Experience the Future of Work with a workspace that adapts to how YOU live and work best.
I’ll be honest: when we first decided to release new features of XenApp and XenDesktop every single quarter, my bet was that this fad would quickly fade.
Boy, was I wrong!
As the Citrix innovation train continues to roll through town, people can’t get enough of it or get it soon enough. Data show that more than 2 out of every 3 customers are on a rapid upgrade cycle, adopting a release newer than 7.6, which was the last Long-term Service Release (LTSR).
This new trend signifies agility and that is a key indicator of Citrix customers embracing a “cloud first” strategy. The era of 18-to-24 month upgrade cycles is over, even for on-premises servers; customers have invested in processes to upgrade at a quarterly or half-yearly cadence to reap the benefits of the latest releases.
This behavior may be attributed, in part, to the consumerization of IT, where end-users expect the “work” space to keep up with latest technologies much like their personal devices. Another factor driving this architectural shift is how desktops, apps, mobility, and network virtualization are considered part of a larger digital workspace rather than standalone services. XenApp and XenDesktop 7.x are no longer standalone “big bang” releases, but continuous innovations within the workspace. It does not matter if the workspace is deployed on-premises or in the cloud, jumping to the current stream is easy. The modular FMA architecture makes it a breeze to plan and execute product upgrades, with minimum downtime or effort.
But most of all, staying with the latest software ensures a more enjoyable user experience and higher productivity, both for IT administrators and the people they serve. With less time spent on administration and troubleshooting, IT instead focus their energy on better ways to serve a larger population of their users, exploring more challenging use cases for remote access. Exceptional user experience is where dramatic leaps in the industry-leading HDX technology really start to shine in XenApp and XenDesktop 7.13, which was released last week.
Let’s talk about a workspace that adapts to whatever makes you most productive, for the most pleasant experience.
The Citrix workspace is delivered to millions of people everyday using our popular HDX protocol. It takes the centralized display from an app running in a cloud or datacenter, and sends it to a worker’s screen hundreds or thousands of miles away in the smartest way possible. One of the core technologies that does this, Adaptive Display, is now enhanced to automatically find the sweet spot between high server scalability and pleasant visual experience. In addition to new ways of reading the display, introduced in 7.11, the compression algorithm itself gets a dramatic performance boost in 7.13. Moreover, we rewrote the transport protocol for ICA from the ground up, so you can get things done up to 10X faster using our new Adaptive Transport. It is a touch-free configuration that applies to both LAN and WAN users, bringing the most tangible interactivity and performance benefits to users in challenging network conditions. After a successful tech preview in 7.12, it is available for both internal and external users with XenApp and XenDesktop 7.13 and NetScaler Gateway 11.1.51. For the complex 3D graphics scenarios, Citrix uniquely provides unparalleled choice in the industry — you may use any hypervisor, any workload, on any GPU platform. XenApp and XenDesktop 7.13 adds support for virtual graphics using AMD FirePro GPU cards, and expands the supported use-cases with Intel and NVIDIA cards.
Let’s look a little deeper into each of these:
Adaptive Display v2
Real-time slicing-and-dicing of the display
Citrix Thinwire has proven to be one of the most scalable and CPU-efficient screen graphics delivery protocols for standard office workloads, but it’s generally not recommended for video encoding. Previously, you would set different display compression policies for video workloads (using a bandwidth-efficient video encoding algorithm) and office workloads (without the video encoding). Adaptive Display does not encode the full-screen one way or another, instead it applies video encoding only to selected regions of the screen where motion is detected. The remaining display within the same session is automatically encoded using the high-scalability Thinwire without video encoding.
Furthermore, improvements to the protocol itself create up to 60% bandwidth saving in 7.13 compared to previous versions, as previewed in Muhammad Dawood’s blog post. This benefit is available today, without any extra configuration required.
The image below represents, conceptually, how adaptive display makes real-time decisions to apply video encoding only for the region of the screen that’s transient (green boundary), not the full-screen. Text is delivered without any compression (lossless, in blue) to avoid blur. All of this happens seamlessly, transparent to the end-user.
How to deploy
The way to deploy adaptive display is the same as before, using the graphics encoding policy. All that has changed is under the covers; the option “Use video codec when preferred” automatically applies video encoding only for the rapidly changing parts of the screen, i.e. video content. For other content in the same session, the encoding continues to be Thinwire Plus, which was significantly enhanced in the 7.6 FP3 release. In other words, once this single policy is defined, neither the administrator nor the user has to do anything else; it just works.
You need Citrix Receiver for Windows 4.5 or later or Receiver for Linux 13.4 or later toget the adaptive display benefits. It only applies to the standard VDA, as HDX 3D Pro use case continues to require highly complex visual rendering and uses full-screen video encoding.
Support for Intel Iris Pro graphics
Encoding based on the H.264 compression algorithm uses significantly less bandwidth to deliver video, and benefits greatly from extra processing power. In 7.13, you can leverage Intel Iris Pro hardware to offload H.264 video encoding and get even better video rendering with improved server scalability.
