May 22, 2018

Manage your user experience in Citrix WEM


This session took place at Synergy 2018 (May) in Anaheim, CA.

Citrix Workspace Environment Management (aka WEM) uses intelligent resource management and Profile Management technologies to deliver the best possible performance, desktop login, and application response times for XenApp and XenDesktop deployments. It is a software-only, driver-free solution.

  • Resource management - To provide the best experience for users, WEM monitors and analyzes user and application behavior in real time, then intelligently adjusts RAM, CPU, and I/O in the user workspace environment. 
  • Profile Management - To deliver the best possible logon performance, Workspace Environment Management replaces commonly used Windows Group Policy Object objects, logon scripts, and preferences with an agent which is deployed on each virtual machine or server. The agent is multi-threaded and applies changes to user environments only when required, ensuring users always have access to their desktop as soon as possible.



This session has a couple of big announcements:
  • WEM will be available as a Citrix Cloud Service.  This is a great option for organizations that want to reduce infrastructure requirements and management.
  • WEM will be able to manage physical devices outside of a XenApp and XenDesktop environment
  • WEM/UPM will be able to manage Office 365 Outlook OST files and the search index database (jump to minute 21 in the video)
  • Although not an announcement, the fact that the WEM and UPM developer teams are now one is a very positive step for admins looking to better manage user experiences
Drop us a comment if we missed anything during this packed session,


May 15, 2018

Citrix Summit 2018

I am writing this on the eve of Citrix Synergy 2018 from a seat on a Southwest flight to Anaheim, CA. The same location as Summit 2018. There is anticipation for what I believe will be a historic Synergy. With Citrix news frozen at the moment before the big Tuesday keynote, it seems like a good time to look back.



Summit 2018 was full of great announcements:
  • XenApp Service - announced and subsequently released in Q1 (blog)
  • Workspace Services - this is a new offering that packages various solutions (blog). It will be available at three different service levels: 
    • Workspace Unified Endpoint Management
    • Workspace Advanced
    • Workspace Premium (Q1)
  • Citrix Workspace Hub was announced (blog)(3 min YouTube video).  This a Raspberry Pi device that is one part low-cost thin client and one part IoT device. One cool new feature is the ability to do dual displays via a second ancillary device (a Raspberry Pi Zero) to drive the second display. Both ViewSonic and nComputing will be selling these devices.
  • Secure Browser Service - this service is a great option for an organization that wants to keep internet browsing out of their data centers and endpoint devices (blog). Citrix will host the browser and provide a seamless user experience.
  • Citrix Ready HCI Workspace Appliance - Nutanix is the first partner to make the onboarding of a Citrix Services even easier (blog) (Nutanix). 
  • XenApp Essentials - announced that Hosted Shared Desktops will now be supported (blog).
  • Citrix Analytics Service is announced (blog).  This is an add-on Service to correlate events across users, apps, data, and networks and apply machine learning to uncover actionable insights. While analytics will initially focus on security there are plans to expand insights to user experience and performance. Definitely, one to watch.
  • NetScaler SD-WAN - 10.0 announced and support for LTE integrates appliances (blog). 10.0 expands the scale and functionality of the product.
  • NetScaler Secure Web Gateway is enhanced- a forward proxy that will integrate with other Services like Secure Browser (blog). 
  • NetScaler Gateway Service - now bundled with the XenApp and XenDesktop Service (as in free) and provides HDX proxy. There are more advanced versions of the Service coming. 
  • NetScaler Application Delivery Controller - new agentless approach to management using Ansible syntax and REST APIs (NITRO) (Ansible site). 
  • NetScaler CPX can now be used as an Ingress device in Kubernetes clusters to load balance north-south traffic to your service (blog). 
  • NetScaler MAS - Web Insight and Advanced Analytics using anomaly detection announced. Customize app scoring. A new tool for capacity planning enables visualization of peak application usage.


