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Citrix XenDesktop 5.6

Citrix have released a new version of Citrix XenDesktop and in this version personal vDisk is finally fully implemented i have been waiting very long time for this and many companies are going to love this feature and give their users a better flexible VDI. Another cool thing is the integration to Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2012 and Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012.

What’s New in XenDesktop 5.6

XenDesktop 5.6 includes the following new features and enhancements:

  • Personal vDisk – This feature is a personalization solution for virtual desktops. Two new types of catalog allow you to preserve the assignment of users to desktops even when the disk is cleaned at restart; the same user is assigned the same desktop for later sessions. The new catalogs arepooled with personal vDisk (for pooled-static virtual desktops) that you manage with Desktop Studio and streamed with personal vDisk that you manage with Provisioning Services. In addition, a dedicated storage disk is created, before logon, so users can store their data on the desktop, including any applications they install. For background information on this feature, see About Personal vDisks.New commands have also been added to the XenDesktop Software Development Kit (SDK) to support this feature.
  • System Center support – XenDesktop now supports Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager and Microsoft System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager.
  • Virtual Desktop Agent – A new version of the Virtual Desktop Agent fixes issues in the version included with XenDesktop 5.5.
  • Citrix Licensing – Citrix Licensing 11.10 lets you assign access to the License Administration Console using Active Directory Users and Groups.
  • Desktop Director – Desktop Director 2.1 supports personal vDisks and contains fixes since the last release. For more information, see the Desktop Director documentation.
  • Fixed issues – For information on the issues that have been fixed in this release, see CTX124164.

About Personal vDisk

The personal vDisk feature in XenDesktop retains the single image management of pooled and streamed desktops while allowing people to install applications and change their desktop settings.

Unlike traditional Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) deployments involving pooled desktops, where users lose their customizations and personal applications when the administrator alters the base virtual machine (VM), deployments using personal vDisks retain those changes. This means administrators can easily and centrally manage their base VMs while providing users with a customized and personalized desktop experience.

Personal vDisks provide this separation by redirecting all changes made on the user’s VM to a separate disk (the personal vDisk) attached to the user’s VM. The content of the personal vDisk is blended at runtime with the content from the base VM to provide a unified experience. In this way, users can still access applications provisioned by their administrator in the base VM.

Personal vDisks have two parts, which use different drive letters and are by default equally sized:

  • One part comprises C:\Users (in Windows 7) or C:\Documents and Settings (in Windows XP). This contains user data, documents, and the user profile. By default this uses drive P: but you can choose a different drive letter when you use Desktop Studio to create a catalog with personal vDisks.
  • The other part comprises a Virtual Hard Disk file (a .vhd file). This contains all other items, for example applications installed in C:\Program Files. By default, this part uses drive V: but is hidden from users; this drive is not displayed in Windows Explorer. You can choose a different drive letter by configuring the Virtual Desktop Agent. For information on this, see CTX131432.

Personal vDisks support the provisioning of department-level applications, as well as applications downloaded and installed by users, including those that require drivers, databases, and PC management software. If a user’s change conflicts with an administrator’s change, a personal vDisk provides a simple and automatic way to reconcile the changes.

In addition, locally administered applications (such as those provisioned and managed by local IT departments) can also be provisioned into the user’s environment. The user experiences no difference in usability; personal vDisks ensure all changes made and all applications installed are stored on the vDisk. Where an application on a personal vDisk exactly matches one on a master image, the copy on the personal vDisk is discarded to save space without the user losing access to the application.

Physically, a personal vDisk does not need to be stored with the dedicated pool VM. This frees up high-speed disks for VM storage; the personal vDisk can be placed on a less expensive storage solution, like a file server.

Managing Personal vDisk in XenDesktop 5.6

This topic contains instructions on administering XenDesktop 5.6 after installation and site configuration. It focuses on configuring the personal vDisk feature. For other management tasks, see the documentation for XenDesktop 5XenDesktop 5 Service Pack 1, and XenDesktop 5.5.

Storage for Hosts with Personal vDisks

When you create a host, you define storage locations for disks that are used by virtual machines. You can separate the personal vDisks, which store the user profiles and user-installed applications, from the disks used for the machines’ operating system. Each virtual machine must have access to a storage location for both disks. If you use local storage for both, they must be accessible from the same hypervisor. To ensure this requirement is met, Desktop Studio offers you only compatible storage locations when you create the host.

Storage for Hosts Managed with System Center

If you use Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager, you may have multiple storage devices in a Cluster Shared Volume (CSV). When you create a hosting unit in Desktop Studio, select only one of the devices. If you select multiple devices on the same CSV, copies of the base disk are created and your storage decreases.

To add personal vDisks to existing hosts

You add personal vDisks to new hosts when you configure a new XenDesktop site. You can also add personal vDisks and storage for them to hosts (but not catalogs) that were created with versions of the product before XenDesktop 5.6.

  1. In Desktop Studio, click Configuration > Hosts and select a host.
  2. Click Enable Personal vDisk and specify the storage location.

Creating Machines with Personal vDisks

To create machines with personal vDisks, create a catalog and take these additional steps:

  • On the Machine Type page of the Create Catalog wizard in Desktop Studio, select Pooled with personal vDisk. This is a variant of the pooled-static machine type; machines are assigned to the first user who connects to them. For all subsequent sessions, that user connects to the same machine, and their user data, documents, user profile, and any user-installed applications are stored on a dedicated disk (the personal vDisk). Personal vDisks consist of two parts that separate two types of data. For more information, see About Personal vDisks.
    Note: The Streamed with personal vDisk catalog type is also available. This adds personal vDisks to streamed machines (which load the operating system over a network from Provisioning Services). If you want to use this catalog type, do so in the Provisioning Services Console, not Desktop Studio.
  • On the Number of VMs page, specify the size of the personal vDisk that is used for all desktops in the catalog, and the drive letter that users see. Ensure that the disk is big enough to store a user profile and any applications that a user installs. The minimum is 3 gigabytes (GB). Additional space may be required for user applications and data.
    Note: The setting for the master image’s memory on this page might be overwritten by the desktops’ memory settings. This is true for all virtual desktops created with XenDesktop, not just those with personal vDisks.

