You likely saw the official press release for XenApp 5 Feature Pack 2 come across the wire this morning. I thought I’d follow that up with a plain language breakdown of Feature Pack 2 (albeit a long-winded one). Here’s a list of features and an explanation of each. It’s important to note that we group features into 6 categories: Dynamic Application Delivery, Single Instance Management, Any Device Anywhere, High Definition Experience, Secure Application Access and Enterprise Class Management. The bulk of the application virtualization enhancements in Feature Pack 2 fall into 3 of these 6 categories.
Dynamic Application Delivery – New options for Application Virtualization
- VM hosted apps – Lets you deliver Windows applications from centrally hosted virtual machines running Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. The name is a bit misleading in that you can even use physical machines or blade PC’s to host the applications in question. This feature is great for regulated applications and those which have performance bottlenecks, peripheral compatibility and general compatibility issues on Terminal Services. It’s also great for applications where your ISV won’t support them on Terminal Services. So far, everyone agrees that hosting applications on XenApp servers is still the most cost-effective way of delivering apps and that they’d rather stream applications to the users device before going VM hosted apps. But if you go the VM hosted apps route, you’ll still get better TCO than native application deployment with remote installation. One thing is, for VM hosted apps, you’ll need Microsoft VECD licenses, not Terminal Services CALS. Most environments will have a mix though so just keep this in mind as you consider it. Plus, we’ve announced pre-registration for the tech preview of XenApp on Windows Server 2008 R2. Available to Enterprise and Platinum customers. You’ll want to check familiarize yourself with VECD using the licensing guide which I found helpful.
- Windows 7 and Windows Mobile support – In this release, we now support access from Windows 7 devices to server and VM hosted apps (we call these online apps), as well as streamed applications running on the users desktop (we call them offline apps). We’ve also released an updated profiler which includes Windows 7 as an option. Plus, we’ll be releasing an updated Windows Mobile client shortly. Keep an eye on Pedro Llaguno’s blog for more information on this one. Available to all customers or any edition.
- Streamed application performance – I interviewed Joe Nord a few weeks ago on this and he mentioned that the engineering team has really focused on performance improvements and bug fixes for this release rather than adding a ton of new features. In fact, when I pressed him on the topic of performance after the show, he told me about some internal tests where we saw improvements ranging from 22% to 33% faster initial launch times and 50% to 65% improvements for subsequent launch times. Definitely worth a look whether you’re using it or not. Available for Advanced, Enterprise or Platinum Customers.
Enterprise Class Management – Better management of your application virtualization solution
- Power and Capacity Management – My personal favorite feature in this release. If you didn’t get the chance to play with the technology preview, this feature will certainly shock you. It has the potential to save you a bunch of money on electrical expenses. You install an agent on your XenApp servers (whether virtual or physical) and Power and Capacity Management turns them on and off when capacity is needed based on rules you create. You tell it how much capacity you always want available on standby and it just keeps turning on servers as users log into your farm to maintain that buffer capacity. Plus, you can manage multiple farms from a single implementation. But Power management is only half of this feature. The other half is capacity management. This feature will help to keep sessions consolidated on fewer servers while maintaining adequate user performance. This is awesome for when you need to perform server maintenance – now you don’t have to wait for users to log off or bump them. You can even tell capacity management to drain sessions on servers for you so you can come back later and perform your maintenance. You can even configure capacity management to drain old server images and replace them with new server images (say one with a new application or hotfix configured). Simply amazing. It’s the only XenApp-aware power management solution available to my knowledge. Available to Enterprise and Platinum customers running XenApp on Windows Server 2003.
* Provisioning Services – some key enhancements which you might already be aware of but certainly worth mentioning are multi-partition and dual NIC support for provisioning images. Plus there are some wonderful new fault tolerance improvements that have been made such as server maintenance mode which let’s you transfer image management between multiple provisioning servers in the event you need to bring one down for maintenance. And of course, Provisioning services can be used to manage VM hosted applications. Enterprise edition customers can use Provisioning services to manage VM hosted apps only. Platinum customers can use Provisioning services to manage VM hosted or server hosted apps.
* Service Monitoring – New server metrics make Service monitoring in XenApp 5 Feature Pack 2 a must have. Service monitoring now measures the performance of XenApp servers running on XenServer by giving you visibility into the performance of the hypervisor. This will help you better determine the right mix of physical and virtual servers in your environment. In addition, you can now measure application start up time for streamed applications – a nifty feature for testing those new performance improvements we’ve made with your own apps. Service monitoring is available to Platinum customers.