Ready for the keynote

Throughout the week there was a lot of discussion around the “Secure Digital Perimeter”. Many companies have realized that fortifying the perimeter does not do you any good if none of your users are inside it (aka the trusted network). Citrix takes the approach that users need to be productive both on and off of the trusted network, from any device, using any applications.

The services hosted by Citrix Cloud are growing.  Products that have traditionally been a perpetual license all have a subscription equivalent.  In one of the sessions, they gave an overview of the points of presence for the various services.  It will be interesting to look back at this map in the future as all services are growing and new services are being added all the time.


Citrix Cloud Global Points of Presence


I had the pleasure of being on a panel with @florinlazurca and @emma_k_prz dedicated to the European Union's General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) that will go into effect on May 25th, 2018.  It is my opinion that these regulations will start new conversations on how we collect, process, or protect personal data.  The impact is likely to extend outside of the EU and set a bar for any organization to strive for.



While there were sessions that focused on XenApp and XenDesktop, there was less focus on the flagship products during the keynote. Current Updates (CU) have consistently dropped each quarter for a number of years. These smaller updates are easier to deploy and test but can still deliver big value like the watermark feature in 7.17.

XenDesktop watermarking as seen on a Chromebook. The transparency is can be subtle or not so subtle.

Last but not least, I want to give a shoutout to @crystalricevuto for winning Demo Warrior. Crystal beat out all other employees in an internal contest to come up with and deliver the best demo showcasing Citrix's products.  Anyone who can work in HBO's Game of Thrones into their demo gets my vote!  It was great to see Crystal get recognized on the big stage.



Brian @sagelikebrian

February 20, 2018

The Other Moore's Law

My twentieth anniversary of being an IT professional came and went last year and I did not even notice.  A lot of technology has come and gone since then.  When I started, the idea of sharing printers and files via a server was a big idea.  The general philosophy of IT was to "protect" staff by controlling everything they did.  Honestly, it was pretty easy.  Computing was mostly a workplace activity and people were not very savvy so they welcomed help from IT.  The industry was governed by a law that predicted massive increases in computing power--Moore's law.

Gordon Moore, a founder of Intel, wrote in a paper in 1965 that observed the number of transistors in a densely integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years.  He projected this would continue for a decade.  This rapid growth in computing power enabled personal computers to run complex software.  In reality, this growth held true for much longer than a decade until 2012.

Flash forward to 2018 and computing is ubiquitous thanks to tablets and smartphones.  The general population is pretty savvy with each younger generation becoming more digitally native.  People like to be self-sufficient and if IT does not give them the tools they need to be productive, they will go out and get their own.   IT still needs to keep employees safe but they also need to enable productivity.  Microsoft's Jeffery Snover thinks there is a new Moore's law that will guide IT for the next ten years.


I recently watched a few different talks by Mr. Snover, founder of PowerShell, before the enormity of this idea really sunk in.  In his talks, he is framing this idea in relation to digital transformation which is my 2017 buzzword of the year.

I highly recommend the first 20 (of 76) minutes of a session from Microsoft Ignite: "Digital Transformation - a roadmap for platforms, processes, and people".  It seeks an answer for the question, "does Cloud change everything?".




The Ignite session above is formal, high level, and just the kind of thing you could send to your IT manager.  Now, if you are an old timer like myself, do yourself a favor and watch this next video,"How to Position Yourself for the Future with Jeffrey Snover and Jason Helmick." It takes place in Austin, Texas at a PowerShell user group. Jeffrey Snover (@jsnover) and Jason Helmick (@theJasonHelmick) walk the group through a rethinking of IT in general. Ironically, I do not think they talk about PowerShell in the first hour. The whole session is much more informal and has some frank language.  Honestly, it was a kick in the pants for me.  It made me rethink the way I view my value as an IT professional.  I spent the next couple of days coming to the conclusion that this other Moore's Law is incredibly important.  My favorite quote of the whole talk is:
You need to change your company OR change your company

The idea is that YOU need to bring change to your company and help them understand and if you can not do it, you need to change your company for one who does.


