Archives for July 2013

XenDesktop 7 Pt 10: Application Delivery Group

And here we are….the last step to publish “XenApp” applications to the Citrix receiver and ultimately your users. This installment creates and application delivery group for the XenDesktop 7 applications that we’ve installed on our Windows Server 2012 server. Once you create and customize this group, users can refresh their Receiver window and instantly see the new apps.

XenDesktop 7 Series

Part 1: Role Installation
Part 2: Configure Desktop Studio Site
Part 3: Install VDA
Part 4: Create Machine Catalog
Part 5: Configure StoreFront
Part 6: Create Delivery Group
Part 7: Receiver Configuration
Part 8: Install Server VDA
Part 9: Create Server Machine Catalog
Part 10: Create Application Delivery Group

Create Application Delivery Group

1. Now that we have a machine catalog ready, we start the Delivery Group wizard in Citrix Studio. I only have one free machine catalog, so that one is already selected for me.

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2. When using server based operating systems you can deliver a full blow desktop complete with the menu bar (sans the Start Button on WS2012), just applications, or a combination of both. I selected just Applications, since I have some dedicated XenDesktop VMs already running.

7-27-2013 1-05-59 PM3. Here we can specify the users or groups that need these applications. You could easily create many groups, say “Engineering”, “HR”, for different applications.

7-27-2013 1-06-11 PM4. Next up we can start adding the applications that are installed on our server. I’m not sure what criteria the wizard uses to find installed applications, but it didn’t find Adobe Acrobat on my server. So I manually browsed to it (the file picker opens up a session to the server, so you can navigate the filesystem remotely). I also added Internet Explorer as well.

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5. Next up we create a delivery group name.

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6. Back in the Citrix receiver I refresh my app list, and viola! I see my two new published applications.

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You can now launch your apps and they will appear in their own window on your local computer. Note that if your XenApp server has a legal disclaimer banner, I would suggest you disable it. It can interfere with application launching.

7. If you want to further customize individual applications (say limit an app to a sub-group of users or change file type associations), then you can open the properties of the application in Citrix Studio.

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If you check the Start Menu or Start screen on your local computer, you will now see icons for the published applications. This lets you seamlessly launch them just as if they were a native application. Launching will probably be a bit slower since behind the scenes it logs you into the XenApp server, launches the process, then remotes the window back do your client.

XenDesktop 7 Pt 9: Server Machine Catalog

Creating a XenDesktop Machine Catalog for server-class operating systems in XenDesktop 7 is virtually the same process as creating one for a dedicated desktop OS. A machine catalog is a grouping of similar “XenApp” servers, and if you were using MCS or PVS, you’d provision several at once and group them. This is the first step in taking a server OS (WS2008R2 or WS2012) with the VDA on it and assigning applications to users.

XenDesktop 7 Series

Part 1: Role Installation
Part 2: Configure Desktop Studio Site
Part 3: Install VDA
Part 4: Create Machine Catalog
Part 5: Configure StoreFront
Part 6: Create Delivery Group
Part 7: Receiver Configuration
Part 8: Install Server VDA
Part 9: Create Server Machine Catalog
Part 10: Create Application Delivery Group

Create XenDesktop Machine Catalog

1. In Desktop Studio we launch the Machine Catalog wizard and are presented with what kind of catalog we want to create. In this case we are using a server OS, so clearly that’s the option we will choose.

7-27-2013 12-54-00 PM2. This is a VM which I manually created, so I’ll choose the appropriate options. Again, you can easily create “XenApp” machines with MCS or PVS, for large scale production.

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3. Since I told XenDesktop it’s a VM, it connects to vCenter and I find my XenApp VM.

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4. It needs the associated AD computer account, which in general will be the hostname with a $ after it.

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5. There’s not much to the wizard, so the summary screen is pretty short.

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6. After the catalog is created you can click on the Server OS Machines tab and find your new XenApp server.

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Now you may ask, where do we tell XenDesktop what applications we want to publish? Well that’s in the next step, creating a delivery group. That is also wizard driven, and very simple to use. That will be in Part 10.

