XenDesktop 7 – First Thoughts

Citrix hosted an amazing event last week, and outlined a distinct roadmap of their 2013 strategy. They placed a strong emphasis on mobility with some updates to their Zenprise acquisition (XenMobile, aka Worx), and announced the first implementation of Project Avalon in the form of ‘XenDesktop 7’. Since I’ve spent a lot of time with XenDesktop (both IMA and Storm based) and XenApp, I thought I’d share my general impression of XenDesktop 7 as it relates to achieving the goals set forth by Avalon.

First off, the unification of XenDesktop and XenApp was a necessary evil based on Citrix’s decision to combine the management and provisioning of  ‘desktops’ & ‘servers’ (SBC and VDI) within the same console. Through what Citrix is calling the ‘FlexCast Management Architecture’ (Storm+RDS), they are replacing ‘IMA’, which was used for all versions of XenApp, as well as XenDesktop versions prior to Rhone (Barossa, Sonoma, Rioja, Bordeaux, Medoc, etc.).

This change is a great move in terms of farm design, scalability, and stability. In my opinion, the Storm framework is easier to install, troubleshoot, and support than IMA (written in .NET, readable database, excellent SDK, better logging, etc), and should be familiar to anyone who has worked with XenDesktop 5.x. The site is just as dependent on availability of the central database as in XD5 (no local host cache), which means no zones, data collectors, or any other sort of ‘master’ server (the database is the master). All of the same ICA/HDX functionality is still there (plus any new additions), as is the policy engine and brokering functionality.

I’m not too fond of the licensing model which provides published Windows client OS in the least expensive edition, whereas Windows server OS requires a more expensive license. I suppose that’s representative of Citrix choosing to call Excalibur XenDesktop instead of XenApp, though I never really thought of this distinction since I assumed it was called XenDesktop because they used the Storm site architecture (now called FMA). I’m also concerned about feature parity with XenApp, and am sure there will be more than a few features that either don’t live up to XenApp, or just aren’t there yet.

At the end of the day I’m excited about XenDesktop 7, as it provides an easier product to sell. There’s no more worrying about whether or not you need to publish apps from Windows client or server OS (besides the licensing), and all of the management and provisioning (except for Provisioning Services :)) is done in a central console. The new Director looks fantastic, and the refreshed Studio is much more responsive and elegant than that of XenDesktop 5. Also, my SiteDiag tool (Site Checker v2.0) was designed to run on the Excalibur tech preview, and I’ll be sure to get it working for XenDesktop 7 once its released.

I get the feeling that the rest of the Citrix community is generally as excited about XenDesktop 7 as I am, but I guess we’ll see how it plays out once we start implementing it!

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