In other words, do not let your company control your career.  Be in charge of your own career.  Supposedly, people in IT are very comfortable with change.  We may be at a massive inflection point and the question is if you believe we are, are you ready to get in front of it?

Brian Olsen @sagelikebrian


January 7, 2018

Citrix Synergy 2017

Citrix Synergy

is a conference for customers and partners to hear about the newest updates on solutions and company direction.  It is the better part of a week dedicated to a healthy mix of learning and networking culminating with a party on the final night.


I am writing this on the eve of Citrix Summit nearly six months after Synergy took place.  In the vacuum of any announcements pre-Summit, I find it a great time to look back to the last big conference.  It is also a good time to check in on promises and see how we did.  A lot of people do not know this but Citrix sales engineers typically do not attend Synergy. We all get to attend Summit and an employee only conference called ServTech so it makes sense to make room for customers and then just sync with them when they get back.  Obviously, I was one of the exceptions this year and attended the full week.

Current State

Before we talk about announcements, let me set the stage a bit.  Prior to Synergy, the current release of XenApp and XenDesktop was 7.13.  The Long Term Service Release was 7.6.  Receiver 4.7 for Windows had been out for a few months.  XenServer 7.1 LTSR was released in February.  NetScaler firmware was at 11.1.

Major Citrix Cloud services included: XenApp and XenDesktop Essentials (sold through Microsoft, provided by Citrix), XenDesktop Service, the XenApp and XenDesktop, XenMobile Service, ShareFile and the Gateway Service.



Company Announcements

  • Workspace Service is announced
  • Citrix Analytics is announced.
  • NetScaler Secure Web Gateway is announced.
  • New security practice for Citrix Consulting Services.

    Product Announcements

    Product enhancements have settled into a quarterly update for products that customers setup and run themselves.  Changes happen much more frequently for customers who subscribe to services hosted out of Citrix Cloud.  Of course, for those customers who want to slow down the rate of change there is always the Long Term Service Release of XenApp and XenDesktop and now XenServer.

     Guest Speakers

    Citrix really stepped up their guest speaker game and had both General Colin Powell and Marcus Gladwell do keynotes.  From the minute General Powell opened his mouth, it was clear that he has lived an amazing life.  What's I found really fascinating is how open, honest, and approachable he was on stage.  I honestly could have sat there for hours while he told stories.  Unfortunately, you needed to be there as it was not recorded but if you ever get a chance to hear him speak about anything--I recommend it.



    Malcolm Gladwell was not as well known as General Powell to some of the audience--including the guy sitting next to me.  I have read a couple of his books and knew that no matter what he talked about it would be interesting.  Here is another guy that could have double his time and no one would have left.  Halfway through his keynote, the guy sitting next to me asked, "who is this guy again? He is so interesting".  I found him to be smart, thought-provoking, and to get a glimpse into his thought process was amazing.


    Innovation Award

    Every Synergy, three customers from around the world are featured for doing innovative things with Citrix solutions.  It was exciting enough to have Denver, Colorado-based healthcare organization, SCL Health, as one of the three finalists.  But when they brought home the award it was especially gratifying to see all of their hard work pay off.  I know they made everyone in Colorado proud.



    In summary, the overall message is that the world is getting complicated.  Productivity is more challenging than ever because our apps and data are spread across many data centers and possibly even the public cloud.  Citrix is taking this challenge head on to reduce the complexity while also increasing the security.  A big key is making apps and data easier to consume by providing these products as services out of Citrix Cloud.  I expect the individual products to deepen their integration and allow for rapid deployment and simpler consumption.

    Brian Olsen @sagelikebrian







    December 14, 2017

    Build an App Factory




    Eric @ericlieven and I presented, "Build an App Factory" at the Colorado CUGC in December 2017.

    A few years ago, Eric and I built a couple of XenApp farms to support an SAP rollout.  That part is fairly straightforward but the aspect of the project I am proud of is the way we helped change the culture of an organization.

    Our big challenge is that we inherited a bad Citrix environment.  It was really, really bad.  The entire farm crashed almost daily.  Logons were two and a half minutes.  The previous Citrix administrator was considered the app owner of all 80+ applications.  Citrix was a four-letter word throughout the company.