XenDesktop 7 Pt 8: Install Server VDA

Citrix radically changed the “XenApp” 7 architecture in XenDesktop 7. Gone is the massive complexity, many consoles, and lengthy configuration times. I don’t have much XenApp experience, but the consoles I’ve seen of prior versions seemed mind bogglingly complex. Two major themes of XenDesktop 7 is simplification and unification. The “Application” portion of XenDesktop is a perfect example of this. By simply installing the XenDesktop VDA you instantly have an application server.

In this post we will turn a generic Windows Server 2012 VM, with no added roles or features, into an application server with the simple installation of the VDA. While the VDA installer looks nearly identical to the dedicated desktop installer, under the covers it is a bit different. The whole process takes less than 10 minutes, and is literally a “click next” install as they say.

Just like desktops, application servers need not be VMs. It’s fully supported to install the VDA on physical computers. This is probably more common with XenApp, as one could argue a bit more scalability with using physical servers vice a VM. But every environment is different and using VMs does has some advantages.

XenDesktop 7 Series

Part 1: Role Installation
Part 2: Configure Desktop Studio Site
Part 3: Install VDA
Part 4: Create Machine Catalog
Part 5: Configure StoreFront
Part 6: Create Delivery Group
Part 7: Receiver Configuration
Part 8: Install Server VDA
Part 9: Create Server Machine Catalog
Part 10: Create Application Delivery Group

XenDesktop VDA Install

1. I’ve provisioned a Windows Server 2012 VM which will be my “XenApp” server. You could easily use a bare metal server, if you wish. Mount the XenDesktop 7 ISO and launch the installer. This time we want to select Prepare Machines and Images. It should automatically detect that you are using a Server OS.

XenDesktop 7

2. At this point we need to decide if this VM will be a master image used to provision more “XenApp” servers with MCS, or enable connections directly to this server. Since I’m in a small PoC, I just want connections to go directly to this VM. Being able to provision “XenApp” servers with MCS is a brand new feature in XenDesktop 7. You can of course use PVS as well, but MCS is a bit easier.

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3. I really don’t need the Citrix Receiver installed on the application server, so I unchecked that box.

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4. If I were using MCS I could select the option that allows MCS to automatically set the Delivery Controller hostname(s). Since I’m not using MCS, I’m manually adding the FQDN.

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5. I want a full featured application server so I left all the options checked.

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6. Just like the client VDA install, this shows what firewall ports need to be opened. Citrix really did a good job here.

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7. Since we are installing the VDA on a server OS, you will see that it automatically enabled two server-specific Windows features.

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After a couple of reboots the VDA installs and you are now ready to install a few test applications that you want to publish to users. You can of course publish some built-in apps like IE and NotePad, if you are in a hurry and don’t want to install third-party software. In Part 9 we will create a machine catalog for server applications.

XenDesktop 7 Pt 7: Citrix Receiver Config

Now that we’ve completed the first six parts of this series to configure the XenDesktop 7 back-end services, it’s now time to use Citrix Receiver v14 and connect to our new VDI infrastructure. This is super easy, and the most fun part! Unlike previous versions of the Citrix Receiver, there is no longer an “Enterprise” client and a regular client. I think having two separate versions confused people (I know I was), so moving forward with a single version is another good simplification.

XenDesktop 7 Series

Part 1: Role Installation
Part 2: Configure Desktop Studio Site
Part 3: Install VDA
Part 4: Create Machine Catalog
Part 5: Configure StoreFront
Part 6: Create Delivery Group
Part 7: Receiver Configuration
Part 8: Install Server VDA
Part 9: Create Server Machine Catalog
Part 10: Create Application Delivery Group

Installing Citrix Receiver

1. The XenDesktop 7 ISO comes with the Linux, Mac and Windows receivers. Navigate to Citrix Receiver and Plug-ins\Windows\Receiver and install Citrix Receiver.exe. This file is 52MB, and is version The CitrixReceiverEnterprise.exe is the legacy “Enterprise” version and hasn’t been updated.

2. After the installation has completed you have two methods to connect to your new desktop. The first is using the Receiver client, and second is accessing the StoreFront web site. We’ll start off using the Receiver thick client. Launch the Receiver and enter https:// followed by the FQDN of your StoreFront server or load balanced VIP.

