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Citrix Workspace Architecture Poster


At a high-level, Citrix Workspace securely delivers apps and data to users while allowing admins to maintain control over resources in a decentralized environment.

You might have seen this high-level diagram as well.

The diagram breaks the Workspace out into a set of core concepts

  1. Unified Experience
  2. Contextual Access
  3. Contextual Performance
  4. Endpoint Management
  5. App Ops
  6. Content Control
  7. Analytics

But what do these really mean? How do they work? How do all of these pieces fit together into a user’s workspace?

With a lot of help from many people within Citrix, I gained a new level of understanding on these 7 core concepts for Citrix Workspace.  For me, as a techie, I understand solutions better if I can create a diagram explaining the flow, which is why I created the Citrix Workspace Poster (PDF File)


The Citrix Workspace Architecture Poster breaks the high-level concept into a series of user and admin flow diagrams utilizing a set of Citrix Cloud services and micro services to provide everything from a single sign-on to user behavior analytics.

As with most things in the technology, this poster is not final. Some functionality is final. Some of these capabilities are a work in progress.  Some ideas haven’t even been dreamed of yet.

Stay tuned as I try and keep this poster up to date.

Daniel

Daniel (Follow on Twitter @djfeller)
XenApp/XenDesktop On-Prem Poster
XenApp/XenDesktop Cloud Service Poster
Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.15 VDI Handbook

 

 

 

 

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Windows 2016 Bandwidth Estimates for XenApp


For 10 months in the cold north, we are addicted to winter weather forecasts (ok, 10 months is a little extreme. Winter does not usually last that long in Minnesota). But during winter, we always want to know how much snow we are going to get. The answer always comes down to ranges

  • Less than 1 inch
  • 1-2 inches
  • 2-4 inches
  • 3-5 inches
  • 5-8 inches
  • 6-10 inches
  • 8-15 inches
  • Head south

As the totals get larger, the ranges get larger. There is so much room for error due to many variables.

The same thing can be said for estimating network bandwidth requirements for XenApp and XenDesktop. In another blog, I focused on Windows 10 bandwidth for XenDesktop. I want to now look at the same series of tests but for Windows 2016.

I broke the bandwidth estimate down into 3 categories

  • VDA Version: Certain releases of XenApp make improvements to the network utilization. Bandwidth tests must account for these changes by looking at different VDA versions.
  • Policy: XenApp policies can have a drastic impact on overall bandwidth utilization. With heavier compression (at the expense of CPU), overall bandwidth usage drops. Each test includes a look at WAN and User Experience policies (defined at the end).
  • Workload: A user watching videos and browsing Internet content will consume significantly more bandwidth that someone mostly using Office applications. The workloads are broken down across task worker, knowledge worker and power worker.

First, let’s look at the averages for a 60 minute simulation:


By looking at averages, I can make out a noticeable bandwidth reduction for the task worker on a WAN policy between 7.11 and 7.15/7.17 releases. To get a better idea on the network bursts, let’s look at the 95th percentile

Again, we see a drop in the task worker with the WAN Policy between 7.11 and 7.15 release.  I can also see a drop in the Task worker with the user experience policy between 7.15 and 7.17 releases.

And remember, these tests are simulations. Your results will be different because you are using real users with real workloads with real network congestion.

Note: The naming convention is follows: “Workload – XenApp Policy”
The XenApp policies are

Policy WAN UX
Audio Quality Low High
Desktop wallpaper Disabled Allowed
Dynamic windows preview Prohibited Enabled
Extra color compression Disabled Disabled
Limit video quality Max 480p/720kbps Not configured
Menu animation Prohibited Allowed
Preferred color depth for simple graphics 16 bits per pixel 24 bits per pixel
Target frame rate 16 fps 30 fps
Target minimum frame rate 8 fps 10 fps
Use video codec for compression Do not use video codec For the entire screen
View window contents while dragging Allowed Allowed
Visual quality Low High

 

Daniel (Follow on Twitter @djfeller)
XenApp/XenDesktop On-Prem Poster
XenApp/XenDesktop Cloud Service Poster
Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.15 VDI Handbook

Windows 10 Bandwidth Estimates for XenDesktop


How much bandwidth do I need between my endpoint and a Windows 10 virtual desktop?

Note: Windows 2016 Bandwidth for XenApp on this blog

It depends on the apps, on the usage, on the user and on the XenDesktop version.

