• Category Archives XenDesktop
  • Why vGPU is a Requirement for VDI

    … or at least it will be..
     
    I am not saying this is a requirement today for every use case or workload but I think in some ways it will be standard. Recently a conversation on twitter from a few folks I highly respect instigated this thought exercise. Today vGPU isn’t even a capability with vSphere (though it is coming) though vSphere does have vDGA and vSGA for graphics acceleration. XenServer has had vGPU since 2013 where it was announced as a tech preview with 6.2 but let’s take it back a step on what vGPU is first, and then I will present my irrational thoughts on the matter.

    First off lets start at the beginning…

    So what is vGPU – From NVIDIA’s web page

    NVIDIA GRID™ vGPU™ brings the full benefit of NVIDIA hardware-accelerated graphics to virtualized solutions. This technology provides exceptional graphics performance for virtual desktops equivalent to local PCs when sharing a GPU among multiple users.

    GRID vGPU is the industry’s most advanced technology for sharing true GPU hardware acceleration between multiple virtual desktops—without compromising the graphics experience. Application features and compatibility are exactly the same as they would be at the desk.

    With GRID vGPU technology, the graphics commands of each virtual machine are passed directly to the GPU, without translation by the hypervisor. This allows the GPU hardware to be time-sliced to deliver the ultimate in shared virtualized graphics performance

    So to break that down…

    NVIDIA came up with some really cool graphics cards that you could split up the graphical ability of the card to multiple virtual machines directly which greatly improves the performance. The NVIDIA Grid K1 and K2 cards designed for just this purpose.

    Example of what vGPU can do..

    Gunnar Berger (CTO of @Citrix Desktops and Applications Group did a great video on Youtube when he was an analyst with Gartner on comparing vSGA and vGPU. I highly recommend checking out other videos he has posted as well on this and other subjects.

    So back to the original topic at hand..

    Oone only needs to sit and reflect on the history and evolution of desktop PCs and see that times are changing. Browsers, Microsoft Office and other programs all benefit and are accelerated by GPUs. This is not solely relegated to the likes of those working with digital images, AUTOCAD, Solidworks, MATLAB, GIS programs etc. Sure vGPU is designed to be able to handle these workloads. One might call these graphic intensive programs the last mile of desktop virtualization, i.e. workloads that were bad fits for VDI. But in my mind this is just the beginning as almost every program out there begins to take advantage of the almighty GPU.

    As the desktop progresses and adds capability so must VDI to be able to even keep up. Many people strive for equal or better than desktop performance but even today’s cheapest laptops and desktops come with HD video card chipsets and share the ever increasing on board RAM. I just purchased a PC for one my many children to build him a gaming machine, he is using the on-board card for now and running games like Skyrim, Minecraft (uses more GPU than you think, go look at these FPS charts based on the video cards). Sure your typical office worker may not be playing games or maybe they are…

    Software developers are NOT designing their programs to look simple any more whether it be a web app or good old installable based application. They are designing them to run fast and look great and using all of the resources at their disposal including hardware GPUs. They are not trying to design programs that only run in a virtual desktop. 

    How can we deliver even equal performance to the desktop they have today without giving these capabilities when even the core applications like Microsoft Office and your Browser (which many apps are now rendered in) are using hardware acceleration via your GPU. Look at products like HP Moonshot that give dedicated quad core CPU / 8 GB of RAM and an integrated Radeon GPU. The writing is on the walls, GPU in VDI is here to stay. Were just at the beginning of the curve.

    So I submit that GPU is a requirement, please feel free to share your thoughts on this. 


  • Heartbleed – OpenSSL Vulnerability in a Citrix Enviornment

    There is a lot of news and chatter going on around right now about the OpenSSL vulnerability Heartbleed. This is a critical issue. as documented here. So what is Heartbleed and what makes it so dangerous.

    The (1) TLS and (2) DTLS implementations in OpenSSL 1.0.1 before 1.0.1g do not properly handle Heartbeat Extension packets, which allows remote attackers to obtain sensitive information from process memory via crafted packets that trigger a buffer over-read, as demonstrated by reading private keys, related to d1_both.c and t1_lib.c, aka the Heartbleed bug.

    This is a very wide reaching issue and considered critical. Patching OpenSSL or products alone will not be enough to solve the issue. Your certificates would have to either be regenerated or rekeyed and depending on how your programs interact this may require additional work for programs that connect to each other such as XenDesktop connecting to a vSphere instance as it imports the certificate for trust so if you update vSphere certificate you also need to import your new vCenter certificate into XenDesktop.

