Terminal Servers or Citrix Xen | 125+ Users

mikensales
mikensales used Ask the Experts™
on
I have a client with 100 users at location A and another 40 users at location B.

Client wants to have all the users in location A connect via terminal services to location B. The companies resources will be located at location B.

Applications that will need to be running: Excel, Word, Power Point, Lotus, Client Access for AS/400.  All have been confirmed to run on 64bit.

I'm trying to decide between Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Terminal Services or Citrix Xen.

I understand that Citrix's new server software allows you to deploy multiple "virtual" desktops on a server and your end users would log-in remotely to their desktop.

We are looking for the best solution that is fast, less maintenance and cost effective.

Thank you
Comment
Watch Question

Do more with

Expert Office
EXPERT OFFICE® is a registered trademark of EXPERTS EXCHANGE®
Citrix is still a better product.

Commented:
The desktop virtualization idea will no scale as well as terminal services or even Citrix Published Desktops via XenApp (XenApp is an enhancement to terminal services, XenDesktop is more like VMWare VDI products where you are installing the OS once per user versus running a session in a Server 2003/2008 installation).  
For the number of users you are stating you would probably be best off with XenApp like the above post is saying.  Citrix still shines over plain old TS with scalability.  They have things like bandwidth throttling, memory and CPU optimization that can learn your usage patterns and tune the server, as well as other features that should let you pack more users onto a single server.  
Oh no. First of all, Citrix Xen what? They have XenServer, XenDesktop and XenApp.
In terms of scalability and maturity, Terminal Services/Citrix XenApp beats all the other options, hands down.
With Windows Server 2008 R2 a lot that Citrix offers is there and whatever is not, you can get from other companies at a much lower cost.
100 Users can be easily handled on a single 64-bit box but for redundancy you must have 2 at least so if one dies the other one is there for your users.
I would setup two 2008 R2 TSs load balanced using the 2X LoadBalancer product.
Cheap way to have resource based load balancing and an SSL gateway at the same time.
You could use XenDesktop but it does not scale as well as TS/XenApp and if not using Citrix PVS, storage requirements will kill you.

Cláudio Rodrigues
Citrix CTP
Build an E-Commerce Site with Angular 5

Learn how to build an E-Commerce site with Angular 5, a JavaScript framework used by developers to build web, desktop, and mobile applications.

Forgot to mention. Windows + the 2X LoadBalancer will win easily on the cost. Way cheaper than anything else you may add/find.

Cláudio Rodrigues
Citrix CTP

Author

Commented:
tsmvp: so are we saying three products would be involved in this deployment?

- windows 2008 R2 w/Terminal Services x 2
- the 2X LoadBalancer
- Citrix Xen App

J

Commented:
The most important thing you need to watch when abandoning Citrix (IMO) is print drivers.  Citrix has a great universal driver which works well with most printers.  It also has a robust mapping system which (unlike the TS Printer Redirection Wiz) does not require a reboot to test.  Sure, Server 2008 has EasyPrint which does a good job but the client requirements can be stiff in some cases.  You need Vista SP1 or XP SP3 plus RDC6.1+ and .NET 3.0 SP1+.  If you have older OSes in play or can't move to those SP levels then it won't help you.  
Especially once you have decided to go with an x64 OS, now finding native drivers is much harder.  

From a load balancing perspective, the Citrix Load Evaluators can do much more than a simple L4-7 switch when it comes to balancing based on true server load and not user count.  Plus, load balancers can have network requirements such as bridging a VLan so traffic is routed.  This can make providing services to users on the same LAN difficult.  Hardware load balancers are great but you must weigh all of your needs and look at ROI with the entire picture in mind.  
No need for Citrix XenApp. The 2X LoadBalancer will take care of the load balancing, eliminating the need for Citrix.
@BLipman: The 2X product is based on the WTSGateway Pro engine I developed years ago. It is resource based, exactly as Citrix does with its load evaluators. The difference is I realized over the years and 90% of the Citrix environments do not change whatever comes out of the box and just by using CPU/Mem/Number of users is good enough in most cases and that is exactly what the 2X product uses. Note these are very different then simple Layer 4-7 hardware load balancers. 2X is software based and is resource based, exactly like Citrix.

Cheers.

Cláudio Rodrigues
Citrix CTP

Commented:
"no need for Citrix"; that is a huge blanket statement.  What about WANScaler, EdgeSight, TWAIN redirection, bandwidth throttling, and all of the RAM/CPU optimization software Citrix bought over the years?  I still argue that Citrix is relevant for those who need the features.  You can do most of this through 3rd party options but they add up.  Just start licensing Remote Scan per scan station; it starts making Citrix CCU licensing sound cheaper and cheaper.  