If we had configured email discovery, you could also enter your email address and it would find the StoreFront server as well.

Citrix Receiver

3. If all goes well you will be presented with an authentication dialog box to enter your domain credentials into.

Citrix Authentication

4. After successful authentication you can have Receiver optimize your client configuration, then you should get a successful message.

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5. Citrix Receiver should now open up and you will see a blank slate.

Citrix Receiver

6. By clicking on the Plus sign you will see the list of desktops and any applications that have been published. I didn’t disable the built-in Citrix apps, so you will see GoToMeeting, GoToTraining and GoToWebinar. By clicking on an application it will get added to the Receiver landing page and a green checkbox will appear.

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7. Accessing your desktop is easy. Just click on the associated icon and your session will launch. If everything goes well then you will be automatically logged into your desktop without any additional authentication prompts. You will see the Desktop Viewer toolbar at the top of the window.

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8. If you want to use USB devices, then you will probably want to tweak the preferences. I appreciate Citrix trying to simplify my life, but in this case their “simplify device connections” causes more confusion than simplicity, IMHO. From the toolbar menu select Preferences then open the Devices tab. Some USB devices like memory sticks won’t be displayed if the “simplify device connection” box is checked.

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Congratulations! You’ve now configured a simple VDI environment and connected to your virtual desktop. You can now try out Flash video, USB devices, dynamically resizing the window. In Part 8 we install a server VDA, so we can deploy published applications (aka XenApp 7).

VMware ESXi 5.1 Patches Released

VMwareHot off the presses are some ESXi 5.1 patches. This build of ESXi 5.1 (1157734) fixes several bugs and more importantly addresses some security issues. As always in any environment, please test out the patches thoroughly before putting them into production. Each environment is unique, and issues may surface that could cause you some headaches. These bug fixes aren’t earth shattering, so I would not suggest rushing them out to production systems.

ESXi 5.1 Build 1157734

Highlights of the patch bundle included in this release are:

  • Black frames might appear around text boxes in an application running on Virtual Machine Hardware Version 8 or later. This issue occurs on virtual machines with Windows 7 guest operating system and View 5.0 PCoIP.
  • For two ESXi hosts with different host names, identical machine names are generated in the domain controller under certain conditions. As a result, the ctive Directory functionality is lost for one of the two ESXi hosts.
  • After you upgrade to ESXi 5.1 from an earlier version, attempts to power on a virtual machine with static MAC address outside the allowed range (00:50:56:[00-3f] or 00:50:56:[80-BF]) fail with the following error message: The MAC address entered is not in the valid range.
  • If a physical NIC is named using non-standard naming conventions (other than vmnic#) and is added to a vSwitch, host profile creation fails with the following error message: Invalid value chosen for active NICs.
  • ESXi 5.1 hosts might get disconnected randomly from the vCenter Server system. This issue might occur if the heartbeat thread in the vpxa agent does not receive a response from the futex_wait system call. As a result, the heartbeat thread stops responding, and the vCenter Server does not receive heartbeat messages from the ESXi hosts for several hours.
  • Upon reboot, ESXi 5.1 hosts configured to obtain DNS configuration and host name from a DHCP server displays its host name as localhost in syslog rather than displaying the host name obtained from the DHCP server. As a result, for a remote syslog collector, all ESXi hosts appear to be the same, with the same host name.
  • To prevent buffer overflow, the HPSA proc node truncates LUN details on an ESXi host.
  • This patch updates the esx-base VIB to resolve a stability issue.

As always, you can down the ESXi patches from here. The full KB article for the patch bundle is here.

What’s new in Cisco UCS 2.1(2a)?

Cisco UCS B200 M3A few days ago Cisco released an incremental upgrade to the Cisco UCS Manager firmware, version 2.1(2a). This is more than just a bug fix, and it enables some new hardware, storage enhancements, and operational enhancements. Cisco finally enabled the SD card slot, found on the B200 M3 and other models. No idea why it took them well over a year after blades with SD slots came out to enable it. Spec sheets will no longer have to say ‘future firmware support’. You can find the full release notes here. 17 bugs have also been zapped.