    Citrix has released a Security Advisory detailing the products affected by Heartbleed. Other vendors are also coming out with articles detailing their products affected such as VMware EMC and Cisco.  Per the Security Advisory released from Citrix most of the products that Citrix has in its portfolio are unaffected but check the article to confirm and they are still researching some of their products.

    Many Citrix environments run on VMware vSphere and some versions such as vSphere 5.5 are affected by Heartbleed. XenDesktop (any version) as well as XenApp 7.x and higher are dependent on the certificate that vCenter uses. If you resolve the issue and regenerate the certificate for your vCenter, you will need to import the certificate into XenDesktop following these instructions again that were completed on the initial setup.

    My general advice is to find and document the items in your environment that are affected and map out any dependencies and create an attack plan to resolve these as this is a major compromise in your security. If you aren’t sure of what those may be, reach out to your partners who may have detailed information on what to look for.


  • Varrow Madness Part 3: The Labs (behind the scenes)

    Varrow Madness had a heavy emphasis put on hands on labs this year. We Varrowites definitely like getting our hands dirty and we wanted to give you the chance to get your hands on the products as well. We wanted to give Madness attendees a taste of both VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop. and to see the technical pieces of the provisioning process required in order to deliver a virtual desktop to your users.

    Our overall vision for how the labs would run at Madness this year were built around our experiences with the hands on labs available at the major vendor conferences, such as VMworld, PEX as well as Citrix Synergy. Comparing our labs to these vendors set the bar pretty high and i think we achieved a very well developed lab. The Varrow Hosted labs for the EUC practice were not the only labs available at Varrow Madness either, attendees also had access to the full VMware Hands on Lab list hosted in the Cloud, the same revered labs that were available at VMware PEX to partners.

    Varrow Labs Behind the Scenes
     
    Dave Lawrence, Director of End User Computing at Varrow volunteered me to assist with putting the labs together several weeks before Madness. I was pretty excited about tackling this opportunity so I jumped at the chance.

    I wanted to provide details on the hardware and software setup that we used to accomplish delivering twenty plus isolated environments. Maybe this will inspire you on a way that you could use vCloud Director in your environment to enable your users, maybe spinning up multiple isolated or fenced vApps for your developers, testing a new product or a temporary project, the use cases are only limited to what you can imagine 🙂

    Lab Hardware 

    Compute

    • (2) – 6120XP FI
    • (2) – 2104XP IO Modules
    • UCS5108 Chassis
      • Blade 1 – B200 M1
        • (2) X5570 – 2.933GHz
        • 32GB 1333MHz RAM
        • N20-AC0002 – Cisco UCS M81KR Virtual Interface Card – Network adapter – 10 Gigabit LAN, FCoE – 10GBase-KR
      • Blade 2 – B200 M1
        • (2) X5570 – 2.933GHz
        • 32GB 1333MHz RAM
        • N20-AC0002 – Cisco UCS M81KR Virtual Interface Card – Network adapter – 10 Gigabit LAN, FCoE – 10GBase-KR
      • Blade 3 – B200 M2
        • (2) E5649 – 2.533GHz
        • 48GB 1333MHz RAM
        • N20-AC0002 – Cisco UCS M81KR Virtual Interface Card – Network adapter – 10 Gigabit LAN, FCoE – 10GBase-KR
      • Blade 4 – B200 M1
        • (2) X5570 – 2.933GHz
        • 24GB 1333MHz RAM
        • N20-AQ0002 – Cisco UCS M71KR-E Emulex Converged Network Adapter (LIMITED TO TWO 10GB NICS)
    • UCS5108 Chassis
      • Blade 1 – B200 M1
        • (2) X5570 – 2.933GHz
        • 24GB 1333MHz RAM
        • N20-AC0002 – Cisco UCS M81KR Virtual Interface Card – Network adapter – 10 Gigabit LAN, FCoE – 10GBase-KR
      • Blade 2 – B200 M2
        • (2) E5649 – 2.533GHz
        • 48GB 1333MHz RAM
        • N20-AC0002 – Cisco UCS M81KR Virtual Interface Card – Network adapter – 10 Gigabit LAN, FCoE – 10GBase-KR
      •  Blade 3 -B200 M3
        • (2) E5-2630 12 Core CPUs
        • 96GB 1600Mhz
        • MLOM VIC 
      •  Blade 4 -B200 M3
        • (2) E5-2630 12 Core CPUs
        • 96GB 1600Mhz
        • MLOM VIC

     Storage

    • VNX5300
      • (16) – 2TB 7.2K NL SAS Drives
      • (5) – 100GB SSD – Configured as Fast Cache
      • (25) – 600GB 10K SAS 2.5″ 

