All posts by Randy Becker

Citrix Synergy 2015 Recap: Top News & Announcements

Last week was the annual Citrix Synergy event in Orlando Florida. This year was a little different with Citrix offering instructor-led learning labs prior to the start of the conference on Sunday and Monday.  I opted to attend three on Monday, each of them being about  three hours in length and very interesting. The labs I attended included:

citrix synergy

SYN622 – XenApp and XenDesktop design workshop – This workshop grouped teams together to review a design and to find the mistakes. This was a great way to meet people from different backgrounds and apply various skillsets to the design.  Afterwards, the Citrix consultants provided their recommendations.

SYN616 – Accelerate your NetScaler skills – This session provided overviews on new advanced features deployment scenarios, including GSLB, Clustering, AAA and Content Switching.

SYN623: This lab focused on how the new Citrix Workspace Cloud Lifecycle Management (CLM) service is used to deploy and manage Citrix infrastructure.  CLM provides SaaS based services to perform blueprinting, automation and management for the design and deployment of enterprise workloads.  Citrix has really extended the capabilities of the hybrid cloud. More to come on this later in the summary…

Keynote Tuesday May 12th

The day kicked off with Citrix CEO Mark Templeton.  Mark said this year’s event was the largest attendance ever (in person and online). Mark began with a discussion on his favorite rock bank, The Moody Blues, and the Software Defined Workplace! The concept of the Software Defined Workplace suggests that work is no longer a place; it is something you do anywhere the inspiration strikes.

Then, Mark talked about why we all love XenApp, and everyone got a drawstring backpack that said, “we love XenApp.”  This reinforced the continued emphasis on traditional XenApp.  We heard a lot of this at the Citrix Summit Partner event in January this year.

Next, Mark showed off script demos of the new X1 mouse that didn’t go well.  I think this was related to a room full of Bluetooth devices.  We also saw Mark’s Inbox with over 65,000 unread emails!  He said he has someone that manages his inbox; I can’t imagine dealing with that much email.

Some key announcements from Day 1:

Citrix is going to extend XenApp 6.5 lifecycle support until 2017.  Also announced was Feature Pack 3 for XenApp. This is expected to be out very soon and will include support for Receiver .Next, Storefront 3, profile management enhancements,  support for Citrix Director for help desk troubleshooting, and some improvements in the Lync optimization pack.

There was also an announcement of support for a Linux VDA, supporting both Red Hat and SUSE for XenDesktop.  These Linux virtual desktops are targeted at high performance Linux applications.  This will integrate directly within the existing XenDesktop toolsets.

HDX FramHawk will be directly integrated into receiver.  This is a technology Citrix acquired and is targeted at very high latency links, such as satellite, cellular and LTE networks.  It provides local-like experience over lossy networks!

XenServer 6.5 Service Pack 1:

XenServer is not going away and some big performance increases are coming.  I was sitting with one of my coworkers during this, and he quickly deployed it in his lab!  I continued to get text messages throughout the day telling me about the new features and performance and video performance improvements.  SP1 has new 64-Bit dom0, nVIDA vGPU scalability enhancements, with up to 96 vGPU sessions per host, new in-memory read-cache, Workload Balancing, big network, and storage performance enhancements.

Receiver x1 Mouse was released, and we all got one as a gift for attending Synergy.  If you haven’t seen this new mouse, it is pretty cool!  The x1 is integrated with Receiver and allows you to use the mouse with an iPhone and iPad.  This is important because Apple doesn’t support Bluetooth mice on these devices.  This gives you the precision, control, and usability needed for a better user experience.

XenMobile 10 is now out and the management stack has been consolidated into an easy-to-deploy virtual appliance.  Not only is it much easier to deploy, it’s also simple to make highly available through cloning by using just one tool to configure additional nodes.  This also gives administrators a single console to manage (which we have all been asking for).  There were also new announcements around Worx apps for Salesforce and WorxTasks.

Citrix Workspace Cloud.  Citrix Workspace Cloud is architecturally similar to ShareFile, in that Citrix provides the control plane allowing you to leverage on-premises cloud infrastructure and public cloud resource infrastructure of your choice.  This can provide companies with a SaaS based solution for cloud management.  Workspace Cloud has a number of services that make up the solution.

