Visio Stencils for Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.8 and 7.9

You can find the latest version of the Citrix Visio Stencil from here: Tools

My wife always tells me that admitting to my mistakes will make me feel better (I think she is wrong, but I’ll give it a try). So here it goes…

The year was 2004 and I was drawing a Citrix Presentation Server diagram. Unfortunately, Citrix didn’t have a set of Visio stencils so I created my own. Over the past 11 years, I (reluctantly at first) updated these to include new components and drastically changed the style.

Throughout many of those same years, I’ve been talking about Provisioning Services, demonstrating Provisioning Services, diagramming Provisioning Services and using Provisioning Services (but not dreaming about Provisioning Services, I’m not that crazy). So how could I have skipped creating a Visio stencil for Provisioning Services?

I made a mistake. There, I said it. Do I feel better? NO. Not in the slightest.

But you know what makes me feel better? Doing something about it.

And I did just that. I created a Visio stencil for Provisioning Services!!!

But that’s not all. With the XenApp and XenDesktop 7.8 release, I also created new Visio stencils for

  • XenApp Secure Browser
  • AppDisk
  • AppDNA (I really think it looks like a double helix)

7.8 stencils

And because some of you asked nicely, I also created a set of Visio stencils in the Visio 2003-2010 format (Note: No updates for the 7.9 release).

Daniel (Follow on Twitter @djfeller)
XenApp Best Practices
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Skype for Business – VDI to Native

I recently posted a blog and video about the new Citrix Realtime Optimization Pack for Skype for Business. As you could see from the video, Citrix is able to deliver Skype for Business to RDS/VDI users with XenApp and XenDesktop. With the optimization pack, CPU utilization on the processor is negligible while the overall user experience is identical to that of a traditional PC.

Recently, as I was talking about this feature, I was asked the following question:

You show the optimization occurring between two users who are both using VDI. What happens if one user is using VDI and the other is on a traditional PC?

I find a few pictures makes the entire solution easier to understand. First, let’s look at Native VDI

As you can see, the audio & video occurs between the two virtual desktops as the Skype for Business client is installed on the virtual desktops.

Second, we look at the architecture when we use the Citrix Realtime Optimization Pack for Skype for Business

This time, the voice and video occurs between the two end points. Although the Skype for Business client is still on the virtual desktops, we’ve moved the media engine to the local end points for processing, while still making it appear that the video is executing on the virtual desktop.

And finally, we look at the architecture when we have one user running Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop with the Realtime Optimization Pack for Skype for Business and another user is using a traditional PC with the native Skype for Business client.

Again, look at the voice & video path, it still occurs between the two endpoints. This is because the user who utilizes a virtual desktop still has the media engine on their local endpoint while the traditional PC user has the default Skype for Business client.

So, whether your users all run XenApp/XenDesktop, or only subset uses XenApp/XenDesktop, the Citrix Realtime Optimization Pack will still be an improvement over the default install in the RDS/VDI world.

Daniel (Follow on Twitter @djfeller)
XenApp Best Practices
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XenApp Best Practice #4: The Right User Experience

20160216_100707Over the years, I’ve done quite a few wood working projects, like building a coffee table, end table, entertainment center, mudroom lockers, etc. Every project results in leftover pieces of wood. I dislike throwing perfectly good wood away, especially if it is large enough to make something.

Last year, my wife asked me if I could build her a large desk. A desk where she could help the kids with art projects, wrap presents and work on photo albums. Lo and behold, I was able to build the desk with 100% scrap wood. Of course, using scraps meant that this desk was built with at least 5 different types of wood (pine, birch, oak, masonite and medium density fiberboard).

You wouldn’t do something like this if you planned to stain and varnish the finished product as it would look a little Frankenstein-ish, but because I was painting the desk, I was able to reuse without impacting the end product. Even the paint was left over from other projects!

This desk cost me $0.00 instead of over $500. I was able to provide a great product without spending money!

Being able to reuse resources is a great way to save money. In just about everything, you can find ways to reduce costs, but there is a balance between saving money and delivering something that works well and looks good.

Look at XenApp and XenDesktop. Where can we reduce costs through reuse but still provide users with something that works and works well?

What about the Citrix Desktop Lock?

With desktop lock, we can effectively turn a traditional endpoint into a thin client. The user will no longer be able to interact with the local desktop, which is perfectly acceptable if the user will always connect to a virtual desktop. Why throw out a perfectly good piece of hardware if we can reuse it for a particular use case?

What about the different ways XenApp can encode and compress the data stream?  Do we opt for the one that gives us the greatest server density in order to keep costs down?  Or do we focus on user experience? As you saw in the Windows 7 and Windows 10 analysis blogs, there is a significant difference in server density between the different Citrix-based policies.