    Networking

    • N7K-M148GS-11L – 48 Port Gigabit Ethernet Module (SFP)
    • N7K-M108X2-12L – 8 Port 10 Gigabit Ethernet Module with XL Option
    • N7K-M132XP-12L – 32 Port 10GbE with XL Option, 80G Fabric
    • N7K-M132XP-12L – 32 Port 10GbE with XL Option, 80G Fabric
    • N7K-SUP1 – Supervisor Module
    • N7K-SUP1 – Supervisor Module
    • N7K-M108X2-12L – 8 Port 10 Gigabit Ethernet Module with XL Option
    • SG300-28 – GigE Managed Small Business Switch
    • DS-C9124-K9 – MDS 9124 Fabric Switch
    • DS-C9148-16p-K9 – MDS 9148 Fabric Switch
    • Nexus 5010
    • w/ N5K-M1008 – 4GB FC Expansion Module
    • Nexus 2148T Fabric Extender
    • Connected to 5010

    Thin Clients
    Cisco provided the thin clients that were used in the labs. The thin clients were capable of RDP, ICA as well as PCoIP connections. Each thin client station connected via Remote Desktop to a NAT IP into their assigned vCenter. The thin clients were Power over ethernet drawing very little power and may be representative in what you would deploy if you were planning a thin client deployment.

    vCloud Director
    Each UCS blade had ESXi installed all managed by a virtualized VMware vCenter 5.1. We used vCloud Director appliance to build the vApp for each lab and created Catalogs for each lab environment that we could check out for each workstation. We also had vCenter Operations Manager deployed so that we could monitor the lab environment.

    vApp Design 
    Each vApp or Pod in both the XenDesktop and the VMware View environment consisted of four virtual machines at the beginning. Each Pod or vApp was fenced off from the other to give each user their own isolated EUC environment. The networks on the vDistributed Switch for each vApp were dynamically built as each vApp was powered on.

    VMware View

    • Domain Controller
    • VirtualCenter – SQL, VC 5.1 – users remote to this workstation via a NAT IP to run through the lab
    • View Connection Server – View Composer
    • ESXi Server – hosting desktops – Virtualized ESXi

    Citrix XenDesktop

    • Domain Controller
    • VirtualCenter – SQL, VC 5.1 – users remote to this workstation via a NAT IP to run through the lab
    • Citrix Desktop Delivery Controller, Citrix Provisioning Server
    • ESXi Server – hosting desktops – Virtualized ESXi 

    The general script for both platforms would be to..

    1. Connect to vCenter from thin client via RDP
    2. Provision multiple desktops via product specific technology (View Composer for View and Provisioning Server for XenDesktop)
    3. Connect to provisioned Desktops

    And the Madness Begins

    We shipped and set up the server rack containing all the lab equipment as well as the workstations to the event the day before Madness. Getting a full rack shipped and powered at a site not built for it can have its challenges, luckily we have some really talented and knowledgeable people at Varrow that can navigate these issues. Madness was also the first chance we had to stress test the labs with a full user load. Later that evening we pulled all hands on deck and sent them all through the labs, there were a mix of technical and non technical Varrowites in the room pounding away at the labs. We were seeing workloads in excess of 10-15000 IOPs and thing were running pretty smooth….until I decided to start making changes by checking out the Citrix lab vApp from the vCloud catalog to make some necessary changes….

     This graph on the right should illustrate what happened when I kicked off the Add to Cloud task and when it ended, it crushed the storage kicking the latency to ludicrious levels. So the most important thing when running a lab was to keep Phillip away from the keyboard. You can thank Jason Nash for that screenshot and the attached commentary.

    The labs were a huge team effort, special shout out to everyone who helped us before, during and after the event, Dave Lawrence, Jason Nash, Bill Gurling, Art Harris, Tracy Wetherington, Thomas Brown, Jason Girard, Jeremy Gillow and everyone else at Varrow that helped out with the labs.

    A lot of work goes into putting together the labs and all of the labs, both Varrow Hosted EUC labs as well as the VMware hosted labs were well received and attended at Madness. I hope to be a part of the lab team next year, we were already talking about ways to expand the labs next year and how to expand the products we demonstrate and more. Can’t wait until next year, see you then at Varrow Madness 2014.


