Citrix Excalibur, Technical preview – review


Citrix Excalibur, Technical preview – review

Citrix is moving forward and really pushing to integrate all components of application and desktop delivery into one solid framework. With the technical preview release of Citrix Excalibur they made a huge step in that direction. This blog will guide you through the process of setting up a basic environment to discover that XenApp is a thing of the past.

What’s new?

You’re now looking at that last line and wondering, what did he mean by that, XenApp is a thing of the past?
Let me explain, before Excalibur we had Winframe (who still remembers that one?), Metaframe, Presentation server and XenApp. Names changed faster than weathers changes here in The Netherlands, the  things you worked with stayed more or less the same. It was a separate console or many console making up a classical Server Based Computing environment where you publish applications or a desktop. The console changed many many times, the names of the product and the console changed as much but the basics stayed the same….. until now.
With the release of Excalibur they’ve integrated the Citrix Xenapp console with the Desktop Delivery Studio console of XenDesktop. They made the Studio a platform from where you manage the desktops and application you want to publish to users. 

What is gone?

  • No more IMA
  • No more support for Microsoft Access or Oracle as supported databases
  • No more zone master
  • Remote Desktop services in no longer required on the controller
  • No more Delivery Service console
  • More delegation of control possibilities
  • No shadow taskbar 
  • No more sites

What is coming?

  • Sites are the new farms
  • Shadowing is done from Desktop Director
  • High availability or DR is done with clustering or mirroring
  • Desktop Studio is the (new) console

Terms

It might be good idea to start with the terms, I’m still in my deny phase when it comes to XenApp being gone, my whole comfort zone is swept away.
  • Machine Catalog
  • Delivery Group
A machine catalog is a group of machines treated as a single machine, just like you had a Citrix XenApp farm with multiple machines where you published a desktop from. Users never knew which one they landed on. it was one machine to the outside world.
A delivery group is where you specify what is published and to whom. When creating a delivery group you can choose between a Desktop delivery group and a Application delivery group. It’s basically a group of servers specifying who can use a desktop or an application. A delivery group however can work with multiple machine catalogs.

Architecture

To make it all even more clear, I stole a picture from the manual… Credits are by Citrix.
As you can see in the picture the integration of components is way better than it was before, this is a grown up model of application and desktop delivery. So let’s take a look at how it install and how to get a desktop XenApp style.

Installation of Excalibur

As you have read and seen in the picture, there aren’t that many components to install on different servers. Actually you would need only a handfull of servers is you wanted to do some testing. My environment looks like this;
  • Windows 8 x64 laptop with 16GB RAM and a 240GB SSD disk for my vm’s
    • Hyper-V installed
  • Windows 2008 R2 domain controller + RDS licensing (hyper-v)
  • Windows 2008 R2 Desktop Delivery controller (hyper-v)
  • Windows 2012 RDS server (hyper-v)
  • Windows 7 client (hyper-v)
All virtual machines have an internal network with vlan tagging, so it look like a decent network to test stuff. 

Core components

First of all you need to install the core components, in this scenario that is the components on the controller.
So connect the ISO (there a two ISO files, one for PVS and one for Excalibur) for Excalibur to the controller and fire up the setup.
They’ve done a pretty good job at guiding you through the setup… from the screen below it’s pretty clear what to do next. Install the core components on the Delivery Controller.
License bla bla.
I started with a clean machine so then you will have a components available. For this was just a test I installed all these on one server.
Of course if you have a SQL server running you would never ever do this but for the sake of this test I installed it locally..
It gives you a overview of the firewall ports, nothing new here. I selected the firewall to be configured automatically. The firewall stays on but that has to do with my other blog about WinRM.
A quick summary..and the installation can begin
It will do a reboot in between, after the reboot the installation goes on automatically (after you logged on again).
So far we haven’t seen anything that will make you fall of your chair, have we?

Configration

the core components are installed, I’m gonna skip the licensing server configuration for I think you all can dream than one by heart. Let’s move on to the Studio because that why you’re all here.