I asked this of Microsoft at a TechEd a couple of years back (asked the current head of the TS group BTW): why don't you just kill Citrix and make TS everything that Citrix offers?  Out compete or buy them out...why do they always seem to be a feature or two behind.  

The reply suprised me.  He told me that Microsoft is interested in the low to mid range market.  They didn't want to handle global, thousand server deployments and the features to support them.  Citrix still can do things TS cannot, even with helpers.  
Why would Microsoft bother buying Citrix? The TS group in Redmond probably generates more revenue per capita than any other group at Microsoft just on the TS CALs required with each Citrix license. Financially it makes no sense to spend billions to acquire them.
Back to the topic, Citrix XenApp is like Microsoft Office. 80% of the users use only 20% of the features.
I am certain this particular user here does not need TWAIN redirection, EdgeSight endpoint analysis and so on.
Several other features can be easily implemented at no cost. That includes CPU optimization (part of 2008), bandwidth throttling and so on.
As a Citrix CTP I do understand Citrix and its value extremely well but at the same time I am completely upfront to say that in all SBC deployments Citrix would be really needed maybe in 20, 30% of them. If we move to smaller deployments with 2 or 3 TSs, in 95% of the cases Citrix is not needed at all. That comes from 15 years on the field, doing Citrix/TS exclusively, deploying these from anywhere between 5 and 50,000 concurrent users for farms with 2 to 1000 servers.
Citrix still do things plain TS cannot do. True. The question is, how many people need that? A handful.

Cheers.

Cláudio Rodrigues
Citrix CTP

Commented:
I agree with this statement but not the original blanket statement making people think that Citrix is now irrelevant.  Many of my clients (we have nearly a thousand running TS or Citrix) are now going the route of TS only.  The Mac heavy districts and those who scan heaviliy tend to buy it still.  
I still encourage my larger clients to purchase Citrix though.  It is nice to have everything in one package even if you aren't going to use most of the features (do you see Office going away any time soon even though users only take advantage of 20%?).  There is something to be said about homogenous technology in some cases.  One company can often wrap things up neater than someone stringing together an 80% solution and adding 3rd party tools to fill the gaps.  
I have thought the product was overpriced from day one!
The statement was made considering this was indeed a very small deployment. The author can confirm that and in that case, almost certain Citrix is not needed.
Also remember there are several other options, from Provision Networks/Quest vWorkspace to Ericom and even 2X with their application server.
Some offer 98% of all Citrix features including UPD, Multimedia Enhancements/redirection and so on. And all that for 50-75% less.

Cláudio Rodrigues
Citrix CTP

Author

Commented:
tsmvp: thanks for all your comments. I have a call into our Citrix rep on Monday. I'm going to spend some time this week review all your comments. Great ideas, concepts and thoughts. Thank you.
Make sure you also consider vWorkspace from Quest if you are willing to go down the Citrix route.

Cláudio Rodrigues
Citrix CTP

Author

Commented:
TSMVP: I found this link doing a google search on the 2x product. Does this some up pretty much what we need to do?

http://www.windowsnetworking.com/articles_tutorials/Software-Review-2X-LoadBalancer-Terminal-Services-Citrix.html
That is it.

Cláudio Rodrigues
Citrix CTP

Author

Commented:
TSMVP:
I'm assuming you have used the 2x Load Balancer product before.

Do you see these disadvantages a big deal?

"      Agent required on every Terminal Server
"      No tool to view or manage sessions that are already setup through the 2X LoadBalancer
"      DNS names cannot be entered when adding a terminal server to the farm
"      2X Client can not be managed via Group Policy

J

Author

Commented:
TSMVP: I was thinking for this project do a two Dell R710 fully loaded for the terminal server.

For the 2x LoadBalancer box, should that box be a little less of a heavy weight?

J
The LoadBalancer can be pretty much anything as the load on it is very low. Any machine with 1CPU, 1GB RAM and Gigabit NIC would do it easily.

Cláudio Rodrigues
Citrix CTP

Author

Commented:
Great solution, Claudio. You helped us out tremendously! Thank you!

Author

Commented:
TSMVP,

Based on the product you recommended previously, would the following setup via Windows 2008 Remote gateway server as a better solution?

http://blogs.msdn.com/rds/archive/2009/03/24/improving-ts-gateway-availability-using-nlb.aspx
Better? Not sure. More complicated to setup I think. Cheaper? Yes as it is free on 2008.

Cláudio Rodrigues
Citrix CTP

Do more with

Expert Office
Submit tech questions to Ask the Experts™ at any time to receive solutions, advice, and new ideas from leading industry professionals.

Start 7-Day Free Trial