With VHD mount points this is solved. Instead of streaming to a local cache, a VHD disk is mounted in the cache, which contains the stream. This is a VHD mount point per stream, so not a shared cached disk, like App-V. This makes it easier to update the stream. The Citrix profiler can create a VHD file for the stream.
  • XenApp 6.5 will also support the Machine Creation Services method which was introduced with XenDesktop 5. This is useful when virtualizing XenApp. With MCS you create a master image. MCS will make a clone of it and creates ID-disks and differencing disks for every server. With MCS you have a fast method of building your XenApp farm, extend is, or restore it to a previous state. As you can see, MCS is taking over the role of Citrix Provisioning Services more and more.
  • Because XenApp with MCS will be managed in the same way as XenApp, it’s likely that this will also integrate with the Desktop Studio console.
  • The ICA protocol will be multi stream. The current protocol has one IP port with multiple virtual channel. This will be separated in different streams on different ports. The reason for this is that it’s easier to manage different streams for e.g. QoS.
  • Web Interface will be replaced by the Web Receiver. The Web Receiver will be part of a new framework, which will also contain Merchandising Server and Delivery Services. Web Receiver will be based on HTML 5. The Delivery Services framework will be extended. It will offer an authentication point for multiple authentication methods and a self service and workflow module, where users can request an application.
  • The Receiver will now contain the online plugin embedded. Formerly these where two components, which where bundled. The new Receiver will support the new Web Services and will support roaming of your settings. For example, when applications are approved and added on one machine, they will show up on al devices in the startmenu.

XenDesktop

In a future version of XenDesktop, new features are:

  • XenDesktop will support RemoteFX and Windows 7 aero.
  • In previous statements of Citrix, Machine Creation Services was positioned as a solution for POC and small environments up to 500 desktops. But Citrix has done extensive testing with MCS, and now they position it for environments up to 5000 VDI desktops. So there is less need for using Citrix Provisioning Services for virtual environments. For physical environments PVS is still the only possible solution.
  • With XenDesktop, you can also host a MacOS VDI. So you can run MacOS desktops on any platform with a Citrix receiver.
  • And the same features as for XenApp, like multi stream ICA, Web Receiver and Delivery Services.

XenServer

XenServer 6 is on the roadmap:

  • XenServer is growing fast as a hypervisor platform, already with a 17% marketshare. Now used more than Hyper-V according to a Forester research for company production environments and more public clouds on XenServer than on VMWare.
  • XenServer 6 will have the Xen 4 kernel.
  • Until now, XenServer used the build-in Linux virtual switch. With XenServer 6, this will be the Citrix vSwitch, which will offer much more configuration options, like ACLs between VLANs.
  • Storagelink and Site Recovery will be integrated in XenServer, and won’t be separate virtual appliances anymore.
  • GPU pass-through is added. This means you can run a virtual CAD workstation with a powerful video card. This looks like RemoteFX in Hyper-V.
  • XenServer is the hypervisor that is best optimized for VDI. Other hypervisors are just made for server virtualization, and yes, you can also virtualize desktops with it. But XenServer has Intellicache. This means that you can place the master disk on a SAN storage, but when VDI’s are running, the disk blocks will be cached locally on the XenServer host. The write cache can also be created locally on the XenServer. So this means an enormous offloading of your SAN for both reads and writes IOPS. With this great features, I think you should always use XenServer as the hypervisor platform for XenDesktop. Besides these features, it’s also much cheaper than VMWare or Hyper-V (for VDI you don’t have the advantage of the 4 “free” vm server licenses), and for VDI you don’t need the full blown features of VMWare. In most cases, the server virtualization infrastructure will already be separated from the VDI virtualization infrastructure, so why not using another platform. Just call this platform the desktop host environment, and the server environment can still be the virtualization platform.