In my first post I introduced all the great new features and enhancements to the XenClient software that runs on the laptops and desktops. Now I wanted to turn the attention to the Synchronizer for XenClient. This is the centralized delivery system that can deploy, update, backup, and secure virtual machines running on XenClient.  We will also have a few more surprises before GA that I’ll share in late September.

Dynamic Image Mode (Experimental)

This is one of the most exciting capabilities that we added in RC2 and it really spans both the backend and the client. This capability allows layering of VM images. By separating the image into different layers (Base OS, Apps, User profile) administrators can maintain a single copy of the base image in the datacenter. As the base image is updated the Synchronizer will automatically generate a delta to upgrade the image deployed on existing XenClient systems or send the latest version to new XenClients. This not only allows for upgrades to your deployed virtual desktop images but allows roll-to any version of an image. So you can rollback or roll forward to any version of the VM image with a few mouse clicks. So if you deploy an update and it has some unintended interaction, no problem just flip a switch and roll everyone back. The user profile data is stored in a separate layer that allows it to remain untouched as the rest of the system is updated or rolled back. Additionally by separating the user data into a separate layer backup sizes are dramatically reduced. This is being delivered as an experimental feature in this release as it’s a new model for image deployment and we want to get feedback on how it works for you in your environment.

Simplified disk space expansion for image and backup storage

Administrators will now be able to easily increase the amount of storage available for storing VM images and user backups. Now you can simply shutdown the Synchronizer appliance, increase the data disk drive in XenCenter and boot up the appliance. The Synchronizer will automatically find and use the newly added space it’s as simple as that.

Simplified and Expanded Synchronizer Setup

We have revamped the Synchronizer setup process to be cleaner and easier to use. This includes streamlined HTTPS support and support for static networking configurations.

In place upgrade for Synchronizer

Just as you can move XenClient from RC1 to RC2 we also added the ability to upgrade Synchronizer to RC2 while keeping existing settings, images, and backups intact.

Scalability enhancements

Our Synchronizer wizards have been doing a bunch of scalability testing and optimization to increase the data transfer throughput and increase the number of XenClients per Synchronizer server. We will share some more detailed results including rules of thumb by the time we GA. We have also optimized the storage of compressed VM image and user backup data to reduce the amount of storage space required on the backend.

Usability Enhancements

We spent a lot of time on incorporating usability feedback into this release. We have a crack team of UX experts at Citrix that watched ITPros first use of the system and we learned some great information about how to make the product even simpler to use. While we made a host of enhancements and these are some of the ones that stand out:

Revamped web console

We have done a big revamp of the web admin interface touching almost every square inch of the UI. We got a chance to incorporate a lot of valuable feedback from the UX testing and feedback from users in our beta programs. And we are not done yet, look for additional enhancements in the GA release as well. Some highlights are below:

New user and group details pages with ability to easily view and modify user and group assignments

New multi-step assignment wizard

Version and author information display enhancements

Device filtering support

So you can see our engineering team has been hard at work adding some great new capabilities to both XenClient and the Synchronizer for XenClient. If you are using RC1 today upgrade and check out the new features if you have not tried it yet now is the time.

You can download XenClient and the Synchronizer for XenClient RC2 here.