13 Reasons why you should use Citrix Cloud

Intro

Considering recent published articles surrounding Citrix Cloud I think it is important to remind institutions out there of the benefits. I will highlight (very briefly) 13 advantages about the Citrix Cloud (There are many more) and provide a link to a great article by fellow CTP Nicolas Ignoto on feature requests that should be incorporated in to the solution.

SQL Backend

This is a big one. If you have multiple resource locations on premises traditionally you are wanting multiple SQL servers for your Xenapp Sites back end. Moving to Citrix Cloud eliminates this. You also now can use WEM as a fully integrated cloud service meaning you do not have to worry about costly SQL. Have you checked how much SQL costs in Azure?

High Availability

All infrastructure is HA (Highly Available). Your Desktop Delivery Controllers (Brokers), license Servers, Studio, Director, SQL. Think of the comparable cost with IAAS or on premises.

Automatic Patching

All infrastructure is automatically upgraded. Citrix takes care of this for you eliminating the need to plan patch management. Hotfixes and Security patches are not your worry when it comes to the infrastructure components.

Always Latest Software

The infrastructure components are automatically upgraded to latest Citrix versions. You are on latest technology that is thoroughly tested before deployment. You get latest features and improvements.

License Usage

With the Citrix Xenapp and Xendesktop Service you can easily control your license usage. The licences are user licenses as there is no concurrent unless you subscribe to the full Workspace services, however you do get 2 for 1 trade up deals and hybrid rights usage. This allows you to continue using your on premises solution whilst migrating (testing) the Citrix Cloud. At time of writing I believe you have a 3 year transition period. The other advantage is you are eligible to release licenses after 30 days compared to 90 days for on premises environments.

Unified Management

You can easily manage multiple resource locations from one single unified management plane. This reduces the need for costly infrastructure at multiple site locations.

Smart Scale

You have the ability of controlling costs by using Smart Scale. This helps reduce the cost of your workloads in Azure, AWS or Xenserver (on premises). Think of the way public clouds incur cost by billing per minute. You can now have workloads running only during core operational hours or reduce workloads as users reduce.

Hidden Costs

Hard one to prove but if you think that there is an additional cost with Cloud you should think of the hidden cost savings also. Reduced tin, reduced operational costs, freeing up time and resource to concentrate on other initiatives, not worrying about upgrade cycles, multiple infrastructure in resource locations, easy central management, easy image management, monitoring capability included.

WEM

This will be a fully integrated Cloud service allowing you to improve the workspace experience for your users. Improve logon times by moving GPP to this service. Apply CPU and memory optimisations. The SQL back-end is managed by Citrix.

Smart Check

This is an automatic health check for your site. No need to deploy agents if you have the Xenapp and Xendesktop Cloud Service. You will receive diagnostics on your sites health such as machines in maintenance mode, services that are stopped and any back-end communication issues.

Simple Image Management

You have the ability to use MCS and PVS (on premises) via the Citrix Cloud. (Granted you do have this ability on premises -So maybe this one does not count.)

Cloud Agnostic

You can choose your Cloud of choice. There is no Cloud lock in. Citrix Cloud is public Cloud agnostic. Managing multiple resource locations in different public Clouds is easy.

Easy On boarding and ability to make POC

The time it takes to request a trial is up for debate but when you compare this to the time it takes to get traditional POC concepts running it is not that bad. This will be improved but it is easy to transition a on premises deployment to a running Citrix Cloud Xenapp and Xendesktop Service. We are talking hours and not days here!

Workspace App

Finally, you are able to take advantage of the Workspace experience using the Workspace APP which is an all in one place to go to use multiple resources you need on a daily basis. Whether it is Sharefile apps, Saas Apps, Web Apps, Xenapp/ Xendesktop Apps, on- premises, Cloud etc, you can browse and search for your resource through one easy to use Workspace App experience when linked to the Workspace in the Xenapp and Xendesktop Service.

Conclusion

Citrix Cloud is evolving and is improving and does have its limitations. I feel it is important to highlight some advantages though in the wake of some recent Citrix Cloud bashing. My fellow CTP’s  provide a constructive article on the limitations that are being worked upon that is worth a read. The aim for this article is to provide some Yin and Yang to the pro’s and cons of the solution.

http://www.citrixguru.com/2018/07/13/top-wishlist-citrix-cloud/

Creating a NetScaler in Azure Resource Location for your Citrix Cloud

Background Information

The old limitations of using a single IP on an interface for a NetScaler Gateway solution in Azure are no more.