Cisco UCS 2.1(2a) Firmware Enhancements

New hardware features:

•C22-M3L—C22 M3 Server with Large Form Factor HDDs
•C24-M3L—C24 M3 Server with Large Form Factor HDDs
•C24-M3S2—C22 M3 Server with 16-HDD Extender Backplane with Small Form Factor HDDs
•UCS-SD-16G—16GB SD Card
•UCSB-FBWC-1GB—LSI 2208R Embedded; Cache Option Contains Both the Supercap and the 1GB Flash Module
•UCSB-FBWC-SC—Spare for Supercap Module for LSI 2208R
•UCSB-RAID-1GBFM—1GB Flash Module for LSI 2208R
•C240 NEBS Refresh

New Software Features in Release 2.1(2a)

•Storage Enhancements

–Windows 2012 NPIV Support
–Single IQN for iSCSI Boot
–ESX/Linux fNIC Driver Enhancements
–SD Card Enablement Support
–Transportable Flash Module (TFM) Support

•Operational Enhancements

–CIMC Session Management
–Fabric Interconnect High Availability Firmware Auto Synchronization
–VIC PXE Boot Optimization
–M3 Board Programmables Firmware Update
–UCSM GUI Size Optimization
–Nested LDAP Group Support
–UCS Central 1.1 Integration

You can find the full downloads here. Be sure to check out the new 2.1(2) UCS drivers ISO, which has ballooned to a whopping 1.78GB here.

Cisco UCS 2.1(2a)

XenDesktop 7 Pt 6: Create a Delivery Group

In the first five parts of this series on XenDesktop 7 we’ve done everything needed to complete the last step, which is creating a XenDesktop 7 Delivery Group. This enables users, or groups of users, to access their desktop or applications. Delivery groups are where you can target various user segments that may need different images or VM hardware specs, like developers, finance, HR, IT, execs, etc.

A delivery group is not a 1-to-1 relationship to a machine catalog. If you built up a machine catalog of 500 VMs, a delivery group could just use 100 of those. As you will see when we run through the wizard, you can customize desktop and application delivery options, which you can use to offer differentiated VMs to your user community.

Users could also be given access to more than one delivery group. So an IT person, for example, could have access to a standard user desktop for testing purposes, and a customized IT desktop. Or a developer could be given a locked down ‘corporate’ desktop and also provided access to a beefy development desktop that they had full control over.

XenDesktop 7 Series

Part 1: Role Installation
Part 2: Configure Desktop Studio Site
Part 3: Install VDA
Part 4: Create Machine Catalog
Part 5: Configure StoreFront
Part 6: Create Delivery Group
Part 7: Receiver Configuration
Part 8: Install Server VDA
Part 9: Create Server Machine Catalog
Part 10: Create Application Delivery Group

Creating a XenDesktop 7 Delivery Group

1. When a new Delivery Group is created it will list all of your machine catalogs. In my case I only have one. It lists the number of computers in that catalog and I can choose how many to assign to my delivery group. I’ll select both of my VMs. You need not put all of the computers into a single delivery group.

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2. Next up I choose what combination of desktops and applications I want to deliver. I’m not doing XenApp at the moment, so I’ll stick with desktops. But here you could assign the same desktop VM to everyone, but have different delivery groups that customize the mix of XenApp applications they get delivered.

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3. Now I have to define what users or groups are part of the delivery group. Here is where you could tailor the group, to say Engineering, HR, Finance, IT, etc. For this PoC I’ll just do Domain Users, so anyone can access the desktop.

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4. An optional step at this point is to define the StoreFront server(s) which the Receiver inside of the desktop will be configured to use. A great feature if you are using XenApp, or perhaps have another XenDesktop farm for R&D that some users should have access to.

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5. The final step is configuring a Delivery Group name, and a display name. The display name is something users will see, so keep it simple.

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6. And that’s it! A few seconds later you will have a nice delivery group in your console. In the right hand column make sure your VMs show a Registered state. If not, then you may have some networking (DHCP, DNS) or other issues preventing the VDA from properly communicating with the desktop controller.

