Installation and Configuration of Citrix XenApp & XenDesktop 7.8 AppDisks and AppDNA for a Basic Proof of Concept

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I am really excited to see Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.8 has released to web! With this release, there are too many exciting new features to detail out here, instead just take a look at my buddy Thomas Poppelgaard’s detailed list here. I’ve summarized some of the components I’m most excited about below…

What’s New in 7.8 (More details…):

  • AppDisks has finally shipped!  Woohoo!! Full integration in Studio for AppDNA and AppDisks.  More details…
  • Enhanced support for Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V)! Now there is no longer a dependency on the management and publishing servers in studio. Simply point Studio to your SMB shares where your App-V packages live, and voila! More details…
  • Applications node in Studio! Publishing applications to multiple delivery groups.  Who would have thought that would be needed (IMA to FMA product gap). More details…
  • Call Home – Citrix Call Home performs periodic collections of your system and product configuration, plus performance, error, and other information. This information is sent to Citrix Insight Services for proactive analysis and resolution. More details…
  • Framehawk support for HDX 3D Pro VDI. HDX 3D Pro support for the Framehawk virtual channel is extended from XenApp to XenDesktop VDI. This gives users greater flexibility to view large CAD models while on the move on a corporate or public wireless network, or working from an offshore location over a high latency connection. For more information on Framehawk, see Framehawk virtual channel.  This is huge for global manufacturing and AEC!
  • You can read more about the new features of 7.8, and those I didn’t mention, here…

This release of XenApp and XenDesktop has brought long awaited features, and has tremendous promise for existing Citrix customers. Whether you’re a fan of VMware App Volumes, FSLogix, LiquidwareLabs, Unidesk, (or others?) it’s safe to say the whole industry is embracing layering with open arms! Citrix has just lowered the barrier to entry for their existing customers by democratizing their newly developed layering tech.

In case you’ve been wondering, the AppDisks technology is available in every edition of XenApp and XenDesktop to customers with current renewals (Subscription Advantage or Software Maintenance). The Platinum edition adds more value by enabling you to gain deep AppDNA insight into the AppDisks layers. In this blog post, I’m going to go through a basic installation and configuration of XenApp & XenDesktop 7.8 for AppDisks and AppDNA to show a basic Proof of Concept environment. Let’s get started!

For this basic POC environment, I’ve built out four systems:

  • XenApp/XenDesktop 7.8 Delivery Controller (All components on a single server)
  • XenApp/XenDesktop 7.8 AppDNA Server (with local SQL Database)
  • XenDesktop VDI Master running Windows 10 and 7.8 VDA
  • XenApp Worker Server Master running Windows Server 2016 and 7.8 VDA

Installation and Configuration of the XenApp/XenDesktop 7.8 Delivery Controller

From the Delivery Controller, mount the ISO and run AutoSelect.exe:

Next to XenDesktop click Start:

Click Delivery Controller:

Click Yes:

Accept the license agreement and click Next:

Leave all defaults and click Next:

Leave all defaults and click Next:

Leave all defaults and click Next:

Click Install:

After a couple minutes, click Finish:

Click Deliver applications and desktops to your users:

Name the site and click Next:

Leave defaults and click Next:

For the POC, we’ll use the 30-day trial license:

We’ll setup the machine connections later:

Notice the two new features added to the setup wizard. We’ll add these features at a later time once the AppDNA server is configured. For now, leave both unchecked and click Next:

Review the Summary and click Finish:

Once setup, we can review all the new features and functions on the left navigation of Studio! Pretty cool.

We’ll come back to finalize the XenDesktop site setup in a couple more steps. Let’s move on to configure the AppDNA server components on a dedicated AppDNA POC server.

