XenDesktop for increasing productivity and simplification of infrastructure management
October 09, 2015

XenDesktop for increasing productivity and simplification of infrastructure management

Anonymous | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 9 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Software Version

7.6

Modules Used

  • Platinum

Overall Satisfaction with XenDesktop

XenDesktop is used to manage internet bandwidth at our remote locations as well as creating a standard set of applications, which are centrally managed and maintained. Our remote locations generally have T-1 or less connections, so bandwidth has to be carefully used. By keeping their applications and desktops on our data center end, it has lowered the amount of bandwidth used at the locations.
  • XenDesktop does a very great job at load balancing our applications and desktops across servers. It uses a load evaluator index to gauge the load on the server and sends new connections to the server in the group with the lowers LEI.
  • The integration into our VMware environment has been critical. Using Machine Creation Services, I am able to create an image and all machines created from that image are reset to it upon reboot. No more worrying about a user corrupting one server and having to rebuild it or deploy again from a VMware template. Creating a new server in a group is easy and fast.
  • Management of user sessions within XenDesktop's Director is simple and straight forward. Finding and managing a user's session is without complication.
  • The Director leaves a lot to be desired. I have had to resort to scripts and a custom page to get the information I need to properly manage our environment. The previous EdgeSight had detailed information that this just seems to leave out. There is no way to customize views, add or remove content, or otherwise customize for our brand.
  • One thing left out from this version that was in previous versions, was the ability deploy applications from all servers, not just those in a delivery group. As it is set up now, you can only deploy an app to a specific set of servers in a delivery group. If I have Group A running SAP and Group B running Office, only Group B can host Office for the users, even if Group A has Office installed. It would make better use of my servers if I could have on application run from both groups and still load balance properly. It is possible to have it run from both delivery groups, but the load balancing functionality appears to not work correctly.
  • A new functionality in the Feature Packs (1 and 2) was session recording. The functionality is useful, but is still clunky and uses a large amount of storage space. I have yet to see a way to auto purge old recordings without manually deleting them. Storage may be cheap now, but it still needs to be managed and used wisely. Being able to purge old recordings would go a long way.
  • Our ROI has come primarily from costs of network services to our remote sites. Most have T-1 services and 10+ users. Connection to Exchange, using remote applications, and general internet usage would put these sites over the bandwidth available on those circuits. Using Citrix to host the applications and only send minimal packets to the end user, has kept us from needing to order bonded circuits.
  • We are now able to provide better customer service by being able to remote control the user's session and able to go back and watch a previously recorded session to see exactly what was happening.
  • Our third ROI is increased employee productivity. With applications and desktops centrally managed, we can perform updates without impacting the user experience. Updates are done on the template and then deployed to the server on its next scheduled reboot. Servers can be put into maintenance mode and not in group usage while maintenance is performed. It has increased our helpdesk productivity, by decreasing the amount of individual desktop maintenance needed.
We briefly looked at VMware Horizon View and its integration into our current VMware environment, but experience with XenDesktop and common usage overcame any potential savings with Horizon View.
A key question in the selection process is whether this product will have enough return on investment. For a large company, such as ours, the ROI is quite good. We have a lot of remote sites, a large amount of users, and a large VM environment to handle the loads. Smaller environments can run editions lower than Platinum, but you do lose functionality within the EdgeSight component of the Director. If you have a group of users where maintaining desktop applications is time consuming, this is definitely a product for you. The cost will be less than hiring additional staff to keep up with applications and desktops, as well as keeping the overall bandwidth needs down. If you have remote sites and applications hosted in a data center, this is the product for you.

Using XenDesktop

800 - Our users are spread across the board in Accounting, Information Technology, Warehouse, Sales, and Service.
6 - One Engineer/Architect maintains the servers and infrastructure of XenDesktop. The remaining five are helpdesk support personnel who manage user sessions and any application issues they may encounter.
  • Usage of SAP for our remote users and centrally managing updates
  • Desktops deployed for some remote locations for running multiple applications where deploying apps would be less practical.
  • Microsoft Office usage across the company to standardize and simplify management of the software.
  • Deploying our web based time clock in a central location.
  • PowerShell scripting for the product is available. I have built scripts that look for common issues and initiates actions to resolve the issues.
  • We may begin using thin clients and deploy desktops via XenDesktop solely.
XenDesktop has become so integral to our operations that we will continue using it for the foreseeable future.

Evaluating XenDesktop and Competitors

  • Product Features
  • Product Usability
  • Product Reputation
  • Prior Experience with the Product
Product usability for the end user was the most important factor. The user had to be able to function daily without the need for technical assistance. If the product was too complex, the users would struggle, the concept would fail, and overall views of our infrastructure would be degraded.
I believe I got the selection process done right the first time. I may take a longer look at alternatives and pricing, but the selection process was done well and the product functions for us exactly as we need it to .

XenDesktop Implementation

Take it slow and read the directions each step of the way. If you are not familiar with Citrix products, use a reseller or other experienced engineer to assist you in the setup of your environment.
Yes - The initial phase was the installation and proof of concept with a small IT group. Once PoC was established, servers were deployed by functions. For example, the SAP servers were built and users were slowly added on to the system until the full group of users was using the application. Once complete, the next application was set up and users were slowly added until it was complete. This continued until all users were using the system.
Change management was a minor issue with the implementation - Add users in small, but diverse groups to ensure there are no issues before deploying to the larger set of users.
  • Ensuring users had the most recent version of the Citrix Receiver and connecting to the server was the most significant issue. This took a lot of help desk man hours to complete.
  • A minor issue was the configurations of the StoreFront servers with the correct secure certificates. StoreFront will not work insecure (HTTP) if you are using NetScalers (which we are.)

XenDesktop Support

Support is very knowledgeable, but the time for support to arrive can be a bit slow. It also comes with engineers who do not have English as a first language and can become hard to understand.
ProsCons
Quick Resolution
Good followup
Knowledgeable team
Kept well informed
No escalation required
Immediate help available
Support understands my problem
Quick Initial Response
None
Yes - Premium support comes with our annual subscription.
I was struggling with an issue in StoreFront where the certificates were installed, but kept getting error messages on the user side. The engineer assisted and found the root of the problem to be in the NetScaler.

Using XenDesktop

It has proved usable for both the experienced and inexperienced technology user.
ProsCons
Like to use
Relatively simple
Easy to use
Technical support not required
Well integrated
Consistent
Quick to learn
Convenient
Feel confident using
Lots to learn
  • The deployment of applications to the user are easy and without complication.
  • The end user experience is also without issue. After launching the Citrix Receiver, the users simply need to choose their application and it launches and connects automatically.
  • Initial setup of StoreFront and Netscalers take a large amount of work.
  • Configuring XenDesktop with delivery groups can take some time to sort out.
  • All of the policies available take a great deal of time to go through. While there are defaults, there are no starting policies which are industry standard to maximize the efficiency.
Yes - The interface works well, but it does become a little difficult to control a remote application on a small screen.