How to satisfy your Citrix XenApp/Desktop users?

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Over the last few years we have worked with a lot of customers and partners who use(d) Citrix products. Not all of them are, to say the least, “happy” with it. My article focuses on “how did that happen?”.

It all started some years ago with Presentation Server nowadays called XenApp. We have heard them all “XenApp is slow”, “XenApp is unstable”, XenApp is hard to use and one of the best “don’t virtualize your XenApp servers”.

I will not go in to details about all of the issues customers are experiencing because this article would end up as a book. What I want to focus on is the big picture.

To start with XenApp, the question is why are you using it? I hope it isn’t there because we just want to please our sysadmins. Our customers use it because of the scalability and management improvements compared to Remote Desktop Services, and of course the unbeaten ICA display presentation protocol.

Fact is that XenApp is “only” a management layer with a different and the best display presentation protocol and for the rest uses the base Remote Desktop Services infrastructure build in in Windows Server.

Most of the XenApp problems customers are seeing are related to scalability, profiles, printers and, of course, applications.
The fun thing is that none of these problems are actually XenApp related. This means that if we would leave XenApp out of the picture it wouldn’t solve any of the above issues and will probably add some more problems with scalability and management.

One of the reasons Citrix Provisioning Services is being used more and more is that it helps with solving issues around XenApp implementations. As with all products as it’s getting used more and more the amount of issues are growing as well. And again we are hearing a lot familiar complaints “XenApp is slow”, “XenApp is unstable”, XenApp is hard to use and one of the best “don’t virtualize your XenApp servers”. Only now replace XenApp with Provisioning Services!

Strange enough, with all the knowledge, hardware and hypervisors we use today, the same discussions as we have had around XenApp started last year in regard to Provisioning Services. I even heard partners explain to customers that you should not virtualize Provisioning Services. No matter how big the environment is you should not virtualize your Provisioning Services server. I assure you, that customer did virtualize their PVS servers and they don’t have any issues at all!

My conclusion on all customer issues is that we haven’t yet found a problem we can’t fix when we look carefully at planning, sizing and best practices.

The conclusion is that if you want to work with Citrix products and especially XenApp, XenDesktop or Provisioning Server make sure you know what you are doing. Do a Proof of Concept with the most used applications. Get to know your users, network, storage and again applications, Use best practices and get skilled consultants on board. When you do this you and your users will be more then “happy”!

In the next articles I will go further into detail about what you can do to get great results!

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