Lifecycle Management – see above in one of the instructor lead sessions I attended.  This has a simple SaaS based orchestration engine that allows drop and drag capabilities.  This is very easy to use, even for first time users.  It includes service blueprints, a unified interface for the management and deployment of applications services, service monitoring & alerting, self-healing, auto-scaling, and disaster recovery capabilities in the event of a primary site failure. Other features include:

  • Secure delivery of applications and desktops with XenDesktop and XenApp
  • Enterprise Mobility Management with XenMobile
  • Data Synchronization with ShareFile
  • Concierge Service targeted at improving end user experience with the ability to securely share their screens with support personnel

I think the most anticipated feature of the Citrix Workspace Cloud is the ability to host the traditional Citrix XenDesktop Infrastructure components in the Citrix Workspace Cloud.  This is achieved by separating the control plane from the data/resource plane, so all the traditional control devices such as, the Delivery Controllers and StoreFront, are deployed and managed in the Citrix Cloud.  A small connector is installed in your data center allowing for secure connections to the control plane.  Think of this as a scaled down XenDesktop Delivery Controller.  This allows for the very quick deployment of the infrastructure components, and then you provide the virtual resources for the XenApp and XenDesktop VMs in your data center or a cloud provider of your choice.  This could be a very compelling solution for customers looking for simplified administration of the Citrix infrastructure.

Day 2 Keynote with Mark Templeton:

Citrix AppDisk was announced with a tech preview expected in Q2.  AppDisk is an application layering technology that you can use to create individual application containerized in a disk.  This is different from Microsoft App-V.  Citrix will be competing with VMware App Volumes and Liquidware Labs FlexApp.  This should be pretty interesting, as Citrix has had a lot of experience with application virtualization.  Expect a lot more to come on this in the next few months.  Citrix will be integrating this with AppDNA, which should help to resolve problems and determine the best method to deliver applications.  The demo showed the direct integration with Citrix XenDesktop Studio and showed further commitment from Citrix to keep consoles minimized and leverage the investment made in these tools.  I did find it funny that Citrix had VMware in the Expo Hall demonstrating Horizon View and other competing products.

Citrix CloudBridge Virtual WAN was also announced.  The Virtual WAN will be able to add reliability and quality at branch office locations with multiple aggregate WAN connections all virtualized.

NetScaler with Unified Gateway – this seems like a collection of integrated features including the following:

  • Unified Remote Access Infrastructure – with web, mobile, cloud and SaaS based applications
  • Single URL for End User Access
  • Secure Single-Sign-On to applications with Active Directory and SAML
  • Visibility – enterprise security and compliance with end-to-end visibility on protocols in use
  • SmartControl, which is a new future on the NetScaler giving admins an easier way to set access controls for users with police

GoToMeeting Mobile Screen Sharing used through the new GotToMeeting app,  allows the user to share their screen on a mobile device.

Finally, the Workspace Hub and Project Octoblu were announced – this facilitates the integration and automation of complex technologies and automation with Octoblu, Amazon echo and the new Workspace Hub.  Mark demonstrated the way a conference call should ideally run.  The entire time all I could think about is the YouTube video “A Conference Call in Real Life” This is one of my favorites.  The concept of the Project Octoblu is that you can automate the workspace so that the complexities are removed.  For example, when you walk into the room the automation sets up the presentation, calls into the bridge, the software determines who is on the bridge and then emails, text messages etc. the missing people and gets the call moving more efficiently.  At the conclusion of the call notes or the recording is emailed to the participants all automatically.

In summary, another great Citrix Synergy event with lots of new features and technologies to keep us busy for another year!

 Are you interested in speaking with Randy about the latest Citrix technologies? Email us at




By Randy Becker, CTO

Key Announcements from Citrix Synergy 2014 – Part 2

By Randy Becker, Enterprise Architect, Solutions

Here is the second part of my blog series providing a recap of Citrix Synergy 2014. If you missed part one, you can find it here. Enjoy!