Desktop Studio

So log on and open Citrix Studio… the dreaded long waiting has begun… the console is starting up slow as ever and every single time I started it I got a “Not responding” message. When clicking cancel the console opened fine. This has been a problem longer with teh Studio console, hopefully it will be fixed in the near future.
So after a cup of coffee the console was there.
It’s new, it’s empty and it looking at you with big eyes asking where to go… let’s do a Full deploy.
So here is the first change for them that only worked with XenApp before.
There is no more farm, farms are gone and Sites are in.
First you configure a site, pick a name and choose which SQL server you want to use. I used the locally installed one on the server.
A message is thrown at you saying there is no database. I knew that and expected the setup to help me out on that. So I clicked OK and the database was created.
Next stop is the license server, for the sake of the test it’s local with a 30 day trial.
The next question is about the hypervisor, where do you want to run your machines on? 
I chose none for now even though it says Hyper-v in the screen shot for I have a Windows 2012 server ready already for this. For a real life environment you can see that while creating the site you specify the hypervisor connection.
If you want to change that afterwards you can in the console like you did with XenDesktop. the picture below shows where.
Back to the installation. After the hypervisor selection and the selection how to provision the machines you’re done. 
The configuration is succesful and you can start creating a catalog.

Catalog

To remind you: A machine catalog is a group of machines treated as a single machine, just like you had a Citrix XenApp farm with multiple machines where you published a desktop from. Users never knew which one they landed on. it was one machine to the outside world.

Click on the Start button that appears on the menu
A start screen to explain were we’re going.

XenApp or XenDesktop

Here it gets interesting for them that are wondering where they did integrate the XenApp options.
You can select whether you want your catalog to be based on a Windows Desktop OS or a Windows Server OS. I selected the server OS.
Again the question how will you provsion this desktop, I had to choose none for I didn’t want to build a PVS server right now. Normally I would have chosen PVS to deliver the image.
At this point it asks for a machine, so add your RDS server to the list and go on.
I selected a Windows 2012 server for I wanted to test the compatibility.
Give the catalog a name and the catalog is created.

 

Next stop is the Delivery Group.

Delivery group

A delivery group is where you specify what is published and to whom. When creating a delivery group you can choose between a Desktop delivery group and a Application delivery group. It’s basically a group of servers specifying who can use a desktop or an application. A delivery group however can work with multiple machine catalogs.
First question there is to select the catalog you want the you and how many machine from that catalog you want to use.
Next stop is the user assignment, so whcih users will be assigned to the delivery group.
Then again something cool and new, they integrated profile management.
You can select to use Citrix roaming profiles and choose for folder redirection for several folders.
I think this is pretty cool.

 

At last it will ask you for a name and a delivery group name and create it.
When that is done and that goes quick.. the console looks like this.
At this point we have a catalog and a delivery group.
Basically we’re done now. Soon as we have the agent installed on the XenApp like server we can start.

At the RDS server side

At the RDS/XenApp server side you will see that you can also install an Agent.
I’m cheating a bit here for I installed the RDS role already and added DotNet Framework 3.5 to the server.
I only wanted to install the agent, the option is provided together with the receiver if you want to publish applications also.
That much for the RDS server side, just install the agent it your fine.
For this blog I won’t go into details about Storefront, I written about that before in a previous blog post.
I created a website and a store and added the Desktop Delivery controller to the store and the controller.
That way I could publish the desktop to the users (me).
Within the store you can connect three types of delivery controllers, XenApp, XenDesktop and CloudGateway Enterprise.
If you want to change anything in that end just go to the StoreFront console and change the Delivery controller.
So let’s look at the client.

Client side

Of course you need a Citrix receiver there, so no installation guide or anything about that. At the client you open a browser and go to the webpage you just created in Storefront.

Log on with the credentials from a user and the resources you can access are shown.

after a very short while the desktop is opened and I can see my Windows 2012 XenApp like desktop.

Desktop Director

So I went to see about the Desktop director, because I want to see who is using what resource.
I opened a new tab on the client, typed in the address and logged on.

First thing (and only) you see is the search in the middle.. not expecting that I can tell you.

So searching for me I found myself.

But there the fairytale ends, I seem to have no resources assigned even though I’m logged on.
I guess I’m doing something wrong so the rest of the afternoon is to find out what.

Conclusion

I’ve taken you through some basic steps to setup a Exacilbur XenApp like environment, hopefully it gives you an insight in the new possibilities and how components are integrated. More blogposts will come in which I explain features and stuff I ran into.

2 Responses

  1. Aresh says:

    Awesome Post… Thanks for sharing your hardwork..

  2. Hi
    I am from Citrix Technical Marketing. This is a great post. I love the screen shots.
    If you have any feedback (good/bad) please feel free to reach me and discuss.
    We also posted something similar on our website
    http://www.citrix.com/skb/articles/RDY8316 (login required to download)
    Thanks

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