It seems like months have passed since we shipped XenDesktop 5, but in reality, it has only been weeks. As the new year began, I’ve spoken to a number of customers about XenDesktop 5, and I am excited about what I’m hearing.

In a recent conversation, I was briefing a room full of architects and administrators at a manufacturing company. I was showing them how the XenDesktop 5 hosted-virtual desktop delivery infrastructure (One of several FlexCast desktop and on-demand app delivery models) has built-in provisioning that leverages a single instance of a gold image to “boot” thousands of desktops. I showed them how MCS uses an identity disk and then a separate differencing disk at runtime to enable administrators to apply patches to a single image and update the entire deployment.

They were very impressed with the story and were excited about reducing the need for expensive storage and asked about how to configure this provisioning service. I asked them if they had installed XenDesktop 5, and they responded that they did and had gone through the steps in the wizard to create 40 VMs. I explained that they already had installed and configured the most powerful virtual desktop provisioning infrastructure in the industry.

XenDesktop 5 delivered a number of powerful new features. These include the ability to securely deliver Windows, web and SaaS apps from a single infrastructure to a range of new devices like iPads and smartphones. Also, a fully scriptable management interface, Desktop Studio… and, Desktop Director, a powerful web-based tool for the service desk. Under the covers, however, lies one of the most interesting innovations in XenDesktop 5, designed to forever change desktop lifecycle management.

Citrix calls this Machine Creation Services (MCS).

The name is misleading. Machine Creation Services is about far more than just how to “kick off” new hosted virtual machine desktops. Instead, it is designed to:
1) Think about the entire desktop and application lifecycle and workflow with the ultimate goal of allowing the enterprise to manage single instances of the operating system and applications
2) To only store it once with a complete history of patches and updates
3) Apply those changes to existing VMs,
4) …and work with the hypervisor and storage layer to minimize both storage capacity AND IOPS for maximum performance and efficiency.

The scalability of XenDesktop 5 hosted VM desktops is highly modular, taking the stress off of any one Desktop Delivery Controller (DDC) by keeping the state in a database that can scale as high as 40-50 thousand desktops in any one site. DDCs front end the database and now each single instance (a virtual or physical server) of a DDC can handle 10-20k desktops out of the box; so you just add more virtual or physical servers in front of the database for HA and to scale to obscene size deployments.

This blog series will feature a collection of design architects and deployment experts who have been involved in the most rigorous laboratory and field testing program to date. Check back here for links to some real-world best practices for design.

Table of Contents: (Current and upcoming articles)

MCS or PVS, What should I be using? by Ken Bell
How do I migrate my existing XenDesktop environment to XenDesktop 5? by Simon Plant
I need some rough Sizing Guidelines to get started by Dan Feller
What happended to the PVS setup tool?
Storage considerations for XenDesktop by Vishal Ganeriwala
Show me the numbers! Large scale performance testing by Martin Rowan and Bernie Hannon
MCS and Intellicache – XenServer optimized for XenDesktop by Sam Webster