nickholmquist.com

17Feb/103

Announcing the launch of tekHelix.com!

As I have mentioned in previous entries I've been working on a few applications to release to the community.  I am committed to creating tools that are actually useful for real world tasks and with that I wanted a place to centralize the downloads, documentation and support.

Therefore I am announcing the launch of tekHelix.com

Along with the launch of the site I am releasing the xConnect Beta and would love for everyone to try it and provide feedback/bug reports!

A little background info on tekHelix.  Originally this was supposed to be a two man project with myself and a close friend/colleague.  Unfortunately due to priorities it became solely mine to see to fruition.  We started discussing and planning way back in 2006 and I am just now getting off my butt to complete the first stage of the project.

I plan to continue development on many new tools and would love to have ideas/suggestions from anyone out there!

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5Oct/092

XenDesktop 4 – Licensing Change Rant

So I made a comment recently on twitter and thought I would take a moment to explain further without the 140 character limit.

What I said was: "Justification for license change in #XD4 is bullcrap in my opinion."

I read one post from one CTP in which the author goes on to state that Citrix says the reason they changed the licensing is because everyone using VDI (read XD) will be using it 24/7 anyway so it makes since to get away from a CCU model.  This is where I say bullcrap.

I speak not from having experience in actually implementing a VDI environment but from my opinion of where I feel VDI is best fit at the moment.  I see VDI as a fantastic fit for task workers whom all do the same basic role.  This is a role that requires little personal modification of each machine and has basic applications that would work either installed, streamed or delivered via XenApp.   To me this role sits in service/call centers in what is typically a 24/7 environment.   This could also be a use case for a locked down desktop running on TS but I see the needs of even these workers growing to be able to handle more multimedia rich applications and training.  This, in my opinion, limits what you can perform on the server desktop.

In the situation detailed above say I have 1000 unique users and each of these people will need a desktop session to perform their work.  They all use the same basic set of apps and work in a 24/7 call center environment.   The 1000 users are split between 3 overlapping shifts but never have more than 400 people working at the same time.  In this scenario does it ever make sense to pay for 1000 licenses when they will never be used at the same time?  Why not pay for 500 concurrent licenses and be done with it?  There are a few other scenarios where this fits but the thought that all users will be using/accessing their virtual desktop 24/7 is insane to me.

Now, I am still waiting for an official press release from Citrix (a little birdie tells me to expect it soon) and until then I don't know what the feature matrix/pricing of the various versions will be (many have noted 75, 225, and 350 but I will wait to see #'s from Citrix first).  The per named user model may very well be cheaper in all scenarios depending on what you currently pay but I have a hard time believing it at the moment.  I hate the per user model of Microsoft TS CALS so I would be remiss if I didn't say something about going from a CCU model to a PU model.

I will concede that I may have made my comments without any 'official' information.   I am fully aware I may eat crow later.

Update: So I am taking a look at some additional information and I see that there is an option to 'trade up' one XenApp license for a XD4 license (with an additional cost of course) which includes XA as well.  For some this could be very beneficial if they aren't really taking full advantage of their CCU licenses.  This does not play well for organizations where the CCU licenses are used to their full potential (many different unique users accessing XA at different times).

I would love to see 'FlexLicense' accompany FlexCast [ ;) ] so you could maybe have the option of picking from a CCU or Per user license at time of purchase. Maybe you continue to pay a bit more for the CCU license but you get the flexibility to decide how to operate your environment as opposed to always being constrained by the license.

18Aug/095

Mobile Management-XenApp,XenServer,Netscaler(AG),XenDesktop

So I posted an article in May that contained a sneak peak of a mobile management app I am working on that would fit the iPhone form factor.  Since then Citrix announced they are working on a Blackberry and Android client so I thought it was time to let everyone know the status of my project.