  • Varrow Madness Part 1: General Thoughts on Awesomeness

    Varrow Madness is an annual conference put together for our customers and greater community centered around March Madness, focused on sharing ideas and knowledge, and its a free event. This was my first Madness and and I have now been with Varrow close to nine months and still loving it.  I’m amazed and stunned by this event my compatriots put together at Varrow along with the help of their partners. A lot of work goes into these conferences, more than I even imagined as a consumer of these events in the past. it really makes me appreciate the work that goes into the other events done out there, big and small, and especially the people that put them together.

    Varrow Madness is quite a show and if you get the chance next year, it’s an absolute must attend.

    I was going to write a short post following Madness but I have decided that Varrow Madness is just way too big and awesome to be contained in a single post so I will break it up into three posts.

    • Varrow Madness Part 1: General Thoughts on Awesomeness
    • Varrow Madness Part 2: Citrix Provisioning Server Implementation + Best Practices
    • Varrow Madness Part 3: Varrow Hosted EUC Labs

    Madness kicked off with Jeremiah Cook, our CEO and co-founder as well as a cultural leader at Varrow as well as our resident leader rapper. Jeremiah welcomed everyone to Varrow Madness followed by a great video about BYOB, Bring your own Bots inspired in order to introduce a great performance from iLuminate, the same group that has done performances on America‘s got Talent and other venues. I also learned that Jason Nash has Android devices and loves to look up funny cat pictures on the internet.

    Dan Weiss our Chief Operations Officer and co-founder joined Jeremiah and stage and talked about the sheer volume of events we had planned for the day and his rad dance movies. We also announced the winner of the Varrow Innovation Contest 2012, the winner recieved a free pass to the Vendor Conference of their choice. There were many submissions and I am sure it was exteremly hard to choose the finalist much less the actual winner, all of the submissions were fantastic.

    Check out each of the submissions below and congratulations to Alamance Regional Medical Center for winning the contest this year.

    Alamance Regional Medical Center

    Alamance Regional Medical Center participated in the Varrow Innovation contest and submitted their custom built Single-Sign-On solution that allows badge tap-n-go access for Citrix Xenapp. Alamance Regional was the grand prize winner of the Varrow Innovation Contest at Varrow Madness 2013. 

    American National Bank

    Varrow Customer Testimonial – American National Bank
    Finalist in 2013 Varrow Innovation Contest for their great work in running Active Active Datacenters with EMC Recoverpoint and VMware Site Recovery Manager

    Northern Hospital Surry County

    Varrow Customer Testimonial – Northern Hospital Surry County
    Finalist in 2013 Varrow Innovation Contest for their great work in running Active Active Datacenters with EMC VNX and VPLEX and Vmware vSphere

    Jesse Lipson, Citrix Sharefile VP and GM did the morning keynote. After the keynote, the day was packed with technical sessions from some of the industries greatest minds and I was there too. I believe there were 46 sessions for people to choose from broken up over four sessions, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. You can still find the agenda on our Varrow Madness microsite.

    I missed most of the afternoon keynote due to my work on the Varrow labs. The afternoon session kicked off with another performance from iLuminate and a keynote from VCE, President of VCE. I heard it was a great speech and plan to back and watch the recording when I have a free opportunity.

    Next year i hope we can record all sessions and provide those online as a learning tool. I know that I wanted to attend many sessions and was unable due to my other duties at the conference. One thing i heard from several folks (and I think its a good problem to have) is the difficulty in picking which session to pick.

    I spent most of the day in the Varrow Hosted Labs. The labs for both VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop were well received and attended, I will talk more about that in my upcoming Lab Post.

    In the next few posts, i will talk about my session on Citrix Provisioning Server and the Varrow Hosted labs. As always I welcome any comments that you may have and any questions.


  • XenServer Guest VM time issue

    Today I was working on an issue where a new XenDesktop Desktop Group was built and the time on all VMs provisioned was off by five hours. This led to the Desktop guest VMs not being able to talk on the domain and coming up as “Unregistered”.

    Anyone that’s worked in this industry long enough knows that Windows is very sensitive to time, the time of a Windows machine cannot be off by more than five minutes.

    From Microsoft Technet regarding time

    The Desktop Group was provisioned on XenServer using Provisioning Services So I checked all the usual culprits and found no issues so I had to dig further

    • XenServer time configuration
    • Domain Controller configuration
    • Infoblox 

    As this issue was only happening to newly provisioned desktops and no other server on the domain.A work-around was found that by changing the VM time for every VM while in standard mode after they were provisioned they would keep the correct time.

    For those of you out there running Provisioning Services, you understand that Standard mode changes do not persist by reboot so this defies a bit of logic and led me to dig deeper down in the XenServer VM XenTools time sync.