Installation and Configuration of AppDNA 7.8

On the AppDNA server, we need to install .Net Framework 3.5 and Microsoft SQL Standard (or better). While Express is technically supported, I’ve found that the database limit is reached fairly quickly after analyzing just a couple packages or layers for AppDisks. Therefore, I recommend a proper SQL Instance. Once SQL is installed, we can launch the AppDNA installer:

Click Next:

Accept the license agreement and click Next:

Leave ‘Complete’ selected and click Next:

Click Next:

Click Install:

Click Yes:

Once installed, click Finish:

Click Yes:

Click Enable:

Click Next:

Leave defaults (or adjust as required) and click Next:

Select ‘Use these credentials’ and specify a service account. For my environment, I had created a service account and added this account as a Local Administrator on the AppDNA server.

For the POC, we’ll run in trial mode:

Click Next:

Click Next:

Check Configure:

After a couple minutes, click Close:

Integrating the XenApp/XenDesktop 7.8 Controller(s) with AppDNA:

At this point we are ready to integrate Studio with the AppDNA server. If we navigate back to the Delivery Controller, we can go to the AppDNA configuration section and click Create AppDNA Configuration:

Enter the connection details. Most of this information can be found on the Summary screen after AppDNA was installed. If you didn’t change the credentials in AppDNA, you can use the AppDNA default, which is: Username: administrator | Password: apps3cur3. Click Save:

Once successfully connected, the Studio console will show ‘Test Connection: Passed’ for the AppDNA configuration:

Creating a Windows 10 Master VM and Catalog for AppDisks Creation Process:

At this stage we can go ahead and create a Machine Catalog and Delivery Group to start creating AppDisks. To expedite this process, I have a Windows 10 (64-bit) Master gold image that I will use to create my MCS catalogs. This Master VM is fully patched and has a couple base image applications such as: Adobe AIR, Flash, Reader, Shockwave, Microsoft Office 2013, and Silverlight. I’ll install the XenDesktop 7.8 VDA by mounting the ISO and walking through the setup.

Before I do, it’s imperative that I ensure the Microsoft Security Hotfixes mentioned in CTX205398 have not been applied. While this CTX article hasn’t been updated to mention 7.8, I double checked the Fixed Issues section of the 7.8 release notes, and I’m fairly confident the Microsoft security hotfix will break XenDesktop 7.8 VDA as it did with previous VDA versions. Also, it doesn’t look like there’s a CTX patch for 7.8 as of yet. I have not yet tested the CTX patches mentioned in the article as they refer to specific VDA versions. Further testing will validate whether or not a CTX patch is required.

With the Microsoft security hotfix manually removed and Windows Updates disabled, I’ll launch setup to install the 7.8 VDA:

Select Virtual Delivery Agent for Windows Desktop OS:

Create Master Image:

Standard VDA:

Deselect (or leave selected) Citrix Receiver and click Next:

Add the appropriate Delivery Controllers:

Note the new Framehawk and App-V features. Leave all defaults and click Next:

Click Next:

Click Install:

After a couple minutes, click Finish to restart and finalize the installation:

Installing and Configuring XenApp/XenDesktop 7.8 VDA on Windows Server 2016 TP4 (Technology Preview!)

Along with the XenApp/XenDesktop 7.8 installation media being released to web, there was a new Technology Preview released for evaluation of XenApp on Windows Server 2016 Tech Preview 4. Read more… Interestingly, the download for this Tech Preview is the same as the XenApp/XenDesktop 7.8 installation media. Thus, while we’re evaluating AppDNA and AppDisks, we can also use this POC environment to evaluate Windows Server 2016 TP4. To do this, I will simply install the VDA on a Master VM, and create a Catalog and Delivery Group for Windows Server 2016 TP4. More to come on that later, for now, here’s the VDA installation process…

From my Windows Server 2016 Tech Preview 4 system, I’ll launch the XenApp/XenDesktop 7.8 installation media and select Start next to XenDesktop:

I’ll select Virtual Delivery Agent for Windows Server OS:

Select Create a Master Image and click Next:

Deselect (or leave selected) Citrix Receiver and click Next:

Add the appropriate Delivery Controllers:

Again, note the new Framehawk and App-V features. Leave all defaults and click Next:

