Welcome to the new year and my first blog of 2009.  Let’s kick off ’09 with a focus on simplification.

Let’s focus on a topic that often brings chills to a XenApp administrators spine… upgrades.  Back in the day when I was a MetaFrame administrator, I remember the time, patience, and sometimes stress involved with trying to upgrade 100 servers to the latest version of MetaFrame.  Well, a lot has changed in the world of application delivery. MetaFrame went through numerous identity changes to become XenApp. With those new identities we have witnessed a maturing of the product to include more functions, features and abilities to deliver troublesome applications.  But one thing has remained fairly constant, XenApp upgrades are not as easy as flipping a switch. 

Take, for example, the following knowledge base article from one of my coworkers, Jo Harder.  Jo created a great article explaining the technical concepts for upgrading and migrating XenApp 4.5 to XenApp 5. It covers the process, what to do and which approach to take.  This document has only been out for 4 months and has been the most read article for each of the past 4 months.  By my estimation, the topic of XenApp migrations is very important to people. 

Back in September 2008 I blogged about a potential way to simplify the migration process by integrating XenServer with XenApp.  In this blog I identified 5 areas where I thought this tight integration could show benefit and I called this the HOMER Criteria.  Well, after more investigation, analysis, testing and validation, I’m here to let you know that we can indeed simplify XenApp migrations if we integrate XenServer and Provisioning Server into our architecture. 

How is that possible?  Most people have a standard practice for incorporating new XenApp versions into their environment. This process typically takes on the following sections:# Server validation: We have to make sure that our applications work with the new version

  1. Server builds: We have to spend time updating all of our server build images/scripts
  2. Implementation: Need to update all servers while not impacting the user environment and not incurring huge hardware expenses
  3. Maintenance: Need to keep our new servers consistent and updated with the latest hot fixes and service packs and updates
  4. Rollback: In the potential event that the upgrade causes major issues, we need to make sure we have a fast way of recovering our old environment.

These are each critical to a successful migration to the latest version of XenApp.  Each one of these areas can be improved through virtualization and workload provisioning and you can expect the following benefits: # Time Savings: The time spent building servers is removed due to Provisioning Server’s integration with XenApp. Brand new servers can be brought online in less than 30 seconds.

  1. Repeatability: The integrated process used to upgrade to XenApp 5 can also be used for future versions of XenApp, except that future upgrades will be faster as the infrastructure is already virtualized and the process is familiar.
  2. Simplification: The process is able to ignore the complexity of different configurations and drivers, helping to reduce the time spent developing server builds and installation configurations.
  3. Maintainability: The solution guarantees consistency within the XenApp farm. When an application update or an operating system patch is validated, the entire XenApp farm will utilize the new configuration.

Some of you might be intrigued and want to know how to do it.  Learn how by reading the following materials:

  • Reference Architecture*:* Understand the architecture, the areas of concern and the potential benefits
  • Getting Started Guide*:* Get a high-level overview of the integration process.  This guide gives an overview of each phase, whereas more detailed steps can be found in the implementation guide.
  • Implementation Guide*:* This guide takes you through, step-by-step, on how to upgrade your XenApp environments to XenApp 5 on Windows 2008 through the use of XenServer and Provisioning Server.  As you follow these steps you will see how the three products integrated into a solid solution for application delivery.
  • Design Considerations*:* Follow these considerations to make your virtual XenApp environment easier to setup, maintain and manage.

So remember, if you are not thrilled about doing a XenApp migration, then try a new approach… Virtual and Provision.