    XenServer has a parameter set per VM, timeoffset configured per VM

    For Windows guests, time is initially driven from the control domain clock, and is updated during VM lifecycle operations such as suspend, reboot and so on. Citrix highly recommends running a reliable NTP service in the control domain and all Windows VMs.
    So if you manually set a VM to be 2 hours ahead of the control domain (for example, using a time-zone offset within the VM), then it will persist. If you subsequently change the control domain time (either manually or if it is automatically corrected by NTP), the VM will shift accordingly but maintain the 2 hour offset. Note that changing the control domain time-zone does not affect VM time-zones or offset. It is only the hardware clock setting which is used by XenServer to synchronize the guests.
    When performing suspend/resume operations or live relocation using XenMotion, it is important to have up-to-date XenServer Tools installed, as they notify the Windows kernel that a time synchronization is required after resuming (potentially on a different physical host).

    To check the offset of the VM, you can run the following command from the XenServer command line.

    • xe vm-list name-label=vmName params=name-label,platform

     Example Output

    [root@xenhost01 ~]# xe vm-list name-label=vmTest-001 params=name-label,platform
    name-label ( RW)    : vmTest-001
          platform (MRW): timeoffset: -18004; nx: false; acpi: true; apic: true; pae: true; viridian: true

    [root@xenhost02 ~]# xe vm-list name-label=vmTest-002 params=name-label,platform
    name-label ( RW)    : vmTest-002
          platform (MRW): timeoffset: -2; nx: false; acpi: true; apic: true; pae: true; viridian: true

    Note the timeoffset of -18004 on vmTest-001 and -2 on vmTest-002. This value is listed in seconds so that is a five hour time difference (the difference we were seeing on boot of the VM). This is no coincidence.

    Resolution

    • In our case it was to build a new Template VM and ensure the timeoffset was set correctly
    • You can also do this on a case by case basis per VM by running the following command and substituting vm-uuid for the VM that would like to update.
      • xe-param-set platform:timeoffset=<value-in-seconds> uuid=<vm-uuid>

  • Windows 8 Citrix Reciever Preview In Windows Store

    For you early adopters of Windows 8 whether it be a laptop, tablet or even a virtual machine. Citrix announced the release of the Citrix Reciever for Windows 8 Preview is available in the Windows Store. I look forward to testing this client in my new lab.

    From the official article

    The Preview version can be used with Intel- or ARM-based Windows 8 devices and leverages the key capabilities in Windows 8 devices to provide follow-me apps and desktops, touch-enabled app selection, the ability to search apps via Windows 8 charms, and instant app and desktop access through Pin to Start.  It supports native Win 8 style (Metro) gestures as well as in-session and network printing.
    Citrix Receiver for Win 8/RT 

    Use the  Microsoft Store to locate it or  access it directly by clicking here

    You’ll need the Windows 8 RTM (release to manufacturing) version on your device.  You’ll also need CloudGateway Express ( Storefront Services ) for desktop and applications access and a properly-configured Access Gateway (Enterprise Edition) for remote access.  Future versions will use CloudGateway Enterprise for single sign on access to all of your web and SaaS apps.You can also use the Preview version with our Virtual Computer Demo Center.

    For system requirements and set up procedures refer to  Receiver for Win 8/RT eDocs.

    It needs to be noted that the standard Citrix Receiver for Windows is an option for Intel-based devices.
    It installs on the Windows 8 desktops and  provides our most advanced features, such as HDX optimizations for Lync, RemoteFX support, and  follow-me data with CloudGateway 2 and ShareFile.

    You can share your feedback and  obtain support for either version by posting issues on the Using Receiver on Windows 8 Forum.


  • Xenserver: Upcoming Feature Storage XenMotion

    Citrix announced on their blog a new upcoming feature in XenServer, Storage XenMotion (SXM). This is an extension to the existing XenMotion live VM migration feature, which allows VMs to be migrated between XenServer hosts in a resource pool. This feature is very similar to VMware’s SvMotion which is a good feature for those environments that wish to deploy XenServer.

    SXM extends this feature by removing the restriction that the VM can only migrate within its current resource pool. We now provide the option to live migrate a VM’s disks along with the VM itself: it is now possible to migrate a VM from one resource pool to another, or to migrate a VM whose disks are on local storage, or even to migrate a VM’s disks from one storage repository to another, all while the VM is running. 

    What can I do with this feature?

