Welcome to the February edition of “What’s new in Citrix Workspace” – the blog series that offers you – our customers, partners, analysts, and industry leaders—a taste of the latest innovations from Citrix Workspace: XenApp, XenDesktop, XenMobile, and XenServer.

February is one of my favourite months. Not only just because it is the shortest, so you work a few days less days to get paid (I hope my manager does not read this), but also because of the seasonal treats that get served as part of the festivities taking place almost all over the globe — not as massive as the treats around New Years, but still something well worth the wait. This is exactly the same way I feel about the updates for February 2018; they might be small, but very rewarding especially if you’ve been waiting for them!

This month, we are proud to release XenApp and XenDesktop 7.17, which takes user experience to the next level with numerous improvements around the virtualization of graphics-intensive apps. To mention one, how does a 15% improved bandwidth utilization compared to 7.15 LTSR sound? Security buffs will welcome the ability to watermark virtual Apps and Desktop sessions as well as support for Smart Cards with Linux VDAs. The XenApp and XenDesktop Service takes Azure Managed Disks out of Tech Preview and adds a few other nice pieces to its feature set. But that’s not all! We’re also excited to announce the release of XenServer 7.4, which marks a new milestone in XenServer’s leadership of GPU virtualization support.

Let’s dive in!

Faster image updates, more authentication options and a fresh new user experience

Following our “Cloud-First” strategy, I will kick off our update festival buffet with hors d’oeuvres from the XenApp and XenDesktop Service.

Last year, in September, we offered our XenApp and XenDesktop Service customers the possibility to try out Azure Managed Disks instead of Storage Accounts for their VDAs as a Tech Preview. Now we’ve taken the feature to production, offering nearly 3x faster image updates. Read more about using Azure Managed Disks here. However, the good news does not end there! Highlighting XenServer as the best on-prem platform for XenApp and XenDesktop, you can now access the console of a VDA hosted on XenServer directly from the Monitor function of the XenApp and XenDesktop Service, without opening XenCenter. Additionally, Application usage prediction has been added to the Monitor function to help with your resource planning, by predicting the number of hosted application instances likely to be launched per Site or Delivery Group.

Workspace Experience is taking the place of the cloud-hosted StoreFront, giving you more control over the URL and the Web UI look and feel through which users access their apps and desktops. It is one piece of the solution that will help you create the digital workspace of the future with all apps, desktops and data including single sign-on.

But perhaps even more important than the fresh look and control over the UI, the Workspace Experience introduces the Tech Preview of the long-requested possibility to use federated authentication to Azure Active Directory. With this comes support for advanced multi-factor authentication, federation to different identity providers, and self-service password change and reset, all of which will be leveraged by Citrix Cloud. Go here to learn more about this brand new feature and how to configure it with your Citrix Cloud.

The Workspace Experience is enabled automatically to all new XenApp and XenDesktop Service -customers, and we will be migrating all our customers over in the near future. Read more about the Workspace Experience here.

Strengthening security and optimizing performance

Fresh from the kitchen, the brand-new XenApp and XenDesktop 7.17 release offers a rich variety of solid main courses. From security related features like Session Watermarking and Smart Card Support for Linux to further improving the user experience of graphic intensive applications, it ensures everyone’s appetite for new features is satisfied.

Enhanced security with Session Watermarking. In regulated environments where security and compliance are paramount, session watermarking provides a level of protection from unauthorized reproduction and distribution. Handled within the Thinwire graphics stack for tamper-proof visuals, a variety of data points can be displayed in the watermark including username, hostname, timestamp, and client IP address in addition to custom strings of text. It’s fully configurable via policy for the right level of control.

Simplified printing with Printer Policy Enhancements. The Citrix Universal Printer and Citrix PDF printer are great options to simplify printing in an environment. They eliminate the need to auto-create many printers while ensuring users can still print to the print device of their choice — from multiple types of endpoints. The existing default printer policy now has an option for setting the default to the generic universal or PDF printer, which is helpful when these are the preferred option for users in sessions and multiple printer objects exist.

Enhanced 3D performance with Selective H.265 Encoding with NVIDIA Hardware. H.265 is coming onto the scene as a way to deliver high-quality, 3D visuals with up to a 40% bandwidth savings compared to H.264. HDX 3D Pro sessions with compatible NVIDIA GPU hardware and H.265-capable endpoints can now leverage selective H.265 compression in hardware with NVENC. We previously introduced full-screen H.265 with the 7.16 release and now, in 7.17, it’s handled selectively for appropriate regions of a session for the best possible combination of quality and performance.

