Citrix Cloud Testing on Amazon EC2 M4


Citrix Cloud on AWS

I was recently afforded the unique opportunity to collaborate on a project to test capacity out of a Citrix XenApp on AWS deployment. The goal of the project was to independently determine the maximum user density for a few different EC2 instance types running XenApp 7.14.

EC2 instances are on-demand and elastic hosted server resources. Which means that they are provisioned dynamically within a pool of available resources, and with an OS you deploy ontop. Amazon provides a variety of templates to easily install Windows, Linux or your other favorite OS. EC2 instances are broken down into a few varieties. They are optimized for storage, memory, compute or graphics. The designation before the name of the instances illustrates their configuration. G3 indicates graphics optimized instance third generation.

The other difference between instance type is the cost. If you are provisioning a 2vCPU 4GB of RAM machine the price per hour would be significantly less than that of a 16vCPU 64GB of RAM machine.

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This would allow the customer to match the exact machine size to the purpose of their deployment, and optimize the amount of money they were spending on their hosted application solution.

Utilizing Login VSI’s virtual users I ran a predetermined user count against a Citrix XenApp deployment managed from Citrix Cloud.

For this blog, I will only discuss one data point, and the Citrix Cloud configuration on AWS. We have a significant amount of results, and we will make those available on www.loginvsi.com/blog.

For those of you not familiar Citrix Cloud is providing Citrix capabilities traditionally delivered on premise through a HTML web based user experience therefore installing a receiver is no longer required.

Some of the key components as they move into their cloud forward offerings are StoreFront / Netscaler and Studio.

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StoreFront and NetScaler are completely managed now through a web page. This completely removes the administrator’s responsibilities of configuring hardware / software solutions for Citrix. You simply fire this up, attach it via their “Citrix Cloud Connector” and configure to start deploying your desktops or apps. It works completely flawlessly.

Studio is managed through the connector as well, and provides the Citrix HTML 5 receiver for management access through the Citrix Cloud web portal.

During my time working with it, it proved to be very flexible, easy to configure and reliable for all testing. I would recommend this to any administrator looking at future proofing their Citrix deployments. It is truly ready for market.

Some images below of the management interface:Some images below of the management interface:

There will be a management icon within your Citrix Cloud Dashboard. Select “XenApp and XenDesktop Service” “manage”

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You will then go to the management interface for XenApp / XenDesktop; you have two options Creation and Delivery. Creation – Studio / Delivery – StoreFront / NetScaler:

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Management interface for Studio. Notice the Citrix Receiver icon in the middle. Studio is provided through the Citrix HTML 5 receiver. Interesting touch.

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Management for Citrix NetScaler / StoreFront:

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AWS Configuration for demonstration purposes:

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Color coded

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Delivery group configuration:

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There is only one XenApp host in each delivery group. This is to determine the maximum amount of users for one M4.

2XLarge instance backing the XenApp host. We are delivering Office 2016 applications, and the standard set of VSI Knowledge worker actions.

It is very easy to change the instance type in EC2. You simply select the “Instance” and change the “Instance Type” through the context menu.AWS_Change_Instance_Types

There are a variety of different configuration, which allows you to really get the most out of the testing. If you are aiming for user density numbers you can size it exactly. This allows you to pay for EXACTLY what you need as opposed to over provisioning. This will help drive the cost of VDI / SBC deployments down ultimately, and increase end user experience quality.

If you are sizing your images with Login VSI and backing them up with EC2 AWS instances you are getting an optimal user experience exactly sized right for your needs.

Information on instances:

https://docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSEC2/latest/UserGuide/instance-types.html

VSI Results

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Testing Configuration

For our testing purpose we provisioned a m4.2xlarge machine on EC2. This instance has a machine profile of 8 vCPU and 32 GB of memory. This is either running a XENO E5-2686 or 2676. Mostly a general use machine which is balanced.

Our testing configuration was 50 test users over the course of 48 minutes. We utilized the industry standard Knowledge Workload. This mostly presents a large portion of the VDI / SBC user base. Office application and standard office applications like Adobe Reader.

 

Application start times are all over the place for the most part, but staying for the most part under 12 seconds. Which would be reasonable for the users. Login process takes under 16 seconds even under VSI Max settings.

 

What does the backend look like?

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When the CPU is at 100% the VSIMax is being reached within the user session. This means the numbers are indicating the bottleneck to be the CPU provisioned for the M4.2Xlarge instance which is approximately.

Wrap-up

Seeing is believing and after testing it I can confirm that Amazon EC2 is ready for the prime time. We were able to support 42 concurrent users on a M4.2Xlarge and we were able to have a continuous level of excellent user experience while doing so.

Amazon is ready to supplement your traditional on premise solutions with readily available and quickly scalable resources in the cloud. Using Citrix Cloud services you can very easily scale your delivery out to support your user base as it dynamically changes.

Using VSI you can validate your configurations with support your users and put a check box next to user experience.

