Wow – it’s been a long time since my last blog (more than three years).  A lot has changed since then – Access Essentials is now XenApp Fundamentals and I’m now a Product Architect working on XenDesktop.  With XenDesktop 5 just round the corner, it’s time to get ‘under the hood’ and look at some of changes in this new release.  In this blog, I want to provide some background into the thinking that went into this release.

Over the last couple of years, the whole industry has learnt a huge amount about the practice of deploying increasingly large-scale VDI solutions encompassing thousands of desktops.  Through that period, the VDI capabilities of XenDesktop have been based on the same management platform as XenApp – IMA.  This solid platform has enabled that growth in deployment size, and enabled us to iterate rapidly adding capabilities to the product.  Every now and again though you have to take stock –as deployment scale increases it becomes necessary to have an optimized platform.

XenDesktop 5 is the debut of this next-generation management platform, where we’ve looked afresh at what the platform needs to deliver.  The four key characteristics we looked for are:

  • Availability
  • Scalability
  • Manageability
  • Simplicity

Almost all of the changes you’ll experience with XenDesktop 5 have been driven by these four characteristics.  There isn’t space to dig into each of these in depth in this blog, so I’ll summarize them here by listing just some of the functionality of XenDesktop 5.  I’ll dig in deeper in the coming months.

Availability

  • We’ve ensured that desktop’s can be distributed effectively across multiple hypervisor pools, turning something that could have been a service outage into a more manageable loss in capacity.
  • We’ve exposed a range of essential performance counters, enabling you to observe monitor for performance and address degradation before it impacts service.
  • We’ve extensively adopted Microsoft’s .NET platform, increasing the diagnostic information available should faults occur, and making many faults non-fatal.

Scalability

  • We’ve adopted a state-less architecture for delivery controllers, keeping all management data within SQL server.
  • To provide a high-performance management interface, PowerShell (and thus console searches) are performed efficiently as structured queries in the database.
  • As we’ve adopted a stateless architecture, we’ve ensured there are no special server roles, to ease administration.
     

Manageability

  • For storage resilience, we’ve embraced the capabilities of SQL server, which has a huge talent pool of trained administrators.
  • We’ve completely embraced PowerShell as an open management infrastructure, providing a high-performance scripting/automation interface.
  • We’ve enabled server imaging and fully-automated configuration through PowerShell.
  • In addition to the core use-cases, we’ve ensured desktop groups enable a range of real-world use-cases, such as assigning the same desktop to multiple people and delivering multiple identical desktops to the same person.
  • We’ve embraced search as a primary way to manage your virtual desktop estate.

Simplicity

  • We’ve integrated a really simple way to provision desktop VMs directly into the new management console, Desktop Studio.
  • We’ve ensured the installers ask just the essential configuration questions (if any).
  • We’ve kept the new console focussed on the essentials of using the product (whilst enabling huge power and flexibility through PowerShell).
  • We’ve made it really easy to get started writing scripts, by showing you the PowerShell commands our console is using.

We’re hugely excited by the capabilities we’re delivering in XenDesktop 5 – we believe we’ve built a strong foundation for the next stage of VDI growth.  Please check back as I dig further into these topics.