This leads us to our next XenApp best practice

XenApp Best Practice #4: To manage costs, focus on the right user experience instead of the best user experience.


Daniel (Follow on Twitter @djfeller)
XenApp Best Practices
XenApp Videos


Changing the user experience can be dangerous

As many know, I like to do home improvement projects, so I spend quite some time at the local hardware store purchasing supplies.  I’ve been going to the same store for years. I’ve been using the self-service checkout lanes for years. I’ve been purchasing my items with a credit card for years.

Everything was going great until I personally crashed the credit card payment system for my checkout lane (seriously).

So what changed? The credit card checkout process changed because my credit card now includes the security chip technology.  The instructions on the screen were clear, I was simply on auto-pilot, doing the same process I’ve been doing for decades.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly fine changing my behavior IF (and that is a big IF) there is a valid reason for it.  This process changed because it is supposed to make my credit card more secure.

But changing something just to change it with no added value is a great way to annoy me.

Take a look at the following, recently recorded video discussing Microsoft Skype for Business.  Typically, in these types of videos, you see how much better something is to something else.  This is different.  The goal wasn’t to change the experience, it was to make the experience IDENTICAL to what users are accustomed to experiencing.

So tell me, did we hit the mark?

We accomplished this by going back to one of our XenApp Best Practices: For the best combination of user experience and resource consumption, optimize appropriately

So, how does this work?

Let’s look at it from 2 different perspectives:

  1. Admin Perspective: Skype executes within the virtual desktop but the media executes on the end point.  When I make a call to another Skype user, the voice and video goes from my end point to the other user’s end point.  If we are having a conference call, it’s the same process except with more people.  Although Skype is physically running remotely, within my virtual desktop, the media transcoding occurs on the endpoint. This removes network hops. It removes network latency.  It provides a better experience for the user.
  2. User Perspective: The entire Skype session executes within the virtual desktop. But even though the implementation is different, the user’s experience is identical to the traditional PC.

And finally, I keep talking about Skype in the virtual desktop, but that’s because saying published app, shared desktop, pooled desktop, personal desktop, and on and on and on is too long.  This works for all of these delivery options.

Daniel (Follow @djfeller)
XenApp Best Practices
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XenDesktop 7.7: Windows 7 vs Windows 10

Everyone loves a good battle

  1. The Simpsons vs Family Guy
  2. Kirk vs Picard
  3. Star Wars vs Star Trek
  4. Microsoft vs Apple

And now, we have one more, which will be a big debate for 2016… Windows 7 vs Windows 10

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been sharing some of our single server scalability testing results for Windows 7 and Windows 10 across Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer utilizing XenDesktop 7.7. Each test compared a different image management model, Citrix policy and operating system optimization configuration.

What was more interesting, and worrisome, was when we started comparing the same test across the different desktop operating systems. The results went something like the following:

  • MCS Winner: Windows 10
  • PVS Disk Cache Winner: Windows 10
  • PVS RAM Cache Winner: Windows 10
  • User Experience Winner: Windows 10

STOP EVERYTHING! This can’t be right. The ProjectVRC.Team did performance tests comparing Windows 7 to Windows 10 and their tests showed Windows 7 always gave higher density. Did we screw up?

Seriously, we were extremely worried that all of the testing was flawed. But with only a few more tests left, we pressed on to see if the results kept favoring Windows 10.

Surprisingly, the very next test changed everything. Windows 7 gave us higher density.

  • Optimized for Scale Winner: Windows 7
  • Optimized for WAN Winner: Windows 7
  • Optimized OS Winner: Windows 7

How can we explain our mixed results vs other 3rd party tests that show Windows 7 winning the battle of server density all the time? As it turns out, most other tests simply focus on cramming the most number of users onto the server while we wanted to also look at User Experience. And Windows 10 outperforming Windows 7 is due in part because Aero (Aero Glass) in Windows 7 is consuming a lot of resources. Windows 10’s version of Aero is more optimized.

When our tests switched from user experience to scale, using the Citrix policy template, Windows 7 Aero was turned off, giving us a huge jump in density. To prove this point, we ran the same Windows 7 test comparing Aero enabled and disabled and the results aligned. But with Windows 10, we didn’t see the same drastic jump when moving between User Experience and Scale, because Aero in Windows 10 is different than Windows 7. For instance, there currently isn’t Aero Glass, which was shown to consume a lot of resources.

So, what will you decide… Windows 7 or Windows 10? Let the battle begin.

And for what it’s worth, my answers: The Simpsons, Sisko (DS9), Star Trek, Microsoft, Windows 10

Daniel (Follow @djfeller)

XenApp Best Practices

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