    With Storage XenMotion, system administrators now have the ability to upgrade storage arrays, without VM downtime, by migrating a VM’s disks from one array to another. This same operation can be used to provide customers with a tiered storage solution, allowing operators to charge customers different rates for the use of different classes of storage hardware, and then allow customers to upgrade or downgrade between classes with no VM downtime. SXM also supports multiple storage repository types, including Local Ext, Local LVM, NFS, iSCSI, and Fibre Channel, meaning that it is possible to move a VM’s disks between different storage repository types. It is even possible to convert a thick-provisioned disk into a thin-provisioned disk by migrating it to a thin-provisioning storage repository.

    Now that XenServer no longer restricts VM migrations to hosts in the same resource pool as the source host, it is much easier to rebalance VM workloads between different pools. This is especially useful in cloud environments, and our Cloud team is currently in the processes of integrating SXM with CloudStack and OpenStack open-source cloud orchestration frameworks.

    How does it work?

    Storage XenMotion works by moving a VM’s virtual disks prior to performing a traditional XenMotion migration. To support this, we have introduced a new internal operation: snapshot and mirror. Each of a VM’s disks are snapshotted, and from the point of the snapshot onwards, all of the disk’s writes are synchronously mirrored to the destination storage repository. In the background, the snapshotted disk is copied to the destination location. Once a snapshot has finished copying, the next disk to be migrated is snapshot/mirrored. This operation is repeated until all of the VM’s disks are in the process of being synchronously mirrored.

    If the VM is being migrated to a different resource pool, a new VM object is created in the destination pool’s database, and the migrating VM’s metadata is copied into this new object. This new VM’s metadata is then remapped so that it references the new disks that have been created on the destination storage repository, and so that the VM’s virtual NICs (VIFs) point to the correct networks on the destination. This network mapping is specified by the user. In the case of an in-pool Storage XenMotion, instead of creating a new VM object, the migrating VM’s metadata is remapped in-place.

    Once the VM metadata remapping is complete, the VM is ready to be migrated. At this point, the migration follows the same process as for the normal XenMotion operation. After the VM has migrated successfully, the VM metadata object on the source pool is deleted, and the leftover virtual disks, having been safely copied to their new location, are deleted from the source storage repository.

    Per the comments XSM has been completed in development and will ship with the next version of XenServer.


  • Citrix Tech Preview: Aruba – Personalized VDI in a Box

    Citrix announces a technology preview of Project Aruba that extends the simple affordable all-in-one Citrix VDI-in-a-Box with personal vDisk technology to reduce costs by delivering highly personalized virtual desktops with the cost-efficiency of desktop pools.  The solution delivers transforms Windows into a simple VDI-based cloud service .

    The industry is rapidly moving from the PC era to the cloud era. Businesses of all sizes want to adopt desktop virtualization and realize its benefits of driving efficiencies, adopting mobile workstyles and improving continuity – but  many face tight budget and resource challenges.

    Citrix VDI-in-a-Box address these needs head on.  The VDI-in-a-Box design eliminates multiple moving parts that run up the cost and complexity of VDI. The all-in-one patented VDI grid architecture runs on inexpensive off-the-shelf servers.  Scaling simply involves adding another server, with nothing to rearchitect or reconfigure.

    Reduce costs
    Project Aruba delivers complete end-user personalization and flexibility while dramatically lowering costs by layering end-user applications and preferences as personal vDisks on cost-efficient desktop pools.  This solution reduces costs and delivers virtual desktops for less than the cost of PCs without compromising  rich end-user experiences.  Key features include:

    • Personalized virtual desktops: You no longer have to choose between consolidating management using desktop pools versus delivering end-users the flexibility to install their own applications and data.  Project Aruba eliminates the need to create separate static desktops to carry forward end-user customization by coupling single-instance management with the ability to have individual user workspaces for their applications and data.
    • Single instance management: Rather than juggling many persistent desktops, IT can maintain one master copy of desktop images while preserving the personalization of user applications and data. This dramatically reduces maintenance efforts and cuts datacenter storage costs up to 90 percent.
    • Support for Windows 2008 R2: Project Aruba manages Windows 2008 R2, Windows 7 and Windows XP –based virtual desktops – enabling customers to select the ideal virtual desktop environment based on compatibility and costs.
    • Cost-effective Windows-as-a-Service with VDI: Project Aruba extends the Citrix vision of enabling Windows-as-a-Service and adds a simple yet highly cost-effective VDI option based on Citrix VDI-in-a-Box to the already successful Citrix Service Provider (CSP) portfolio of hosted-shared desktops with XenApp, and enterprise-class desktop virtualization with XenDesktop.  The newly released reference architecture for Desktops-as-a-Service provides a validated blueprint for service providers looking to deliver VDI-based Desktops-as-a-Service at a fraction of the costs of other alternatives while complying with Microsoft licensing.
    • Windows 8 support (Beta): Project Aruba runs Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows 8 virtual desktops.  All features of Windows 8 including the new Metro interface are fully supported.  Since Windows 8 is not yet generally available, this feature is currently in Beta.
    • Simpler, more flexible: Project Aruba makes management even simpler and more efficient with added features such as access to multiple data stores for optimizing storage, and a touchless DTAgent that updates the desktop agent on all golden images and their desktop instances  automatically when the VDI-in-a-Box software is upgraded.

