Day 1 ended with the Partner Appreciation Party which was very cool. The buffet was excellent and it was nice to get to know each other at Varrow a bit better and also to see some of the vendor reps that we work with daily (as partner relationships are extremely important to us). I got to talk with Phil Eden from TriCerat a bit yesterday and he is a very excitable guy with a lot of enthusiasm about TriCerat first and the products second. I like people who love their company as I do Varrow. Then the guys and I bumped into Andy Whiteside and Dan Kuchem from Citrix and I got to catch up with them and begin to understand what it is that we can do better as a company to make progress towards becoming Citrix Platinum. These are just great guys to hang out with and they truly understand what it is like being a partner like us. Apparently we had the most representation out of any other partner in the Carolinas, and it was really appreciated. Woot! Go Varrow!!
Day 2 started off with a kick, as after breakfast Jim Kennedy and I launched ourselves into the “XenDesktop5: Under the Covers” hands on lab. Again the room was setup to where everyone had their own lab environment, Internet access, and was able to follow along through a lab guide for about 2 hours after a 1 hour session with the instructor. The facilitators of this class were Carisa Stringer (Senior Manager), Roger LaMarca (Consultant), Jeff Laughter (Technical Relationship Manager), and Michael Bogobowicz (Principal Consultant) all with Citrix.
This was the first lab of its kind at Citrix Synergy and as with any LIVE lab you can run into issues…and we did. Maybe 1/3 of the class had issues creating a desktop pool. Having been a part of conducting LIVE labs before, I understand that these are difficult and when users run into issues how bad it can look. The lab was extremely slow for the most part and we had to end up skipping most of the exercises for the sake of time. I digress on this one, because LIVE labs are just plain difficult to pull off; especially one of this magnitude.
I have to say that we have already worked a lot this week (2 days) with XenServer and it has started to grow on me. I am not as comfortable with it as I am vSphere at all, but I have a greater respect for it. I still am not a fan of the way it conducts storage (and for those of you in the know about that story…HAHA!).
We skipped lunch and went directly to the vendor expo and met with Andy again from Citrix who showed some amazing things using HDX 3D for CAD solutions. This technology would fit wonderfully for those companies who use CAD applications and would like to use the GPU of the computer launching the XenDesktop instead of the GPU of the server. In fact this was the limitation of using HDX (or ICA) to begin with when referring to CAD apps. It seems that they have found an optimal way to deliver these apps now with Citrix.
We also met with Liquidware Labs and talked with Katie Larson and Tyler Rohrer about what is coming down from their company in the way of new and exciting. I let them know that we would be interested in doing some BETA tests with the new product and left it at that. There are some really neat things coming from LL in our opinion in the near future. Talked with AppDNA and although their product seems like it would be a good fit when referring to VDI assessments (specifically the application portion and its ability to be virtualized), it seems that their pricing model and licensing structure is not where we would need it to be for repeatable and sustainable process.
“Taking user experience to another level: understanding HDX technologies” was the 2:00 session which I thought might be very exciting since the true measure of a successful VDI product is the user experience in the eyes of Varrow. When you have successfully made the end-user happy, you have then created a viable solution which will help our clients truly be successful. Making sure to keep the solution redundant and simple at the same time would be a close second and third on my list having been in the position of administration prior to consultation with Varrow.
This session was presented by Derek Thorslund (Director of Product Management) with Citrix. HDX is a set of technologies broken down into 8 categories: HDX Broadcast, HDX MediaStream, HDX RealTime, HDX SmartAccess, HDX Plug-n-Play, HDX RichGraphics with RemoteFX, HDX WAN Optimization, and HDX Adaptive Orchestration. This appears to be a great topic for a future BLOG in which I will breakdown the 8 categories more thoroughly into what they really do.
The philosophy of adaptive orchestration is to dynamically understand what is on the network so that the connection can best delivering the full extent of its capabilities. In Desktop Director there is HDX monitoring available which gives a quick view of all HDX features with problem areas highlighted. Server-side rendering and client-side rendering is the responsibility of HDX Media Stream and Adaptive Orchestration which helps achieve a higher frame rate and image quality. 30 Frames per Second is the maximum allowed in the case of Server-rendered video frame rate. Many thin clients can only handle 12-15 FPS. XenDesktop 4 handled 25 FPS itself. HDX MediaStream supports all of our favorite players: Adobe Flash, Windows Media Player, DIVX, and more.
A new Tech Preview of HDX MediaStream is out which will help with Flash Redirection (WAN users & LINUX devices), improved Windows Media Redirection (WAN), smoother audio, and a dynamic frame rate & image quality. I am looking forward to getting this into the lab and putting it through its paces!
HDX RichGraphics: Adaptive Display which is fully self-tuning is an evolution of progressive display and has some exciting features. Like Windows 7 Aero? Citrix is now able to do Windows 7 Aero Redirection which leverages the client side GPU for the ability to use DirectX 9, and Pixel Shader v2 to either a single or dual monitor.