Improved efficiency by reducing graphics bandwidth. It’s always a good thing to realize new efficiencies within your current infrastructure. 7.17 delivers an average of 15% improved bandwidth savings for graphics delivery of task worker workloads when compared to 7.15 LTSR (and an even more significant savings when compared to the competition). This is achieved through the use of a new codec and these benefits are automatically realized with the latest version of Citrix Receiver.

Delivering Linux apps and desktops with optimal user experience and security capabilities. We’re constantly working on bringing forth innovative features for Linux users, which is why we’re excited to announce some awesome updates that improve security without impacting productivity. Up first, 7.17 now provides Linux Smart Card support. With Smart Card support, Linux-based end-users will now have instant, seamless and secure access to their desktops and apps.

For users who need access to graphic intensive applications, 7.17 brings an updated NVIDIA SDK for LVDA, which provides support for NVIDIA Pascal GPUs and vGPU hardware encoding. The new update also now brings Adaptive Transport support for LVDAs, which improves performance of all ICA virtual channels over challenging network conditions.

Last but not least, the latest update brings Dynamic Keyboard Layout Sync, which automatically syncs keyboard layouts from client to the server when required. A vital update for users using keyboards in other languages.

Citrix App Layering 4.9. The industry’s most comprehensive layering solution continues to get even better. The Nutanix connector now supports AHV 5.5. ShareFile download integration is included and additional general fixes and updates are available as well, including updates for Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities.

Extending our leadership in virtualized graphics capabilities: XenSever 7.4 delivers the industry’s first live migration solution for vGPU-enabled VMs, a capability not available from any other hypervisor. With GA support for live migrating NVIDIA virtual GPU (vGPU) enabled virtual machines, vGPU XenMotion can help you improve end-user experience and VM performance by enabling redistribution of VMs as hosts’ resources become strained. GPU XenMotion will be available upon release of GA supported software from NVIDIA. XenServer 7.4 also delivers GA support for AMD MxGPU technology, the world’s first hardware-based virtualized GPU solution. Check out the blog post on the XenServer 7.4 release to learn more.

Sweet temptations

Just when you think you cannot possibly consume one more bit, they roll out the dessert wagon. If you’re anything like me, just the sight of these delicacies will create a need for just a few more things. So, before I let you go here are a few sweet updates to make sure you will finish reading this blog — leading back to being satisfied patting your “mental belly.”

News on XenApp Essentials

Since its launch last April, XenApp Essentials service continues to grow. Last month at Citrix Summit 2018, we reiterated our commitment to winning together with Microsoft by announcing the availability of Citrix XenApp Essentials through the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider Channel. Now Microsoft Cloud Solution Providers (both Tier 1 & 2) are able to purchase XenApp Essentials on behalf of their customers, capitalizing on the opportunity to deliver first class service and increase their revenue opportunities. Recently Kireeti Valicherla wrote an article on how the program works, you can read about it here.

XenMobile Migration Service

To help you move from XenMobile on-prem to the cloud without re-enrollment we created a migration service that is available now! This service is free to customers with basic configurations. Read more in this blog post and go here for more information about the migration service. Contact your local Citrix sales rep, Citrix partner or SE for a free migration assessment.

Coming soon: The Citrix Ready workspace hub

We are constantly looking at how we can create innovative technologies that transform the ways we work. If you’ve been following our blog posts for the past year, you may have seen a brief glimpses of one: The Citrix Ready workspace hub. In partnership with Citrix Ready partners NComputing and ViewSonic, we took the low-cost and powerful Raspberry Pi and reimagined it into the Citrix Ready workspace hub. A device now packed with numerous features such as dual display support, Skype for Business RTME (Real Time Media Engine) integration, and the newest capability, Citrix Casting. Citrix Casting will enable seamless and secure session roaming from a mobile device to any display connected to the workspace hub. These advanced IoT edge capabilities will be available as a technical preview on March 31st, 2018. To learn more about the Citrix Ready workspace hub, check out our recent blog post, which has all the details.

Still hungry for more?

Do you still feel there is some space and the need to get up to speed on the latest Citrix Virtualization updates? If you currently run or are thinking of running XenApp or XenDesktop, you should check out the latest “What’s New with Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop Q1 2018 Update” webinar where we cover the latest features, offerings, partnerships, programs and promotions. You can watch it on demand here.

And if you’re visiting Mobile World Congress, you can come talk to us on site. We will be at booth #5D31 in Hall 5. I’ll make sure I bring some Swiss chocolates with me, so if you come up to me and say, “I read your blog”, I’ll give you’re a sweet reward for your efforts!

All “What’s New in XenApp, XenDesktop and XenServer” blog posts are brought to you by the Citrix Workspace Team. Now you can subscribe to blog posts from the team and always be up-to-date with the latest information.

As always, we welcome any feedback, questions or suggestions.

Thanks for reading my post,
Mikael Lindholm