Citrix XenDesktop 7.6 included the release of a new version of the Citrix Universal Print Server, UPS 7.6; with this release our test results showed very significant improvements in the software, including:

  • Stability at a sustained load of about 50 print jobs per minute
  • Excellent recovery from periods of stress/overload
  • Protocol efficiency optimizations (reduced chattiness) resulting in a better user experience (opening the Print dialog is about 6 times faster) and better performance over WAN connections
  • Increased protection from faulty printer drivers, including when UPS is used in conjunction with printer driver isolation

Better Documentation

Check out the new printing chapter in the Virtual Desktop Handbook for lots of information and design advice!

To accompany this release of UPS we have also improved the documentation available in the Citrix XenDesktop Handbook, with a new revised section on printing from our consultancy teams based on their field experience. Although in the XenDesktop” Handbook this advice is also relevant to those using UPS for XenApp Printing. I’d recommend reading Ed Duncan’s great blog overviewing the solutions available, here, for great insight into what UPS can do and a guide to the documentation available.

Citrix does printing solutions?

Yes, and now very well! Citrix spent many years developing enterprise printing technologies; whilst delivering cloud SaaS is becoming common, most businesses still need basic, core functionality. Hotfix UPS 7.1.100 (Q1 2014) addressed a number of stability and scalability issues:

UPS 7.6 has continued this drive for quality and we recommend those using UPS 7.1.100 also upgrade to UPS 7.6 for further enhancements.

Printing files can inflate and place a very high load on bandwidth. Transferring our expertise in compression techniques from our other products and HDX has resulted in some nice compression technology between the client and the UPS, which mean that this is genuinely a WAN suitable solution.

The Future

UPS 7.6 has been about reworking the core architectures for robustness and scale to ensure the platform is future-proof. This will provide the platform ongoing on which we can provide newer features and support for newer versions of Windows Server.  We have spent a lot of this development cycle changing our development tools, automating testing and stress testing.  I’ve blogged about why I’m particularly excited to be the Product Manager for this product.

One of our key focuses has been ensuring printer driver faults can be identified by our own test tools. Printer drivers can be wrapped in pretty strange ways and protecting our infrastructure from leaking and faulty drivers has been a key focus. I’m hoping we’ll be in a position to open our in-house tools to our partner vendors and also customers so they can also identify and isolate faulty drivers easily in the future.

I’m also currently planning our roadmap for new server OS support and new printing features.

Is UPS expensive to get?

It’s free! Citrix is the only virtualisation vendor to provide such a comprehensive solution and as part of our core product. So no dealing with third-party support nor any additional licensing costs! We’ve been analyzing the strengths of the technologies and Mayank provides an excellent overview, here, where you can get ideas on how to assess and compare printing solutions, quality, bandwidth and capacity planning.

Are these improvements available for XenDesktop 5.6, 7.x and XenApp 6.5 Users?

Yes they are! The new components of the UPS 7.6 are currently included in the main XenDesktop/XenApp 7.6 download. With hindsight this is not the most convenient place for XenApp customers to look for new components (UPSClient and UPD) and the need to download the entire download is simply inconvenient. We are working to repackage those components in a more convenient format in the future.

Update (27/Nov/2014): The components are now available for independent download (login to downloads with Citrite ID):

XenApp 6.5 Upgrade Details

There is a caveat for installation on XenApp 6.5 owing to a driver versioning mismatch associated with HRP004 (HotFix RollUp Pack 4 detailed in CTX138366). We are revising our processes to ensure such a mismatch does not occur in the future. And we aim to resolve this with a later HRP (so if you are reading this when HRP005 or higher is available, this information is not relevant and should not be applied to any HRP other than 004 without explicit advice from Citrix to do so).

  • The recommended order of installation is: HRP004 first, followed by UPS 7.6
  • The driver versioning mismatch will result in a dialogue box asking if you wish to install an older driver version when you install UPS7.6, which you should agree to do
  • The dialogue box will interrupt automatic install
  • We are working on a KB article detailing a WA for those users for whom unattended/scripted install is required (if your need is pressing please do contact Citrix Support). Update (3rd Nov 2014): A tool to avoid this issue is now available, see http://support.citrix.com/article/CTX200268

HTML5 and Chrome Receiver Printing!

We are aiming to continue to have the broadest range of printing options available for our XenDesktop and XenApp users allowing them to use the widest range of end-points and to allow people to work where they want and how. Aligned to the XenDesktop 7.6 release, we also released new receivers for HTML5 and Chrome that support local pdf. This is a smart feature whereby if you open a word document on your client, you can choose to print to our new Citrix PDF driver, this then sends the document up to the server and the PDF is sent back to your end-point over ICA and opened on your PDF viewer of choice e.g. CutePDF from where you can print to your printers of choice. It’s a really flexible generic solution which avoids the need to install and maintain local drivers on end-clients. You can read about the HTML5 receiver printing functionality, here, and about the Chrome receiver and its support for the Google Print Cloud, here. Thomas Berger covers some of the security and usability benefits associated with these printing solutions, relative to competitive solutions, in this great overview.

Other Information

  • Citrix Printing Solutions for XenApp and XenDesktop, a review by West Monroe Partners, a Citrix partner enjoy customer success with UPS
  • Details of Canon’s investment in drivers optimised for Citrix printing, here
  • Marek Dressler’s printing focused blog series from Citrix Support, a great place to keep up to date with the latest information, here
  • Independent Consultant Dave Bretty’s blog on how UPS has simplified and resolved driver management for XenApp customers is a nice read, here
  • CTX136332, advice on printer driver isolation