XenDesktop 7: Upgrade & migration paths for XenDesktop and XenApp customers

With the release of XenDesktop 7 right around the corner we are asked frequently what version of XenDesktop would we recommend and how to migrate existing environments from previous versions of XenApp and XenDesktop.  I want to outline a few of the ways you can easily adopt XenDesktop 7 for your deployments in addition to highlighting a bit of the direction we are headed to further simplify migrations in the future.

Moving to XenDesktop 7

If you are a XenDesktop customer today, there are three paths to go to XenDesktop 7 when it becomes available later this month:

1.     New installation. If you are a new Citrix XenDesktop customer or if you are XenApp customer wanting to deploy XenDesktop 7 App edition as benefit of your subscription advantage, a new installation is the recommended approach. New installation offers a fresh-start approach to deploying XenDesktop 7 in your environment. You’ll also benefit from the simplified install, easy to configure and latest features available in XenDesktop 7.

  • For XenApp customer, you can use StoreFront 2.0 to aggregate apps and desktops between your existing XenApp farm and your new XenDesktop 7 Apps edition site – offering users a single point of transparent access to all of applications, whether running on Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008R2 or Windows Server 2012.
  • For XenDesktop 5.x customers who want to take advantage of new HDX features in XenDesktop 7 (e.g., new HDX feature or deliver Windows 8 VDI), but don’t have time to roll-out or upgrade your 5.x delivery controller yet, you can install the version 7 of the VDA on Windows 7 or Windows 8 , and it will register and work with your existing 5.x delivery controller.

2.     In-place upgrade. XenDesktop 7 supports in-place upgrade from XenDesktop 5 VDA and Controller. This approach allows existing XenDesktop 5 customers to seamlessly and quickly upgrade to the latest version without necessarily disrupting or re-planning of their XenDesktop deployment. Customers can run the in-place VDA upgrade to bring their golden image to the latest version. Once upgraded, users will be able to immediately benefit from the new HDX features delivered in XenDesktop 7. Do note that Citrix does not support in-place upgrade from the Excalibur Tech Preview, or XenDesktop 4.

3.     Migration tool. For XenDesktop 4 customers, XenDesktop 7 delivers a migration tool to help you migrate from XenDesktop 4 to XenDesktop 7. The migration tool will export your XenDesktop 4 data to XML file, which can then be imported into your new XenDesktop 7 site. Due to a number of new enhancements in XenDesktop 7, the migration tool will not migrate administrators, licensing, desktop group folders or registry keys.

For XenApp customers, if you are wondering how to migration from your XenApp farm to XenDesktop 7, read on…

Simplified migration through Merlin

Enterprise software migrations can be agonizing for IT administrators. This agony can be described as a function of the end user unhappiness, the cost (capex and opex), and service uptime throughout the migration.  For desktop virtualization deployments, many of the migrations accompany windows migrations.

At Synergy Anaheim, we showcased the new app orchestration layer as part of the upcoming Merlin release of Avalon.  The App Orchestration layer will provide customers with the ability to manage XenApp 6.5 and XenDesktop 7.x delivery sites together from a single interface through a desired-state orchestration engine. This orchestration layer also enables customers to manage deployments spanning multiple locations. Further reducing site-specific consoles and providing a global view to your Citrix deployment and ensuring consistent configuration.  You can watch the breakout session on Merlin here.

When we announced the Avalon strategy one of the most requested features was the ability to support existing deployments with the app orchestration layer.  The migration capability allows you to adopt app orchestration for your new delivery sites and then migrate your existing XenApp and XenDesktop deployments at your own pace.  We designed this feature around 5 basic principles for a successful migration:

  1. Don’t modify the production environment. Migration activities take place while users are accessing the production environment for their day-to-day activities. Eliminating any changes to the production environment provides the assurance that users cannot be affected during the migration activity.
  2. Make the migration transparent to users. When you are ready to migrate users to the new delivery site, its important that the migration event is completely seamless to the user. Think about a web service, as a user you don’t care what version of ShareFile you are accessing. All you care is that set of apps and desktops that you had when you logged off are available the next time you need them.
  3. Enable migration in stages. Many XenApp and XenDesktop deployments serve up hundreds of apps and desktop catalogs to thousands of users across different delivery groups.  When approaching migration, you want to migrate different app and desktops in stages based upon the mission criticality status. Users are no different; you should be able to migrate different user groups in stages.
  4. Allow the ability to rollback quickly if issues arise. During the migration of the separate apps, desktops, and user groups if an issue does arise, you should be able to automatically rollback to the existing production environment without having to manually reconfigure access paths or restore entitlements.
  5. Provide feedback on migration status. Because you approaching the migration in stages and continuing to operate your existing production environment alongside the new deployment its important to have clear dashboard view to what has already been migrated and the status.  If changes are made on the production deployment allowing you to re-migrate the offering or user groups to the new site. 

In the Merlin release, we are delivering on these principles through the new migration feature built into the powerful app orchestration layer.  This will allow you to migrate at your own pace by decoupling user groups, app and desktop catalogs, and entitlements from the existing environment through a guided experience.  Providing a repeatable, automated approach that aligns to how customers approach migration today without requiring homemade scripts or manual tasks.

But what if you have apps or desktops on XenApp or XenDesktop that you don’t want to migrate but just aggregate under StoreFront. App orchestration simplifies this process by taking the manual task of updating the aggregation rules that would otherwise need to be repeated with every StoreFront cluster and automating it. Because app orchestration has the user affinity, tenancy, and location policy it can help update the aggregation rules automatically across your multi-site deployment.


Migrating to the best in class desktop virtualization product has never been easier.  Customers looking to migrate to XenDesktop 7 have multiple options based on your use case and existing environment. Then with the Merlin release we will take the next step in simplified guided migration through app orchestration. Look out for more posts in the future that will go into further details on migration.





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