XenApp 6 - New Features and Benefits
Citrix has been creating products that add features and functionality to Microsoft Windows Server since Windows NT 3.51, in 1995. While Citrix has been adding features and functionality, Microsoft has continued to advance the Server Operating Systems along with the RDP Protocol, leaving some companies asking, "Why should we upgrade to XenApp 6?" This white paper discusses the benefits and features XenApp 6 brings that most companies will need as the technology continues to evolve, and user requirements continue to expand, including: Simplified Installation, Single Management Console, Worker Groups, Policies and GPO Integration, Merchandizing Server and Dazzle, HDX, and Provisioning Server.
XenApp 6 brings a host of features and benefits that most companies will need as the technology continues to evolve, and user requirements continue to expand. These features and benefits include:
- Simplified Installation
- Single Management Console
- Worker Groups
- Policies and GPO Integration
- Merchandizing Server and Dazzle
- Provisioning Server
1. Simplified Installation
With introduction of XenApp 6, Citrix introduced a number of enhancements to the installation wizard. Borrowing from Microsoft's "Manage your Server" and roles concepts, Citrix adopted a similar process for installing XenApp. Before we discuss the roles wizard, let's look at a typical Citrix Farm Architecture.
A typical Citrix Farm contains the basic components shown in Figure 1. During the installation of XenApp, the administrator chooses which roles a particular server will take in the Citrix XenApp Farm. Small Citrix farms typically have the following roles.
- Web Interface Server
- License Server
- XenApp Server
Although the Farm Data Store is an essential part of the Farm, it is not technically a role. In fact, it is not a Citrix Server at all. 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.
Larger Citrix XenApp Farms are much more complex than this diagram. They include components like Provisioning Services, EdgeSight monitoring, Dedicated Data Collectors, Remote Access Devices, and increased redundancy with all essential servers. For a look at the roles options available in XenApp 6, see Figure 2.
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.
2. Single Management Console
Over the years, one challenge for Citrix administrators has been the need for different consoles for many of the Citrix management tasks. XenApp 6 has consolidated almost all administrative tasks in one console called the Delivery Services Console.
With the Citrix Delivery Console, an administrator can use one console to perform things like Publishing Applications, Creating Policies, and 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.
3. Worker Groups
In a perfect world every XenApp Server in the Citrix Farm would look the same. It would have all of the same applications installed, and there would be no compatibility issues or DLL conflicts between applications. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world. In this world, we have complicated environments that sometimes require that different applications be installed on different servers. We have world-wide offices with geographically dispersed data centers and file servers. There are Test Environments, Production Environments, Segregated Contractor DMZ Servers, and many other scenarios we refer to as Application Silos. App Silos are common in Citrix Farms, not because they are preferred but because they are required.
In previous versions of Citrix, App Silos were managed in a very manual way by only installing and publishing certain applications to certain Citrix servers. With XenApp 6, Citrix has introduced Worker Groups. 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 environments 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.
4. Policies and GPO Integration
I have told IT Directors for years that the art of technology administration is to find the balance between allowing users to do what they need to do without exposing them to unnecessary risk and downtime. These controls are executed via policy. Previous to XenApp 6, the Microsoft policies (GPOs) were controlled with one console, and the Citrix policies were managed with a separate console. Citrix Administrators can now use GPOs and Organizational Units (OUs) 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, which 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.