With the release of XenDesktop 5 in December 2010, Citrix has introduced among many other features (see Key Features) a new architecture of the brokering layer. While the brokers of previous releases of XenDesktop where based on XenApp and its IMA core, XenDesktop 5 features a brand new state of the art architecture (see Key Differences). As a result an in-place upgrade of the brokers and the XenDesktop farm respectively is not possible and a parallel implementation of the new components is required.
While this approach is more complex than a simple in-place upgrade, it also offers a unique opportunity to review the existing design and adapt it to user requirements, which might have evolved over time, and to incorporate operational experiences.
To provide some guidance on this process Citrix Consulting has prepared a XenDesktop Migration Planning Guide, which outlines a typical project approach focusing on the following phases:

  1. Evaluation
  2. Planning / Design
  3. Build
  4. Test
  5. Rollout

Furthermore we discuss the technical steps and considerations required to transition virtual desktops successfully into the new XenDesktop 5 infrastructure. Hereby we focus on a typical XenDesktop 4.0 environment that brokers virtual desktops provisioned by means of Citrix Provisioning Server. Within another key area of the document we discuss the most important changes introduced by the new architecture of XenDesktop 5, which need to be considered before starting a migration, such as:

  • Server Roles: Until XenDesktop 4, it was necessary to dedicate servers for XML brokering, VDA registrations and farm master. This is not required for XenDesktop 5.
  • Desktop Catalogs: Another key change is the introduction of Desktop Catalogs in addition to Desktop Groups. This additional layer can offer a big plus in flexibility.
  • Citrix Policies: XenDesktop 5 allows configuring user session policies and site settings within Active Directory Group Policies in addition to configuring policies within the XenDesktop database. It is strongly recommended to choose one exclusively, which incurs less administrative overhead and easier troubleshooting in case of unexpected results.
  • Database: XenDesktop 5 has a greater reliance on the SQL database, resulting in considerably higher utilization and performance requirements. More importantly, the database is now a highly critical component, which needs to be configured for redundancy.

The XenDesktop Migration Planning Guide has been posted as part of the XenDesktop Design Handbook (http://bit.ly/xdhandbook).

Note: Make sure following the XenDesktop Design Handbook to get notified automatically as new technical content (such as XD scalability information or MCS/PVS planning guides) becomes available.