    With the support of upper management, we set out to build something better.  The old culture reminds me of the most interesting man in the world meme.


    It really was not their fault. There was no good way to test.  There definitely was not a process to follow.

    When I look back at the project, it feels like we built an application factory.  At a very high level, you put some bits in one side and a perfect app comes out the other side.  The actual process in between is what is important.  Eric and I discussed the process we used to build and run the app factory.  The end result is apps that are now continuously available from anywhere on any device, are smoking fast, and quite secure.

    We knew that we were on to something when the application owners that once hated us became our best friends.  By the end of the project, they begged us to host more and more of their applications on the Citrix environment.  This is even how they evaluate new applications before they purchase them.

    We made some design decisions that resulted in more work for us, the administrators--especially in the beginning.  But it allowed for an update process that works better for everyone.  Like any good-sized project, we made some missteps along the way, but in the end, it was all worth it.

    Here is the link to the slides hosted on Citrix ShareFile



    I often think about how I would build an even better App Factory in 2018.  More on that in a future blog post.

    Brian Olsen @sagelikebrian


    June 29, 2017

    Okta SSO - Error "Non-HTTPS url redirect is not supported in webview"

    Purpose:
    This post explains how to address the error "Non-HTTPS url redirect is not supported in webview" when using Okta SSO with Azure AD or other Azure SSO

    Symptom:
    When users try to log into their applications when Okta is implemented they get an error that states "Non-HTTPS url redirect is not supported in webview" This error may only occur on certain application but not all of them. Below is an example for SSO for MS Visual Studio.



    Resolution:

    Within your Okta administrative console navigate to Security>Authentication and scroll down to the Desktop Single Sign-On portion. Within there navigate to the Integrated Windows Authentication (IWA) Web applications. Within this configuration area review what you have setup and most likely this configuration is setup for http://oktaserver.domainname.com/iwa.

    Cause:

    The redirect from the Okta cloud to your on-prem SSO servers is not encrypted. 

    SageLike Post ID: SL0019

    Applies to:

    Okta SSO and Azure AD

    May 20, 2017

    Citrix Summit 2017

    Citrix Summit 

    is a conference for employees and partners to hear about the newest updates on products and solutions.  It is the better part of a week dedicated to a health mix of learning and networking culminating with a big party on the last night.

    I have been going to these conferences for so long that one of the best parts is catching up with old friends.  This Summit was no exception.

    Before I even left Denver I saw this ad

    Current State

    Before we talk about announcements, let me set the stage a bit.  XenApp and XenDesktop 7.12 had just been release around Christmas time along with Receiver 4.6, and it was the one year anniversary of the initial LTSR announcement.  XenServer 7.0 had been released the prior March and NetScaler was at firmware 11.0.  Citrix Cloud had been up and running for a little over a year.

    The Anaheim Convention Center

    Company Announcements

    Product Announcements

    • New XenDesktop Essentials
    • New XenApp Essentials
    • New XenMobile Service (as in Citrix Cloud hosted)
    • Announced XenServer 7.1 which is the first ever LTSR for XenServer
    • SD-WAN 9.2 announced (see Tweet below)
    • Citrix Lifecycle Management rebranded as Smart Tools
    • By far the biggest announcement, Citrix acquires Unidesk for their app layering technology!



    Maybe one of the more interesting things was the lack of major announcements related to XenApp and XenDesktop.  In part, this is because the products are being updated every quarter if you are traditional on-prem, more frequent if you are using Citrix Cloud.  The speed of innovation was a big part of @cloudappcal keynote presentation.  In years past, I used to list off all the new features coming in the next release.  The number of features that were released in 2016 is shocking and it would be too much work to just list them here.

    If you noticed the date of this post and are wondering, "who posts about Summit on the eve of Synergy"?  I guess the answer is me.  Months later I still think that we are going to look back at Summit 2017 and think that it was a major conference and interesting point in time for Citrix.