Citrix XenDesktop 7.5… What’s new?!

You know what’s funny? Last weekend (Saturday the 25th of January 2014 to be exact) when Citrix leaked its introduction video, with regards to the new Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.5 releases, it was all XenApp from there on, not a word, with a small exception here and there, on the new XenDesktop 7.5 release. I guess we were all just flabbergasted (what a cool word) with the re-introduction of XenApp, most of us anyway. Also, due to the rise of mobile computing, and mobility in general, It’s (and going to be) more and more about the applications then anything else, which, when you think about it, makes sense. I found some spare time and I’d like to spend a minute or two looking at some of the new features and functionality introduced with the release of Xendesktop 7.5.

Flexcast Management Architecture

To be honest, there’s isn’t that much (new) to tell. I already highlighted most of the new functionality in my Citrix XenApp 7.5… What’s (really) new?! article. Because both products still share the same underlying Flex Management Architecture, they are very similar. Of course there are differences, like the FlexCast Delivery models offered by XenDesktop for example, but that’s not new(s), we already had those. Also, XenApp is still multi user aware (multi ICA stack) and XenDesktop is aimed at single user use (single ICA stack), that hasn’t changed either. The same can be said for the HDX portfolio including 3D support and the HDX user experience optimization toolset, it’s there for both XenDesktop as well XenApp 7.5. Let’s summarize anyway, note that some of the text is the same, copied in, as from my XenApp 7.5 article earlier. Make sure to read, or browse, it all though! Do you agree with my final conclusion?

Wake on LAN

Remote PC Access. Although it isn’t a new feature by itself, it has been improved. By leveraging Microsoft SCCM they now offer Wake-on-LAN support for Remote PC Access users. Meaning that when a user connects up to his or her PC while it’s turned off, it will automatically boot and be ready for use. Great power saving (green) feature.

Daily management

As stated, the underlying architecture (FMA) hasn’t changed. Xendesktop, as well as XenApp, both still use Studio and Director (including EdgeSight and NetScaler Insight) for daily management, support and troubleshooting purposes. One (two actually) central management console (I’m not sure if they changed it with regards to the look and feel we are used to) from where both products can be managed. In fact with XenDesktop 7.5 the XenApp 7.5 bits and bytes are included providing a seamless integration.

Integrated Profile Management and automated app and desktop thin provisioning. I guess they’re referring to MCS / PVS. I also picked up that XenServer will be included as well, not mandatory, you can still choose your own Hypervisor.

Cloud Provisioning

Hybrid Cloud Provisioning gives you the ability to provision (probably using MCS) application and or desktop workloads to public and private cloud infrastructures. This way combining and creating, (hybrid) cloud and on-premises datacenter infrastructures. It should be as simple as picking ‘the Cloud delivery option’ from the Studio drop-down menu, according to Techtarget. Besides Azure (which is still under development) all big cloud vendors are supported. Sounds like another new FlexCast Delivery Technology, right?! Public and or private clouds built with Citrix Cloud Platform are also supported.

5 generations

Something we already had, but I’ll throw it in here anyway. Citrix states that with XenDesktop 7.5 it’s possible to host 5 generations of Windows desktops and applications all from one central infrastructure. What this basically means is that Windows Server 2008, 2012 and Windows XP, 7 and 8 are all supported platforms. And that we are now able to deliver applications and desktops from multiple Windows Operating Systems without having to build separate (IMA / FMA) infrastructures, reducing compatibility issues. Although this is a big change compared to XenApp 6.5 and earlier versions, it’s nothing new from a XenDesktop 7.x perspective.

citrix-desktop-virtualisation-l

App-DNA

The full App DNA feature set will be available to platinum license subscribers. Application testing and migration tools including P2V. XenDesktop also supports, and integrates with, Microsoft App-V, although it doesn’t state which version(s).

WebInterface

Extended WebInterface support, there it is again. No need to upgrade to StoreFront just yet, take your time, you’ll have another year or two (august 2016). Aggregate all of your existing XenApp Farms, including XenApp 7.5 and XenDesktop 7.5. Note that earlier versions of XenDesktop, including XenDesktop 7.x are not supported. Although WebInterface isn’t being renewed in any (other) way, it will stay at version 5.4, I still think it’s awesome

Licensing

With XenDesktop 7.5 all existing editions will continue to be available, with the exception of one, App Edition, which was introduced last year when XenApp and XenDesktop were merged into version 7. For now this leaves us with: VDI, Enterprise and Platinum. If you currently own Platinum licenses, and have Subscription Advantage, you’ll be able to get the App DNA bits for free as well, no matter which version of XenApp and or XenDesktop you are running. Since former Advanced XenApp customers felt somewhat forced to upgrade to XenDesktop App Edition (from XenApp 6.5), with the release of XenDesktop 7, they got some sort of ‘compelling’ offer, as Citrix likes to call it. Now Citrix will again come with a special offer, no details yet, to specifically address and support these XenDesktop App Edition customers in upgrading to XenApp 7.5 Enterprise edition which will eventually replace App Edition all together (end of life is yet to be decided).

Framehawk

Not to long ago Citrix acquired Framehawk again extending their leadership in App and Desktop Virtualization user experience, or so Citrix tells us. I got this from their website: The Framehawk Platform consists of several components working together to deliver secure mobile access to new and existing enterprise applications without rewriting them. Nothing new right, it’s got XenMobile written all over it, but wait…

Framehawk developed and uses a Lightweight Framebuffer Protocol (LFP) inspired by their experiences working in spacecraft communications at NASA. It’s specifically designed to communicate over long distance high latency networks, maintaing security with no or minimal loss of quality. I’ve seen their demo clip on YouTube and it’s impressive to say the least! Framehawk also provides an excellent user experience on almost any (mobile) device, including: touch, gesture mapping, offset mouse and keyboard popup capabilities. You might want to check this one out as well If this technology makes it into XenDesktop, XenApp or XenMobile for that matter, they’ll again be miles ahead of the competition.

Mobility

Citrix announced their, limited, Mobility Promotion program. It runs from the 31st of January to September 30th, 2014. Quoted: Citrix offers new or existing XenApp or XenDesktop Platinum customers with perpetual licenses current on Subscription Advantage (SA) the ability to receive FREE XenMobile MDM edition licenses or get 20% off XenMobile Enterprise licenses with the purchase of first year Software Maintenance for all licenses obtained via this promotion.

Conclusion

As you can see, there’s isn’t that much to add when compared to XenApp 7.5. Some of the biggest changes can be found in (Hybrid) cloud provisioning and Remote PC Access, the rest was already there or was introduced together with XenApp. Check this on out as well, it’s on XenDesktop vs VMware Horizon View. They had a great session on that at Summit as well which I attended, good fun! I’ll update this article where and when I find appropriate as I did with the previous one (on XenApp) as well. Please let me know if you think I missed anything.

I’m sure we’ll see more integration with their CloudPlatform and App-Orchestration (2.0) products as time progresses. The CSP, DaaS and IaaS markets are growing at an incredible rate with new start-ups being announced almost daily. And let’s not forget the partnership between Citrix and Amazon (AWS), not only from a CSP perspective, but also now that both XenApp and XenDesktop support and offer Hybrid Cloud Provisioning, without having to use a separate management console I might add, this is going to be potentially huge in the (near) future. And what about Framehawk, did you see the YouTube clip, impressive right?! Imagine what they can accomplish when they integrate that technology into Xendesktop, XenApp or XenMobile for that matter. All paired and fronted by NetScaler, should be good!

Bas van Kaam ©

Reference materials used: Citrix.com/tv, YouTube.com and Techtarget.com

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