Citrix is all new in June

If you’ve been paying attention to Twitter lately, you’ve probably noticed that there have been a lot of new announcements and releases from Citrix over the past 7 days.   So many in fact it can be difficult to keep straight exactly what is going on.  I’m going to try to clear up some of the murk and hopefully help you understand how these announcements are going to impact your plans for the near future. I’ll try to detail each of the announcements and product updates and what’s new with them.

XenDesktop 7: This is Citrix’s flagship VDI product, which competes head to head with VMware’s Horizon View.   Hopefully most Citrix customers are also aware that most of the license editions for XenDesktop also include rights to Citrix XenApp (also knows as Presentation Server or MetaFrame).  Despite the bundling, XenApp and XenDesktop have always been two distict products with separate infrastructures and management frameworks.  XenDesktop 7 changes all that.  With the v7 release XenDesktop now fully encompasses all the functionality for application and desktop publishing from both server OS (XenApp/RDS – aka Hosted Shared) as well as desktop OS (XenDestkop/VDI – aka Hosted).  This means that from a single console you can configure desktops and apps published from Windows XP, 7, 8, Server 2008R2 and Server 2012.  Yes, I said desktops and apps!  Actually XenDesktop has had the ability to do “VM Hosted Apps” for a while but it was infrequently used; that capability is now core functionality and delivers the “seamless” published apps from both destkop and server environments.

Did I mention this is all in a single console?  Well, actually there are two consoles – the management/configuration interface which is now named “Studio” and a helpdesk and monitoring interface named “Director”.  XenDesktop admins will be familiar with both of these.  By the way, Director now has the ability to mine Edgesight data to provide historical information about users, apps, sessions, and hosts.

With the merger there is now a 4th edition of XenDesktop – now giving us Platinum, Enterprise, VDI, and Apps.  The Apps edition will map to the functionality which was previously provided by XenApp.

XenDesktop 7 also brings a host of new features and functionality including the H.264 supercodec, reverse seamless applications, and App DNA integration.  RemotePC is now configured from within the Studio console.   One of the more interesting capabilities is that you can now use MCS to manage your published app server farms which will greatly simplify single image management for smaller environments. Check out this blog for more details and a link to the Citrix TV session detailing the new features.

XenDesktop 7 brings with it a host of other updates:

  • StoreFront 1.2 -> StoreFront 2.0
  • Web Interface 5.4 -> StoreFront 2.0 (StoreFront is now required)
  • Provisioning Services 6.1 -> Provisioning Services 7.0
  • XenServer 6.1 -> XenServer 6.2
  • Receiver 3.4 -> 4.0  (and new receivers for iOS, Android, and OSX too)

It’s a pretty safe bet that if you use XenDesktop or XenApp you’ve got some new code in your future.

XenApp 6.5 Feature Pack 2: Much less hubbub about 6.5 FP2, but very noteworthy that in this same timeframe Citirx has chosen to issue an update to the existing XenApp product which offers many of the end-user benefits associated with XenDesktop 7.  This appears to be a recognition on Citrix’s part that customers probably will not migrate off of XenApp 6.5 in any great hurry, and this update removes much of the need.  XenApp 6.5 was originally released in August of 2011 and is widely deployed.  Details of the new features can be found here.

Cloudgateway is now XenMobile Apps: So if you’re looking for an updated App Controller, you need to look in a new place.  This heralds future integration between the XenMobile MDM solution and Citrix’s Web/SaaS/Mobile Application management.  We also saw a new release of XenMobile MDM 8.5 on June 28.

ShareFile Storage Center and Connectors are now Storage Controller 2.0: This brings the integration of the on-prem storage options for ShareFile all into one product, reducing the number of servers needed to connect to local storage zones, CIFS shares, and SharePoint.  It also provides read/write access to SharePoint sites!

XenServer 6.2: The latest release of Citrix’s XenServer hypervisor is more incremetnal and has not received much fanfare, with the largest announcement being that the product is now fully open source.  More details on the future strategy and new features can be found here.

NetScaler 10.1: It seems like this release has been kept fairly quiet, however the new HDX Insight reporting feature will offer great value to shops using NetScaler for its Access Gateway Enterprise Edition features.  Want to know how much data user sessions are moving?  Look no further!

VDI in a Box: Even VDI in a Box got an update, now at version 5.3. ViaB gets updates to support better 3D graphics. newer hypervisors, the H.264 supercodec, Windows 8 and Personal vDisk.  More info can be found here.