Intel Iris Pro Graphics

On day 2 Intel disclosed its new “Crystal Well” Xeon process, including the Intel Iris Pro Graphics.  The Iris Pro Graphics is Intel’s most powerful graphics technology and the first time Intel has included it in the Xeon Processor Family.  What does this mean?  Well, this will now enable incredibly high density graphics capable infrastructure supporting workloads like CAD, 3D Rendering, video editing and other high end graphics requirements.  HP joined the stage to announce Moonshot with the Xeon E3 processor support.  If you are unfamiliar with HP Moonshot you should take a look at this technology.  HP had it out on their booth at the conference.  The Moonshot chassis will support 45 cartridges, each with four System on a Chip (SoC) having up to four x86 cores each.  That is 180 systems in a 3U chassis.  Moonshot doesn’t require a hypervisor and leverages Citrix Provisioning Server and XenDesktop to provide maximum user performance with dedicated hardware, maximum security with isolation and maximum compatibility with access to bare metal with no hypervisor tax!  I am expecting to see more adoption of this in the future.  The prototype for the Intel Iris support looks like a single system per cartridge, so 45 per chassis.  We will have to wait and see how this shapes up.  We have a Moonshot system in our lab now and will be anxiously awaiting a new Iris supported cartridge for testing. 

XenServer with 64-Bit

This caught me off guard because I already thought XenServer was 64-Bit.  There is an important distinction here because today Dom0 is still run on 32-Bit architecture.  While we may think that VMware won the hypervisor battle, we continue to see development with XenServer and NVIDIA and this will allow for significant increases in the number of GPUs per host using pass-through. This is really for customers requiring increased density in graphically-intensive XenDesktop workloads. 

XenDesktop 7.5 Update

One of the most notable new features in XenDesktop and XenApp 7.5 is the ability to directly provision to Amazons Web Services, (AWS).  It allows for an on-premises deployment and burst or deployment in AWS for certain use cases.  This is true hybrid cloud, and I have several customers getting ready to deploy this architecture now.  AWS is supported today and IBM Softlayer and Microsoft Azure will both be supported in the future. 

XenApp 7.5 is back

XenApp is back as a dedicated platform now in 7.5.  What does that mean?  Not much if you are already familiar with the new architecture. With XenDesktop 7.0, XenApp came bundled and the architecture received a full refresh using the XenDesktop Flexible Management Architecture (FMA) vs. the old Independent Management Architecture (IMA). With 7.5, there is now a dedicated XenApp product available separately or integrated with XenDesktop.  As more features have been added back into 7.5, I think we will see more customers start to migrate from 6.5 to 7.5.  I hate to admit it but I know there are a lot of customers still running on XenApp 4.5! Now is a good time to start looking at an upgrade to the new supported versions. This shouldn’t scare most small to medium sized customers, as this is a good time to look at the design and treat it as an opportunity to truly look at how you deliver applications to users. You may be surprised at some of the benefits in a new design. To assist customers that have a large number of applications, Citrix is working on a migration tool. During Synergy, Citrix announced a new Migration Tool for customers upgrading from previous versions of XenApp.  You can register for the Tech Preview here.

NetScaler 10.5

A new update to 10.5 for the NetScaler platform was announced.  This latest update will include deep visibility into mobile network traffic streams and cloud-first architecture. Today, we have this visibility with NetScaler HDX Insight for XenDesktop and XenApp traffic.  If you haven’t looked at HDX Insight yet, you should see the level of detail that is available at the protocol level.  This makes troubleshooting slow connections significantly easier.

Synergy Instructor Led Training

If you have not had the opportunity to take advantage of the Synergy training, you should consider this the next time. While I was at Synergy, I took advantage of two, five hour instructor lead training sessions.  The first was SYN617 – Take the mobility and networking journey with us.  This deployment included a full XenMobile deployment with the App Controller, WorxMail, WorxWeb, NetScaler and XenApp.  You even get to enroll your own personal smartphone and tablet to control deployment. 

The second one was SYN619 – Build enterprise or private cloud workloads in a few hours using Citrix CloudPlatform. I have seen other platforms so I was curious to see how easy it would be with Citrix. The lab was built perfectly and allowed for the ability to test some pretty advanced scenarios.  CloudPlatform can leverage most of the major hypervisor out there, (XenServer, KVM, vSphere, Hyper-V) and can also burst to AWS. 

