In the sixth entry of our Getting Ready for Windows Server 2016 blog series, we are going to take a look at the Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Storage Spaces Direct and how Citrix XenApp not only “just works” on this cost-saving base capability, but can also add additional value.

Why it matters

The rise of Converged and Hyper-Converged Infrastructure solutions presents an array of cost and performance options to be considered when designing next generation data centers and clouds. Several vendors—many of them Citrix partners—such as, Atlantis Computing, Dell, HPE, Nutanix, and others, are bringing more innovation and lower costs to the market every day. With the introduction of Windows Server 2012, Microsoft also introduced Software Defined Storage (SDS) functionality with Storage Spaces and SMB 3.0. Now with Windows Server 2016, Microsoft has built upon these concepts to offer Storage Spaces Direct.

The ability to leverage existing hardware, and more specifically, the locally attached storage in existing servers, can be very appealing to those wanting to wade into Converged or Hyper-Converged Infrastructure designs. For my investigations in this Getting Ready for Windows Server 2016 blog series Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) is a welcomed capability that enables me to build a resilient Microsoft S2D HCI system on a few HPE DL380 G9 servers in our Technical Marketing labs here at Citrix. This solution is the base I will be using for the multi-server investigations over the next few months as we move across the Microsoft and Citrix product stack.

If you are interested in exploring Storage Spaces Direct, I would recommend the following posts from the Microsoft team.

  • Cosmos Darwin provides an excellent overview of the why and how in this post
  • Steven Ekrin provides a great walk-through on how to create a Hyper-Converged solution. His post contains several PowerShell examples that will help you get up and running

As an alternative method to configure a group of Hyper-V hosts, System Center 2016 makes the creation of an S2D based Hyper-V Cluster relatively easy with just a couple of clicks.

How Citrix can leverage it

Probably the easiest thing to realize when running Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop on Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct are the standard advantages that Hyper-Converged Infrastructure brings to the design and horizontal scale-out of VDI implementations.

Another advantage to using Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct as part of the underlying infrastructure for XenApp and XenDesktop is the inherent high-availability of building critical Citrix components like the Desktop Delivery Controllers, StoreFront Servers, and NetScaler VPX instances within in SCVMM Availability Groups on Storage Spaces Clustered Shared Volumes. I will provide examples of these configurations in a later blog post.

This Technet post on the Project Kepler 47 PoC, demonstrated at Microsoft Ignite back in October 2016, explains a low-cost HA solution with real potential for some mission critical on-premises SMB and Remote Office/Branch Office (ROBO) use cases. Solutions like Kepler 47 can serve as Citrix Cloud Resource locations for ROBO deployments in the mid-market.

In addition to all of the valuable extensions that Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop bring to Microsoft RDS and VDI – Citrix Provisioning Services can also provide value to any VM workloads being deployed in a Microsoft S2D environment by simplifying life-cycle management of VM images.

Citrix Machine Creation Services provides added value to S2D by simplifying the deployment of Citrix workers across multiple infrastructures and clouds. The ability to deploy VDI workloads to both System Center Virtual Machine Manager and Microsoft Azure enables a simplified provisioning workflow for those businesses looking to build on a Microsoft Hybrid cloud.

That’s it for this week. My next post in this series will give an overview of some of the Security features provided in the Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V and what to expect when deploying Citrix XenApp with those features enabled.

If you are new to the “Getting Ready for Windows Server 2016” series you can check out my other posts here.

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