So June has been a huge month for Citirx with updates across nearly the entire product portfolio.  If you have or use Citrix products these changes will affect you.  If you need help or just want more information reach out to your Lewan Account Executive.  We’re here to help.

Lewan Synergy of the Rockies

Our Lewan Synergy of the Rockies event was yesterday, here are some highlights and links from the event.

Citrix Support – Premier Support calculator citrix.com/pscalculator. AutoSupport released for automated diagnosis of issues http://support.citrix.com/article/CTX135408

Citrix GotoMeeting – mobile clients have the ability to start and host a meeting as well as present content from the device. Whiteboard functionality is also built in.

Citrix XenServer – XenServer 6.1 released, includes support for Storage XenMotion, LACP (up to 4) support, batch conversion of VMware virtual machines

Citrix XenClient – added support for ultrabooks

Citrix ShareFile- What ShareFile does is: Store, Sync, Share

  • Sync and device with user files
  • Selective offline access on mobile devices
  • Data protection – encryption, lock, remote wipe, poison pill
  • Enables file sharing with anyone
  • Online file sharing space for virtual teams

With ShareFile Enterprise released, control plane resides at Citrix Online while the data plane can reside inside your datacenter, your data never resides outside. StorageZone Connect (tech preview) allows integration of existing file shares.

Citrix CloudGateway Enterprise – enabled mobile application management of iOS and Android devices, wrapped native app deployment via the Citrix AppController. AppController integrates mobile, web/saas, follow-me-data.

Just announced last week is @WorkWeb and @WorkMail, videos of this solution in action are here.

Citrix Receiver – Citrix Receiver for HTML 5 was released this summer, requires Access Gateway 10 and StoreFront 1.2. Enabled clientless access to Windows apps, Desktops, web and SAAS apps.

One Citrix Receiver look and feel across desktops and mobile platforms. First Time User experience allows setup and configuration with just a users email address.

Citrix RemotePC – Citrix RemotePC was released as part of Citrix XenDesktop 5.6 Feature Pack 1. RemotePC is the secure brokering of a physical endpoint (desktop or laptop) that is in your office (typically) via Citrix HDX technology. Think of it as GotoMyPC but with the centralized control over virtual channels (printing, clipboard, local drives, etc), automated provisioning of PC and end users, and the high performance of Citrix HDX. RemotePC is available in Citrix XenDesktop Enterprise and Platinum and in most cases won’t require any additional Microsoft licensing…as in you won’t need VDA licenses!

Universal Print Server- Combined with the previously available Universal Print Driver, administrators may now install a single driver in the virtual desktop image or application server to permit local or network printing from any device, including thin clients and tablets, leveraging HDX optimization technology to reduce bandwidth load over wide area networks and manage printing communications outside of the virtual desktop channel for enhanced Quality of Service. Use of the Citrix Universal Print Driver had previously been constrained to Windows devices because we relied on Windows to translate from Windows-centric print formats. With UPS, the print engine runs on a server, and we’re no longer limited to printing from Windows devices because the format translation is done on the server. There’s now little or no need to install 3rd party, non-native printer drivers, so overall stability is also improved.

Project Excalibur (XenDesktop v.Next) – Part of Project Avalon. Unification and simplification of XenApp/XenDesktop into a single architecture. XenApp IMA architecture has been around since Metaframe XP and in Project Avalon is being integrated into the Citrix XenDesktop FMA architecture.

Excalibur will also bring support for Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 machine groups.

Also announced was a new SuperCodec using H.264 encode/decode. With so many devices support H.264 decode via hardware acceleration this could be a fallback encoding method for devices that don’t support offloading the multimedia to the client (ex: AVI, WMV, Flash). With the upcoming vGPU (GPU virtualization) the encoding could also potentially benefit from hardware based encoding. This technology will also support transcoding down high bit-rate video down to adapt to available bandwidth so that you can take 1080p video and transcode down to stream on 3G networks.

You can watch Citrix Synergy Barcelona session SYN133 on CitrixTV which goes thru the Excalibur release.

Excalibur will be available for download as a tech preview on November 1st.

Citrix Netscaler – Citrix Netscaler 10 now support scale-up, scale-in, and scale-out (TriScale) options with new Active-Active-Active-Ac.. scale-out options. Citrix and Cisco also announced a new partnership where Cisco will be selling Citrix Netscaler into their customers who are looking for Application Delivery Controllers as Cisco recently discontinued their ACE product line. Citrix also announced new partnerships with a number of key vendors who will be building joint solutions on their Netscaler product line.