- Workflow Studio 2.0 – This latest release is what you XenApp administrators have really been waiting for. We’ve finally got the API’s you need to expose custom workflows that include XenApp. So as an example, you can now simplify the process of adding users or even publishing new resources. One of my favorite examples is creating a provisioning app that let’s HR add the users they want to the apps they need based on the department they need to be added into. I haven’t seen this done but it is possible with Workflow studio and a little elbow grease. You can even expose specific functions like session management features so that they can easily be accessed from your Windows Mobile or iPhone. This is only going to continue to get better as time goes on. And if you haven’t heard, we have PowerShell Commandlets for XenApp in tech preview as well. You can learn more about Workflow Studio 2.0 from Pete Schulz, Product Manager and a good friend of mine to boot. He just posted a blog post last night on this very topic. Workflow studio is available to Advanced, Enterprise and Platinum edition customers.
High Definition Experience – Ensuring best performance and usability
- HDX MediaStream for Flash – This technology was available as a tech preview and Juan Rivera has blogged about it extensively. He also recorded a XenApp Expert Series video for us on the topic. Basically, it leverages the processing power on the users Windows device to render Flash content and applications. This offloads the server and also improves performance and fluidity for the user. Nobody else has this kind of technology. What’s more, if the users device isn’t capable of rendering the content, it will automatically fall back to server-side rendering. We call that Adaptive orchestration (nobody else gives you that either). It’s available in Advanced, Enterprise and Platinum Edition and for XenApp running on Windows Server 2003.
- HDX Plug and Play for USB storage devices – We’ve supported USB drive mapping before. This is just a bit different in that users can plug in their USB drive even if they are already in a session and it will be mapped automatically without their having to restart their session. It’s a great usability feature and is available to Advanced, Enterprise and Platinum customers and for XenApp running on Windows Server 2003.
- Profile management – Profile management has seen some bug fixes and platform support enhancements. Plus we’ve added a number of counters to Service monitoring that expose the performance of user profiles within your environment to give you a better idea of how performance bottlenecks in user profiles can be affecting the performance of your applications. Stay tuned to Dave Wagners blog for more on this feature. Profile management is available in Enterprise and Platinum Edition.
- EasyCall voice services – EasyCall is probably one of my favorite features that hasn’t caught on yet but I know it will cause it has the potential to save customers money and make life easier for users. In the previous XenApp release, we introduced this as a Xen-based virtual appliance available to Advanced, Enterprise and Platinum edition customers. Basically, EasyCall let’s users hover their mouse over any phone number on their screen and then click to call that number. This is accomplished using a plugin on the users device. The plugin communicates call requests to the EasyCall virtual appliance and then the appliance tells the VoIP system to call the user at their current location and then to call their destination number. It’s not just a cool feature though. It saves money by using your corporate rate to let users make business related calls rather than using their residential long distance rates. It’s also great for customer service and sales people to reduce the amount of first minute charges for misdialed calls. In this release, we added a feature called Find Me which lets users configure phone numbers that EasyCall will use to redirect their calls to if they are not available, trying each one in order. Basically, you can do away with the softphone using EasyCall. EasyCall is available to Advanced, Enterprise and Platinum edition customers.
Let me know if you have any questions. Check out other Feature Pack 2 Blogs or you can also check out the resources below.
Learn more about Citrix XenApp 5 Feature Pack 2
- Official Press Release – http://citrix.com/English/NE/news/news.asp?newsID=1857726
- XenApp 5 Feature Pack 2 release Web Site – http://citrix.com/xenapp/featurepack2
- XenApp 5 Feature Pack 2 Executive Video – http://citrix.com/xenapp/fp2/video
- XenApp 5 Feature Pack 2 Release Webinar – http://citrix.com/xenapp/fp2/techtalk
- XenApp feature matrix by platform, version and edition – http://citrix.com/xenapp/comparativematrix
- XenApp Expert Series videos for this release – http://citrix.com/xenapp/fp2/expertseries
- XenApp 5 Feature Pack 2 Blogs- http://community.citrix.com/blogs/tag/xa5fp2
- Download XenApp technology previews – http://citrix.com/xenapp/techpreviews
- XenApp Product Page – http://citrix.com/xenapp/