HDX Realtime (VoIP) looks like an attempt to perform peer-to-peer VoIP redirects traffic from the data center when using the Softphone UI back to the client. The ability to separate these dynamically using HDX makes the protocol extremely versatile. I can see “HDX softphones” coming in the near future. VoIP-over-ICA is another method by which a complete softphone could be run in the datacenter using codec technology to bring voice to the endpoint. Reduced latency and smoother audio will need to be conquered before I see this becoming too popular. This could possibly be overcome with multi-stream ICA. I look forward to trying out HDX Realtime in the Tech Preview and see what it can and cannot do.
HDX 3D was talked about; expounding on what I had learned earlier from Andy Whiteside. XenDesktop HDX 3D Pro looks very promising when clients are using 3D professional graphics applications: CAD/CAM, GIS, PACS, OpenGL, and DirectX. Making sure that this is tested with the appropriate graphics card is extremely important as the HCL presented only had NVidia cards listed.
HDX Ready thin & zero clients were briefly talked about which are coming to the market which can give up to 1080p video!! The features available vary between the Windows, Linux, and Xenith type clients.
All-in-all this was a really good session with a lot of information presented and a great speaker. He was very understandable and articulate, and really knew his stuff. I was surprised when I heard that this can cut up to 30% of the current bandwidth used by HDX. http://www.citrix.com/techpreview is where you can find the downloadable to check this out for yourself.
My next session was all about a very unsexy feature but, a topic which is super critical to success which is printing. In the “Printer Driver Management in XenApp and XenDesktop” session presented by Jamie Baker who is the escalation services manager at Citrix along with Mark Callahan, an escalation engineer on his team, they talked about Native driver installation within the DSC and the policies surrounding them. Citrix Universal Drivers eliminates the need to administrate & replicate different drivers providing printing improvements and supporting advanced features. XenApp 6 and XD5 printer replication is achieved through PowerShell Cmdlets (such as XAPrinterDriverReplication, XAAutoReplicatedPrinterDriver). Prior to these version Print Migrator tool could be used. The PrintBrm command line tool was talked about and examples were given, then Mark started in by asking “Why do printer driver cause problems?” and gave many reasons as to why they actually do; also giving some troubleshooting tips to resolve those issues. The Stress Printers Utility was presented and explained in detail along with how to interpret the log generated.
XenApp 6 Printing Optimization Pack is available and is built in to XenDesktop 5 resulting in (95%) bandwidth savings and (96%) lowered print times over previous methods. CTX126125, CTX125160, CTX113879, CTX126093, CTX124817, CTX118622 were only some of the articles referenced in this session. In conclusion, Jamie had his good moments but he probably needed to rehearse the presentation enough to not have to read the entire session from his laptop. J This was already a dry topic so having a bit of improve presentation skills would have been great. Mark really looked at the crowd and wasn’t reading off of the script. You could tell that he had some real world experience resolving these matters, probably daily. The Q&A afterwards was really good as well.
My last session of the day was “Managing and Troubleshooting NetScaler Environments with Citrix Command Center presented by Mario Remirez (Sr. Technical Lead Engineer) from Citrix. The NetScaler is quickly becoming one of my favorite products from Citrix right next to Provisioning Server. Having a large background in Cisco, I love anything surrounding routing, load balancing, and other high-level networking tasks. Citrix Command Center however, is not a product that I was privy to prior to the session. It is a centralized administration tools which discovers your network inventory allowing for fault management, performance monitoring, configuration management, reporting, and secure administration using a SSL certificate. The session covered the following:
- Installation and Configuring
- Adv. Administration
This product does not require a license and it comes with Enterprise or Platinum agreements and requires no additional support agreements (costs). This is a value add product which brings simplification to your array of Citrix products. The Home page delivers a plethora of information when you first log into the Command Center. The discovery process is achieved via SNMP and ping processes or through an import file. It will show you your build versions of everything Citrix and allow you to manage each from one central console! Add the Command Center into NetScalers by logging into them and adding the server as a SNMP manager, also adding the command center as your syslog server. This product supports local, Active Directory, RADIUS, and TACACS authentication methods. I could see the alarms page getting a bit out of control, but you really start to know what is going on in your environment by digging down into the alarms and alerts within Command Center. The details for these alarms are very specific and should provide a great way to get real time reporting and increase efficiency within IT groups by quickly pinpointing issues. Reporting from Command Center gives very granular reports, but have to be turned on manually because not all reports are ON. The default poll is every 300 seconds and for everything you want to add using the + sign impacts performance, so be careful not to just turn on everything. When working with AppFirewall (a feature built into the NetScaler), Command Center can be very informative when used to troubleshoot it. The dashboard for AppFirewall is found under the Reporting Tab at the top and the AppFirewall -> Dashboard on the left hand pane. Even the presenter said that he had to look that one up! J This was a great session and should be very useful for me going forward. The delivery of the information was done by a real expert and good speaker in Mario. Great job!