Citrix ups its game
Citrix have recently released and new raft of feature packs and versions for their core product sets. Namely Citrix XenDesktop, NetScaler and Receiver/StoreFront. For XenDesktop 7.6 FP2 (Feature Pack 2) includes many new and previously IMA bound features.
Linux Virtual Desktop Support
A VDA for Linux has been released now making it possible for staff to utilise the Linux only based desktops through XenDesktop. The current VDA supports SLES 11 and Red Hat Enterprise initially but I’m sure more will be added.
For anyone unaware January 2015 saw Citrix purchase Framehawk which is now integrated into the FP2 stack. Framehawk provides better than native experience of HDX traffic over extremely poor corporate connections suffering from high latency and packet loss (here’s looking at you WIFI). At the moment Framehawk will only be supported on windows devices and remote Framehawk support through a Citrix NetScaler will be arriving later on in the year.
Smart Auditor improvements
Smart Auditor made reappearance in XenDesktop 7.6 FP1 they have been working hard with Smart Auditor and improved its functionality greatly with the new release in FP2.
Smart Auditor is a great tool for allowing an administrator to effectively record a users session to aid troubleshooting.
Citrix StoreFront and Receiver
These components go hand in hand and yet again there has been a user interface change, but no groaning at the back this change is a great one. Citrix StoreFront 3.0 has been given the X1 monikor (standing for eXperience 1st). The big ticket new features is the ability to easily customise the interfaces with your own colour schemes and graphics from within the management interface. What is even cooler is that those customisations are also reflected within the Receiver Apps themselves, be it mobile or desktop, as shown below.
Receiver for web
Featured App Bundles
Along with the UI changes you have the ability to group applications together in Featured App Bundles, so office apps should be added to staffs favourites with a single click. You have the option to specify the featured apps by keywords, published app names or categories.
Also if you happen to like the green bubbles theme then that is still available through the use of classic mode which will also revert any connected Receiver clients to green bubbles too.
If you utilise Chromebooks within your environment its also important that you upgrade to StoreFront 3.0 since Google have removed NPAPI support as described in the Citrix blog post available here.
Citrix StoreFront has also seen an extention to its SDK framework allowing you to customise StoreFront further to match your business logic requirements.
Citrix NetScaler 11
Its not often that a full new revision number is given to a NetScaler release but this also has been given a very positive overhaul with many new features so here is just a few.
Customisation of Access Gateway UI
Again Citrix have been listening to us and for many years customising the Access Gateway login pages have been a pain at best. Now they have included a very extensive theme design option allowing customisations of backgrounds, EULA’s and text. This is very welcome as even simple things like customising a secondary login passcode label involved either responder or rewrite policies or hacking about in the file system.
NetScaler 11 has also gained the unified gateway name tag as now you can utilise a single URL to service your traditional Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop connections along with your XenMobile and Sharefile connections through the use of content switching policies. This was unachievable in previous versions as content switching through the Access Gateway component was not possible meaning that you would end up with several URL’s that staff would need to know in order to login to the correct technology stack.
Admin partitions now allow you to specify a number of administrators for different components of the NetScaler, think of it as an ACL for your administrative staff. Where as previously if an IT admin needed access to administer a specific portion of the NetScaler, say DNS, they would have permissions over the entire appliance this can now be restricted to the DNS node only.
FIPS compliance is also possible in the virtual appliance (VPX) due to the inclusion of TLS 1.1 and 1.2 etc which is great for organisations where previously a physical (MPX) appliance would have been the only choice.
In this set of releases Citrix have added some fantastic new features, which enhance the entire core stack and provide many compelling reasons for upgrading. The most exciting ones for me are the Framehawk integrations and the UI changes allowing organisations to make the Citrix environment feel more like theirs. I’m certainly looking forward to building these new options and benefits into customer environments.
Author: Dale Scriven
Dale Scriven is an EUC Technical Consultant for CDW Ltd and works mainly within the Citrix and VMware EUC technology stack. He is a member of the British Computer Society VMware vEXPERT and has a number of certifications. He runs his own blog vhorizon.co.uk and is an active member of the VMware and Citrix communities.