All in all, another great event put on by Citrix. If you have any questions about specifics from the event, leave a comment or fill out this form and I will be sure to get back to you.


Key Announcements from Citrix Synergy 2014 – Part 1

By Randy Becker, Enterprise Architect, Solutions


Citrix Synergy was held this past week in Anaheim California, and as always it was a great event.  For those of you who could not attend, I will provide a recap of the week’s events in a two part blog series. 

Tuesday morning the event kicked-off with a live band called iBand. Here’s small sample of Livin’ on a Prayer by Bon Jovi using iPads! It was actually pretty amazing!  This was followed by Mark Templeton (CEO) opening the conference. Mark got a standing ovation. Given the public announcement of his intention to retire within the next year, I think most of us realized this will be Marks last Synergy.  Mark seemed very touched and got emotional several times during his key note. He said that they had 10,000 attendees (I believe that included online viewers as well as people attending in person). Citrix is celebrating 25 years this year. They did a quick review of the products that were the foundation of Citrix.  Mark continued with some of last year’s themes including DOS = “Don’t own stuff,” “Don’t own Servers,” and work is not a place, it’s a thing we do. 

They performed a demo using a Chromebook with HTML5 showing access to your applications without any required software. This has been around for a while, but there seems to be a new emphasis, maybe to show the differences with the competition. The new Citrix Receiver “X1” was also announced using HTML 5.  I instantly thought of the Comcast XFINITY X1 commercial with Jimmy Fallon imitating Arnold Schwarzenegger. The new receiver will fully integrate your workspace into a single interface. They showed how businesses can perform their own automations and branding.  WorxNotes was announced, which integrates into XenMobile and seems to be a corporate version of Evernote. There will obviously be some good integration points, and I’m sure that security will be a key push for this.  Organizations generally seem a bit nervous about storing company data, including notes, in the cloud without any real control. 

Several other notable announcements included XenMobile 9, NetScaler 10.5, a View Rescue Program, and Workspace Services. This looks very exciting. Workspace Services will allow for the Design and Build of your XenDesktop/XenApp environment on premises or in Microsoft Azure Cloud. Below is a more detailed breakdown around some of the product announcements that came out of the event. 

XenMobile 9 and Worx Mobile Apps

XenMobile 9 will provide full support for Windows 8 phones and will be able to run WorxMail and the WorxWeb Applications.  Citrix is continuing to lead the Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) market with their application wrapping technologies in the Mobile Application Management (MAM) space and they are continuing to expand their partnership with companies that produce the Worx application.  Capriza was the Mobility Ecossystem Winner this year, with a Citrix Ready Worx verified app that enables the development, distribution and management of lightweight enterprise mobile apps for existing business applications. Citrix is proving to be the visionary in this space. During the keynote, Citrix demonstrated WorxDesktop. This is a way to remotely access your remote desktop.  You can browse as well as access and edit files on the remote computer, and it seems to be OS independent.  At first glance this appears to be better than GoToMyPC. I can see a number of use cases for WorxDesktop!  If you haven’t seen WorxMail you should check-out this quick demo.  Anyone that is on the road a lot will love these built-in features in your calendar invite, Join Meeting, Dial In and, my personal favorite, Running Late (single click emails everyone to let you know you are running late).  If you haven’t seen the YouTube of “A Conference Call in Real Life” you have to check it out (it has over 7 million views).  It’s laugh out loud funny that everyone can relate to and these new announcements from Citrix may help with some of these common issues!

Workspace Suite

Citrix Workspace Suite was announced as well. This is just a license bundle which includes XenDesktop, XenApp, ShareFile, and XenMobile. There are some enticing programs to get customers into this licensing model.  Check out the following link for more info and a nice overview and comparison of features.

Citrix Workspace Services

Citrix Workspace Services is a cloud based Desktop as a Service (DaaS) model that leverages the Citrix Platform.  This is the kind of architecture that I like, as the control and data planes can be split.  Microsoft Azure will host the control plane (deliver controllers, AD, etc.), but the actual desktops can be deployed back to on premise infrastructure or any number of public cloud providers so you’re not 100% locked into using Azure.  More info can be found here. 