    Citrix is transforming desktop virtualization into a cloud service that can run anywhere.  For smaller customers that want a simple VDI solution, this tech preview combines the  affordable all-in-one VDI-in-a-Box with personal vDisk technology to deliver personalized virtual desktops for less than the cost of PCs.

    Citrix has also made available a license migration path from VDI-in-a-Box to XenDesktop for customers that want to extend beyond VDI to leverage the full flexibility of XenDesktop while preserving their investment.  The end-user experience is consistent across both products as both VDI-in-a-Box and XenDesktop use the same HDX stack and Citrix Receiver.

    Access the Project Aruba Technology Preview here.


  • Citrix XenDesktop 5.6 and Provisioning Server 6.1 Released

    Recently Citrix released to GA (general availability) XenDesktop 5.6 and Provisioning Server 6.1. Both of these upgrades fix many issues and offer new features. Below are some of the details on these two new product releases. I am really excited about Personal vDisk for Xendesktop as this allow users to join the pool and have their personalized installed apps follow them. I will blog more seperately about this new feature in the future.

    Provisioning Server 6.1 now supports vSphere 5.x as indicated below for those of you deploying Citrix on VMware as well as some KMS licensing modifications.

    XenDesktop 5.6

    XenDesktop 5.6 includes the following new features and enhancements:

    • Personal vDisk – This feature is a personalization solution for virtual desktops. Two new types of catalog allow you to preserve the assignment of users to desktops even when the disk is cleaned at restart; the same user is assigned the same desktop for later sessions. The new catalogs are pooled with personal vDisk (for pooled-static virtual desktops) that you manage with Desktop Studio and streamed with personal vDisk that you manage with Provisioning Services. In addition, a dedicated storage disk is created, before logon, so users can store their data on the desktop, including any applications they install. For background information on this feature, see About Personal vDisks. New commands have also been added to the XenDesktop Software Development Kit (SDK) to support this feature.
    • System Center support – XenDesktop now supports Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager and Microsoft System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager.
    • Virtual Desktop Agent – A new version of the Virtual Desktop Agent fixes issues in the version included with XenDesktop 5.5.
    • Citrix Licensing – Citrix Licensing 11.10 lets you assign access to the License Administration Console using Active Directory Users and Groups.
    • Desktop Director – Desktop Director 2.1 supports personal vDisks and contains fixes since the last release. For more information, see the Desktop Director documentation.
    • Fixed issues – For information on the issues that have been fixed in this release, see CTX124164.


    Known Issues

    The following known issues have been observed in this version of XenDesktop:

    • If Microsoft Visual Studio is installed by an administrator on a master image, it may fail to start on virtual desktops that are created from the image. Reinstalling this application, updating the image, and restarting the desktops corrects this issue. [#0270259]
    • Desktop-background images (wallpapers) are lost when users switch between a desktop with a personal vDisk and a desktop without one. This issue occurs with Windows roaming profiles when users select images for the background. The issue does not occur with background colors. The workaround is to use profile management solutions, such as Citrix Profile management. [#0272970]
    • In some deployments involving Windows 7 virtual desktops with personal vDisks, users may notice that network drives are incorrectly displayed as offline, instead of unavailable, in Windows Explorer. These are deployments in which the Enable Offline Files policy is changed to Disable Offline Files in Microsoft Group Policy. To work around this issue, ensure that Disable Offline Files policy is applied on the master image before using it to create virtual desktops. [#0277774]
    • Desktop-background images (wallpapers) are lost when users switch between a desktop with a personal vDisk and a desktop without one. This issue occurs with Windows roaming profiles when users select images for the background. The issue does not occur with background colors. The workaround is to modify as follows the Registry on the desktop containing the personal vDisk, and to use a profile management solution, such as Citrix Profile management, to handle profiles stored on the desktop.

      Caution: Editing the Registry incorrectly can cause serious problems that may require you to reinstall your operating system. Citrix cannot guarantee that problems resulting from the incorrect use of Registry Editor can be solved. Use Registry Editor at your own risk. Be sure to back up the registry before you edit it.