P2V Conversion of Linux Virtual Machine (for XenServer)

With XenServer 5.6 Citrix removed the old Linux P2V tool which was included in earlier versions of XenServer. The old version 5.5 tool will not work with XenServer 5.6, and only supported older distributions.

For this reason is may be desirable to manually convert a Linux physical machine to a XenServer VM. This document attempts to provide a general guide to completing this process.

Move system image to VM

There are several ways to do this. Any tool which can copy the blocks or the filesystem from one “bare metal” machine to another will work. You can use a live CD like Knoppix, or the “System Rescue CD” or commercial utilities like Ghost or even PortLock storage Manager. Most linux distributions also have a “recovery” mode from the install media which can also be used for this. If your machine is a VM from another platform you can convert the disk to a VHD or an OVF and simply import that.

In this example we’re going to use a basic live CD, and the DD utility to move the block image intact to the new VM. As always there is more than one way to skin this particular cat.

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Once you’ve booted your live CD, Verify where your fileystems are at. In this particular case our root filesystem is at /dev/sda3 and the /boot filesystem is at /dev/sda1

Make sure that these are the real fileystems of the machine you’re wanting to convert. The example above might not match your environment!

Knowing where these are at is critical. Depending on the live CD and your particular partitoining/LVM layout your configuration may be different.

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We want to capture our current partition information, and the size of the source disk. Our target disk will need to be as large or larger than the source.

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Get yourself some space to work with. Above we created a mount point /mnt/nfs and attached to some handy NFS storage, but you could also use a CIFS based fileshare, or with a little creativity the need for the disk space can be mitigated through use of an SSH tunnel.

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Use dd to copy the harddisk to an image on the NFS server. Note that dd does not produce any output until the job is complete. Sending a hup signal to the process will give you some progress information however.

If possible, it’s always cleanest to dismount or make sure the fileystems are not mounted before you start the dd process. Failure to do so can result in corrupted filesystems on the target.

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When the dd is complete, we can shutdown the source system.

Create target virtual machine and restore the image

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Use the other install media to create a HVM mode virtual machine which we’ll transfer your image into. Complete the wizard configuring RAM, CPU, and Networking to your needs. Make sure you configure the storage to match the size of the original machine’s disk.

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Make sure your storage is correct. Mount your live CD on to the VM.

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Boot the VM from the live CD and confirm that you see the VM’s hard disk and that it’s the correct size.

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mount the file share, and reverse the dd command to write the image onto the virtual machine’s hard disk.

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When dd completes, reboot the VM and eject the CD.

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Ok, so far so good, the VM booted the transplanted OS. Now we just need to convert the HVM to a PVM and enable the XenServer tools.

Converting the HVM into a PVM mode virtual machine.

HVM based virtual machines work by emulating physical hardware and allow unmodified guests to run on top of XenServer. Such machines allow operating systems like Windows which cannot be modified to boot and run on XenServer.

PVM based virtual machine work by way of sharing physical devices in an intelligent manner made possible by the virtual machine’s awareness that it is a VM. This requires modification of the system’s kernel and device drivers. PVM mode guests are almost exclusively Linux based.

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Start by checking the virtual machine’s filesystems – note that we are currently booting from /dev/hda# indicating emulated hardware.

Knowing that we’re on emulated hardware, and now knowing where our volumes live we can start modifying the operating system to run on paravirtualized hardware.

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modify /etc/modprobe.conf (or your distribution’s equivalent) to include the xen modules for storage and networking. You can also probably remove the old hardware modules if present.

vi /etc/modprobe.conf
alias scsi_hostadapter xenblk
alias eth0 xennet

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Install the Xen-aware kernel for your distribution. This will be something similar to “yum install kernel-xen”

Make not of the kernel version which is installed.

Update the bootloader configuration so that the new kernel is the default, and that the bootloader is configured properly for Xen. Note the before and after screenshots below.

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Before

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After – the changes are highlighted above.

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Rebuild the initrd including directives to preload the xen driver modules. Note that you MUST build this appropriately to the kernel version you just installed.

One the initrd has been rebuilt, shut down the os cleanly.

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Activity now moves to the console of the Xen Host. You can do this within the console provided by XenCenter, or from a ssh session.

Use the xe vm-list command to determine the uuid of the virtual machine you’re working on. We want to modify this VM to be a PVM mode guest rather than a HVM mode one.

