XenDesktop Review

The Provisioning Services and Machine Creation Services features allow you to provision workloads by following a wizard, and depending of what you have in your environment.

Valuable Features

The Provisioning Services and Machine Creation Services features allow you to provision workloads just by following a wizard, and most importantly depending of what you have in your environment, either a below average network (Machine Creation Services) or fast and large storage (Provisioning Services). You are able to use either one of them to improve the time it takes to build workloads and make them available to users.

Improvements to My Organization

One of our clients where we implemented XenDesktop has a highly mobile fleet of users, and providing access to shared desktops either via Wyse terminals or tablets has really shown what a difference in improving efficiency and reliability can do to a system. What we love the most about XenDesktop is the simple and easy way to scale on-demand depending on the workload.

Room for Improvement

Citrix Director, which is like the monitoring interface from Citrix could use a revamp in the way that it displays information. The display is not very intuitive, and it could also have better integration with SCOM via Comtrade MP (now Citrix) and other monitoring tools. This is in progress with v7.8 using SNMP traps which will allow Director to talk to upstream monitoring systems like BMC Patrol, CA Spectrum, Tivoli, etc.

Use of Solution

I've been using it for three years.

Deployment Issues

With the deployment, it was only doing the design that took a while to build. It was a very particular client with a not so good network, so we had to work around that, but Citrix adjusted perfectly, for every issue we found when designing XenDesktop had a feature to make it happen.

Stability Issues

XenDesktop is a very mature product and since implementation early last year, we've only had couple of issues that required our attention. As the solution was built with High Availability in mind, we only suffered from a degradation in service rather than a full outage of the system.

Scalability Issues

If you need more hosted shared desktops, boom it's really easy, and only takes couple of clicks and in minutes the new workloads are available and ready to be used.

Customer Service and Technical Support

Excellent, Citrix support guys are top of the line, and when we required a Citrix Consultant on premises, Citrix sent one straight away to assist us.

Previous Solutions

Previously, I used VMware Horizon View. This solution is simple and elegant, but it lacks the robustness Citrix has. Protocols and features to improve user experience when the network is not the best, are features that VMware has but they are not as effective as Citrix ones. The ICA protocol from Citrix has been maturing for many years, and the amount of settings you can tweak to deliver a great user experience is incredible. It can be a bit complicated, but if you work with the product you can work out what option suits best your scenario. VMware is still behind but let’s not think it is the underdog as they are gaining market share and it is a cheaper solution than Citrix.

Initial Setup

After the design was built, agreed upon, and firewall rules were defined, deployment of the solution was a breeze. Having XenDesktop running on top of XenServer as native hypervisor is the best way to go. When machines are created via MCS or PVS you don’t need to do anything else for the VMs to be created as XenDesktop talks directly to the hypervisor and instructs it to create whatever workloads you need on the fly.

Implementation Team

The implementation was done in-house mostly, however with the design considerations we approached Citrix for assistance and to confirm whether or notour design considerations were following best practices. One thing to consider when implementing Citrix and a set of policies is that if it is a big environment, you are deploying, please ensure that the person or team that's doing the design knows what they are doing. Citrix works marvellously when properly configured but if not, you will find a world of trouble trying to make it work as you want.

For implementation, my advice is if you are designing a big environment contact Citrix Professional Services. If you're not sure on some aspects of your design, and have a CCE-V in your team, this is the key person to contact when doing a design for a large environment - 5000+ workloads for desktop or server.

Pricing, Setup Cost and Licensing

Citrix is a pricey product, but it is the best product for large corporate companies that want to squeeze to the last buck the life of their existing computers. Using Citrix allows medium to large companies to save money when computer hardware refreshes need to happen; Using shared desktops with Windows Server 2012 R2 as OS you can provision this for a large fleet of users that are probably still using a Windows XP computer but the user experience they will have will be like using Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 if you use the latest version of XenDesktop

Other Advice

Plan your budget, and do a PoC first if possible to get key users feedback, work with Citrix licensing team to find out what best license scheme adjust to your needs, don’t go out and buy the Enterprise license because it has it all, check first what your design requires and after that make an informed decision.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: We are Platinum partners of Citrix and their support and guidance for us have being invaluable to our success.
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