You may have heard that now the NetScaler is able to have one interface with multiple IP addresses, one interface with one IP address, Multiple interfaces with single IPs and Multiple interfaces with multiple IPs. What does this mean?

Well, the old methods of putting a load balancer in front to NAT 443 addresses to 4443 gateway IPs is no longer required. You can still use it if you wish, and will need the Azure Load Balancer if doing the HA setup.

I can have multiple IPs and assign them to a single NIC on the NetScaler Azure VPX. This is known as multi-IP architecture.

 

In Azure, assigning multiple IP’s to an interface looks like this:

Above, you can see that I have a single IP address “ipconfig1” which is my NetScaler NSIP. (I removed the public IP that was assigned).

In a multi-NIC, multi-IP Azure NetScaler VPX deployment, the private IP associated with the primary (first) IPConfig of the primary (first) NIC is automatically added as the management NSIP of the appliance. The remaining private IP addresses associated with IPConfigs need to be added in the NetScaler appliance as a VIP or SNIP.

You can see that I have added a SNIP IP and my Gateway IP with a internal and public IP.

So why am I focusing on having a Gateway in Azure?

Well, something I stress about going to the Citrix Cloud is having a NetScaler and StoreFront in your Resource location. Why?

You lose Cloud access and you lose the ability to broker connections to your VDA machines in Resource locations. This is about having a way to access your resources in that event.

You will still be able to access and broker connections in your resource location because the Citrix Connector Servers also act as proxy brokers, and they contain the Local Host Cache. (Please check out my webinar at the Virtual Expo for more on this.) So, even placing one NetScaler Gateway appliance in an Azure Resource location acts as a bit of resilience for your Citrix Cloud solution.

Typically, it is more likely that a customer’s internet connectivity will be interrupted (which could be due to 3rd party factors such as ISP or power problems), versus the highly reliable and redundant Citrix Cloud management plane running in Azure.

There are plenty of articles on creating NetScalers in a traditional environment and I will highlight some here by some other fellow CTPs:

Http://www.carlstalhood.com/category/netscaler/netscaler-12/netscaler-gateway-12/

http://www.jasonsamuel.com/2015/02/17/using-citrix-netscaler-gateway-internally-and-externally-with-a-single-url/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxpSnD0T-sQ

http://bretty.me.uk/building-a-netscaler-gateway-from-scratch-with-ssl-labs-a-grade/

The art of building a NetScaler in Azure is less known. Hopefully, this article will provide some enlightenment, and you can start forming your resilient Citrix Cloud solution using an Azure resource location.

Pre-requisites

Before you create your NetScaler in Azure, here are some prerequisites you should know about.

  • Create a resource Group for your NetScaler Instance. (A resource group is a container that holds related resources for an Azure solution. The resource group can include all the resources for the solution, or only those resources that you want to manage as a group.)

TIP – In a Citrix Azure world, I put the NetScalers in one resource group, Infrastructure in another and VDAs in a separate Resource Group.

Generally, add resources that share the same lifecycle to the same resource group so you can easily deploy, update, and delete them as a group.

Also something to keep in mind, for compliance reasons, is that you may need to ensure that your data is stored in a particular region.

More on Resource Groups can be found here – https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/azure-resource-manager/resource-group-portal

  • Pre-create PIP (Public IP) for the gateway and the NSG (Network Security Group) in your appropriate Resource Group:

NSG inbound outbound rules can be defined as below – You can make this more restrictive if you like.

This is just an example:

You can then simply add these objects when you create the NetScaler in the Azure market place.

  • Have your Vnet and Subnets in your virtual network pre-created.
  • Have any internal VIP (Virtual IP) addresses ready and your internal Gateway IP. Know your infrastructure IPs for LDAP, Service account passwords, Storefront URLs, STA IPs and DNS so you are able to configure the Gateway wizard set up.
  • Have your Certificates ready for 443 connections and do not forget to have all the intermediates!
  • Have your public DNS configured for your Gateway URL. You can do this as you can create your PIP for the Gateway in your Resource Group before VPX deployment in Azure.

The Configuration

So how do you build this Appliance?

First you choose your appliance In the Azure Market Place.

I have my own license so I chose the machine below –

Review and click create.

Next simply go through some basic configuration steps.