When I come up with ideas I tend to have very elaborate plans that rarely see the light of day.  This project is no exception to the 'elaborate ideas' theme.  That being said, everything I want to do is possible with time and I intend to see this one through until the end.  My target is a Windows app that would run as a published application used in conjunction with XenApp.  I orginally planned to create a web app to handle all of this functionality but once hearing about the Receiver clients I changed my mind.  Why not let XenApp do what it does best, present the app to the outside over a secure, seamless connection?

I plan to support a number of Citrix products as that is where my expertise (I use the term loosely) currently sits.  Starting off I am going to support XenApp since MFCOM is a place that I feel incredibly comfortable. From there I will move onto XenServer, then Netscaler(Access Gateway) and finally XenDesktop.  If I am able to accomplish those different 'modules' of the application I may continue on and add ESX/vSphere and IIS support for quick admin tasks.  I don't plan to add every possible feature, just those that your average admin would find useful when away from the office.

I recently had a catastrphic lab hardware failure in which I lost my VM's.  Luckily I had a backup of the code but thus far but I am not happy with the framework and will be tweaking it and the UI.  Below are two screenshots of what I currently have and I will be altering this heavily.

xmanage_mobile_1xmanage_mobile_2

I am really interested in hearing what the community wants in a mobile admin app.

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23Jul/090

Just a pointless observation: AppZero/NetZero

So I saw a link to a company that has an interesting product for App Virtualization and I wanted to read more.  I headed on over to AppZero.com and started browsing around to see what their product offered.  As I am doing this I thought to myself that AppZero sounded a lot like NetZero.  Then I noticed the logo for AppZero and quickly took a look at the logo for NetZero.  There are some shocking similarities and with the name and the logo being that close I thought they might be owned by the same parent but it does not appear to be so.

appznetzlogos

This doesn't really matter much but it did remind me of a Brian Madden post on how he told Microsoft a new exchange logo looked an awful lot like his.  Link

Just wanted to share this observation as I found a bit of humor in it.

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31May/094

XenApp cmdlets VS MFCOM – Performance Test

I have been using MFCOM since I began with MetaFrameXP and have always been a huge fan of the SDKs.  I loved the fact that Citrix created an API that was pretty simple to learn, for the most part 'made sense' and gave you enough power to actually be functional.

When I first heard about the cmdlets at Synergy 2008 I was a bit confused on how useful they would be and if they would offer the power that MFCOM does.  I do a lot of coding in C# and I leverage MFCOM there all of the time.  Not knowing enough (and still don't) about Powershell I was not quite sure how well the cmdlets would work.

I had been part of the beta for the cmdlets but wanted to wait until I had the finalized version to run a few benchmarks between it and MFCOM.  MFCOM has always had a few performance issues since it is COM based.  I won't go into the details here except to say that whenever performing actions on large groups of data MFCOM could take forever.  For example trying to loop through a large number of sessions (8,000+) would take a while if you were pulling back all of the session properties. This is due to MFCOM making a few different calls to get all of the info.  While I don't have the ability to test session enumeration benchmarks in my lab here at home I can benchmark gathering application properties on large groups of apps.

I used 3 different scripts to perform the tests.

1. MFCOM with VbScript

2. MFCOM within Powershell to rule out VBScript as a performance factor

3. XenApp cmdlets within Powershell

  • I used the XAcmdlet to create applications in increments of 100.  I did this and ran the scripts to gather data.  I then went to 200,300,400,500.

$i = 1; do {New-XAApplication Notepad$i -ApplicationType ServerInstalled -CommandLine notepad.exe -ServerNames Server1 -Accounts Domain/UserName; $i +=1} while ($i -le 100)

  • All of the tests were ran locally on a XenApp 4.5 server that is also the Data Collector.
  • This server is a VM running on XenServer 5.0.  The hardware is not server class.
  • Each script was ran 3 times to get an average.
  • I used Get-XAApplicationReport as it actually pulls back all of the app properties.  This is comparable to the LoadData function in MFCOM (From what I can tell anyway).
  • I had originally been exporting the data to a csv but this added significant amounts of time for each test so I scrapped it and just went with a LoadData for MFCOM (this gets all properties anyway).  For the cmdlet test to avoid having the output dumped to the console (which adds time to the script execution) I assign it to an object.