Click Next:

Click Install:

Click Close to reboot the server to proceed with installation:

After a reboot, re-mount the ISO and navigate to the base folder to resume the installation. Click Select Folder:

After several more minutes, the installation is complete. There you have it! XenApp 7.8 VDA installed on a Windows Server 2016 Tech Preview 4 Master VM! I love it…

Prepping the Environment and Catalogs

Next, we’ll do some work to prepare a preparation machine. To do this, we need a catalog and delivery group for the AppDisks layering piece. To do this, I’ll create a Hypervisor hosting connection in Studio. In my environment, I’m using vSphere 5.5, but it should be noted that XenServer is also supported. These are the only two hypervisors supported at this time.

The setup process for the hypervisor connection is very similar to previous versions, but I noticed that when connecting to vSphere, there’s a much easier method for getting self-signed certificates installed. Check this out!

Wow, I really could have used that for the last three years of showing engineers how to import into the Trusted People certificate store on each delivery controller. J

Once the hosting connection is setup, we can create an MCS catalog for AppDisks layers:

Once the Hosting connection has been created, go to Machine Catalogs and click Create Machine Catalog:

Click Next:

Select Desktop OS and click Next:

Leave defaults and click Next:

Select Random:

I’ll select my Windows 10 Master VM:

For now I’ll create 5 VMs:

I’ll select the appropriate OU and naming convention:

I’ll name and provide a description:

After a couple minutes, the new catalog is ready to go:

Creating the First AppDisk

In the AppDisks section, select Create AppDisk:

Click Next:

I’ll select Create a new AppDisk (custom, 5GB):

Select the radio button and click Next:

Name the AppDisk:

Watch the progress bar while the AppDisk is being created:

This is also how you find out which VM the AppDisk was attached to for the installation process. In the bottom details section, there’s a field called Machine Name that lists the VM that will be used for installing the applications to the AppDisk. RDP or Console to this system to continue with the installation process (once Studio indicates it is ready):

From the console or RDP, the installation process for the application should be identical to installing into a gold image or PVS vDisk. Just install the application the way you normally would. In my case, I’ll be installing both the vSphere 5.5 and vSphere 6.0 clients to ensure compatibility regardless of the vCenter version I connect to. In the case of the vSphere client, there’s also a .NET 3.5 dependency, so it’s a good test application for validating functionality of AppDisks and AppDNA. Installation of multiple applications into a single AppDisk works without a problem in most cases. I’ll go ahead and install all three packages normally (.NET 3.5, vSphere 5.5 Client, and vSphere 6.0 client):

Inspecting Programs and Features post-installation, I can see the base image applications still installed, along with the two new vSphere clients:

No need to shutdown or reboot the Installation Machine at this time, Citrix will take care of rebooting/powering off in the next steps.

Next, we’ll go back into Studio and right click the AppDisk to Seal AppDisk:

Click Yes to seal the AppDisk:

The Delivery Controller will handle all the reboots and finalization processes needed to package up the AppDisk:

Much like before, the progress bar will indicate status on the AppDisk sealing process:

The sealing and AppDNA inspection process can take some time. While that’s progressing, we can complete some other tasks in Studio.

Next, we’ll create a Delivery Group for the Windows 10 MCS VMs. On the Delivery Groups section, click Create Delivery Group:

Click Next:

Select the number of machines, and click Next:

We’ll add the AppDisks later, for now just click Next:

Restrict the delivery group to an Active Directory security group:

We can publish applications at a later time, just click Next for now:

Next, we’ll publish a desktop to the Domain Users group:

Name the delivery group and click Finish:

We now have a Delivery Group created that we can assign AppDisks to. Once the AppDisk shows ready, we’ll click Manage AppDisks on the right navigation (or right click the delivery group):

Add the AppDisk(s) as appropriate:

Since this is just a POC, I’ll push the change immediately:

Click Finish:

This process will fire off a workflow to AppDNA to analyze the AppDisks against the delivery group and report back with an application compatibility report:

While this process is running, you can open the AppDNA console on the AppDNA server and review the active tasks. You should see a task for AppDisks creation (or something similar):

Once the compatibility tests have been performed, a compatibility report will be generated showing you all of the potential risks or concerns with the AppDisks and Delivery Groups.