Name your NetScaler. My preference is name of NetScaler – Domain – Region. (example – NS01-CITXEN-UKS)

Choose your password, disk type, resource group and location.

Click OK.

Next, you can choose the machine specification you will use for the NetScaler instance.

VPX virtual appliances can be deployed on any instance type that has two or more cores and more than 4 GB memory. Remember to size appropriately for your particular environment.

Next you can choose a lot of settings such as Availability Set, Storage account, virtual network, subnet and NSG.

The NSG  (Network Security Group) assigned to your resource Group acts like a firewall. If this is created before the NetScaler market place wizard, you can simply choose the NSG and assign it to the NetScaler’s NIC.

Option to choose virtual network below.

Options to choose or create subnet.

.

Options to create or choose NSG.

.

Click OK

Click create.

In about five minutes, your NetScaler will be deployed as you can see below.

Now you need to navigate to your interface via the newly created machine’s Networking menu and then click on the highlighted Network Interface in the right pane.

Next go to IP Configurations and click Add.

Now, you configure your additional IP’s on the interface.

Create your SNIP IP.

Do the same for the NetScaler Gateway Virtual IP (VIP).

Set the IP to static and choose your Public IP that you created before set up.

In the end you should have three static IPs assigned to your NIC as seen below.

Remember to set up your external DNS so your URL can resolve to the Gateway!

At this point you should be able to access your NetScaler from your internal network and via your public management IP (if you added inbound rule port 80 to your NSG) and proceed with the initial configuration setup, upload licencing and your SSL certs and proceed with your Gateway wizard setup. (After configuration, I usually remove the PIP from the management IP).

There is no requirement for an Azure Load Balancer in this Single deployment method. If I was deploying my VDAs in a Resource Location in Azure as part of a Citrix Cloud Solution this solution would suffice for that little extra reassurance against losing your connection to the Cloud Management Plane.

Look up my blog where I  run through the configuration of Netscalers in HA (High Availability) in Azure using the new NetScaler 12 HA template.

Hope this helps somebody!

Carpe Diem!

Follow me on Twitter @CitXen

Office 365/FSLOGIX with Roaming Licences without ADFS in Cached Exchange Mode for VDI

Today we will step in to the world of “Why am I not using this solution already!?

I am going to write about FSLOGIX and in particular two features that when it comes to profile management, provide you with a win win. Happy administrators and happy users.

The end result of any implementation should be about the user experience. If this is not acceptable the hard work you made putting in the solution is ignored.

Profile Containers and Office 365 containers to the rescue!

In a nutshell all your folders and files are mounted at user logon in one single VHD/VHDX file. The system only sees a single VHD/VHDX file to attach to the user. There are two container (VHD/VHDX) files.

The Profile Container – No faffing about on what to include or exclude with the profile, no slowness of logon owed to folder redirection.

The Office 365 Container – OST and office data and even One Drive can be cached in a single VHD/VHDX file so you can have lightning experience with office apps including searching and indexing! (Imagine the case with a chatty OST/PST across the network causing issues with your VDI/RDS users or whenever the users search or do something within outlook. Lots of resources being hogged and network and shared users affected).

One thing to note – Space, you will need space. SAN, Storage, file server you name it you will require space to store the profiles. This is not so costly anymore and  in today’s terms this should not be a problem. Remember size appropriately.

From a user perspective and experience this is A+.

I had the fortunate experience of meeting some of the FSLOGIX team and they really know their onions!

So what will I cover?

  • Office 365 Installation
  • Image Checks
  • FSLOGIX Install
  • Image Preparation
  • GPO Setup
  • How FSLOGIX Works
  • Troubleshooting
  • FSLOGIX Container Management
  • Conclusion

Office 365 Installation

Once you have the master image prepared and optimised for the best user experience by a your preferred consultant we can then begin the office 365 install on the image.

The office install is done by using the ODT tool (office deployment tool).

You simply download this from the website –

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=49117

Once the executable is downloaded simply run it on a network share.

You should then see the following files.

Next, you need to create a new configuration.XML file.

This is easily done by going to the wonderful GITHUB.

https://officedev.github.io/Office-IT-Pro-Deployment-Scripts/XmlEditor.html

You are able to exclude the products you do not wish to download. (One Drive is usually recommended to not be redirected to the containers historically. However, this can be done).