Intel H.264 acceleration is supported with both server OS and desktop OS, so the benefit applies to XenApp published apps as well. H.264 acceleration for desktop OS is already supported with NVIDIA GRID cards.
A new cloud-ready data transport
Adaptive display solves one part of the delivery puzzle by reducing the amount of data to be transferred. The next challenge is to transmit that data reliably and quickly, which can be sluggish if the network itself has latency and packet loss. Adaptive transport is a new data transport technology from Citrix that makes user sessions faster, more scalable, and improves application interactivity on both LAN and WAN. This pioneering work is fundamental to workspaces of the future, where employees must remain productive, independent of where they work from or their proximity to secured apps and data. Whether it is the expansion to a more global workforce or increasing use of mobile devices, the need for a fast, inexpensive cloud-ready protocol to access corporate apps is here and now.
Using a new, proprietary Enlightened Data Transport (EDT) protocol based on UDP, Adaptive Transport improves data throughput for all ICA virtual channels including Thinwire display remoting, file transfer (Client Drive Mapping), printing, multimedia redirection and others. With Adaptive Transport, ICA virtual channels deliver the most interactive performance on challenging long-haul WAN and Internet connections. In our tests, we saw uninterrupted interactivity and up to 10X faster performance on typical cloud and mobile networks that had up to 200ms latency and 1 or 2% packet loss.
How to deploy
Enabling this technology is one simple step: using Citrix Studio or group policy editor, enable the Citrix policy setting, HDX Adaptive Transport. When you set it to “Preferred”, adaptive transport over EDT is used when possible, with fallback to TCP. No additional optimization is required to be configured for LAN and WAN conditions. It is disabled (set to OFF) by default, so administrators may choose their own roll-out schedule.
In Director, Session Details > Connection Type displays the policy settings. Look for Connection type HDX. If the protocol is UDP, it means EDT is active for the session. If the protocol is TCP, the session is in fallback or default mode. If the Connection type is RDP, ICA is not in use and the protocol is n/a.
On the endpoint, people need Citrix Receiver for Windows 4.6 or later, Receiver for Mac 12.5 or later, or Receiver 7.2 for iOS or later to get the adaptive transport benefits. UDP ports 1494 and 2598 must be enabled on any internal firewalls, as well as UDP 443 on external firewalls if using NetScaler. External secure access is supported using DTLS encryption in NetScaler Gateway 11.1.51 and later.
NetScaler Unified Gateway and NetScaler Gateway on Azure will support adaptive transport in a future release.
Maximum choice and best performance with HDX 3D Pro
New shared GPU hardware: AMD MxGPU support
In addition to existing support for NVIDIA GRID and Intel Iris Pro cards, use HDX 3D Pro graphics acceleration technologies with AMD multi-user GPU (MxGPU) on the AMD FirePro S-series server cards. 7.13 includes support for professional graphics requirements such as multiple monitors, console blanking, custom resolution, and high frame rate for multiple virtual desktops sharing a single GPU card. Dedicated GPU virtualization is supported on all platforms, including vSphere, Hyper-V and XenServer. Shared GPU (MxGPU) is supported on VMware vSphere. Both XenApp and XenDesktop leverage AMD for high end graphics apps.
The use of this feature requires updated drivers from AMD, which will be released shortly.
Freedom to choose your own 3D solution
HDX 3D Pro is the only remote graphics technology in the industry that facilitates an objective evaluation by customers of the graphics solution that best meets their price and performance needs. Citrix supports all three hypervisors, all three GPU platforms, has the most comprehensive server and peripheral compatibility for high-end graphics, and apps from both Windows and Linux delivered securely using a single pane-of-glass.
Late last year, Microsoft Hyper-V and Azure NV-series virtual machines added support for NVIDIA GRID. You can now use Microsoft platforms to deliver XenApp and XenDesktop 3D apps, in addition to XenServer that we’ve supported since 2012, and VMware vSphere, that joined the party in 2014. As any new platform become more capable, the corresponding functionality will become available in Citrix HDX 3D Pro.
Is there more?
Yes, of course. This release also brings expanded USB tablet support for server-OS sessions, support for Linux seamless published apps, improvements to HTML5 video redirection, and other performance optimizations under the hood. Be sure to catch up on all the news from our blogs and webinars, using the links below. Also, check out the online Reviewer’s Guide and try the latest XenApp & XenDesktop for FREE at your own convenience
- What’s New in XenApp and XenDesktop 7.13
- What’s New in XenServer 7.1
- On-demand webinar for XenApp and XenDesktop 7.13
- Product documentation for HDX in 7.13
- Fast and free XenApp trial on Microsoft Azure marketplace
- Download XenApp and XenDesktop and try it free for 90 days
- Reviewer’s Guide to evaluate XenApp and XenDesktop
As always, feel free to continue this conversation in comments or follow me on Twitter Follow @mayunkj