And now for the results:

mfcomvsxacmdlet-results

The results shocked me so much I ran through a bunch of random tests again.  Every single time MFCOM via VBScript came out ahead by a few seconds.  I am sure on a more powerful machine the numbers would be lower in general but for the most part they stay pretty consistant. I truly expected the cmdlets to blow MFCOM out of the water because from what I can tell they communicate directly with unmanaged IMA calls via the managed .net wrapper.  While MFCOM via VBScript seems to come out ahead in this specific performance test the XACmdlets are still far and away easier to use.

I may perform these tests again with Pwershell V2 so I can test WinRM vs COM.

Please let me know if you think I've got something completely wrong here.  I would also like to see numbers from others running these scripts and would truly like to here from the XA cmdlet developers to see what their internal tests (performance wise) show.

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20May/091

Citrix EyeCream (XenCream?) – Found this funny..

I was taking a look at the 'blogosphere' on community.citrix.com and saw a blog aggregation that I found pretty funny.

citrixeyecare

Citrix is really branching out these days ;)

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18May/090

Netscaler VPX Beta available for download

The Netscaler VPX Beta can now be downloaded here.  I have got it imported into my XenServer and so far so good.

More to come on this soon!

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12May/096

Sneak Peek: Mobile XenApp management application for iPhone

I wanted to take a few minutes to give a sneak peak of something I am working on and am pretty excited about.  With the release of the Citrix Receiver client for the iPhone I started thinking of ways to make the mobile format useful for administration purposes.  I had a general idea in my head and when I saw 'Doc Finder' it became the inspiration for how to implement it.

Keep in mind that this is a very early concept version but I wanted to get a preview of it out there so that I can incorporate any feedback into the app itself.  I am looking for the most common XenApp admin tasks that would need to be accomplished quickly and easily when away from the office.  Let's face it, most of us would never use a mobile device for full farm administration as it is far too cumbersome.  This is why I am gearing this towards completing tasks that a Citrix admin would usually need to complete when say, at lunch.  How many times have we, as admins, been called while at lunch with reports of a server flaking out and are powerless to do anything about it?  That's why I think this will be a huge plus in those corporations that will allow the use of the iPhone.

Take a look at a quick preview here. The video was recorded while shadowing a session on an iPod Touch running the app.

I would love to hear any initial feedback and/or suggestions.  Eventually I plan to expand this to allow administration of XenServer and Netscaler (Hooray for VPX).

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6May/090

Citrix Synergy 2009 – Thoughts on announcments/releases

While I was not able to attend this year I have been following the various 'tweets' from BrianMadden.com and a few other updates from others.

I have also been watching the Citrix site for blog updates and I wanted to take a few minutes to comment on some things that Citrix has announced/released.

Citrix iPhone Receiver

I have been messing around with this on an iPod Touch and I must say I am impressed with it's usability.  The gestures work pretty well for working with apps that are not designed to fit in a small screen.  There have been a few times where I 'touch' a button and have it not respond but for the most part it is acceptable. I can't comment on the performance over 3G or EDGE but it works flawlessly on a local wireless connection.

I've actually got a few ideas floating around in my head on ways to exploit this new client!  More on this soon.

Citrix Receiver / XenApp Plugins

I heard about the Receiver a number of months back and quickly got excited.  I have always wanted some consolidation of the various clients Citrix has for its products and when I heard about the Receiver being basically a framework that the other plug ins sat in I thought it was a step in the right direction.  When I realized it would only require Admin privileges for the Receiver and that you could automatically update the plug ins over the wire I got excited.

The ICA client and it's roll-out has been a pretty tough task to stay on top of.  In my professional life we have people connecting from all over the world and a number of those machines are not under our control which makes it difficult to get them to update the client when we need them to.  With the receiver we could, in theory, allow these machines to update the client without much hassle!