This is pretty intuitive. What you need to be aware of is the following –

  • Disable Updates
  • Do not have any other office products on your image
  • Display level None
  • Accept the EULA
  • Shared Computer Licensing should be YES

Once you have your configuration file sorted simply download and replace the one in the profile share.

You should end up with something similar to the below.

Next you need to download the office files.

This can be done remotely from your Win 10 master image or any other machine.

Open up an administrative command prompt and run the setup from the location the files are in and download the files to the share.

\\Server\Share\setup.exe /download \\Server\Share\configuration.xml

Once this is done you will see extra files in your profile share –

Now from your master image you need to install the office files.

So first step is to download to a share and second step is to install from that share.

\\Server\Share\Setup.exe /configure \\Server\Share\configuration.xml

This process actually install office on to your image.

You will have to wait for a bit of time so get some pushups in!

Image Checks

At this stage do not launch your office apps. You do not want to activate office on the Master Image!

We have to go through a few tests to check all is good.

Check 1

Make sure the product is not activated on your image.

Check 2

Add the following registry keys and make sure shared computer activation is set to 1.

The registry keys are required to enable office licensing roaming.

Fslogix Install

We now install the fslogix agent.

This is easy.

Click Yes

Enter your product key.

 

Done!

The agent install does install a service.

You will also have 4 groups created for you.

The ODFC groups are user control for your Outlook containers.

The Profile groups are for your……yeah you  have it!

Remove the default groups

…. and add the users you want to have containers mapped when they log on to your VDI/ RDS solution.

Best practice – create 2 groups.

OFFICE INCLUDE

PROFILE INCLUDE

Put the users in to these groups and add the groups withing the FSLOGIX created groups.

Note – Exclude overides include.

The next thing you need to do is create a few reg keys.

FlipFlopProfileDirectoryName – Basically flip sid, username around to username, sid.

VHDLocations – The location of your share that will contain the Containers.

IncludeOfficeActivation – 1 = Office activation data is redirected to the container. 0 = Office activation data is not redirected to the container.

RoamSearch – Used to control the FSLogix Search Roaming feature. Set to ‘1’ or ‘2’ to enable the feature.

Image preparation

 

This will be your own set of best practices.

What I will say is there are 2 great tools to prep your images.

There are lots of other tweaks you can do – I follow this link for the machine template within VMware.

https://www.ituda.com/vmware-horizon-view-windows-10-golden-image-creation/

This link has a good vdi.bat file you use at the end of your image prep.

Once you finish preparing your image it is now over to your Horizon/Xenapp solution to deploy this out.

I will not go in to detail here for this part but this is using an image for MCS/ PVS /Linked clones etc etc.

GPO Setup

There are some GPO’s you can also use to configure settings.

Your VDI machines will be placed in the GPO that these rules apply to.

FSLOGIX ADMX template

Office ADMX template

Setting to roam the 365 Token.

Set Computer Configuration Preferences.

Here are the keys we mentioned earlier but being set by GPO.

You will just have to put the ADMX/ and ADML files either in your local policy definitions location or the Sysvol Policy definitions location.

How FSLOGIX Works

When FSlogix is working it will create VHD/VHDX files on your Container share under a user, sid folder location (Remember the FlipFlop setting) when a user logs in to the VDI.

 

This can be seen in the VDI Compmgmt console. So, you will get a mounted volume attached that resides on the file share as though it is local to the device.

Troubleshooting

Log files are located at Log Location for Agent = C:\ProgramData\FSLogix\ODFC

The log will indicate the setting being read/applied by GPO, the VHD being found for the user , VHD’s  being mounted to the specific folder of Office365.

If using UPM or other profile management tools in conjunction with FSLOGIX don’t forget to exclude the highlighted items.

UPDATE: More exclusions added – Thanks to Rene Bigler.

Outlook- \Users\<username>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook
Search- \Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\FSLogix\WSearch (Only required when RoamSearch set to 2)
Skype4B- \Users\<username>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Lync
Licensing- \Users<username>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Licensing
One Drive- \Users\<Username>\<OneDrive folder name>

The status tray also highlights details and logs.

FSLogix Container Management

Mounting vhdx files so you can look at the contents is done with a tool – Frxcontent.exe, located in the following location – C:\Program Files\Fslogix\Apps

You install the tool using the command frxcontect.exe –Install

From the machine you installed this tool on you then browse to the VHDX files and right click and mount as shown below.

