Weekly Roundup #2

VMware vSphere 4.1: “HA and DRS Technical Deepdive” book released

Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman released their new book this week, “VMware vSphere 4.1 HA and DRS Technical Deepdive.” In my opinion these are two of the sharpest guys when it comes to server virtualization and “cloud” computing. If you don’t already follow their blogs I would highly recommend doing that as well.

VMware View 4.5 Events Database

VMware View 4.5 introduced an all new way of logging events and essentially troubleshooting. The Events Database is an optional component of View 4.5 but you would be hurting yourself by not setting it up. This article talks about setting up the events database with SQL Express, which is oddly more complicated than using a full SQL server. This is not ideal for most production environments but works fine.

XenServer Design Kit

Last week I linked to the XenDesktop Design kit, and here is the XenServer Design kit. These are dynamically updated resources you can subscribe to. There is even a Java app you can install, then the kits you subscribe to will be updated with new content whenever it is released

Introducing Project Alcatraz

Citrix’s Project Alcatraz further displays their commitment to mobile delivery of applications and desktops. Project Alcatraz is just one piece of the puzzle for Project San Francisco. In a nut shell it allows companies to lock remote sessions on mobile devices and require a passcode to unlock. This allows administrators to set idle session policies and manually lock if devices are lost or stolen.

XenDesktop Technical Newsletter

This newsletter will not have any marketing fluff! It is geared toward XenDesktop administrators and consultants. Expect great content including posts from Daniel Feller and his army, the top KB articles, tools, training, events, and so on…

vCenter Orchestrator team blog

The VMware Orchestrator team went off the tracks and started an “unofficial” vCenter Orchestrator team blog. These guys are really doing things right and not getting the credit they deserve. Orchestrator has a lot of potential and now with vCloud director and the third party Orchestrator plug-ins, these guys are going to become rock stars. This site has a lot of videos to help you learn Orchestrator so check them out

XenServer 5.6 Self Paced Training Released

Citrix has released their official training for XenServer 5.6, which falls in line with their XenServer certification. The last official training and certification for XenServer is for 5.0. Citrix skipped offering a XenServer 5.5 training and certification so this is much needed. Note that the XenServer 5.6 exam just closed open beta and is in a review process before being released to the public

Integrin’s “Alive” Overview Video

This is a great product, and I hope it continues to catch on. Integrien was on the VMware Communities Roundtable podcast last Wednesday and impressed everyone. Their product “Alive” aggregates data from other monitoring tools like SCOM, Open View, etc. You can then use Alive’s very intuitive reporting engine to really understand what all that data really means. Check out this short video

XenApp 5 versus XenApp 6

This is a quick and dirty article discussing the changes from XenApp 5 to XenApp 6

Citrix Knowledge Center Top 10 – November 2010

Roundup of this months top ten technical articles, whitepapers, presentations, hotfixes and tools

XenApp 6 Fundamentals Videos

These videos are a good overview for anyone curious about XenApp 6, or who has limited XenApp experience

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Citrix XenDesktop 5 has arrived!!

I wrote a post last night about the release of Citrix Web Interface 5.4, and that the most exciting part of it’s release was that it meant XenDesktop 5 would be released soon.  Well less than 24 hours later Citrix has officially released XenDesktop 5 and it is now available for download!!

Main_Download

When you select an edition to download there are two sections, Standard and Custom. Standard is packaged as a single download and Custom breaks down the components for individual download.  Oddly under the Standard section for XenDesktop 5 Platinum the package is 18.6 GB!  Even with all the products crammed into one package I have a hard understanding what is taking up all that space, but I will find out soon enough when the download completes.

Platinum_Download

I will begin setting up XenDesktop 5 and View 4.5 in my lab this week and over the next couple of weeks I plan to write a comparison of the two products.  The competition in the virtual desktop space couldn’t be better for innovation, and not just between Citrix and VMware.  Products like VERDE from Virtual Bridges, vWorkspace from Quest, and Leostream bring features that push the big boys to innovate at a much faster pace.

Here are some links to get you started with XenDesktop 5.  Enjoy!

Citrix Web Interface 5.4

It looks like Citrix has slipped out the latest release of their Web Interface product, version 5.4.  There are some necessary bug fixes and new features but none of them are what really excites me about this release.  The release of a new Web Interface means the release of XenDesktop 5 is right around the corner.  There is still no official release date for XenDesktop 5 but the rumor mill keeps pointing to mid December.  If you have a “My Citrix” account you will notice they have added a XenDesktop 5 section but the only available download for it right now is the new Web Interface 5.4.

