There were many successful combos in history. the 3 Amigos, Tango and Cash and more recently the latest flavour of Citrix Xendesktop7.
As we will be seeing our customers upgrading their environment, let’s admit that Xendesktop7 is something else!. Ok just the name… Why merging two products and use the name of one of the two to build the new go to market around? I guess with time we got used to it: the product names are not Citrix forte.
It all started with 3 servers out of which 2 were dedicated for hosting the DC and StoreFront and one providing the apps while Netscaler would of been the load balancer between the two storefronts. A pretty simple design, efficient and redundant to demonstrate the ease of management, added value to the current business challenges that were around centralizing applications and desktop management while allowing the burst of technology in the event where the need for a true virtual desktop infrastructure was needed. Small design but large scope.
First things first: Citrix Xendesktop 7 Role Installation
Leveraging the .iso installation from Citrix, the deployment of the binaries was extremely straight forward. For the purpose of the POC I went ahead and selected ALL components from the menu : Delivery Controller, Studio, Director, License Server and Storefront.
I selected SQL Express for the database and requested that the software modifies for me all the ports requirement on the Windows Firewall. My advise on this step is lot let the installation do it for you. * Do NOT * turn off the Windows Firewall. Before engaging on the POC, i reached out to colleagues at Citrix. They have reported that some customers had disabled the Firewall and the POC did not went well at all. Once the Firewall was re-enabled all went smoothly; so you know what… leave it on! lol
The installation went smoothly and took about 45 minutes. Yes ONLY 45 minutes and I had in front of me an empty environment ready to rock! I was impressed I have to admit and felt extremely efficient.
Then comes Desktop Studio Site
Now was the time to jump in and configure it. I was a little nervous as the past speaks, it was not always the easiest tasks to performed. Well beware; in 20 minutes Studio was configured.
First of all it’s all wizard driven, and very efficient wizard if you want my opinion. You are presented with a menu from which you can follow the first, second and third step in order and at the end of each the next one is a natural flow.
When you select the first step, Site creation, you have to choose if you want the installation to create a complete site or an empty site; I selected a complete site… why not, and provided the name of the site. The next step was to setup the database; again here, either you have already a SQL server in place which i strongly recommend for Production environment or you can simply leverage SQL Express for smaller and POC deployments.
The DB ready, the next step is the License server: straight forward process; ensure your server can resolve the License server and the 27000 port is open and accessible.
The connectivity with the Hypervizor can be tricky. If you have Hyper-V chances are you won’t have an issue; Citrix and Microsoft are naturally playing well with each other (www.v-alliance.net). But if you have VMware, you’ll need a certificate in the certificate store for the Windows server hosting Citrix Studio that will ensure the connectivity between Citrix and VMware is encrypted. my tip: go on a VMware host, extract the certificated and load it in the Citrix Windows certificate store. That was it, I was able to connect a secured channel between Citrix and VMware and all i had to do next was to setup where I wanted the VM to be spawn on and the settings of each (vCPU and vRAM).
The site configuration was done.
Now install the VDA piece
As i was spawning virtual machines, i needed to install the VDA agent on the “Gold Image” VM reference. It allows MCS to interact with the virtual machines and initiate the creation of the virtual machines.
Logged in the “source” machine Iwanted to use as “Gold image” and installed the VDA agent using the Xendesktop 7 installation .iso file downloaded. Yes, yes, yes… the same one!
I selected the virtual machines that I was installing the VDA agent on, was to be my Master Image, did not select the HDZ 3D PRO graphic drivers, had Citrix Receiver installed, entered manually the DC, ensured that all features were selected and just like the Studio deployment, asked the installation to open the required ports on the Master image.
Believe it or not, that was it! i had a Master image ready to roll.
Creating the Machine Catalog
We now needed to create a Machine Catalog. As I was near the point where i could spin out VDI VMs to users, one of the last steps was to create a catalog of VMs. These could be Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Servers with different configs (memory, vCPUs, etc.). Basically we build up all the differentiated VMs into a service catalog
In the installation steps, I selected the type of OS i wanted that Master Image to be, chosen if the source was a virtual machine or a physical machine, and ensured that i had selected if the users will have a “stateless” or “statefull” OS. Interesting in the case of virtual desktops; not so much for server… or is it.. lol Indeed it is pretty useful in the event where you want to spin up servers in a Citrix farm with an App-V server in the background…
Next, I needed to point to the Gold Image, providing basic configurations (vCPU and vRAM), point to the OU that will be hosting the spawned VM (make sure you have the rights to AD or at least to that OU) and let the magic happen.
All spawned virtual machines will be referenced to the Gold Image of that Machines Catalog using MCS, and all virtual disks will be hosted where configured.
That was an easy 20 minutes spent.
Now the most “tricky” part of the POC, the “StoreFront” a.k.a Web Interface.
What is StoreFront? StoreFront is basically the web tier in a three tiered architecture (StoreFront, Desktop Controller, SQL database). Citrix Receiver directly talks to StoreFront, even if you never use your browser.
StoreFront 2.0, included in XenDesktop 7, no longer requires a separate database. There is a built-in replication engine that syncs the config between multiple StoreFront servers. That’s great for a DMZ configuration, and just one less database to worry about.
StoreFront is also now a complete replacement for the legacy Web Interface (WI), which is no longer installed and is deprecated in XD7.
I would say that besides the certificate challenges I encountered, where I had to manually go into the IIS console to ”bind” the HTTPS and certificate to the Default Web site, nothing is out of the ordinary. Ensure that you name your StoreFront and that you manually point it to the DC StoreFront will be interfacing with (note that is you have a Netscaler, the vIP should be used instead of the DC) and once you have configured the 4 steps for StoreFront you are presented with a portal that you can access providing your domain credentials.
Few things you’ll need to change within StoreFront: base URL, from HTTP to HTTPS and Trusted domain where I suggest to specifically configure your domain (-s) name (-s). But besides that, you’re good to go.
Create Delivery Group
A delivery group is not a 1-to-1 relationship to a machine catalog. If you built up a machine catalog of 50 VMs, a delivery group could just use 10 of them.
Users could also be given access to more than one delivery group. So an IT person, for example, could have access to a standard user desktop for testing purposes, and a customized IT desktop.
The Delivery Group relies on the Machine Catalog. Once the configuration starts, point to the Machine Catalog you wish to use for this Delivery Group, then select the delivery type (desktop, desktop & Applications or just applications), assign the Delivery group to a group (AD preferably), configure within the Delivery Group which StroreFront the group should be using and besides a few setting where you tell the software when the users can or can not use the Delivery Group, you’ll be done with that part.
Ready to go
i was ready to demonstrate the Xendesktop 7 POC. All aligned, plain and simple and very efficient wizard driven. What a release!
i don’t recall such a great experience in the deployment of Citrix products to be frank. The StoreFront was probably the hardest piece and only because i had no certificate with me and had to use the self-sign one which caused some delays on the vSphere connection.
You might of felt my excitement during the text, and if so i reached my goal. This was truly a very nice and extremely efficient activity. I strongly suggest to run POC where you can demonstrate, among other, the ease of installation and management. This is a very straight forward procedure, and if you wish to document it, you can always rely on the guided procedure provided by Citrix http://www.citrix.com/content/dam/citrix/en_us/documents/products-solutions/citrix-netscaler-and-citrix-xendesktop-7-deployment-guide.pdf?accessmode=direct
Well done Citrix @citrix