To update master images that use personal vDisks

You enable the personal vDisk feature for use with a master image when you install the Virtual Desktop Agent. During the installation procedure and after any update to the image after installation, it is important that the disk’s inventory is refreshed and a new snapshot is created. This procedure describes the required steps.

Because administrators, not users, manage master images, if you install an application that places binary files in the administrator’s user profile, the application is not available to users of shared virtual desktops (including those based on pooled catalogs and pooled with personal vDisk catalogs). Users must install such applications themselves.

It is best practice to take a snapshot of the image after each step in this procedure.

  1. Update the master image by installing any applications or operating system updates, and performing any system configuration on the machine.For master images based on Windows XP that you plan to deploy with personal vDisks, check that no dialog boxes are open (for example, messages confirming software installations or prompts to use unsigned drivers). Open dialog boxes on master images in this environment prevent the Virtual Desktop Agent from registering with the controller. You can prevent prompts for unsigned drivers using the Control Panel. For example, on Windows XP click System > Hardware > Driver Signing, and select the option to ignore warnings.
  2. Shut down the machine. For Windows 7 machines, click Cancel when Citrix personal vDisk blocks the shutdown.
  3. In the Citrix personal vDisk dialog box, click Update Inventory. This step may take several minutes to complete.
    Important: If you interrupt the following shutdown (even to make a minor update to the image), the personal vDisk’s inventory no longer matches the master image. This causes the personal vDisk feature to stop working. If you interrupt the shutdown, you must restart the machine, shut it down, and when prompted click Update Inventory again.
  4. When the inventory operation shuts down the machine, take a snapshot of the master image.

To resize personal vDisks

A PowerShell script is included in this release that allows you to resize existing personal vDisks in a catalog. The script iterates through the machines in the catalog, changing the size where possible. Resizing takes effect the next time the machines are turned on.

You cannot resize Windows XP machines hosted on VMware ESX using the script.

Do not use the script to manage existing environments in other ways. Use Desktop Studio or Provisioning Services for other management operations.

Before following this procedure, determine the current size of the personal vDisks and choose a new size. In addition, the following PowerShell snapins must be installed on the computer running the script:

  1. Put the machines in the catalog into maintenance mode.
  2. Locate the script resize-personal-vdiskpool.ps1 in the Support\Tools\Scripts folder of the full or upgrade image.
  3. At a command prompt, run the script and select the catalog whose personal vDisks you want to resize. If a script error occurs, dismiss it by runningSet-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned.
    Note: For 64-bit XenServer deployments, run the script from a 32-bit command prompt.
  4. Accept the defaults for the storage location and, if displayed, the decision on thin-provisioning. The script displays these properties, which you should not change.
  5. Enter the new size for the personal vDisks. The minimum is 3 gigabytes (GB). Additional space may be required for user applications and data.
  6. When prompted, confirm the selections you made.
  7. Enter the administrator’s user name and password.Where possible, the personal vDisks in the catalog are resized and the machines they are attached to restart. When disk preparation is complete, the machines shut down. This process may take several minutes to complete.The script lists the machines whose vDisks cannot be resized. Check the power state of these machines, and rerun the script to complete the resizing operation on the entire catalog.

Managing Virtual Desktops with System Center Configuration Manager

You can use XenDesktop with Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager to manage virtual desktops. XenDesktop makes certain desktop properties available to Configuration Manager. You can query the properties or retrieve them from the desktops and include them in the hardware inventory feature of Configuration Manager. The properties are described in Desktop Properties Available to System Center Configuration Manager.

System Center Configuration Manager Client Installations

For provisioned desktops, install the System Center Configuration Manager client on your master image, either before or after installing the Virtual Desktop Agent. Typically, you do this by performing a client-push installation using Configuration Manager.

If you upgrade System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, you may need to upgrade your base image with the corresponding version of the client. If you do not, the new version of the client may be installed on each pooled desktop each time it is restarted.

To allow the client-push installation to take place and for Configuration Manager to communicate with the client, the following firewall exceptions are needed on machines running the Virtual Desktop Agent:

  • File and Printer Sharing
  • Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI)

Depending on your deployment, you may need additional or different exceptions. For information on firewall exceptions needed with System Center 2012 Configuration Manager and using System Center in general, see your Microsoft documentation.

Using System Center Configuration Manager to Manage Virtual Desktops Created with Provisioning Services

To ensure any desktops created with Provisioning Services operate correctly with System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, you must set the write cache to the target device’s hard drive. Using the Provisioning Services Console, in vDisk Properties, select Cache on device hard drive as the Cache Type. If you do not configure the cache this way, data required by System Center Configuration Manager is not persisted when the desktops are restarted, which may result in unexpected behavior.

To relocate user profiles

If you use the personal vDisk feature in XenDesktop, by default user profiles are stored on the personal vDisk’s P: drive not the virtual desktop’s C: drive. If instead you want Citrix Profile management (not the personal vDisk) to process the profiles, you adjust this default when installing the Virtual Desktop Agent by modifying the Registry on the master image used for a new catalog. In this scenario, because the catalog is new, no users have logged on, so no profiles are stored on the P: drive.


Download Citrix XenDesktop 5.6 (require MyCitrix ID)


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