Citrix Releases XenDesktop 7.11: Déjà Vu and Much More

Yesterday, Citrix announced the release of XenDesktop 7.11, which is the next version subsequent to v7.9. And no, v7.10 wasn’t released while you were vacationing this summer; Citrix elected not to release v7.10 because of conflicts that may be generated with scripts and other references to v7.1 vs. v7.10.

It has been about a year since Citrix adopted quarterly releases. The good news is that Citrix’s quarterly XenApp/XenDesktop releases have been impressive. In addition to a robust feature set, it appears that significantly more effort is being expended for product integration and quality assurance testing. The bad news is that the new releases may be too frequent for most organizations to absorb. As a result, few IT departments will be able to stay abreast of the latest and greatest feature set, and many will consistently be behind by one or several versions.

Version 7.11

XenDesktop 7.11 brings numerous features. Let’s discuss a few of the new ones, and then we’ll focus on three déjà vu items that were present in XenApp 6.5 and have now finally become available again.

First, Citrix supports Windows Server 2016–based VDAs right now. While it’s unlikely that most enterprises will be deploying Windows 2016 immediately, not having any lag time between the Windows Server release and Citrix product support is a major step forward. While Windows Server 2016 can’t be used as the operating system for all components just yet, this is a major technology statement in itself. In the past, Citrix customers sometimes had to wait for support of the newest operating systems, but Citrix has made it clear that XenApp/XenDesktop is ready when you are.

The capabilities of Machine Creation Services have come a long way, and it is now almost equivalent to Provisioning Services. While Provisioning Services has had a few improvements as well, including simplification of the boot process configuration and steps, Machine Creation Services was blessed with more robust features as part of this dot version release. Because Machine Creation Services is easier to use than Provisioning Services and is inherent within XenApp/XenDesktop, it is even more likely that many new installations and migrations will adopt Machine Creation Services rather than Provisioning Services.

No new release would be complete without some enhancements to HDX, a distinguishing flagship feature that sets Citrix apart from its competition. Improvements to Thinwire that improve graphic presentation and minimize bandwidth; TWAIN 2.0, which enables newer scanning devices and drivers to function properly; and USB device support clearly demonstrate that Citrix owns the user experience space.

And now for the déjà vu items: i.e., those items that administrators knew and loved in XenApp 6.5 and are finally once again available in v7.11:

  • Self-Service Password Reset
  • Zones
  • “EdgeSight-Like” Monitoring Data

Self-Service Password Reset: When StoreFront 3.5 was released early this year, many became excited about the Self-Service Password Reset functionality. That excitement turned to disappointment upon learning that the prerequisite for Self-Service Password Reset was XenApp 6.5’s password functionality; it seemed like a step backward and a tease to boot. Well, real Self-Service Password Reset is finally available in the new StoreFront release, v3.7.

Zones: In addition to needing to get accustomed to the name “site” rather than “farm” as part of XenApp/XenDesktop 7.x, customers lost usable Zones functionality along the way—until now. While the concept of Zones was reintroduced in v7.7, it hasn’t become fully useful until now. Citrix stepped up Zones functionality by enabling application designation based on zone preference assignment—a well-architected feature that ensures that applications that rely on back-end data are situated closest to it.

Monitoring Data: As a monitoring tool, Director lacked useful features and functionality when XenDesktop 7 was first released. For those who had wrangled with EdgeSight as part of XenApp 6.5 and finally managed to get it working well enough to extract useful data, Director was initially a major letdown. It has taken over three years, but Director has finally improved to the point where alerts and reporting are truly useful. In this release, more data is available, particularly relative to VDA CPU and memory resources as well as ICA round-trip time, which are extremely useful to understand the user experience.

All in all, Citrix has provided an impressive feature set with v7.11, especially considering that this is in conjunction with the quarterly release program. While it may be a bit too much for some to absorb immediately, too much is far better than not enough. Bravo!

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