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Opinions on a XenApp deployment

Posted on 2014-11-07
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Greetings,

I'm soliciting advice/opinions on a proposed XenApp installation.  Currently our environment contains 80 Dell GX620s (Pentium 3.0GHz, on average).  They're running disklessl via PVS, with server side write cache.  This has worked pretty well for 4 years now.  However, after the most recent Flash update (v15) I noticed CPU has jumped considerably when Flash is in use, sometimes as high as 90%.  While this may simply be a bad Flash version, it struck me that maybe this is a good time to clean up a bit and rethink our implementation.  We own XenDesktop Enterprise, grandfathered in because we were Ardence customers, but just never needed the extra XA/XD components. I think I'd like to take advantage of our XenApp licenses at this point to squeeze a few more years out of our desktops.  

I have 2 ideas of how to do so:

1.  Publish server desktops and convert our PCs to thin clients via ThinKiosk. This would allow me to use RAM caching on my physical targets, speeding up boot/logon times dramatically.  I'm more than willing to set up the necessary GPOs to severely restrict users as needed.  I probably wouldn't even join the physical targets to the domain, just lock them down with a lcoal policy (or whatever Thinkiosk recommends) and install AV.

2.  Publish every app that we have, except maybe IE because it's already there and its nice to have a local browser "just in case".  That still pushes a bit of overhead to our target devices, which I kind of prefer to avoid.  However, consensus from others with XA experience seem to suggest this is the most common approach (although everyone has different explanations for that).

95% of our workload is MS Office, a small Java app, and a hearty amount of web browsing.  There are maybe a dozen apps outside of that scope, each used by a 1-2 people.  Regarding the way the servers would be deployed, whether it's apps or desktops, I'm not sure if it's wise to do them by department, or simply deploy a few VMs that have the most common apps and then add 1 more for the edge cases so I can take individual XA VMs down for maintenance as needed.  Our shop is 9-9 weekdays, so it's not difficult to schedule a maintenance window at night, on weekends, holidays, etc.

To summarize:

Publish apps, or desktops?  Desktops seem easier to me (once the GPOs are in place) and would almost completely take the load off our aging endpoints

Organize servers by department, or create 4-5 identical XA servers and 1 more to publish the specialized apps?

If it matters at all, we're using UPM but no folder redirection.  We stream the profiles, but don't cache them, so I figure that's basically the same thing yet avoids the "redirect Appdata" debate.  This seems like it could come in handy as it would allow me to set up independent disks in VMware to freeze the XA VMs.  Also, server hardware can be upgraded/purchased as needed once I choose an approach and take a baseline of a pilot group.

Since there's not really a "right" answer I'll just award points based on length/depth of responses.  If you have questions, I'd be happy to fill in the blanks because I want to get this right the first time!
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Question by:sbumpas
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by:Matt V
Matt V earned 100 total points
ID: 40433661
If you are looking to publish Desktops, then Xen Desktop will allow you to publish a workstation OS (Windows 7 etc) that runs on the target.  Combined with published XA applications that would run on the server, you can tune it to get the best of both worlds.

For the applications that apply to one or two users, you could set them up with their own virtual desktop, and then publish the common apps to everyone.  The average user would pull a virtual desktop from the pool of available clean machines.  This way all the desktops are clean every time they boot.
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Author Comment

by:sbumpas
ID: 40434975
Sorry I should've mentioned, we can't publish desktops via XD due to license restrictions.  That's what lead me to one of the XA deployments I listed (or any other that you can recommend).
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Expert Comment

by:Cláudio Rodrigues
ID: 40435789
Couple comments:
1. Desktop is usually the safer way to go as the shell and everything else is still there. When you publish an app, the wfshell takes over and that can cause issues with apps (that is why the wfshell flags exist - but they cannot solve all issues). Plus depending how many apps you have it is just simpler, from a user perspective to get a desktop instead of seeing many apps on the Citrix Receiver, StoreFront or Web Interface.
2. That said, published apps work well especially if you have a need to run something locally on the endpoints (i.e. allow them to surf the internet so you offload all that to the endpoint, not even using the XenApp servers).
3. As this is XenApp it means it runs on RDS. If it runs on RDS and you are properly licensed, that means you get Microsoft App-V for free, with the RDS CAL. That could be used to create application packages so you can have a simple master image (using PVS) and then deploy the apps as App-V packages. That assumes the apps will play well within the App-V environment.
4. I would try to start with a single PVS image that has the common apps and then as above, using App-V for the apps that would require a separate silo and see how that goes.

Cheers.

Cláudio Rodrigues

Citrix CTP
Microsoft MVP - RDS
VMware vExpert
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Author Comment

by:sbumpas
ID: 40437491
Claudio,

Thanks for your input.  Given my situation, if I were to publish entire desktops would you recommend multiple XA servers in a pooled configuration, or provide persistent access to specific servers based on department?  Our departments are small, 10-30 users max.
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Expert Comment

by:Cláudio Rodrigues
ID: 40437956
The key question really is what differentiates a department from each other. Do they run completely different apps? Or it is more like every department runs 90% of the apps and then each one will have their own 1 or 2 apps on top of the common ones?
If that is the case I would be tempted to have a single PVS image with all the common apps on it and use App-V to get the one or two apps per department that are different, going.
Using groups of servers per department means at a minimum two servers per department, for redundancy purposes. So if you have a 10 user department that means two servers just for them. Seems like a waste, in case you can indeed take the approach I mentioned.
But again that assumes App-V will work as expected AND that you are willing to go down the App-V route...

Cheers.

Cláudio Rodrigues

Citrix CTP
Microsoft MVP - RDS
VMware vExpert
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Author Comment

by:sbumpas
ID: 40437984
Every department runs 95% same apps - Office, web browsers, and a Java app.  It should be noted that these XA servers will be virtualized, and we have an HA solution in place so that could save time/effort on server redundancy.

I've not used App-V yet, we were previously using Citrix's Streaming utility but they've gotten rid of that some time ago.  If I can avoid App-V, I'd prefer to - our environment is too small to justify that kind of complexity.  I agree regarding PVS but I don't think we own server licenses, only desktops.
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Accepted Solution

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Cláudio Rodrigues earned 400 total points
ID: 40438047
In that case I would give a full desktop to everyone and then create individual servers to handle the departmental apps and publish these apps to the servers hosting the desktop (so basically these servers would have the Citrix Receiver on them).
This way everyone connects to a single server desktop and from there they run their common apps that are installed on the XenApp server they connected to but when they need the departamental apps they will get them on but running off other servers, but still 'inside' the first session they established to the common servers.
Got it?

Cheers.

Cláudio Rodrigues

Citrix CTP
Microsoft MVP - RDS
VMware vExpert
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