Remember Ralphie Parker? He was the kid from the movie “A Christmas Story.”
Remember his eye-twinkling obsession with convincing everyone that he deserved an “official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle” as his Christmas present? (You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”)
But I digress. I can totally identify with his wide-eyed wonder at such a wonderfully complex piece of kit (at least for a nine-year-old in the 1950s).
As a technologist, Windows Server 2016 and all it promises present the same sense of wonder and opportunity—an opportunity to build powerfully flexible, secure app and desktop delivery solutions that provide a great user experience beyond what we have done before. Exploring these opportunities is the adventure we are on in this “Getting Ready for Windows Server 2016” blog series.
Well, the final bits for Windows Server 2016 are finally here, with day-one support from Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.11! For a quick overview of what’s new in our 7.11 release, please read Allen Furmanski’s Blog post XenApp and XenDesktop 7.11 is Here! If you are wondering exactly “What does Day 1 Support for Windows Server 2016 really mean?” You might want to check out this illuminating post by our very own Sean Donahue.
As I promised I would in my last post, this time, I want to describe a slightly larger system I am in the process of building, as I explore the different capabilities within the Microsoft Server OS, and how Citrix is extending—or may extend over time—those capabilities with our core offerings.
Here is a graphic of the current build (it will evolve as we move into more detail):
This week, we are still on a single physical server Hyper-V host, but it is no longer a laptop. I am now building on a beefy Dual Processor HP Proliant DL380 G9 with:
- Dual Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5-2687W v3 @ 3.10GHz, 10 Core, CPUs
- UEFI version 2.3.1
- Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0
- 256 GB RAM
- 2 X 10Gbpe NICs
- 4 X 1Gbpe NICs
- An NVidia K2 GPU
- …and roughly 4TB of storage configured as HBA at the hardware layer.
The physical storage configuration is a requirement as we move forward to multiple physical servers acting as a Storage Spaces Direct cluster. The storage design is merely an extension of the one we have today and will show up later in this series.
Right now, our single bare metal host is running the 180-day evaluation release of Microsoft Windows Server 2016 DataCenter Edition which was announced on September 26, at Microsoft Ignite. I have installed the Hyper-V and Failover Cluster roles.
The Hyper-V Host is configured with 3 Virtual Switches:
- Management vSwitch: This virtual switch is connected to a single 1Gbpe Physical NIC for now. It is used for all management tasks, and at this stage much of the basic connectivity between our VMs.
- Storage vSwitch: This virtual switch is connected to a Physical 10Gbpe NIC and enables a 10Gbpe connection across all of the physical servers that will participate in the Storage Spaces Direct Storage Bus once I have created the Hyper-Converged Infrastructure version of this lab environment.
- Client vSwitch: This virtual switch is connected to our second 10 Gbpe Physical NIC and will be used for any larger scale client connection and performance comparisons I may do in future investigations.
The following Windows Server 2016 Features are currently deployed:
Storage Spaces Direct (S2D): In the configuration we are showing today a Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) cluster is built in 4 virtual machines that are exposed to the environment as a Scale-Out-FileServer (SoFS). This SoFS is used as the store for Hyper-V Virtual Machines in one share, and our user profiles and user data are in a separate share.
Discreet Device Assignment (DDA): We are using 2016 Hyper-V DDA to expose an NVidia K2 GPU directly to two XenApp Server Virtual Machines. Something very similar to the GPU Pass-through functionality that has been in Citrix XenServer for quite some time. On 2016 Hyper-V these XenApp Servers will be used to enable multiple user sessions to share the GPU, which increases density on the XenApp servers by offloading graphics rendering from the CPU.
If you would like more detail regarding the installation and basic configuration of the XenApp Delivery Controller VM and the XenApp Session Host VMs, please review my previous post in this series: Get Up and Running with XenDesktop 7.9 Apps & Desktops in a Snap! It provides a good overview of our 7.8 and 7.9 installation and configuration steps, XenApp and XenDesktop 7.11 is equally simple.
If you are interested in following along with your own environment you can download a 180-day Evaluation of Windows Server 2016 from this link: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/cloud-platform/windows-server
You can download a Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.11 Evaluation from this link: https://www.citrix.com/products/xenapp-xendesktop/get-started.html
Note: The following section represents my experiments; it is not a commitment of Citrix product feature availability or supportability of a particular class of capabilities.
You may notice that one of the XenApp VMs has a yellow “Mod” tag in the graphic. This is a new system I am playing with as I dive deeper into my “just one techie and his lab” investigations of Microsoft’s exciting new security features, like Secure Boot, Virtual TPM, Shielded VMs, DeviceGuard and CredentialGuard.
This particular set of new Microsoft features is not supported in a currently available XenApp release. We have to leave that to product management and our release teams to communicate at some later and appropriate time. As stated at the beginning of this blog series, I am investigating potentials (and at times adding “modified and unreleased” XenApp code to facilitate those investigations), so stay tuned for what I find while poking around. I promise to share what I can, when I can.
That wraps it up for this time. In my next post we will be scaling out to multiple Hyper-V host servers, getting into more detail on Storage Spaces Direct and Discreet Device Assignment configuration steps, and maybe even a couple of more interesting areas. If I am lucky like Ralphie Parker, I may even avoid shooting my eye out.