XenDesktop 7 Delivery Group

7. Once the delivery group is created, you can Edit it and find more options that weren’t presented during the simplified wizard. For example, you can allow a user to access more than one desktop from the pool, change the color depth, time zone, and secure the ICA protocol with some lightweight encryption.

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There are also some nice power management features that you can configure.

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The console also gives some good usage stats as well, which can be quite helpful. Desktop Director has a lot more stats, but this is a good quick overview.

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In Part 7 we get to the fun part, which is connecting to our desktop using the Citrix Receiver and seeing how well it performs.

XenDesktop 7 Pt 5: Configuring Citrix StoreFront

One of the last steps to configure XenDesktop is to setup Citrix StoreFront. What is StoreFront? StoreFront is basically the web tier in a three tiered architecture (StoreFront, Desktop Controller, SQL database). It’s more than just a pretty face. Citrix Receiver directly talks to StoreFront, even if you never use your browser.

StoreFront 2.0, included in XenDesktop 7, no longer requires a separate database. There is a built-in replication engine that syncs the config between multiple StoreFront servers. That’s great for a DMZ configuration, and just one less database to worry about.

StoreFront is also now a complete replacement for the legacy Web Interface (WI), which is no longer installed and is deprecated in XD7. StoreFront is the only way to interface to your XenDesktop farm. There are various optional StoreFront settings you can tweak, but I’ll skip those here since the goal is just a quick PoC.

XenDesktop 7 Series

Part 1: Role Installation
Part 2: Configure Desktop Studio Site
Part 3: Install VDA
Part 4: Create Machine Catalog
Part 5: Configure StoreFront
Part 6: Create Delivery Group
Part 7: Receiver Configuration
Part 8: Install Server VDA
Part 9: Create Server Machine Catalog
Part 10: Create Application Delivery Group

Citrix StoreFront Configuration

1. First we need to configure IIS to use an SSL certificate. StoreFront is built on IIS, and pre-configuring the SSL certificate saves a step when we create the StoreFront. No special certificate properties are required for StoreFront. You can use any valid server authentication SSL certificate, be it from a Microsoft CA or trusted CA. Add a HTTPS binding to the IIS Default Web Site.

If you are using a load balancer then you should use a certificate with the StoreFront VIP FQDN (e.g.  I suggest rebooting the server after the certificate is assigned so that all of the Citrix services recognize and bind to the certificate (or should).

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2. Now that IIS is secure, go back into Desktop Studio and open the Citrix StoreFront node. For me a store got automatically created, so I deleted it and will show you the manual steps. Click on the Stores node and in the right pane click on Create Store.

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3. When the wizard starts enter a store name. I’m not feeling creative tonight, so I called mine Store.

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4.  Now we need to add the delivery controllers that StoreFront will interface with. Here you can add multiple farms, and a mixture of XenDesktop, XenApp, and other Citrix products. I’ve successful used StoreFront with both XenDesktop 5.6 and 7.0 farms at the same time. If you are load balancing your desktop controllers you can enter the VIP FQDN here. It would be nice if Citrix added a “Test” button here to validate the controllers were valid. That could help with troubleshooting if the store was empty when you tested it.

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5. StoreFront also interfaces very nicely with the NetScaler AccessGateway. So here you can configure how users will be accessing the XenDesktop infrastructure. AccessGateway is out of scope for this series, so I’ll skip that step and finish the wizard.

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6. Once the store is created it will give you the web browser URL that you can use to access it. Now during my PoC install StoreFront didn’t recognize my SSL certificate, even though IIS was using it. Plus, you may need to customize the URL for a loadbalanced FQDN. This is easily accomplished via a powershell command. Citrix: Please put this in the GUI, and warn about SSL issues during the StoreFront creation.

Also take note that to access StoreFront from a web browser you must append “Web” to the store URL, as the URL shows below. Don’t try going to /Citrix/Store as that won’t work.

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7. To change the StoreFront base URL you can go to the Server Group node and in the right pane select Change Base URL. Here I changed the URL to use HTTPS. If you are using a load balancer for StoreFront you could change the FQDN to the VIP.

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8. Back in the StoreFront console, after refreshing, you can see that the service is using HTTPS.