[My Citrix, XenDesktop Downloads]

You can also now access the XenDesktop 5 eDocs which will provide all the information you need to plan, deploy, and administer a XenDesktop 5 infrastructure.  So back to the release of Web Interface 5.4.  The two features that really stick out are the addition of FIPS Compliance and the ability for users to open multiple virtual desktop instances, where in previous versions they are restricted to a single instance.  See the full list of new features from 5.4 below which I pulled from the official Web Interface 5.4 eDocs site.

“Updated end user interface. The layout and color scheme for end users has been updated to help improve navigation and readability.

Session sharing for VM hosted applications. The Web Interface now supports session sharing for Virtual Machine (VM) hosted apps. This feature is only available for seamless applications and non-anonymous users.

Multiple desktop access for users. In previous versions of the Web Interface, users could only access a single instance of a desktop per desktop group. Now, users can access multiple instances of desktops in desktop groups. For more information about assigning desktops to users, see the XenDesktop version 5 documentation.

Improved smart card support for Access Gateway. Smart card authentication to the Web Interface is now compatible with more environments. The Web Interface can now accept User Principal Names (UPNs) from Access Gateway as well as the user name and domain. Additionally, the Web Interface has been updated to comply with FIPS. This new functionality can only be used with the pass-through authentication for smart card option and you must be logged on as a domain administrator. For more information about configuring smart card support for Access Gateway, see the Access Gateway documentation.

Ability to set additional default values. Administrators can configure default values for all bandwidth-related settings, such as audio quality, color depth, bandwidth profile, printer mapping, and window size.

ICA File Signing. The Web Interface digitally signs generated ICA files, to allow compatible ICA clients to validate that the file originates from a trusted source.


There are no major changes but the security features are a welcomed addition for customers.  I was talking to the CTO of Activlan Stephane Thirion, aka @archy and author of the popular Citrix blog archy.net, and he offered me some great screenshots of Web Interface 5.4 in action!

 

[Default Log on Screen]

[Desktop View]


 

[Select View 1]

[Select View 2]

[Select View 3]

[Select View 4]

[Select View 5]

[Search Results]

[Settings]

 

Well that about does it for now.  When I get some time I will dig in to the server side of Web Interface 5.4 to see if anything has really changed or looks different.  If enough has changed I will write a follow up post.  Please feel free to leave any comments, questions, or suggestions…

Weekly Roundup #1

As you can see from the title and SWEET graphic I am starting a series called the Weekly Roundup.  These weekly posts will be an aggregate of articles, blog posts, white papers, etc. pertaining to Server Virtualization, VDI, Application Delivery, and Microsoft technologies. This is a learning process so if you have any suggestions or requests please let me know…

XenServer Resource Links:

This is a great resource for all things XenServer. It includes links for things like best practices, free training, and deep dives in different areas like networking and storage.

PubForum 2010 recorded sessions and presentations:

This is a must have for anyone in the SBC or VDI field. PubForum is a conference similar to BriForum in that it is heavily focused on the SBC and VDI market. This link provides full access to all the recordings and presentations from this year’s PubForum in Berlin and Frankfurt.

XenDesktop Design Handbook:

The title is a little misleading because this is much more than just a static document. Daniel Feller has put together this site, or what Citrix is calling a “Kit”, that has all the relevant XenDesktop and Provisioning Server Implementation Guides, Design Guides, and Reference Architectures. What make this even better is you can follow this as an RSS feed that the content is dynamic so they can update at any time.

Inefficiencies of vCenter and its availability:

The topic of vCenter high availability has been a topic of debate since it was released. Now more than ever enterprises are relying on vCenter and this article does a great job of explaining vCenter’s inefficiencies.

Remote Display Protocols, “Smile if you’re using Citrix HDX”:

This post shows a comparison of remote display protocols including PCoIP, ICA/HDX, RDP, EOP, etc. The video presentation that is linked to in this post from TechEd 2010 is also very good.

vStorage API’s for Array Integration, VAAI:

Duncan Epping does a great job of detailing VAAI functionality which was released with vSphere 4.1

Is VMware planning to support Hyper-V and XenServer?

This topic is still in the rumor-mill but some code was found that may point to VMware supporting Hyper-V and XenServer form a management standpoint.

Attachmate acquires Novell

Many speculated that VMware was looking to purchase Novell but enterprise software vendor Attachmate has beat them to the punch.

Citrix Receiver for Android 2.0 Released:

Citrix Receiver 2.0 for Android brings many enhancements including for an optimized interface for tablets running the Android OS.

Citrix IRC:

This IRC channel is not new but well worth a look. If you want real time responses to a Citrix related question this is your place. This is also a place to answer people’s questions and interact with other Citrix gurus in your free time.

 

That wraps up the first Weekly Roundup, I hope it was informational.  Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions!