The container below shows the Office VHDX file.

The container below shows the users profile within the VHDX folder.

Two screens will pop up when mounted.

Registry and the Profile folders.

 

The next screen shot simply shows that I can drill in to the users desktop and see the folders that I created.

Conclusion

Simple, easy to implement and quick. Great user experience and solves issues with office 365 cached mode and Exchange online experience for corporate enterprises.

This solution will allow your license to roam in a non-persistent environment without ADFS.

More posts with FSLOGIX will be coming.

Carpe Diem!

Follow me or contact me on twitter @Citxen

Active/Passive Multi Nic Netscaler HA in Azure using ALB

I wrote an article in the Citrix User Group Community, where I highlighted deploying a single NetScaler in Azure to provide some resilience for a Citrix Cloud Solution.

https://www.mycugc.org/blog/azurensg

I promised a follow up at the end of the article and here it is.

I have decided to highlight how to deploy a NetScaler Gateway In Azure using Active/Passive mode and a multi NIC Configuration using high availability.

The Azure Market Place has a ready to go template to help you deploy this solution.

It will deploy the following –

  • 2 NetScaler’s
  • 1 Azure Load Balancer
  • 6 Network Security Groups
  • 6 NICS
  • 3 Public IP’s
  • 1 Availability Group
  • 1 storage account

Pre-Requisites

Have the Gateway IP PIP (Public IP) already defined. This way you can sort out your external DNS before template deployment and simply add the public IP to the Azure Load Balancer. More on this later.

You can create the resource Group/Subnets beforehand if you wish. You need 3 subnets, or the template will create 3 for you.

The Build

Search for the NetScaler template on the Azure Marketplace.

The template outlines the following –

Citrix NetScaler 12.0 High Availability (HA) Azure Resource Manager (ARM) template is designed to ensure easy and consistent way of deploying NetScaler pair in Active-Passive mode. This template increases reliability and system availability with built in redundancy. This ARM template supports Bring Your Own License (BYOL) or Hourly based selection. Choice of selection is offered during template deployment.

Citrix NetScaler is an all-in-one web Application Delivery Controller (ADC) that makes applications run faster, reduces web application ownership costs, optimizes the user experience, and makes sure that applications are always available.

Citrix NetScaler offers many tools for application deployment. Some of the primary tools are:

  • Application Acceleration and Application Security
  • HTTP Compression and HTTP Caching
  • Web Application Firewall (WAF)
  • L4-7 Load Balancer
  • Global Server Load Balancing (GSLB)
  • SSL Acceleration
  • Server Offloading
  • Server Consolidation
  • Content Switching and Content Caching
  • High Availability
  • Remote Access and Remote Monitoring
  • Policy Engine with Multi-Tenancy
  • Data Loss Prevention
  • Session Persistence

This template will guide through deployment of Citrix NetScaler HA Active-Passive mode. Preconfigured to include components and setting to deliver seamless HA experience. Details of topology can be found at http://docs.citrix.com/en-us/netscaler/12/deploying-vpx/deploy-vpx-on-azure/configure-vpx-pair-ha-inc.html. On successful deployment, Pair of NetScaler will be pre-configured in HA-INC mode. NetScaler 12.0 VPX HA template support different SKU’s of NetScaler such as BYOL and hourly license such as VPX 10, VPX 200, VPX 1000 and VPX 3000.

Next you have the option to choose or create a Resource Group.

Put in your preferred username/password combination and it is here you can choose the licencing method. I have opted for BYO (Bring your own) which I will upload to the device and configure with the Mac ID of the VPX system once known.

You can also choose the virtual machine sizes. The recommended size is 2 x Standard DS3 v2 machines.

Next screen gives you the option of choosing or creating the vnet (virtual network) and your subnets. It is here you can choose the vnet/subnets you already created or let the template configure a new vnet and 3 subnets.

In the screen shot below I had 3 subnets already created.

One for management, one for Infrastructure and one where I placed my VDA (Xenapp/Xendesktop machines.

Once you have defined each subnet the template wizard prompts you to review your subnet configuration.

Click Ok.

I came across the below error. This was because my subscription only allows a certain number of cores. I removed some machines and I was able to run it again successfully.

Second attempt I was able to proceed and create the HA environment.

Azure lets you know the deployment is happening once you click create.

Again, in my deployment there was a failure but the template did deploy.

Then this message pops up informing me the template is deploying.