But “It Depends” isn’t a very good answer. Most of us who ask this question want a rough estimate, which is why I broke the bandwidth estimate down into 3 categories

  1. VDA Version: Certain releases of XenDesktop make improvements to the network utilization.  Bandwidth tests must account for these changes by looking at different VDA versions.
  2. Policy: XenDesktop policies can have a drastic impact on overall bandwidth utilization.  With heavier compression (at the expense of CPU), overall bandwidth usage drops.  Each test includes a look at WAN and  User Experience policies (defined at the end).
  3. Workload: A user watching videos and browsing Internet content will consume significantly more bandwidth that someone mostly using Office applications.  The workloads are broken down across task worker, knowledge worker and power worker.

First, let’s look at the averages for a 60 minute simulation:

For the task worker, there appears to be a noticeable bandwidth reduction with the 7.17 release. By only focusing on the averages, we miss out on capturing spikes in network usage.  To get a better idea on the network bursts, let’s look at the 95th percentile

Again, we see a drop in the task worker with the User Experience Policy in the 7.17 release.  We also see a constant drop in network usage for the Power worker with the User Experience policy.

Let’s now break this down by app:

Why is PowerPoint so high?  When presenting, each slide change causes a spike in usage. Creating slides, on the other hand, has minimal bandwidth usage, similar to the usage estimates for Word.

Finally, let’s look at one more graph, looking at different bandwidth usages for video (based on quality).

Will these numbers be what you will get from a real-world environment? Not likely because your applications and your users are unique.  However, these data points will let us see how different VDA versions, policies and workloads can impact the overall bandwidth usage.

Note: The naming convention is follows: “Workload – XenDesktop Policy”

The XenDesktop policies are

Policy WAN UX
Audio Quality Low High
Desktop wallpaper Disabled Allowed
Dynamic windows preview Prohibited Enabled
Extra color compression Disabled Disabled
Limit video quality Max 480p/720kbps Not configured
Menu animation Prohibited Allowed
Preferred color depth for simple graphics 16 bits per pixel 24 bits per pixel
Target frame rate 16 fps 30 fps
Target minimum frame rate 8 fps 10 fps
Use video codec for compression Do not use video codec For the entire screen
View window contents while dragging Allowed Allowed
Visual quality Low High

 

Daniel (Follow on Twitter @djfeller)
XenApp/XenDesktop On-Prem Poster
XenApp/XenDesktop Cloud Service Poster
Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.15 VDI Handbook

Latest XenApp XenDesktop bandwidth utilization tests


As many of you saw, XenApp and XenDesktop 7.17 was recently released.  And again, there are statements saying that due to optimizations in the codecs, bandwidth usage rates dropped again.

Is it just me, or does it seem like every few releases Citrix finds ways to further reduce bandwidth consumption. When 7.13 came out, there were statements saying bandwidth utilization dropped. And in 7.17, we are hearing similar remarks.

I wanted to see how true this was, so I ran my own simulations. I decided to run tests against the 7.11, 7.12, 7.13, 7.14, 7.15, 7.16 and 7.17 releases.

Bandwidth Utilization

I know, the lines do get a bit jumbled, but you can see each simulation ran similar workloads as the rises in usage all appear within similar time periods.

To make it easier to see the overall bandwidth reductions, lets switch to a bar graph.

Bandwidth Utilization

Now you can easily see 3 distinct groupings of data:

  1. Group 1: 7.11 and 7.12
  2. Group 2: 7.13-7.16
  3. Group 3: 7.17

So it is true, 7.17 further reduces bandwidth consumption.

Daniel (Follow on Twitter @djfeller)
XenApp/XenDesktop On-Prem Poster
XenApp/XenDesktop Cloud Service Poster
Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.15 VDI Handbook

 

 

Local Host Cache for Citrix Cloud


One of the best practices I talk about often is “You will fail“.

I know, not a very positive message, but it is the truth… You will fail. It is only a matter of time. Those of us who are in IT know how painful it is when there is a failure. We understand all that can go wrong. And when dealing with cloud-based solutions, the concern for an outage is even more terrifying.

Why?

Probably because it is out of our control. When there is a problem, we are at the mercy of those who operate the service. But if the cloud solution is designed properly, a disruption doesn’t necessarily mean all hope is lost.

Let’s take a look at section of the XenApp and XenDesktop Service of Citrix Cloud poster where we have StoreFront and NetScaler Gateway on-prem.


What, in the diagram, catches your eye?

For me it is the many items going between the on-prem Cloud Connector and the cloud-hosted XenApp and XenDesktop service. If the connector cannot talk to the XenApp and XenDesktop service, what happens?

Well, until recently, you were out of luck.

