On the internet, in several mailing and blog, I see messages that migrating from Citrix XenApp 6.5 to Citrix XenApp 7.18. XenApp 6.5 is nearing its end of life date soon and customers will need to upgrade. The idea that upgrading to XenApp 7.18 is a tough job and moving to a competitor is easier is laughable. There is no magic button to skip user and application testing, there is no magic wizard to migrate without having to do some thinking and testing. As I was reading those marketing messaging I thought it is time to write a blog, not because I work at Citrix but because we (Citrix) moved on. Upgrading to 7.18 is easy and even more when using Citrix cloud. Interested? read on.
Citrix cloud to the rescue?
Citrix offers Citrix cloud and with Citrix cloud, customers have the ability to deploy workloads in any cloud (do I sound like a marketing guy already?) or on-premises or both if they want. This offers possibilities that will save our customers from the so-called upgrade nightmare as some want them to believe.
With Citrix cloud a good number of the components are managed by Citrix, customers don’t need to deploy them anymore. Customers only need to worry about the workload, the XenApp server on-premises (if not moved to the Cloud).
So this blog – damn it is a long intro – is to show how to integrate and upgrade your on-premises workload in Citrix cloud. I thought that might be handy with the end of life coming up and people wading through the false messaging.
The components to get this working are rather simple, on-premises you need a Cloud connector, two to be highly available. If you don’t deploy two Citrix cloud console will keep bothering you that you should, and you should.
All the other components could run in Citrix Cloud, NetScaler is a different topic as it depends on your setup but also not worth to mention as it might not even need an upgrade. Director, Studio, licensing and Workspace Service (StoreFront), they all live in Citrix Cloud. No worries anymore for the customer and no need to upgrade them. What is left are the XenApp servers.
Steps to take
There are a couple of steps before you are online but they are easy;
- Sign up for Citrix Cloud
- Buy licenses (I think that is obvious) and request XenApp / XenDesktop services
- Deploy Cloud connecter virtual machines
- Download Cloud connector software
- Install Cloud connector and connect to Citrix Cloud
- Create hosting connection to the on-premises environment
- Deploy new Citrix XenApp server on Server 2012/2016 – This is the most work due to application testing
- Download Citrix VDA (yes it is just a VDA agent, can’t be easier)
- Install VDA agent
- Create machine catalogue (PVS or MCS deployed machines)
- Create a delivery group (desktops or apps you assign a user to)
- Assign users/groups to desktops or apps
- Setup NetScaler service and Workspace Service
That’s all there is, everything except deploying a new XenApp server (due to application testing) can be done within a day. So let’s show how this is done. For this blog, I already deploy a Windows 10 machine but the installation of the VDA agent is the same.
The first step after signing up is to deploy a Citrix Cloud Connector. To deploy the server, check the sizing to accommodate your environment and download the software. The installation is a breeze, you can’t miss this. Download it and run it with Administrative rights.
Once the installation is done, it does a connectivity test and you are able to login to Citrix Cloud. If you have signed up with more than one Citrix cloud environment you will get a choice to select the environment you want to integrate with. Once you are ready with the installation and signed in the cloud connector is shown in Citrix cloud and you have a connection with your on-premises environment.
With that, you are connected. From Citrix Cloud, you now can reach your on-premises virtualization environment from Citrix cloud through the Cloud Connector. it is not a VPN into your environment so no worries there. With this connection, the Active directory is connected to any user logging on can be authenticated. Passwords are not stored on disk in Citrix cloud as some make you believe.
Next up is your hosting connection, nothing new as for any environment you will need to set up a connection with your virtualization environment. Go to Citrix cloud and open the XenApp / XenDesktop services to enter Studio. Go into hosting and add a resource connection.
The first question is about which connection type you like to add. I got a vSphere environment running so I picked that one.
Next up is a cluster selection, Selected the Home lab and told the wizard I’m gonna use local storage. With the local storage selection you need to select which one you will be using.
Select the network and finish the wizard. As you can see in the console the hosting connection is now added and you can control the virtual machines on-premises.
Now we enter the customer domain, the VDA software can be installed on the XenApp servers. The installation of the agent is a thousand times easier than in the 6 version of Citrix XenApp. Download it from the Citrix Cloud portal and run it (actually deploy it through some automation please). I’ll show the manual steps here in a fast track so I don’t bore you.
You might wonder what to enter in the controller address but as you see in the screenshot above you enter the Cloud connector address. That is the link with the Citrix cloud.
You select the features you want to install and go on. Nothing you wouldn’t expect here, right? Next are some firewall settings a summary and so on and the VDA is installed. It’s almost like we made it too easy. I could go into the settings and so on but there is not that much to say, you install the VDA software and connect it with the Cloud connector and you’re done.
Next up is the machine catalog. The catalog controls how the machines (XenApp or XenDesktop machines) are deployed and maintained.
So I selected power managed machines as I got vCenter running that is managing machines. I selected MCS for deployment.
The next selection is about if you want a dedicated or non-persistent desktop. Depending on your environment you make the correct choices. For this blog, I just selected a random desktop.
I selected the golden image and the snapshot and went on. In the next screen, the OU is selected and the machine naming scheme is entered. Still nothing you need more than a few minutes for right?
A few other screens in the wizard but nothing worth showing, after finishing up the catalog is created and you’re done.
The last step in offering a desktop or application to the user is to create a delivery group. A delivery group depends on a Catalog. It’s rather simple when you create the delivery group you can select how many desktops/servers you want to add to the group.
I just deployed one Windows 10 machine so one is the number I can choose. If you have multiple ready you can select the number per delivery group.
You need to select where user management is done, I selected Citrix cloud. From the library, I can add users to desktops or apps I publish. So after the delivery group is created let’s just do that.
From the library, select the desktop you want to assign users to and click on manage subscribers. Add the users from the local domain and you’re done.
As you can see I added the domain users group as that was easiest. And with that the setup and the connection is ready. I did not show the installation of the XenApp server itself and only showed the VDA installation. The installation of the XenApp server and its apps is a customer/consultant task. it takes time to validate applications and user experiences but that has nothing to do with a Citrix server or any server.
Through workspace service, you can now connect to your on-premises virtual desktop or published desktop. The working is the same as before, users connect and work with the published desktop. The upgrade that should be hard is, besides the XenApp server, is done in hours.
I hope this blog showed some insight into the easiness of the setup with Citrix cloud. no need for horror stories just set up a few components, sign up and go for it.