Delivering applications and desktops

In case you didn’t hear, the really big news is that in Excalibur Tech Preview there’s just one console and one infrastructure to deliver server-hosted applications (aka. published apps), server-hosted desktops (aka published desktop), and workstation-hosted applications (aka. VM hosted apps) and personal desktops (aka. VDI). What is not immediately obvious from this statement, and where some of the huge wins in terms of manageability come in are the breadth of operating systems delivered from a single infrastructure and this is what we will explore in Part II. Leo’s blog on FlexCast 2.0 highlighted the Virtual Delivery Agent’s (VDA) role in communicating with the backend Delivery Controllers (the servers that create and manage the server and desktop workloads).

The graphic below highlights the clear separation of the end user workloads (desktop or server machines managed in catalogs) from the delivery groups that allocate the resources to users. This is great news for XenApp Admins because it means you can simultaneously manage and host applications and desktops from Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2008 R2 server from a single console and infrastructure. If you are familiar with XenDesktop then you can deliver Windows XP, 7 and 8 desktops as well. For anyone that requires legacy 16 or 32-bit applications, you host them on Windows XP and Windows 7 desktops. What happens when you need to deploy a newly released operating system to users? The infrastructure does not need to be upgraded, it can manage new workloads too; simply create a new master image with the new operating system and install an updated Virtual Delivery Agent and create a new catalog.

Simplified Management in Excalibur
Machine Catalog

A machine catalog is collection of machines that share a common master image, for example, all servers running Windows 2008R2 with common applications and hotfixes are stored separately from those running Windows 2012. A catalog is analogous to a XenApp worker group, except in Excalibur each worker group can have a different operating system; as the graphic above shows the operating system can include desktop operating systems normally reserved for XenDesktop deployments. . Note, if a catalog contains Remote PCs, or physical servers, then you can mix the operating systems. This is because physical machines are not linked to a provisioning technology.

If you need to apply new hotfixes, new applications, the latest VDA, or a new version of Receiver simply update the master image, click ‘Image Update’ in Studio and all the  virtual servers, or desktops that have been created by Machine Creation Services (MCS) will be updated with the changes. Supporting more is simple too, just run the ‘Add machines’ wizard to provision more servers or desktops

Delivery Groups

Delivery groups are a group of users who require access to a common set of applications or desktop resources, and require the same end user experience (policies, profiles, personal storage) across those resources. A delivery group can combine multiple catalogs, so you can deliver everything the user needs to perform their job. For example, users assigned to  the Finance delivery group can consume  Windows 7 desktops (Win 7 Catalog) and hosted-applications such as Office, SAP (Windows 2012 App Catalog); the desktop and the applications  are delivered with a consistent user experience from a single delivery group.

Defining the end user experience at the delivery group level means Admins don’t need to duplicate or maintain these settings across multiple pools of resources. Defining the end user experience in the delivery group means Admins don’t need to duplicate or maintain these settings across multiple pools of resources, and the backend resources can be changed without affecting the user experience

Example use-cases for Catalogs and Delivery Groups

Example 1 – Desktop migration project

Users in the ‘Migrate Delivery Group’ below are all using Windows XP machines from a catalog called ‘Win XP’. To migrate the users and preserve the end user experience settings to Windows 7, the Admin simply creates a new catalog containing Windows 7 desktops, adds it to the ‘Migrate Delivery Group’. Users can instantly access Win 7 desktops in Receiver, with the same personalization and policy settings as XP. Any problems and they can still log back on to Win XP, when you are ready to retire the XP machines simply remove them from the Delivery Group.

Example 2 – Mix and Matching Catalogs

In the Finance example earlier the team required a Win 7 desktop with Office, SAP and the internal HR system, suppose you need to deliver these very same applications to the Engineering Department along with specialist CAD workstations. You create a new Catalog of high spec Win 7 VMs which include the CAD software and 8 GB or RAM and two vCPUs. Next simply create the new CAD Worker Delivery group assign the Active Directory Engineering Organization Unit, set up a great HDX experience and allocate machines from the Win 7 CAD Desktop Catalog and the Catalog hosting Office, SAP and HR apps on Server 2012.

 That’s all on simplified management in Studio, stay tuned for more Excalibur blogs including one on the Monitoring and Troubleshooting with Director.