Hello, this is my first post in this community, so let me start with a brief introduction: my name is Juliano Maldaner, a product architect on the Presentation Server team. One of the areas I’m working on is the simplification of Presentation Server management experience for upcoming releases. We’re introducing some exciting new concepts and would like to hear your feedback!

Managing a Presentation Server farm requires much more than configuring Presentation Server components: Operating System and Application settings are as important. A successful environment must maintain PS, Operating System, and Application settings correctly configured and consistent across all servers in the farm. Maintaining this consistency throughout the farm life cycle is one of the major challenges for PS Administrators.

The Windows platform provides an outstanding tool to address these configuration management challenges: Active Directory and Group Policy. An overwhelming majority of PS deployments use Group Policy in some capacity. Integrating PS settings into GPO is possible with MFCOM scripts, but far from ideal. Most use GPO for Windows and Application settings, and Citrix management consoles for PS configuration. Because all settings must be synchronized, we realized that the management experience would be greatly simplified if PS Session Policies and Server settings were within Group Policy Objects themselves!

 

Presentation Server settings/policies embedded into Group Policy Editor

The main benefit of this integration is the creation a single management template for platform, applications and Citrix configuration. All operations performed with Group Policy Management Console will include Presentation Server parameters as well. Resulting Set of Policy reports will show all Citrix and platform configuration – a great help for troubleshooting and planning. Backup, Restore, and Migration will allow saving and moving configurations from farm to farm, making replication of environments much easier than what it is today.

Another key benefit is the separation of PS settings and servers. Group Policy Objects are associated with Organization Units, and not with individual servers or users. Common management operations – adding capacity to a silo; repurposing a server; or replacing a broken server – are greatly simplified: simply change the server OU membership, and the settings associated with that silo will automatically apply to the server.

Application Publishing 

The Group Policy integration will NOT require Active Directory schema changes. For this reason, PS objects such as Applications and Administrators will continue to be managed via Citrix management consoles. Application Publishing will be modified to allow association of Applications with Active Directory Server Groups and Organization Units. This way, apps will be automatically published as soon as the server is assigned to the correct Organizational Unit.

Policy Filters 

Presentation Server Group Policy extension will improve GPO filtering capabilities to include all filters existing on CPS 4.5 session policies – including SmartAccess. These filters will only apply to the Citrix part of the GPO, platform configuration will apply regardless of the filter result.

The Citrix policies within GPOs will also allow filtering on a per-setting level – native Group Policy only allow filtering per-policy level. Some Presentation Server features require complex filtered settings, for example: proximity printing based on client IP address. This feature will allow the configuration of such policies within a single GPO.

What about environments without Group Policy? 

There are some important scenarios where Group Policies cannot be used:

  • Environments using other Directory services;
  • Applications that require anonymous (local) accounts;
  • Organizations that restrict or deny AD delegation to PS administrators.

To support these environments, IMA will provide a global Group Policy Object, applied to all servers in the farm. This farm-wide GPO replicates the existing Farm Default settings. Per-server override is possible by configuring the server’s Local Group Policy Object.

Our goal is to maintain feature parity with PS 4.5 if Group Policy is not used. However, the Administrator’s experience will be optimized for Active Directory and GPO scenarios.

Active Directory and Group Policy are fundamental for a successful Presentation Server environment. Group Policy integration will bring major improvements to management experience, leveraging existing IT infrastructure and knowledge. The feedback we’ve received so far has been very positive, please let us know what you think!