The error details I received are here.

Once deployed you should see the following virtual  VPX machines in the Resource Group Location.

The Azure objects I highlighted already will also be created in your chosen Resource Group.

Now you should connect to the internal management IP’s of your NetScaler appliance on your chosen management subnet.

The IP’s again can be identified by drilling in to the virtual machines and going to the Networking setting –

You will see your IP’s and the NSG rules set on the Interfaces. If you want to connect to your Public IP (PIP) for management, it is here you will need to relax the NSG rules to allow the access.

There is a public IP and an internal IP that is shown at the top of the screen shot.

Once you obtain your management IP’s from both devices you will be able to connect to the internal management IP’s (NSIP).

Here the fun stuff of configuring your two VPX devices will begin!

One thing to note is that when you log in you will see that your HA is set up and all nicely configured and can successfully failover.

  • Obtain your licensing and upload.
  • Import your certificates. Don’t forget the complete chain!
  • Upload the CA certs to your NetScaler and then install them.

 

Choose the Intermediate certificate.

Now import your Server Certificate. Mine is in PFX format.

Upload to the NetScaler device.

Click Install.

Choose the PFX certificate.

Put in your certificate password and click Install.

Your Server certificate should appear as below.

 

One more time – Do not forget to link the chain!

Bind the Server certificate to the Intermediate.

Click OK.

Now you have the appropriate licencing on both your HA appliances and Certificates are uploaded you can proceed with the install of your Netscaler Gateway VIP’s (VIRTUAL IP).

The Xenapp/ Xendesktop Gateway wizard process is well documented so I will not outline this process here. Please check out my CUGC blog at the top for links to other CTP members posts on this process.

Additional Configuration after Template Deployment

This additional configuration after the template deployment needs to be carried out.

First of all you need to create 2 NetScaler Gateway’s.

You can create this using the Xenapp and Xendesktop wizard on the Netscaler.

You can easily deploy a second NetScaler after the first one by clicking on the highlighted icon below.

Once again, I will not run through the NetScaler Gateway configuration as this is well documented.

On the virtual machine Interfaces in the Azure portal, the Gateway IP’s must be assigned.

VPX0 NIC INTERFACE 

VPX1 NIC INTERFACE

Make sure your NSG (Network Security Group) on both interfaces is allowing port 443 inbound. The NSG acts like a firewall.

This needs to be done for both machines (VPX0 and VPX1) and the NICS the Gateway is assigned to.

The reason you need to create 2 Gateways in an Active/Passive deployment is that you can only assign one IP to one interface in Azure.

For example, if I was to assign 10.0.0.111 to VPX0/NIC1, I would be unable to assign that IP to VPX1/NIC1.

As the gateway IP is a floating IP shared between two VPX devices, we need two Gateways with the same configuration so we can assign different IP’s to the NICS so the Azure Load Balancer can point to the Gateway.

Azure Load Balancer Configuration

You need to assign your public IP (PIP) for your NetScaler Gateway to a Frontend load balancer.

In an on-premises environment if the primary NetScaler goes down, the secondary node will flood the subnet with ARP to take over the IP address of the VIP and SNIP to restore the connection. In Azure GARP doesn’t work therefore we use the ALB in front and have a single public IP which health probes against the backend NetScaler’s and if one of the NetScaler’s goes down, the HA function in NetScaler will (when configured with INC) will set the virtual server as up on a separate IP address and the ALB will start to failover traffic to the second VIP on the second NetScaler.

More on Azure Load Balancer can be found here –

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/load-balancer/load-balancer-standard-overview

Access the ALB (Azure Load Balancer) via your Resource Group that contains the deployed resources.

You then need to create your Frontend configuration and assign the PIP (Public IP) to it.

Remember you can create your PIP before deployment so you are able to sort out your SSL certificate and external DNS before implementation day.

You simply click ADD and you get the option to configure a Frontend LB.

 

The next thing you need to do is create your backend Pools. This will be the machines and target IP’s the Frontend Load Balancer will connect to within your environment.

Simply click ADD and configure as necessary. If you don’t see your target IP you may not have assigned this on your machines NICS in Azure. Remember the IP’s defined within your NetScaler ADC configuration must exist on the NICS of the virtual machines in Azure.

The Backend IP’s can be seen below and they are pointing to the individual Gateway IP’s assigned to each NIC. (Remember 2 Gateway’s).

