If you are like me, I am sure you have been avidly following this series, in which the Citrix engineering team has been talking about some of the upcoming new capabilities that new Flexcast Management Architecture (FMA) provides to XenApp and XenDesktop.

Today, I’ll cover another exciting new feature, the Citrix Connector 7.5 for System Center Configuration Manager.

Citrix already has a XenApp6.5 Connector for System Center Configuration Manager; however, this was designed for the IMA based architecture available in 6.5. With the shift to FMA we needed to build a whole new connector that not only gives us connector feature parity between XenApp 6.5 and XenApp 7.5 but that also extends The Connector to cover XenDesktop 7.5 scenarios too.

Use Case

A large number of Citrix customers already use Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager to manage access to applications and desktops on physical PCs. However, today most of these customers have not extended the use of Configuration Manager to their Citrix environments. This leads to duplication of effort, gaps in processes and increased cost. The Connector is designed to bridge this gap and allow the unification of day-to-day operations across both physical and virtual environments, providing a single place where a user’s access to all applications can be defined and managed. The Connector enables an administrator to use Configuration Manager to:

  • Synchronize XenDesktop Catalog & Delivery structures within Configuration Manager
  • Deploy software to XenApp 7.5 and XenDesktop 7.5 catalogs
  • Leverage MSI and App-V applications already defined in Configuration Manager
  • Deploy applications to both MCS and PVS managed catalogs through Configuration Manager
  • Report application deployment success and failure
  • Publish applications to StoreFront and Receiver
  • Deploy HDX delivered applications to Managed PCs
  • Work side-by-side with the XenApp 6.5 Connector

Deploying Software

The goal of The Connector is to allow administrators to use Configuration Manager to deploy software to Citrix environments in exactly the way they would for physical environments.  This is done by targeting software at device and user collections in EXACTLY the same way as for Citrix Device Collections. If you are interested in the general process please look here. The rest of this blog will cover The Connector extensions to Configuration Manager that enable this capability and make it simple.

Synchronization of Catalogs and Delivery Groups

If we are to use Configuration Manager to manage Citrix environments, we first need to help Configuration Manager to understand the Citrix Environment. To do this we synchronize several elements from XenDesktop7.5 and XenApp 7.5 into Configuration Manager.

  • Citrix Catalogs are synchronized into Configuration Manager as Device Collections
  • Citrix Delivery Groups are synchronized into Configuration Manager as User Collections

The image below shows an example XenDesktop hierarchy that has been synchronized into Configuration Manager.

Synchronized Catalogs & Delivery Groups

Note you see both XenApp Farms (IMA connector) and Citrix Sites that include both XenApp 7.5 and XenDesktop 7.5 Sites (FMA connector) because in this example we installed both connectors side-by-side.

Machine Creation Services (MCS) / Provisioning Services (PVS) Compatibility

Historically, deploying applications using a tool like Configuration Manager to MCS and PVS provisioned catalogs has been fraught with issues. Because the clones in these catalogs are read only customers may encounter the following challenges:

  1. Any software or updates deployed to each clone will be lost at logoff when the machine is reset
  2. Software and updates need to get successfully deployed to a master image that can then be used to update the device
  3. Software inventory and application deployment status for clone machines needs to get correctly recorded in Configuration Manager
  4. The Configuration Manager administrator needs a common way to deploy apps across physical and virtual machines

To address these things Citrix has done the following:

First, we block the deployment of applications to stateless clones. This prevents boot storms and infinite reboot loops caused by continuous deployment of software that gets ‘thrown away’.

Second, we have introduced the concept of an ‘Update Device’, which is a dedicated VM that is associated with the Citrix catalog and has the sole purpose of receiving applications and updates. This VM does not service user logons.

To use this VM the administrator must:

  1. Manually create an additional VM per catalog that contains a copy of the master disk used to create the catalog
  2. Designate the VM as the Update Device in Configuration Manager

Below you can see the extension to Configuration Manager we have created to designate the Update Device.

 

Once this is done, the day-to-day administrator can target Citrix Device Collections as they would any other device collection. When they want a catalog of machines to get updates, they update the catalog by using the consoles for Citrix Studio (for MCS) or Provisioning Services.

Creating Publications

We have provided a simple, wizard driven mechanism to enable administrators to create publications through the Configuration Manager console. There are smarts built-in to ensure that these publications only appear in Receiver once the underlying MSI or App-V applications have been successfully deployed to one or more of the XenApp or XenDesktop workers. This prevents inactive icons from appearing in Receiver.

 Published Applications

The image above shows the publishing nodes for both XenApp Publications (IMA connector) and Citrix Publications that includes both XenApp 7.5 and XenDesktop 7.5 publications (FMA connector) because in this example we installed both connectors side-by-side.

Deploying HDX Applications to Managed PCs

The introduction of the new Application Model in Configuration Manager enables administrators to create a single application definition that defines the Deployment Types (DT) – MSI, App-V, Windows Store, etc.  that are available.  They can then set policies (global conditions) to determine which DT is used to deploy the application to Managed PCs (Domain Joined PCs managed by Configuration Manager). Citrix has created  DTs for both our FMA and IMA based products that can be used to deliver HDX applications.

Ok that sounds good, but what does it mean? If you take a look at the image below it shows that Adobe Reader has 4 different DTs, including two Citrix DTs. When a Configuration Manager client evaluates which application delivery type is to be used, it processes the list from top to bottom and chooses the first DT that meets the policy requirements. So in this example, Adobe Reader would be deployed using Citrix XenDesktop 7.5. However if the administrator wanted to change this, they could set a global condition. For example, they could set the global condition “if not users primary PC” on the two Citrix DTs.  As a result, if a user logs on to a shared kiosk machine, the Adobe Reader icon on the desktop launches an HDX version of Adobe. However, if the user logs on to their primary PC, the Adobe Reader icon on the desktop launches an App-V installed version of Adobe Reader.

This provides a super powerful way on managed PCs to decide what delivery mechanism is used for any given application.

 Citrix DT Extensions

Calling all Synergy attendees

If you are attending Synergy, please stop by our booth to see a live demonstration, make suggestions, or just ask some questions. We will also have a Self-Paced Lab at Synergy if you want to go hands-on and play with this new FMA version of Connector.