Before we wrap up, I’ll just validate that everything is working for my Windows Server 2016 TP4 VDA. To do this, I’ll follow a similar process to create a catalog and delivery group for XenApp (Server OS).

Here’s the Catalog:

And here’s the Delivery Group:

We can also review the WS 2016 TP4 Published Applications that I just selected from the Applications section:

In order to validate functionality from an HTML5 compliant browser, I’ll need to create a basic Citrix policy that Allows WebSockets Connections (prohibited by default). I’ll apply this to all objects in site:

Then, I’ll enable HTML5 in StoreFront, which is a little more buried than previous versions. Under Citrix StoreFront, select Stores, select Manage Receiver for Web Sites on the right action pane:

Click Configure:

On the Deploy Citrix Receiver section, click the drop-down to see the available options. We’ll select ‘Use Receiver for HTML5 if local Receiver is unavailable:

Select the desired options for HTML5/Receiver Client failback policies:

Click OK and Close to save the new StoreFront configuration. Now, when we use a browser to navigate to StoreFront, we see the option to Use light version:

I’ll authenticate to see the available Apps and Desktops:

We can now see the applicable Desktops:

And applicable Apps:


Launching a published app (Wordpad), we can see that XenApp on Windows Server 2016 TP4 works pretty good with this Tech Preview!

Same of course with the Server published desktop for 2016 TP4:

Last but certainly not least, our Windows 10 non-persistent MCS pool of desktops with the vSphere Client AppDisks attached:

Now that AppDisks has released to all Citrix customers with current renewals, I’m really excited to keep my hands dirty to see where we can break it and find its strengths and weaknesses. Even more so perhaps, I’m excited for Windows Server 2016 release later this year, to see what kind of interesting projects are in store for our customers. I was very impressed to see Citrix was able to get these VDA binaries to ship with XA/XD 7.8. This is great news and perfect timing to stay ahead of Microsoft.

As always, if you have questions, comments, or simply want to leave feedback, please feel free to do so below! Otherwise, you can reach out on LinkedIn or Twitter to connect. In the meantime, happy layering!



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  1. MatheenMatheen03-01-2016

    Hi Andrew
    Thanks for detailed explanation. I understand Appdisk is not supported on Hyper-v. We have Citrix XD7.6/PVS 7.6 on Hyper-v 2012 backend.
    If we put Xenserver on a host and create AppDisk. Can this AppDisk be used to stream to Target devices running on Hyper-v host?

  2. johnjohn02-29-2016

    Thank Dane!
    Is it possible to insert App-V packages into the AppDisk to keep the benefit of app isolation provided by App-V?

  3. RayRay02-26-2016

    Where is the 5gb coming from when you created your appdisk?
    You made your master image that was 80Gb, Then you said install the apps like you would normally do on a master image. ( what is the option on appdisk that states install apps?)

    • Andrew morganAndrew morgan02-27-2016

      The 3gb you are referring to, is the default, minimum size of an appdisk.

  4. NawirNawir02-25-2016

    Thanks for great step by step article
    I have few questions in my mind
    1. Citrix AppDisk is new
    How stable is that compare to VMware AppVolume
    Which one easier to manage between them
    2. MCS more IO intensive compare to PVS.
    Which one is easier to manage in terms of updating or controlling apps.
    MCS+AppDisk or PVS+AppDisk


    • Andrew morganAndrew morgan02-27-2016

      It’s not comparable, it’s a 1.0. App volumes is streaks ahead.

      PVS and MCS from a manageability point of view are the same with AppDisk. MCS slightly easier, if anything just for being baked into the console.

  5. Paul StanselPaul Stansel02-25-2016

    Excellent summary Dane, love it.

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