XenApp 6.5 brings a host of features and benefits that most companies will need as the technology continues to evolve and user requirements continue to expand.
Beginning with XenApp 6 and continuing with XenApp 6.5, Citrix introduced a number of enhancements to the installation wizard. Before we discuss the roles wizard, let's look at a typical Citrix Farm Architecture.
Small Citrix farms typically have the following roles:
1. Web Interface Server
2. License Server
3. XenApp Server
Although the Farm Data Store is an essential part of the Farm, it is not technically a "role." It is a database server, typically SQL, that contains critical Farm Data. During the configuration wizard for XenApp, the administrator designates where the Data Store will be located. If a server is designated as a controller during installation, then it can become a Zone Data Collector (ZDC). If it is designated as a worker, then it will never attempt to become a ZDC and is, therefore, a member server.
Larger Citrix XenApp Farms are much more complex. They include components like Provisioning Services, EdgeSight monitoring, Dedicated Data Collectors, Remote Access Devices and increased redundancy with all essential servers.
Another change to the install process is that there is no configuration required during installation. This makes the install of each of the roles very simple. Once the installation is completed, the administrator is prompted to configure each of the roles.
Single Management Console
One challenge for Citrix administrators over the years has been the need for different consoles for many of the Citrix management tasks. In XenApp 6.0, Citrix has consolidated almost all administrative tasks in one console called the Delivery Services Console. In XenApp 6.5, Citrix has enhanced this console and changed the name to AppCenter.
With the AppCenter Console, an administrator can use one console to perform things like Publishing Applications, Creating Policies, Managing Worker Groups and Zones, along with many other tasks. With one console, you can now manage hundreds of servers and applications in a Citrix Server Farm.
Worker Groups allow you to manage all servers within an App Silo as one object. This allows you to publish applications and set policies with a Worker Group rather than individual servers, making managing complex real-world Citrix environment much easier.
Another benefit of Worker Groups is the ability to perform Load Balancing between geographical locations or direct users to the XenApp servers closest to their current location.
Policies and GPO Integration
Citrix Administrators can now use GPOs and Organizational Units to manage their Citrix Policies, just like they do their Microsoft Policies, giving Administrators one tool to manage user rights. If you do not have rights at an Active Directory level, Citrix does still allow for IMA-Based Polices that are stored in the Citrix Data Store. These policies are created using the Delivery Services Console; however, they are superseded if GPO Based Citrix Policies exist.
New in XenApp 6.5 is the ability to filter policies in the XenApp Policy Editor. For example, you can look at XenApp 6.0 polices only, or vice versa, only look at what is new in XenApp 6.5.
Merchandizing Server and Windows Receiver
Merchandising Server allows administrators to centrally deploy and update Citrix clients. Merchandising Server is a virtual appliance that is free to download and import within XenServer.
Many of you have probably heard of HDX. It is short for High Definition Experience and represents a host of technologies (more than 60) that allow the user experience to be the best ever when connecting to hosted desktops or applications.
Provisioning Server is a technology that allows Citrix administrators to create a single master virtual disk (vDisk) and then connect multiple desktops or servers to that vDisk, all of which boot simultaneously.
With XenApp, we can leverage this technology to keep all of the Application Servers in a Citrix Farm consistent with the same applications, hotfixes, and patches. This ensures that users receive the same experience regardless of which server they are load-balanced to. With this technology, administrators can now update many servers by updating a single vDisk, making administering large server farms much simpler.
MultiStream ICA is a new feature introduced with XenApp 6.5. In previous versions of Citrix, QoS (Quality of Service) was difficult with the ICA protocol because the various channels all flowed within the port 1494 or 2598 when using session reliability. If QoS were enabled, it would prioritize all types of ICA traffic (graphics, keyboard, mouse, audio, printing, clipboard, drive mapping, etc.). MultiStream ICA Protocol splits virtual desktop traffic into 5 streams - real time, interactive, background, bulk, and RTP Voice - to enable network administrators to prioritize traffic by type and maintain QoS with existing network tools.
Integration with Desktop Director
In previous versions of XenApp, if you wanted to give the Help Desk and other associates within your company administrative access to Citrix, you only had the option of giving them access to the same consoles you, as an Administrator, use. These consoles were notorious for being somewhat complex, and they required some training for new associates. With the introduction of XenApp 6.5, Citrix has given Desktop Director the ability to connect to XenApp. Desktop Director is a web-based dashboard and console that allows Help Desk and other support staff to manage and monitor XenApp sessions.
Pre-launch, Session Linger, and Fast Reconnect
This collection of features improves the user experience by eliminating delays when launching and maintaining sessions. First, with the use of Session Pre-launch policy settings, a session can be started automatically when a user logs on to the farm. By implementing Session Linger policy settings, sessions remain alive for a configurable period before termination, rather than terminating when users close applications. Finally, Fast Reconnect, built into XenApp and requiring no configuration, helps minimize delays when users reconnect to existing sessions.