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Which roles to combine for a XenApp 6.5 farm

Hi Experts,

I need to setup a new XenApp farm for production with about 12 application servers (200-250 concurrent users). I am not fully sure which roles to combine. We do have a dedicated SQL2012 server for our databases.

In our lab environment I have combined the RDP, KMS, Citrix licensing  and WI on one server which also has SQL Express installed with the Citrix_Metaframe DB (MF20). I do have a separate server for secure gateway in the DMZ.

The 2 XenApp application server(s) have the XML Service IIS integration as additional component installed on top of the default components XenApp Server and XenApp Management.

On the LAN it all works oké, but when starting up through CSG it takes quite some time for the published app finally comes forward.

So I wonder if I perhaps should rethink the setup of the different roles (data collector, XML broker etc.). How to choose these roles to be separated or combined on the servers.

I 'm also not fully clear how the data collector is installed. I do see the election possibilities in the zone, like Most preferred and Default Preferred. Is this the server that is responsible for updating the IMA database or just the RMsummary? When going through the eDocs I assume I'll be best off with just one zone and one data collector or perhaps a second as a backup collector?

So to summarize things:

I have to create a new XenApp 6.5 farm for about 200-250 concurrent users hosted on 12 application servers. Remote access through a secure gateway sitting in the DMZ. Taking the above in consideration, what would be the best way to combine or separate the several roles used for XenApp.
Also we're planning on going to use Provisioning Services.


Thanks in advance!
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Hieristie
Asked:
Hieristie
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3 Solutions
 
Ayman BakrSenior ConsultantCommented:
I would have 2 Data Collectors (acting as the XML brokers also) dedicated, hosting no sessions and with no other roles. One would be the Most Preferred and the other would be the back up set at Preferred.

I would also prefer to have my SQL on a dedicated server.

As for the citrix licensing server it is a light weight server and can be combined with other light weight servers like RDP and KMS.

However for fault tolerance I would think of two web interfaces.
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HieristieAuthor Commented:
Hi Mutawadi,

Thanks for the reply.

If I'm correct, every server where the XenApp Server role is installed on can become a datacollector but becomes one if configured this way through the Delivery Services Console like you described above?

If I want to dedicate this role do I still have to Install the XenApp Server role but not publish any apps to it?

And to have the server acting as an XML Broker, I just have to install the XML Service IIS Integration or am I fully off there..?

If I'm correct you can only have one webinterface and the second is on a stabdy (offline) server, correct?
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Ayman BakrSenior ConsultantCommented:
In XenApp 6.5 you can install XenApp servers in two different modes:
1. Session-host only mode (Session-only mode)
2. Controller and Session-host mode (Controller mode)

Regardless of the mode all XenApp servers can host applications and get them published to users.

However, only XenApp servers configured in the Controller mode can become Data Collectors. So you will only be able to configure the Most Preferred and Preferred servers on XenApp servers installed in Controller mode.

To dedicate this role to a certain server, you install the XenApp server in Controller mode, do not install any app on it (obviously then you will not publish any app) and configure it to be Most Preferred. For back up you do the same, bowever, you configure it as Preferred.

All XenApp servers installed in Controller mode host the XML broker. You need to do no additional thing except:
1. Ensure the Citrix XML service is on
2. When configuring the Web Interface, you enter the name of your Data Collector servers in the XML broker configuration screen.

As for the Web Interface servers you can make one as standby; but this is not how I would recommend it should be. You can load balance them using the simple Windows NLB service. If you have a load balancer hardware, a feature for example you can find in NetScaler, you can use that to load balance your web interface servers.
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HieristieAuthor Commented:
Hi Mutawadi,

Thanks again. Really clear to me. I never used NLB. I had the idea to clone the VM for disaster recovery, but NLB could be a really good alternative. We're not in the possession of a hardware LB, so it would have to be Windows. Do you know where I can find some detailed information on that, preferable a best practice or such? F.I. how to configure the W.I.? I assume the cant both have the same name etc.

Thanks in advance,

Meultje
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Ayman BakrSenior ConsultantCommented:
To do Windows NLB for your Web Interface servers you need to:

1. Install NLB -> see this link: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc731695.aspx

2. Add an NLB Cluster -> see this link: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc771008.aspx

3. Add host to the NLB Cluster -> see this link: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc753744.aspx

Here is the e-Docs link with all what you need to configure a web interface:
http://support.citrix.com/proddocs/topic/web-interface-impington/wi-get-started-wrapper-gransden.html
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HieristieAuthor Commented:
Thanks a lot. I'll have a go with it tomorrow. With your supported comments I'll be able to set up a good XenApp farm and take a giant step forward from our current PS4 farm to a new XA6.5 farm.
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Ayman BakrSenior ConsultantCommented:
Glad to help!

Just an additional comment:

For hosting applications it is best to use session-only mode XenApp servers because they are better in performance. So make sure to include in your plans a couple of Controller-mode XenApp servers dedicated for data collector role and the rest hosting sessions in Session-only mode.
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HieristieAuthor Commented:
Hi Mutawadi,

Still one thing not fully clear to mo. Hope you can clear this also up to me.

Now we have one server which has a crucial role. When that server is down, the whole farm is down. This situation I'm trying to avoid in the new farm. So I need to set it up with direct access on any server including the Controller-mode servers, if I'm correct. Is it of any importance which server to setup first? I've setup the licensing server combined with the roles for RDP and KMS. The next step I think is to setup both Controller-mode servers (data collectors). But on the Session-only servers I also have to create the link (ODBC connection) to the SQL server, so actually all servers should be pointing to the SQL server to overcome this current situation? In my believe is it also the case that when I setup the first XenApp session-host, this one will become the Provisioning Services target and will be put to shared image mode, therefore not really be part of the session hosts in the farm but rather being a template. That is where I get the doubt of how to setup the first server. Also the documentation states that it might be advisable to also provision the database collectors and web interface servers. Is this really necessary in your believe?