Lastly we need to configure the load balancing rules. This is the glue if you like, that will make your Frontend Load Balancer pass on 443 connections to the Backend you just configured.

Click ADD.

One thing that caught me out when I was configuring this set up was the Health Probe. I used the probe that was assigned by default. I could never hit the Gateway logon page and I was scratching my head for a while. When I created an additional Health Probe on 443 I was able to hit the Gateway externally. Before I did this I could not get a TELNET response from the Gateway externally.

SNIP IP’S

In Azure SNIP IP’s are not floating. This means your SNIP IP can be different across appliances.

VPX 0

VPX 1

Make sure you have a SNIP for each subnet you communicate to. This then needs to be assigned to the Azure VM interface. Remember you cannot assign the same IP to more than one NIC.

STOREFRONT

Remember to add both your Gateways to Storefront. You can simply download the configuration file here and import it in to your Storefront.

That is basically it. You should now have a NetScaler HA active/passive solution in Azure.

This is front ended by an Azure Load Balancer.

Simply connect to your Public URL and log in and you are good to go.

The next article will highlight the Active/Active approach in Azure.

Follow me on Twitter @CitXen

Carpe Diem!

 

 

VDI Like a Pro – Announcing the State of VDI and SBC union survey 2018

 

The industry’s biggest (almost) annual survey has just started again. For years now one thing is clear: Many discussions in the End User Computing, VDI and SBC space are not just about performance best practices and product comparisons. With so many VDI and SBC deployments out there, the differences are huge. It is only logical to wonder how these real-world VDI and SBC environments are used and how they are built, especially when you consider the rapidly changing VDI/SBC landscape. Since it’s driven as much by innovation as it is by marketing campaigns, there is a clear need to better understand what is out there.

The goal of the survey executed by Ruben Spruijt, Field CTO at Frame, and Mark Plettenberg, Senior Product manager at Login VSI, is to share insights about usage, configuration and trends in the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure and Server Based Computing industry, ‘the State of the VDI and SBC union’. The survey responses will be strictly confidential and data from this research will be reported only in the aggregate. The results will be reported in a whitepaper that is free to download after registration. If that’s not enough we are also giving away 3 Amazon gift cards ($50,-) to randomly selected persons who complete the full survey.

The questions are comprehensive, and relevant to everyone building on-premises VDI and SBC, Desktop as a Service Cloud environments. The aim of VDI Like a Pro is to repeat the survey at least once a year. This will allow us to see how our industry is changing in practice. The amount and quality of the responses will determine the success of the survey.

VDI like a Pro will present and publish the findings of the survey publicly, but the full report with all results will be made available only for the survey participants first. So, participate to get first hand access and make this community effort a success.

The survey will be closed on the 31th of March this year; the whitepaper and results will be available end of April. We hope you want to participate and become a VDI Rock star!

Click here to take the VDI Like a Pro – “State of the VDI and SBC union” survey.

 

Citrix Policy Basics 101

  • INTRO
  • STORED POLICY LOCATIONS
  • PROCESSING AND PRECEDENCE
  • PLANNING
  • FILTERING
  • FILTERING MECHANISMS
  • UNDERSTANDING THE LOOPBACK POLICY
  • CITRIX POLICY TEMPLATES
  • BACKING UP AND IMPORTING POLICY
  • COMPARISON AND MODELING
  • HOW POLICIES ARE APPLIED
  • POLICY FOLDERS
  • REGISTRY POLICY LOCATIONS
  • TROUBLESHOOTING
  • CONCLUSION
Intro

As a Scouser (Endearing term for those of us born in Liverpool) who moved towards the south of England, every now and then I venture out and have a night out on the tiles. I will approach a bar and order some extravagant dressed up beverage. This is fine until my northern mates come to visit and smack me right back down to Earth and say, “Remember your roots lad!”

It is at this point the rounds turn in to the stuff of legend.

(These days I am a father of two so this is not common place nor was I ever really the stuff of legend ) 😉

Why do I mention this? Well, with anything in life, no matter how far you progress it is important to remember your roots. Most of us like to venture forward but without a solid grounding as a base we will begin to make mistakes.

This is the same with technology. Mistakes are quite often made with common tasks. People tend to concentrate on the latest and greatest and  sometimes forget about the fundamental basics.