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9. One quick tweak to make authentication easier is to set a default domain. This way the user doesn’t have to enter a domain when authenticating to the StoreFront web site. Locate the Authentication node, then in the right pane click on Configure Trusted Domains.

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And that’s pretty much it to get an operational StoreFront. If you open your browser and go to the full web store URL you should get a green bubbly Citrix receiver page.

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In Part 6 we configure a delivery group, which defines what users can access our VDI resources.

XenDesktop 7 Pt 4: Create Machine Catalog

This is the fourth installment of the XenDesktop PoC guide, where we create a XenDesktop 7 machine catalog. As we near the point where we can dole out VDI VMs to users, one of the last steps is to create a catalog of VMs. These could be Windows 8, Windows 7, different configs (memory, vCPUs, etc.). Basically you build up all the differentiated VMs into a service catalog.

For this example I’ll only build one XenDesktop 7 machine catalog, but adding more is the exact same process. Standardizing on a naming convention here is key, as the catalog will likely grow over time.

XenDesktop 7 Series

Part 1: Role Installation
Part 2: Configure Desktop Studio Site
Part 3: Install VDA
Part 4: Create Machine Catalog
Part 5: Configure StoreFront
Part 6: Create Delivery Group
Part 7: Receiver Configuration
Part 8: Install Server VDA
Part 9: Create Server Machine Catalog
Part 10: Create Application Delivery Group


XenDesktop 7 Machine Catalog

1. In Desktop Studio we want to create a VM catalog, so we choose option behind door number 2.

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2. With the merging of XenApp and XenDesktop we can now choose the OS type, or even provide remote access to a physical PC.

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3. We will be using VMs and Citrix Machine Creation Services, so the defaults are fine. You can also use PVS, which basically streams the OS to a VM or physical PC. This is a good option too, but requires more configuration so I’ll skip that for now.

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4. I want to try my VMs with CloudVolumes, so I will make them randomly assigned and non-persistent.

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5. Here I choose the VM which I installed the VDA on. The VDA handles all the name changes, SID, etc. You don’t have to do any fancy sysprep here.

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6. A great feature of XenDesktop is the ability to customize the catalog hardware at provisioning time, so you can offer different tiers of VMs from the exact same master image. No need to build up templates with the same OS and software stack, just to customize the vCPUs and memory specs.

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7. Of course the VMs will need AD accounts, so you can easily do there here. A nice little touch is showing you the ‘resultant’ hostname when a machine gets provisioned.

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8. On the summary screen you need to give the catalog a name and a description. This does NOT assign VMs to groups of users. This is just an inventory of VMs which will get assigned to different user groups in the near future. So I would stick with names that describe the OS and VMs specs. Target audience groups, like Engineering, will come later.

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9. After you kick off the provisioning process you get a nice status. MCS first makes a copy of your master VM, then does its magic to create copies. VAAI enabled storage arrays can really help here to speed up the process. My QNAP won’t win any IOPS races, so I heated up my dinner. 7-1-2013 6-18-18 PM

10. When the provisioning is completed you now have one machine catalog entry. None of the machines are allocated, since that is the next and final step to being able to enable users to access the VDI pool. Yes, we are almost there! If you click on the catalog it will bring up all kinds of geeky details.

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11. If you double click on the machine catalog it will bring up a search window with the individual VMs listed. You can now power them on and wait for them to show a “registered” status. If you click on an individual VM it will pull up even more details. If a user had an active session to the VM then you get a plethora more data.

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As you can see, creating a machine catalog from a master template is quick and easy. No fancy sysprep is needed, and you can build up many different catalogs for various operating systems or virtual hardware specs. If you are doing XenApp then you will also see those catalogs here as well. Within Desktop Studio you can view a tremendous amount of detail about the catalog and individual VMs.

One troubleshooting tip: If you power on your VMs and they never register, then open your Local Security Policy on the client VM. Navigate to Local Policies\User Rights Assignments and look at the Access this computer from the network. If only ‘Administrators’ is listed, you have a problem. Try adding either “authenticated users” or “everyone”, and that should clear up the problem. Unfortunately the VDA installer doesn’t check that permission.

Next up is configuring the Citrix StoreFront. Check out Part 5 here.

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