Workspace Services allows you to design, deploy and manage Workspace Services (Software Defined Workspaces). This looks amazing and will allow for deployment to on-premises and cloud based infrastructure.  I can see how this will benefit customers directly, and also the partner community, for easier deployments utilizing the back-end fabric provided by Citrix to ensure best practice deployments. 

The second part of this series will cover news and announcements around Intel Iris Pro Graphics, XenServer with 64-Bit, XenDesktop 7.5, XenApp 7.5, and NetScaler 10.5. Stay tuned!


Photo credit:

What You May Have Missed From Citrix Synergy 2013

By Randy Becker, Consulting Architect, LogicsOne

Citrix held its most important event of the year for customers and partners at the end of May. I have been attending these events for many years and this had to be the largest attendance I have ever seen. I was told that 60% were first-time attendees. There was plenty of excitement, and those of you who know Mark Templeton know that he tied in great classic rock to the event. The theme was “Going Mobile,” and what else to lead things off but The Who’s classic “Going Mobile.”

So what were the highlights of the event? Mark talked about two CEO meetings he recently attended. These meetings were focused on DOS and MAC. Yes, DOS and MAC are back, but in a very different way. DOS = Don’t Add Stuff and MAC = Moves Adds and Changes. DOS focuses on doing more with what you have and leveraging technologies that reduce complexity. MAC is reduce the number of and costs associated with moves, adds and changes.

I would say that the predominant message of this conference was providing the mobile workforce the tools (applications) they require to perform their job. This is not a new message; this has been the pervasive message from Citrix for many years. The real twist here is that customers are now really able to work and perform their jobs with devices like tablets from Apple, Samsung, and others. It is my opinion that delivering Windows applications to these devices still has its limitations. It isn’t that they don’t work; it’s that the application may not be conducive to a touch pad device. Citrix offers their Mobility Pack to address some of these limitations, and I have customers successfully using Windows applications delivered by XenApp and XenDesktop to iPads.

So what does all this mean? Well, for one, Citrix recently acquired Zenprise, an MDM solution. Zenprise sits in Gartner’s magic quadrant with Mobile Iron and Air Watch. We have had a lot of fun with this one, and yes, Citrix performed a find and replace on the Z and substituted with a X. This acquisition puts Citrix in a unique position when combined with the rest of the product suite. XenMobile is the complete solution set that Citrix is marketing as an all-inclusive MDM solution.

I think two of the challenges Citrix is going to face with XenMobile are the overlap in existing products, mainly their existing MDX solution set and the complex implementations associated with MDM solutions. The challenge here will be to keep the best of both products and provide an integrated console. I would expect the overlap and integrated console will be addressed in the near future. Don’t get me wrong, I have attended a number of training sessions and I was able to easily build my own XenMobile MDM environment and enroll my iPad and iPhone and push some apps down in an afternoon hands-on session. When I was done, I was even able to perform a selective wipe and remove my corporate managed apps with ease. Citrix spent a little time up front to get the APNS cert squared away. Apple doesn’t make it easy for large corporations to manage Apple devices.

Project Excalibur, now XenDesktop 7, is the most significant release we have seen yet to date, to be released in the June timeframe. Included in this we will now see the integration of XenDesktop and XenApp in one platform. This is a major product change, and the end of Independent Management Architecture (IMA), replaced with XenDesktop’s FlexCast Management Architecture (FMA). This will mean a clean install for XenApp customers, again. To combat the whole XenDesktop is complex, Citrix did an amazing job reducing consoles and simplifying the install. I never minded the extra consoles; it just amazed me that it takes so long to integrate them. As Mark Templeton said, two consoles, eight clicks and 20 minutes and you have a working environment. I’m a strong advocate for proper planning and design, so this is fine for a POC. Spend the time up front before the “20 minutes” to install. Now the two consoles are not 100 percent accurate if you want Provisioning Server (PVS), and I almost always recommend that you include this in your delivery solution.