Thanks again!
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Ayman BakrSenior ConsultantCommented:
Now we have one server which has a crucial role. When that server is down, the whole farm is down. This situation I'm trying to avoid in the new farm. So I need to set it up with direct access on any server including the Controller-mode servers, if I'm correct

Which server has the crucial role? What do you mean with direct access?

Is it of any importance which server to setup first?

Yes; first licensing and SQL, then data collectors, then session only XenApp servers, then web interface (actually your WI can come before the session only XenApps, but should be after you data collectors.

so actually all servers should be pointing to the SQL server

All XenApp servers have to be pointing to data store. Otherwise it can't act as a XenApp regardless of the mode.

In my believe is it also the case that when I setup the first XenApp session-host, this one will become the Provisioning Services target and will be put to shared image mode, therefore not really be part of the session hosts in the farm but rather being a template. That is where I get the doubt of how to setup the first server

So you will be using provisioning servers :) good choice. Well, the first session host will be used to create the golden image, of course after fine tuning it and installing the applications. So you install the provisioning target device and then XenConvert. Provided you have already setup the provisioning server correctly you will use XenConvert to capture an image of this XenApp and gets saved as a .vhd file which will reflect on the provisioning server console. From there you will change the mode of the image back to standard mode and add to the rest of the devices. At this stage, you can either go with the rest disregarding the first XenApp from which you captured the image; or you can format it and use it with the rest having its hard disk provisioned. I would prefer to turn it, as you said, into a template in case I needed to create new but similar farms; for example a test environment.

Lastly, provisioning the data collectors and web interface won't be necessary. It would be better in the scenario where you are designing for a large number of data collectors and web interface servers - to ease their management and administration!!!
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MeultjeCommented:
Thanks again for clarifying!

What do you mean with direct access?

With direct access I mean the way the connection to the data store is made. The current farm has one CTX server which holds the IMA DB and also holds the web interface role and has applications published to / installed on it.

I've read that there are three ways to setup the data store. Either by using SQL Express, Access or SQL server. The first two mostly reside on a server that hold several roles and is mainly for small to medium sized environments and each server in the farm accesses the data store indirectly as is stated. In this scenario this server acts like an intermediary server that connects to the data store.

So using the full version of SQL gives you the ability to use the direct access approach and eliminates the need for the intermediary server. But to make a direct access to the data store it is written that the server should have the appropriate ODBC drivers installed and configured correctly. This is why I was wondering if I had to set up a specific server before the other ones.

With the ODBC drivers I assume they mean the connection to the IMA DB?

Provisioning services is something I also have to set up and never used before, but have quite a thick document so hopefully that speaks for itself.

Thanks a bunch!
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MeultjeCommented:
Oh yes one more thing. I installed the MUI pack of my native language on the first server which will be the golden image. Do you think it is advisable / necessary to use the same MUI pack on the data collector servers? I self tend to leave them in the original English language. The only one which might be qualifying for presenting our native language, other than the session-only servers, might be the Web Interface server?

In case you’re wondering how this name comes on top of these last two posts. I have a paid account at EE (Hieristie) and one with which I try to earn my monthly points here at EE (Meultje).

So at this point I was logged on with this account instead of the one I originally posted the question.
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Ayman BakrSenior ConsultantCommented:
@meultje, I am confused; are you Hieristie? Anyway:

So using the full version of SQL gives you the ability to use the direct access approach and eliminates the need for the intermediary server. But to make a direct access to the data store it is written that the server should have the appropriate ODBC drivers installed and configured correctly. This is why I was wondering if I had to set up a specific server before the other ones.

With the ODBC drivers I assume they mean the connection to the IMA DB?

Yes, you are right; with SQL on a dedicated SQL server will eliminate the single point of failure you had with SQL express installed on one server, to be the first XenApp. As I said, you will first have your SQL server and licensing installed then you will install your first XenApp. If you install the first XenApp with the GUI wizard and point to the SQL, the wizard will create the ODBC connection automatically which is the file, by default, named MF20.dsn. This file has the information for IMA to locate your database instance and server. Every subsequent XenApp installation with the wizard should also create this .dsn file automatically. If not done with the wizard, you will either have to create the ODBC DSN manually or copy the file from the first servers to the others (removing any machine-specific information using a text editor).

You are right, there is no need to install the MUI on the data collectors. I don't think that it is required on the web interface either. The MUI as I understand it, will provide you the ability to view all the menus, dialogs and interface of an OS in your own language. This will be useful when you access a published desktop or start an application that you want to have the menus displaying in your own language. Therefore it will be useful on the session host XenApps, but will not be required for the WI where, from a user perspective, it provides the users with the icons of his apps.
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MeultjeCommented:
Yes, both accounts Hieistie and Meultje are mine. So I'm Hieristie as well...

Since I wasn't sure I would find the time and possess the amount of knowledge to answer enough questions I also created a paid account for situations like this. Although I might close the paid account since I have been able to earn the needed points to have full access here on EE so far and tend to keep doing so. Although this month I still have to earn most of them. I also find it very interesting to see what other experts, like yourself,  have for solutions to specific issues. I find it really valuable en are learning a lot from it as well. So the concept EE has chosen is really nice. You help some and you get helped with some.

Thanks again for your clear explanation!! I now am going to build the farm...
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