Citrix OpenCloud Access

During the XenDesktop 5 announcements recently Citrix also announced that Dazzle will no longer be a standalone product.  As you know Citrix has been trying to make the “Citrix Receiver” an all in one agent with a plug-in framework to add additional functionality.  Following the Receiver model Dazzle was re-architected as a Citrix Receiver plug-in and rebranded “Enterprise App Store Plug-in”.  This new plug-in provides much more than what Dazzle did in the past, adding the ability to tie into the Citrix OpenCloud Access Platform.  The OpenCloud Access Platform is a solution to provide a single pain of glass “app store” that delivers Enterprise apps, XenApp/XenDesktop Published or Streamed apps, SaaS apps, and Cloud/IaaS extended apps.  I figured this was just an updated Dazzle or PNAgent but I was way off.  Citrix worked with a company called Apere to integrate Citrix NetScaler with Apere’s federated identity management, SSO, and provisioning systems.  This will allow Citrix Receiver to deliver any type of application to users and all they need to know is there single Active Directory login.  The solution also brings automated user and application provisioning based group membership and administrator determined workflows.

This solution will be released before the end of the year, and will go head to head with VMware’s recently announced “Project Horizon”.  Read more at the following links…

Citrix White Paper:  “Connecting Cloud to Desktops” http://www.citrix.com/site/resources/dynamic/salesdocs/Citrix_OpenCloud_Connecting_Cloud_to_Desktops.pdf

Citrix Solutions from Apere’s site

http://www.apere.com/vpx_solutions.php

http://www.apere.com/Cloud%20and%20SaaS%20Authentication%20with%20Enterprise%20-%20Solution%20Brief.pdf

iPad Tip 1: RSS Made Easy

Along with my other posts on Virtualization, VDI, and Application Delivery I plan to randomly post iPad tips that show how I benefit from the iPad.  Like many people I struggled the past few months trying to find a reason why I “need” or should get an iPad.  I have been a happy iPhone user since the 3G and I started thinking about  how  it really changed how I do things.  I knew I would not be disappointed by the iPad but I didn’t want to buy one just to buy one.  Although I was fine with reading on the iPhone, I knew I would benefit from the real estate of the iPad.  Yes, I could read on my laptop but I am easily distracted by Twitter and other things, plus it’s not the best screen to read on for more than 20 minutes.  I decided to justify my purchase based on the notion I would at least benefit from the iPad as an eReader, which I quickly found I benefit from much more.  I would love to hear other’s input on apps or uses of the iPad that you benefit from…

I have been on the search for a good RSS Reader for the iPad, and have spent a good amount of time and money testing them.  Finally I came across an app that fit my RSS and Blog reading style.  The app’s name is “River of News”, see Figure 1 below.

Figure 1

This app relies solely on Google Reader, and will not work without your Gmail account.   When launching the app for the first time log in with your Gmail account, and the app does the rest! Circled in red are my folders from Google Reader where I already had my feeds organized.  Figure 1 shows the app in Landscape view, but when holding the iPad in Portrait view it gives you a way to read the first few sentences and quickly move on if you are not interested in the entire article or blog.  See Figure 2.

Figure 2

I have tried apps like Pulse and Flipboard but each had limitations for me.  I would consider myself a power reader of RSS feeds and blogs.  If you are a more casual reader, and do not want to go out of your way to find specific blogs to follow, I highly recommend “Flipboard”.  Flipboard has a great UI and is pre-populated with categories of popular online news sites, blogs, Twitter accounts, etc.  Flipboard’s genius is that it auto-populates everything you add into a magazine style reading view.  It also allows you to integrate your Facebook and Twitter accounts giving you a very unique way of reading your feeds.  I may go into more detail on Flipboard in a future iPad Tip post…

Feel free to comment on what RSS reader works best for you, or any other app worth mentioning!

XenApp 6 Install Fails

When installing XenApp 6 on Server 2008 R2 it continued to fail no matter which server I tried to install the XenApp Role to. It would simply show the error seen in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1

The Event Viewer showed errors that can be seen in Figure 2 below, but they did not show any real information except that the install failed.

Figure 2

We did an install log dump during the install by running the following command “msiexec /I “path to msi” /L*V C:\install.log”. In the log we found the following error:

CtxComPlusAppUnRegister
CtxComPlusAppUnRegister failed with error code 232

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Resolution:

After researching the error code we found an older Citrix KB article, CTX113772. Under the Causes and Resolutions section it stated to ensure that both the “COM+ Event System” service and “COM+ System Application” service are started. After looking at a couple of the Server 2008 R2 boxes that were built by the server deployment team I noticed the “COM+ System Application” service was set to Disabled. After setting this service to Manual and starting it I attempted to install the XenApp Role and it was successful. We tried this on a couple other servers and voila!

This environment follows Federal Government OS guidelines so they harden the server operating systems. They disabled the “COM+ System Application” service in the master Server 2008 R2 template, which was the root cause on all of our servers. This issue will apply to any version of the Server OS or XenApp.

Hope this helps…