I'm still messing around with it but my first impressions are that I am pleased with it's execution.

Citrix Merchandising Server

When I orginally heard about the Receiver client I had not heard any mention of this product.  I wondered how updates were going to be pushed but I assumed it would be a simple installed app on an existing Web Interface (IIS) box.  Boy was I wrong...

This is available as a XenServer virtual appliance much like the XenCenter Web server is as well.  I have not really had much time to explore all of the options of the Merchandising Server but I truly do not understand why they built it into a whole server that requires XenServer.  Well, I guess I DO understand why they did it.. If you don't already have XenServer in your company then bingo it now has a reason to be.  It's free so what objections would there be, right? Right? I can also see the position that if you need to put this in the DMZ it is likely to be a bit more hardened than an IIS box.

I will post an update once I have time to explore it in depth.

A quick note on this product.   "Merchandising Server".  Really? That's its name?   Again, I was not at Synergy so maybe I missed where the name came from but from where I stand it's pretty bad.  Every time I say it I feel like I'm getting ready to sell clients to end users.

Citrix Dazzle

Speaking of feeling like I'm selling things to end users there is the Citrix Dazzle product that will be coming later this year.  This is basically modeled after iTunes to be a hip update to how users get applications published to them.  I'm a bit torn on this as I guess I am a bit of an 'old fashioned' administrator and I like the current way we deploy our apps in our current environment.  I personally don't see how this is going to be manageable from a licensing perspective.  Based on what I have read you give a specific group (AD) of users access to see apps in the Dazzle store-front.  From there the user can add that app to their list of items they may want to launch.  From my experience if I use Dazzle and stick 15 apps in list and present them to an end user they are just going to click 'add' on all 15 because they are there.  I am just failing to see how this adds anything new expect making the user feel they are more involved with what applications they have rights to access.  Doesn't Web Interface do this already?!!!!  I publish a list of apps to specific users and if they want to launch them they do so.

And why oh why is iTunes the app to model after?!  In my opinion iTunes is one of the absolute worst applications I have ever had the misfortune of using.  It is incredibly slow on any machine I have ever tried it on.  It is extremely bloated and crashes constantly.  The only reason I use it is because the iPod is a great device and I need to sync it somehow.  Yes I know there are other sync tools for iPods but most don't cover everything the device can do.

Maybe I'm being too critical of an app that hasn't been released so I will table this for another time.

Netscaler VPX

I heard rumor that this was going to be developed but did not expect this to be announced so soon.  This is probably one of the most exciting things I have seen announced.  To be able to have this device in a virtual platform will come in very handy for a few things in role of administering AGEE devices.  I'm not going to say too much right now because apparently Citrix needs to see how it can be viable themselves so they are offering $10,000 to find out from their customers.

Additional link

In conclusion there are a few other things announced such as the XenClient which is a client hypervisor (Project Independance).  Nothing really new here as this has been touted for a while.  I'm glad that people like Brian Madden are keeping the masses updated with their constant updates otherwise I wouldn't find out this stuff until my colleagues returned from Synergy!

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25Feb/090

Citrix XenApp Developer License – FREE!

I guess I didn't realize how much of a secret the developer licenses for Citrix XenApp were.  However based on Vishal's latest post in reference to it, it would seem that many people had no idea they existed!

These licenses, while only 2 ccu's, are a fantastic way to get started toying around with XenApp and subsequently learning how to write scripts and/or applications to use with it.  This coupled with the XenServer line - which is now free - gives a fantastic opportunity to build a home lab easily (and legally I might add).

I said it at Synergy last year and I will say it again, the SDK's are a huge plus to using Citrix products.  I appalud Citrix for the opennness they have in regard to their developer community.  I have only been using Citrix products for roughly 3 and a half years and even in that short time I have seen the Citrix Developer Network grow from very basic forums to where it is today- a pretty active community for those who want to improve upon the tools that already exist.

Anyway, I highly recommend checking out Vishal's blog entry as it is a way to get your feet wet with Citrix products!

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