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Update VM Parameters to enable PVM mode
xe vm-param-set uuid=<vm uuid> HVM-boot-policy=””
xe vm-param-set uuid=<vm uuid> PV-bootloader=pygrub
xe vm-param-set uuid=<vm uuid> PV-bootloader-args=”–kernel <path to kernel> –ramdisk <path to xen initrd>”
xe vm=param-set uuid=<vm uuid> PV-args=”root=/dev/xvda#”

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Obtain the UUID of the virtual machine’s boot disk using the xe vm-disk-list command. The UUID supplied is the UUID of the virtual machine.

You now want the VBD UUID for the boot disk.

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Mark the VBD as bootable using the xe vbd-param-set uuid= command as shown above.

Restart XenCenter

For unknown reasons it is necessary that XenCenter be restarted at this point. Exit and restart XenCenter.

Failure to do so will prevent you from seeing the console of the VM when it’s powered on.

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Check the properties of the VM, and make sure that the HD is set as the only boot device for the VM. Then power on the virtual machine.

This is the point where we will find what mistakes have been made – if the system panics, double check your boot device/paths/etc.

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The system is up on the Xen Kernel

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The fileystems are up on the paravirtual devices as well.

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However XenCenter does not yet report that we are running fully paravirtualized, and features such as live migration will not yet be available.

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Mount the xs-tools.iso to the virtual machine, and then mount the cdrom within the vm.

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Install the XenServer tools

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The tools are now installed.

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Now XenCenter will report the system as being optimized, and live migration is available.

Reboot the virtual machine and eject the CDROM.

Networking

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One last issue may exist depending upon the configuration of the network adapter. Shown above eth0 is down.

You will need to ‘fix’ the networking config for your distribution. For RHEL/CentOS the relevant configuration lives under /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts in a file named ifcfg-eth0

This file must exist, it may have been renamed (.bak) if so copy it back then modify the copy.

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Remove or comment the HWADDR line and save the file.

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Restart the network to bring the interface online.

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This completes the conversion. Your linux system is now a XenServer paravirtualized virtual machine.

Summary cheat sheet

Remove any attached CDs

Boot the imported VM
vi /etc/modprobe.conf adding
alias scsi_hostadapter xenblk
alias eth0 xennet

yum install kernel-xen

Update /boot/grub/grub.conf
Make the Xen Kernel the default for boot
Make note of the kernel and initrd file names
Modify grub.conf to be similar to the below
title CentOS (2.6.18-128.2.1.el5xen)
root (hd0,0)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.18-128.2.1.el5xen ro root=LABEL=/
initrd /boot/initrd-2.6.18-128.2.1.el5xen.img

Make new Xen initrd
mkinitrd -v -f –preload=xennet –preload=xenblk /boot/initrd-2.6.18-128.el5xen.img 2.6.18-128.el5xen

shutdown the VM

Find uuid of the VM (b6ebbe09-2bcb-5c40-0f98-f33426487142)
xe vm-list

Update VM Parameters
xe vm-param-set uuid=<vm uuid> HVM-boot-policy=””
xe vm-param-set uuid=<vm uuid> PV-bootloader=pygrub
xe vm-param-set uuid=<vm uuid> PV-bootloader-args=”–kernel <path to kernel> –ramdisk <path to xen initrd>”
xe vm=param-set uuid=<vm uuid> PV-args=”root=/dev/xvda#”

Find UUID of boot disk
xe vm-disk-list uuid <vm uuid>
… looking for the vBD UUID of disk0

Set the disk VBD to bootable
xe vbd-param-set uuid=<vbd uuid> bootable=true

exit and restart XenCenter console (odd bug)

Check the boot settings for the VM, make sure only hard-disk (HD) is selected.

Start the VM

install XenServer tools & reboot.

Virtualizing Citrix Provisioning Server

Citrix Provisioning Server (PVS) is a powerful technology both for hosted virtual desktops and for ensuring consistency across a XenApp farm by using PVS to deliver XenApp.  A common question in deploying PVS is whether it can be virtualized…and I think this article by Citrix does a great job of laying out the decision criteria we use in deciding whether it can be virtualized.  I’m also happy to see that Citrix called out the lack of LACP support in XenServer…while XenServer is a capable hypervisor the lack of this feature almost always means that virtualizing PVS in a large production environment is out if XenServer is the hypervisor (and 10Gb is not in play).

http://community.citrix.com/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=162955756

How-To Convert VMware Virtual Machines to Citrix XenServer Virtual Machines

I’m a VMware guy myself but since we cross-train, I wanted to post this for the rest of the team. I also thought it might be good info to share as I was asked by a customer this question. A quick search found this Citrix Knowledge Center How-To document which does an excellent step-by-step walkthrough with screenshots on the conversion process.

http://support.citrix.com/article/CTX116603