The two primary consoles are Desktop Studio; this is where you perform all of your configuration and Desktop Director, the place you go to manage and support your users. The interface to Desktop Director ROCKS! We continue to see Citrix develop support tools that makes everyone’s lives easier, including the users. XenDesktop also allows for easy publishing of single applications on desktops, so if you need backward for forward compatibility this is even easier than before.

XenDesktop 7 also has better integration with high-end video adapters from NVidia and two new K adapters for two different purposes. We are now seeing that you need Graphic Processors for even Knowledge Workers in VDI using standard office applications. This is different than the need for high-end graphics cards for software like Solid Works and AutoCAD. Two different requirements and two different cards and solutions that can be integrated, check out these cards from NVidia.

Web Interface is now dead with the release of XenDesktop 7. It has been replaced with StoreFront. Customers should be focusing on moving to StoreFront even for existing deployments. No big changes here for the end users. On the back-end there are significant changes in terms of flexibility and scale. To make it easy for users, one can download Citrix Receiver and all they need to know to get setup and access to applications is their email address. This auto provisioning is amazingly easy, and I highly recommend that this be included in any implementation.

There was some significant news on the NetScaler front. A new code update, HDX Insight, an additional high-end model and an expansion of the partner solutions running on NetScaler SDX. SDX is physical hardware, with a hypervisor using virtualized NetScaler instances with dedicated hardware to each instance. Partners like Palo Alto and BLUECAT will be able to leverage the SDX platform. More to come on these announcements but we can all see where this is going. Cisco and Citrix have formed a very strong partnership including the NetScaler as a Cisco Validated Design (CVD). Cisco is now using the NetScaler as their go to Application Delivery Controller (ADC) and XenDesktop on Unified Computing System (UCS). Customers are also going to be able to add HDX Insight for the NetScaler; this will give additional monitoring visibility into all traffic flowing through the NetScaler including High Definition User Experience (HDX). For those of you not familiar with HDX, think of HDX protocol as ICA on steroids.

One announcement that didn’t get much attention is the Mac Desktop Player. I think this is part of XenClient and allows for the checking out of a Windows desktop. Almost everyone that has a Mac uses some type of virtualization layer to run Windows on a Mac now. I assume we will see more information on this once it goes into tech preview.

In summary, some key takeaways:

  • Citrix Redefines Enterprise Mobility with XenMobile Enterprise
    Citrix XenMobile Enterprise Edition combines mobile device, app and data management, a unified corporate app store, mobile productivity apps and “one-touch” live support into an inclusive solution for delivering mobile services to business. Worx App and Citrix MDX app container technology to add features like data encryption, password authentication, secure lock and wipe, inter-app policies and micro VPNs to mobile applications.
  • Citrix Continues to Expand Enterprise Mobility Strategy with XenDesktop 7
    XenDesktop 7 is the first release of Project Avalon, a multi-phased initiative to deliver Windows as a cloud service. XenDesktop 7 offers integrated Windows app and desktop mobility, easier deployment options and simplified management, all delivered through a new, cloud-style architecture. Current XenDesktop and Citrix XenApp customers will find the new architecture easier than ever to deploy, manage and support. XenDesktop 7 represents the state-of-the-art in app and desktop virtualization, enabling any business to mobilize Windows apps and desktops and deliver them as a cloud service to any device. XenDesktop 7 breaks the bonds between application workloads and delivery infrastructure so that multiple versions of Windows Server and desktop operating systems may be run side by side, including newly enabled support for Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8.
  • HDX Insight with NetScaler Insight Control
    This is a really powerful tool to give admins and support personnel full end user experience visibility for the HDX protocol, as well as other applications being delivered by the NetScaler. HDX Insight runs as an appliance and collects data on the NetScaler using AppFlow.
  • ShareFile Mobilizes and Secures Enterprise Data Everywhere
    With the Synergy announcement, Citrix is uniquely positioned to mobilize user data everywhere, including data within SharePoint and network drives and public cloud storage on Microsoft Azure, while providing IT with comprehensive control to secure enterprise data everywhere.
  • Citrix announced new Citrix ShareFile innovations for mobilizing and securing enterprise data, including StorageZone Connectors for SharePoint and network drives, new Citrix-managed StorageZone options with Microsoft Windows Azure and unique integration with Citrix XenMobile.

All in all, a successful event!