Using these three solutions you can future proof your company, and deliver on a promise of value & experience

Finally, if you are looking for some testing for your deployment please reach out to me here or b.martynowicz@loginvsi.com.

As always stay tuned for more results.

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AUTOMATION OF A XENDESKTOP/XENAPP DEPLOYMENT – PART 3


This article will cover how to install the Citrix Studio component.  For those of you who are unfamiliar this will act as your centralized point of control for your Citrix environment.  You can also interact with it as you’ve seen in previous examples through command line operations as well.

In order to install the Studio for management the process is straight forward.  Run the executable with a few switches –

[C:\Downloads – “Your download location”]\x64\XenDesktop Setup\XenDesktopServerSetup.exe /PASSIVE /NOREBOOT /CONFIGURE_FIREWALL /COMPONENTS DESKTOPSTUDIO

Once your Studio component is installed, you can validate the installed components by reviewing their accessibility form your server where the command was executed.

Studio

Next up would be installing your StoreFront component.  This will provide front end access to your delivered applications and desktops.

StoreFront

The process is the same.  Utilizing your Citrix installed, you will call the following executable with the following switches:

[C:\Downloads – “Your download location”]\x64\StoreFront\CitrixStoreFront-x64.exe -silent -logfile “%am_logpath%\StoreFrontSetup.log”

For adding additional Storefront servers to a load balanced group, you can utilize a variety of different scripts to determine if the server is already part of a group, and if not join it.

Creates a script to review if the Citrix services are running on the server where the scripts are executing, and if so join the new StoreFront sever to a group. If not create a group of its own.

Set a conditional statement to evaluate the value of this being returned, and execute one of the following scripts.

For Creating:

Set-DSInitialConfiguration -hostBaseUrl [Hostname]-farmName [FarmName] -port [ListeningPort] -transportType [TransferType] -sslRelayPort [RelayPortforSSL] -servers [ServerToAdd] -loadBalance [LoadBalancer] -farmType [FarmType] -clusterId [ID]

 

Or, For Joining an Already Existing:

Obtain the passcode and store value –

Start-DSClusterJoinService

$Passcode = (Get-DSClusterJoinServicePasscode).Response.Passcode

and finally join,

Start-DSClusterJoinService

Start-DSClusterMemberJoin -authorizerHostName $ExistingNode -authorizerPasscode $JoinPass

 

The final portion would really only be interesting if you were automating the same process over and over again.  This is where a product like Login AM which organizes your scripts, and variables would become handy.  If you are interested in any information about Login AM or automation of Citrix Deployments please reach out and let me know or drop and comment I would like to have meaningful conversations about automation, and increase my understanding of the products as well.

Automation of a XenDesktop/XenApp deployment – Part 2


As I discussed during my previous blog there are many parts necessary for a fully functional Citrix XenDesktop / XenApp environment.  In this part of the series we are going to cover the Citrix Licensing server.

The blog will be shorter than the previous blog due to the fact that there is only one component to the Citrix Licensing server. However, we will also cover how to deal with a known issue during automation which is related to automation leaving the license location in the License server empty.

The command line switches for automation of the license component is again very straight forward.

XenDesktop/XenApp Licensing Server

Example – C:\{Location}\x64\XenDesktop Setup\XenDesktopServerSetup.exe /COMPONENTS LICENSESERVER /NOREBOOT /QUIET /CONFIGURE_FIREWALL

This will install the License Server portion of a XenDesktop/XenApp deployment silently and defer the reboot.  You can run this string as many times as you would like and the end result will be the same.

Based upon my experience with automation I have discovered a known issue which is that within the License Server configuration the location of the specified license file will be blank.  This can lead to issues with functionality.

Know Issue with unattended installation

We can automate address this issue through PowerShell.  Below I will outline how to do so.  The company that I work for make a software solution for managing your PowerShell solutions.  This will provide you with a centralized location for management of your scripts, and assist with WHEN the scripts will be executed.  Additionally, you can design your solution 1 time and utilizes the solution anywhere when deploying XenDesktop / XenApp.

  1. Stop the Citrix License Server service
    1. This is done through a net stop command
  2. Parse through the license server configuration xml file located at
    1. C:\Program Files (x86)\Citrix\Licensing\LS\conf\server.xml
    2. This can be done by piping the contents of the XML file into a variable
    3. $serverxml = [xml] (Get-Content -path “C:\Program Files (x86)\Citrix\Licensing\LS\conf\server.xml” )
    4. You have now captured the contents of the XML file
  3. Locate within the XML file where the license file is specified, under the following value and assign it to a variable
    1. $element = $serverxml.configuration.licenseServer.vendorDaemons.daemon
      1. Where-Object {$_.executable -eq “CITRIX”}
    2. Write the value of your licensing file into the XML file
      1. $element.license = “The location of your license file”
    3. Save the server.xml file
      1. $serverxml.Save
    4. Start the Citrix License Server service

 

Bonus points – You could also utilize this level of automation to quickly replace the licensing file within your deployment in an automated method vs. manually going through the License Server web interface.  IE – Whenever it would be time to change out your license file simply replace the file and run the script.

