Citrix Enhances XenApp with Virtual Machine-based Delivery

Citrix have announced significant new enhancements to Citrix XenApp 5 as part of their new Feature Release 2 to be  available on 29th September.

The major enhancements in this update will be:

  • VM Hosted Applications
  • HDX Technology for a High-Definition Experience
  • Advanced Enterprise-class Power and Capacity Management
  • Improvements to Edgesight for Loadtesting

These additions bring much anticipated features to Citrix’s market leading product, although not without a small amount of heartache.

VM Hosted Applications

With Feature Release 2, XenApp administrators will gain the ability to deliver on-demand applications from virtual machines (VMs) running desktop operating systems such as Windows 7, Vista and Windows XP. The new VM-based model is intended to complement delivery methods already included in XenApp, including the ability to host shared applications centrally via Windows Terminal Services or stream them to a PC or laptop to run locally.

Citrix believe that with the addition of VM hosted applications, XenApp 5 will offer 100 percent application compatibility with minimal testing and validation requirements – making XenApp the fastest, simplest and most cost-effective way to deliver Windows applications to any user in any location.

This has been a feature that has long been waited for; a Windows Terminal Server environment does not support all applications. However, while this feature will be useful it will still need some form of integration with a XenDesktop setup. So far the integration between administration of XenApp and XenDesktop has been cumbersome – its anticipated this feature will not have the ease normally associated with publishing applications and will require a fair amount of additional configuration. That said, the end user experience is important and the VMHosted apps facility will give organisations the opportunity to improve what is already available.

HDX Technology for a High-Definition Experience

Citrix developed HDX technologies to help deliver a powerful user experience in its XenDesktop product. With the release of Feature Pack 2 HDX MediaStream for Flash will be built-in to XenApp 5, ensuring a high-definition experience for users accessing Flash applications and video content. HDX MediaStream accelerates performance and utilizes client-side resources to process Flash content to reduce bandwidth consumption. XenApp 5 will also be able to provide instantaneous user access to USB devices with HDX™ Plug-n-Play to. Devices can be mapped in real-time before or during a session. In addition, enhancements in HDX™ IntelliCache for MAPI protocol accelerate performance of Microsoft Exchange email for branch and mobile users by up to 50X while reducing bandwidth consumption. By eliminating protocol “chattiness” and automatically compressing and de-duplication

HDX has been available in XenDesktop for a while. With Feature Release 2, a much wider Citrix customer base can take  advantage of the advances that HDX Technologies can bring and allow XenApp to better compete with similar solutions from other vendors to enhance the user’s experience of virtual desktop delivery.

Advanced Enterprise-class Power and Capacity Management

With Feature Release 2 XenApp 5 will also be able to provide policy-based power management capabilities to optimize server farm performance and reduce power consumption without disrupting user access to applications. By consolidating user sessions on fewer servers, capacity is managed to lessen uneven or low server utilization and prevent session sprawl.

Its not unusual for XenApp farms to be made up of many servers; the ability to power down unused servers without impacting on availability or performance could save organisations significant sums in reduced power and reduce their carbon footprint. It will be interesting to see if the default Edgesight for XenApp reports are augmented to allow customers to review their energy savings.

Improvements to Edgesight for LoadTesting

FR2 will also introduce enhancements to load testing capabilities enable customers to create intelligent testing scenarios to analyse server performance, determine the best ratio of physical and virtual servers for any environment and eliminate the need to over-provision server capacity.

The Only Constant is Change

With these new features, Citrix continue to develop and enhance their leading XenApp product. Lessons learned from their XenDesktop product have filtered through to bring an enhanced end user experience by leveraging HDX  Technologies. VMHosted Apps  may be cumbersome to implement but is an important feature that will allow organisation to further extend, or indeed begin, their deployment of  Presentation Virtualization. The impact of saving power on idle servers is going to useful even for smaller organisations with modest sized XenApp farms.

Some may find its a pity that the new Feaure Release 2 features will be limited in not supporting Windows 2008; but Citrix have also taken the opportunity to announce that they’re releasing a XenApp on Windows Server R2 in the first half of 2010 and will be releasing a Tech Preview soon.

The 29th of September will be a date in a number of XenApp administrator diaries.

To find out more about the Feature Release 2 – visit the Citrix Web Site here

To find out more about the Xenapp for Windows 2008 R2 Tech Preview – visit the Citrix Web Site here

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