      In HKLMSoftwareCitrixpersonal vDiskConfig, change the value of the EnableUserProfileRedirection key from 1 to 0 [#0272970]

    • Do not use Desktop Studio to administer a mixed-controller site. Desktop Studio displays misleading information in a mixed site and cannot be used to create and manage objects in it. For example, if you have two controllers but only upgrade one to XenDesktop 5.6, the Pooled with Personal vDisk catalog type appears in Desktop Studio but you cannot create virtual desktops with it. The workaround for this issue is to upgrade fully all controllers in the site before using Desktop Studio to manage it (and only to follow supported upgrade paths). [#0276786]
    • Citrix recommends planning your hypervisor hardware requirements so the reduction in CPU performance when personal vDisks are used does not detract from the user experience. The reduction is also affected, especially in large-scale deployments, by your choice of operating system (OS). For example, in some environments Windows 7 machines with personal vDisks significantly outperform the equivalent Windows XP machines, allowing more Windows 7 machines to be hosted on each hypervisor. Choosing that OS rather than Windows XP therefore means you purchase and maintain less hardware. Citrix continues to investigate differences in operating system performance and continues to optimize XenDesktop scalability. [#0284660, #0284706]
    • You may fail to create viable machines if a node in a Hyper-V cluster is paused or offline. In some scenarios, the Failover Cluster Manager Console shows that resources are allocated for machines but Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager and XenDesktop cannot recognize them. To work around this issue, manually remove these resources using the Failover Cluster Manager Console and ensure all nodes are healthy (not paused or offline) before creating the machines again. [#285696]
    • The error “Citrix Personal vDisk failed to start” may be displayed on a desktop with a personal vDisk. If the error includes “Status code: 7” and “Error code: 0x2000000b”, this indicates that a master image has been distributed but the Virtual Hard Disk (VHD, part of the personal vDisk) is full. To work around this issue, on the image increase the percentage value of the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWARECitrixpersonal vDiskConfigPercentOfPvDForApps, and redistribute the image. [#287292]

    Citrix Provisioning Server 6.1

    Starting with this release, see http://support.citrix.com/article/CTX131938 to view a list of fixed issues and hot fixes since the previous Provisioning Services release.

    This release contains the following new enhancements:

    • Support for Personal vDisks — Citrix XenDesktop with personal vDisk technology is a high-performance enterprise desktop virtualization solution that makes VDI accessible to workers who require personalized desktops using pooled-static virtual machines. Target devices that use personal vDisks are created using the Citrix XenDesktop Setup Wizard. Within a Provisioning Services farm, the wizard creates and adds target devices with personal vDisks to an existing site’s collection and assigns an existing shared-mode vDisk to that device. The wizard also creates XenDesktop virtual machines to associate with each device. A new type of catalog exists in Citrix Desktop Studio that allows you to preserve the assignment of users to desktops; the same users are assigned the same desktop for later sessions. In addition, a dedicated storage disk is created (before logon) for each user so they can store all personalization’s to that desktop. Personalizations include any changes to the vDisk image or desktop that are not made as a result of an image update, such as application settings, adds, deletes, modifications, documents, etc.
    • Support for Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager (SCCM) – The vDisk Update Management feature now supports SCCM 2012 environments.
    • Support for Microsoft System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) – The XenDesktop Setup Wizard and Streamed VM Setup Wizard now support SCVMM 2012 for Hyper-V environments.
    • Provisioning Services support for KMS licensing no longer requires local administrator privileges. Provisioning Services SoapServer KMS licensing now requires the same VHD mount privileges as Microsoft Windows (SE_MANAGE_VOLUME_PRIVILEGE, which is included in Administrators group by default).

      Note: If upgrading from a past release, be sure to reset the privileges accordingly.

    • Hypervisor support for ESX 5.0.


    Known Issues and Limitations

    In this Provisioning Services release, the following known issues has been identified:

    XenDesktop Setup Wizard
    BUG0278019 — In a streamed XenDesktop environment, the preferred mechanism for creating streamed desktop catalogs is to use the XenDesktop Setup Wizard, which is available from the Provisioning Services Console. While the XenDesktop Desktop Studio console also provides a mechanism to create streamed catalogs by ‘importing’ information from Provisioning Services, it is not the preferred mechanism because using it can lead to duplicate desktops being created in multiple catalogs (an unsupported configuration). To avoid this, only create new catalogs using the XenDesktop Setup Wizard, and only use the streamed catalog creation mechanism in Desktop Studio if you are reconstructing a catalog from previously created VM’s.

     Links to Download (Requires MyCitrix login)