In my next article in the series we will be outlining the process for deployment of the Citrix Studio portion of your XenDesktop / XenApp.  If you have any tips or tricks that could be helpful.  Please share I would love to share ideas, and share any information you are aware with the rest of my readers.

Automation of a XenDesktop/XenApp deployment


There are many pieces involved in deploying Citrix XenDesktop/XenApp.  For simplification purposes while discussing automation, let’s focus on a single feature of a Citrix deployment- the Delivery Controller.

The Delivery Controller is responsible for delivery of either applications or desktops to end users.

The components of a Delivery Controller are:

  • Database – SQL – Pre-requisite
  • Application – Citrix Delivery Controller

Installing each of these components individually is straight forward.  The applications are packaged in such a way that you can utilize a few switches to install the software.

SQL

Example – C:\{Location}\setup.exe /QUIET /IACCEPTSQLSERVERLICENSETERMS /ACTION=install /FEATURES=SQL,Tools /INSTANCENAME=MSSQLSERVER /SQLSVCACCOUNT=”NT Authority\Network Service” /SQLSYSADMINACCOUNTS=domain.local\Administrator /AGTSVCACCOUNT=”NT Authority\Network Service”

This will install SQL on a Windows Server OS silently, and create a database named MSSQLSERVER.

The same can be done with the Delivery Controller.

XenDesktop/XenApp Delivery Controller

Example – C:\{Location}\x64\XenDesktop Setup\XenDesktopServerSetup.exe /PASSIVE /NOREBOOT /CONFIGURE_FIREWALL /COMPONENTS CONTROLLER /NOSQL

This will install the Delivery Controller portion of a XenDesktop/XenApp silently, deferring the reboot and not installing SQL. You can run this string as many times as you would like and the end result will be the same.

Now, let’s get fancy.

In order for the Delivery Controller to function a “Site” must be present.  A site contains all of the data necessary for a Delivery Controller to function, and is stored in your SQL database; this includes configuration and logging information.

A site is the first step necessary to deliver resources with Citrix for your end users.  With PowerShell you can configure this without user interaction, thus enabling you to automate the deployment process.

You will need 3 databases:

  • “Site”
  • “Configuration”
  • “Logging”

 

You can utilize PowerShell to create these with the “New-XDDatabase” command.  This is a function of the “Citrix.XenDesktop.Admin.V1” PowerShell snap-in.  This will enable you to create the three database necessary for a “Site” to function properly.  Once the databases are created, you can create your “Site”.

You can utilize PowerShell to create your “Site” with the “New-XDSite” command.  This is a function of the “Citrix.XenDesktop.Admin.V1” PowerShell snap-in as well.

XDDatabase

Combining packages from Microsoft, Citrix and PowerShell, you are able to automate the process of creating your first “Site” for a critical component of your Citrix deployment, the Delivery Controller.

There are many platforms for managing, and executing your collection of automation frameworks.  Some of the popular ones are Chef, Puppet and Login AM.  It creates a logical organization structure for doing so, variables necessary and provides an interface for management.

If you are interested in finding out more about this, please get in touch with me.

Also, if you have any neat tricks with PowerShell please share them in the comment section.  Happy automating.

I will be following this post up with articles about the remaining components of Citrix.

Article 2 in the series is now live! See it here – Automation of a XenDesktop/XenApp deployment – Part 2

Article 3 online – Automation of a XenDesktop / XenApp Deployment – Part 3

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Hello World (or anyone reading)!


I’m Brian and I love technology, and writing.

Being as this is my first post on Citrixology I figured that I should introduce myself.

Before any of that I would like to personally thank Lal for the opportunity he has given me to post to his Citrix blog.  I have used his blog during research for some of my publications while posting to LinkedIn over the last 3 years.

A little about me –

I have worked in the IT industry for the last 14 years.   I’ve always had a passion for technology ever since receiving my first Commodore 64.  I wanted to take it apart and see how it magically worked, and I did.

I started my IT career on the Helpdesk of a large government defense sub-contractor.  Quickly moving up the ranks to building / deploying Windows base images for Windows XP machines using Ghost.

Since then I have worked at a K-12 school as an administrator, an MSP managing their 13 engineer service desk and most recently working for the Industry Standard in VDI / SBC bench-marking / load testing software.

I currently work for Login VSI.

LoginVSI_logo-primary

Login VSI is considered the industry standard for bench-marking / change management for large scale VDI / SBC deployments.

I’ve work with all the major vendors in this space.

Through my career journey I have the opportunity to work with a multitude of technology, and it has given me a unique perspective working with so many different software / hardware solutions.

In 2014 I decided that I would like to publish to LinkedIn when the feature became available.  I have built a solid following on LinkedIn, and expanded to Medium and now w/ Lal’s blessing Citrixology.  I hope to cover many topics during my tenor here, and learn a whole bunch in the process.

Thanks for joining me on this journey, and stay tuned for some exciting content!