But now, cloud connectors have local host cache functionality that can overcome cloud or WAN outages.

When the cloud connectors have access to the XenApp and XenDesktop Service, the remote broker provider handles the interactions between Citrix Cloud and the VDA/StoreFront/NetScaler instances. In addition, the Cloud Connector’s config sync service maintains a local cached database of the cloud-hosted XenApp and XenDesktop config.


When the Cloud Connector is unable to reach Citrix Cloud, the remote broker provider, which is responsible for handling interactions between Citrix cloud and the VDA/StoreFront/NetScaler, transfers brokering control to the high available service, which uses the locally cached database.

Even if the link between our resource location and Citrix Cloud is broken, users can still access their apps and desktops.

Daniel (Follow on Twitter @djfeller)
XenApp/XenDesktop On-Prem Poster
XenApp/XenDesktop Cloud Service Poster
Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.15 VDI Handbook

Use Citrix Director Historical Trends


It is amazing how much data gets captured as we interact with people and things throughout the day. Do you ever look at it?

I DO! I love data. I find it fascinating to see what trends you can observe.

The other day, I was reviewing how much water we use at home. Our city tracks usage, which I can view. For the past 12 years, my water usage was 48, 59, 46, 59, 56, 55, 62, 71, 62, 69, 73, 83.

Not super helpful until we turn that data into a graph.

Two things immediately pop out:

  1. Over the past 12 years, our water usage has steadily gone up, which makes sense as my kids get older and take longer showers (I can’t even imagine what happens to this graph when they become teenagers).
  2. Three points in time, my yearly water usage dropped. Why? After a little research, I concluded that each one of those years corresponds to the year where I replaced one of our 3 toilets, which were 20+ years old. You’ve probably heard that new toilets use less water than older ones, so much so that I can see the impact on my yearly water usage. Fascinating

For XenApp and XenDesktop admins, many of you know that Director includes real-time tracking and historical usage trends. Ever wondered how you can use this capability effectively?

Let’s say you have to install a cumulative update, a security patch or an app update on a XenApp host. Are you concerned about the potential impact on the scalability of the server? You should be. Who knows what it will do to the overall user density.

Because we are unsure about the potential impact of an update, we should follow a cloud-thinking strategy with updates by using a canary model where we patch a small subset of systems first to identify any issues before rolling out to all of production servers.

Let those servers run and bake for 7 days, if possible, to gather enough real-user data to generate useful historical trends in Director.

Here I did 2 hour historical trend, and although I can see increases in RAM and CPU, the insights can get lost with all of the minor fluctuations within real user behavior.

 

By using a longer time period for the trend, those minor fluctuations smooth out and better insights can be gathered.

Those insights are critical to the ongoing stability of your environment. Did CPU increase/decrease? Did RAM? Did user load? If there is an increase, you need to determine if the percent increase is greater than your available extra capacity within your environment. If so, you have to allocate more resources BEFORE you roll out the update to all production servers, or else you will end up with a lack of server resources to service all of your user requests.

In the end, if you don’t plan properly, your usability gets flushed down the drain.

Daniel (Follow on Twitter @djfeller)
XenApp/XenDesktop On-Prem Poster
XenApp/XenDesktop Cloud Service Poster
Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.15 VDI Handbook

XenApp and XenDesktop Service Architecture Poster


I’ve spent many years focusing on delivering applications and desktops to users with XenApp & XenDesktop.  I, like many of you, started with on-premises deployments and am witnessing a growing shift towards cloud deployments. Regardless of the reason and justification for a move to the cloud, those of us focusing on the technical aspects of such a decision need to understand how the pieces fit together.

When subscribing to the XenApp and XenDesktop Service in Citrix Cloud, I’ve asked myself the following:

  • What components do I need?
  • What deployment options do I have?
  • How will users authenticate?
  • What network ports do I need?

In fact, these questions are very similar to the ones I often hear for on-premises deployments, which was the basis for the XenApp and XenDesktop On-Premises Architecture Poster.

To help all of us techies better understand the XenApp and XenDesktop Service in Citrix Cloud, I’m happy to announce the XenApp and XenDesktop Service Architecture Poster. (PDF FILE)

Citrix Cloud - XA and XD Service Poster

And for those of you who want the original diagrams, I’ve added them into the latest revision of the Citrix Visio Stencils.

Finally, I’d like to give a huge shout out and thank you to Joel Stocker who helped me create these diagrams.

Daniel (Follow on Twitter @djfeller)
Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.15 VDI Handbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


XenApp Best Practices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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