Posting on behalf of Steve Shah (

Working vs. Working Well

I’m a big fan of solutions. It’s the right way of putting together technology so that it solves a customer’s problem. Having spent the first half of my career as a customer of technology, I can tell you that the key to any solution is thinking through a holistic answer. That’s the difference between a solution that “works” vs. a solution that “works well”.

Assembling a holistic solution for virtual apps and desktops has been a hallmark of Citrix. With the XenDesktop and XenApp teams working hand in hand, (often times at the source code level) with the NetScaler team we’ve been able to bring a complete solution that takes into account the subtleties of a successful deployment.

Here are five things that make NetScaler, XenDesktop and XenApp hit the mark of “working well”:

1. TCP Optimizations

The ICA protocol has been designed for optimal end-user experience so little changes to the application screen are quickly delivered. By having optimized the protocol in this way, the network behavior can be challenging for infrastructure as they generate additional overhead for processing. The NetScaler, XenDesktop and XenAppteams work closely to review the protocol and build a configuration profile that makes network processing much more efficient. As the ICA protocol evolves, the teams reunite and adjust the configuration profile as needed.

2. HDX Insight

When end-users call the helpdesk because they are receiving a sub-optimal end-user experience, figuring out what’s happening on the network is a key troubleshooting technique. HDX Insight, a joint development that ported the source code for the HDX stack to NetScaler, allows the administrator to get a clear view of what is happening from the application to the user to the packet. No other remote access tool has this level of visibility into virtual apps and desktops. Administrators can quickly troubleshoot and end-users can quickly become productive again.

HDX Insight further extends that data and allows administrators to see patterns over extended periods of time to gain insights into their user’s and network’s behavior. Want to understand application usage trends? Start with HDX Insight and work from there.

3. Dashboard Integration with Citrix Director Console

As the XenDesktop, XenApp and NetScaler teams went through countless customer interviews to understand how best to build HDX Insight, our own insight was that first level helpdesk administrators didn’t have access to the NetScaler. So we made the right level of data generated by the NetScaler visible in the Citrix Director console. By combining the data into one easily understood dashboard, first level helpdesk administrators can quickly triage a customer call without escalating.

4. Application Firewall Security for Web Interface and StoreFront

As much as we recommend that our customers upgrade Web Interface and StoreFront to keep up with the latest security patches, the reality is that IT doesn’t always have time to do it. To help, the NetScaler security team worked with XenDesktop and XenApp to develop an easily deployed template that automatically configures our Application Firewall to protect older versions of Web Interface and StoreFront from hackers trying sophisticated “SQL Injection” attacks amongst others.

5. Simplified Configuration for XenDesktop and XenApp

The NetScaler has a simple switch that allows it to be configured as an remote access front-end for XenDesktop where it only needs the minimum information necessary to be setup. All other configuration items are hidden away thereby greatly simplifying the end-to-end configuration, especially for XenDesktop and XenApp administrators that may not have strong networking backgrounds.  Another great example of holistic thinking.

So when you hear the words “networking”, “solution” and “virtual apps and desktops” used together, remember that it isn’t just about having some slickmarketing whitepaper.  At Citrix, we raise the bar driving our NetScaler, XenDesktop and XenApp teams to work closely on an ongoing basis on to understand what is important to our customers. The result is the difference between “working” vs. “working well”.