As a support orientated consultant, I often see this happen in my field. I see very clever implementations done by very clever people but now and then issues arise and often it is due to some sort of oversight at those basic levels. Whether it is on premises or cloud the fundamental building blocks of any infrastructure will dictate how successful your implementation will be.

This series of  “101” articles will serve as a refresher about those basics starting with Citrix Policy 101.

I will talk about policy processing and precedence, best practices, policy modelling, locations policies are stored, tips and tricks and enough information to provide you with effective troubleshooting skills.

Stored Policy Locations

Citrix policies are stored in the Xenapp and Xendesktop Site database. They apply to systems that have the VDA agent installed. They are configured within the Studio console.

Site Policies in Active Directory are stored in the sysvol folder which replicates amongst domain controllers in a domain. They are configured using the group policy management console. (gpmc.msc)

Domain policies in Active Directory are stored In the sysvol folder which replicates amongst Domain Controllers in a domain. They are configured using the group policy management console. (gpmc.msc)

OU policies in Active Directory are stored in the sysvol folder which replicates amongst Domain Controllers in a domain. They are configured using the group policy management console. (gpmc.msc)

Local policies apply to the local machine and are stored in the registry of the local machine. They are configured using the local group policy editor (gpedit.msc)

All policies can contain Microsoft and Citrix settings apart the ones in Studio (Just Citrix)

As shown policies can be configured in multiple locations – the Group policy engine or the Citrix policy engine.

Tip! It is advised as part of best practice to choose a single location to configure your policies as this streamlines any troubleshooting you may have to carry out.

Best practice would be to configure your policies using the Group Policy Engine (Sysvol) but as a Citrix administrator, if you do not have access to AD GPO you can use the Citrix policy Engine using Citrix Studio console (Site DB).

Processing and Precedence

Policy Processing

  • Local GPO is processed first
  • Citrix Policies Created with Studio
  • Site GPO
  • Domain GPO
  • OU GPO – Processed last

Policy Precedence

  • OU GPO – Highest/Winner
  • Domain GPO
  • Site GPO
  • Citrix Policies Created with Studio
  • Local GPO
NOTE: Citrix Policies in Studio will be overridden by Citrix Policies at the OU level.

Citrix Policies rank from 1 upwards. The lower the number the higher the priority. So, a Citrix policy setting that has a priority of 1 will take precedence over a setting with the priority of 2.

Some Citrix Policies rely on underlying Microsoft functionality. If this is not enabled the Citrix policy will not apply.

Policies only configured in lower priority only will take affect over non-configured policies in higher priorities.

Planning

Security

Assess the security requirements (Session limits, clipboard redirection, client mapped drives, authentication/encryption, removable media)

Connection/Optimizations

Assess your end user locations so you can successfully make bandwidth optimisation/restriction decisions. These will be decisions on printing bandwidth limits, dpi, audio, video etc. Also assess your OS optimisations and plan on a way of implementing these.

Virtual Infrastructure

Assess the virtual machine settings (updates, local client or server time, start menu, power button, Icons, shortcuts)

Policy Types

Identify Citrix and Windows policies that are required to achieve your goals.

A list of policy references can be found in the following link to help you assess:

https://docs.citrix.com/en-us/xenapp-and-xendesktop/current-release/policies/reference.html

Limit amount of Policies

There is a school of thought that it does help separate policies out according to functions (Printing, Bandwidth etc). Although easier for the Administrator it can cause a performance hit.

In addition, try to avoid duplicate policy settings as this increases logon time.

Filtering

Filters define the criteria that is used to apply a policy to a computer or user object.

Apply your base foundational policies by setting them to the broadest filter. This eases administration when applying later policies that should only apply to specific situations.

By having an unfiltered policy this will apply to all. Also apply a baseline policy with the lowest priority so exceptions can take precedence.

A default unfiltered policy is provided to apply your broadest settings. If you do not wish to use this default unfiltered policy, you can disable it. This policy applies to all users and computers in the Farm/Site as no filter is set.

NEVER set a policy setting to its default value unless you are overriding a setting in a lower precedence policy. Setting default values requires extra work which requires extra time which adds to policy processing time. (Tip from Carl Webster)

https://docs.citrix.com/en-us/xenapp-and-xendesktop/current-release/policies/policies-default-settings.html

An example of filters to apply is shown in this table:

Filtering Mechanisms

There are 3 filtering mechanisms –

GPO link location – This is Site, Domain or OU targeting. Careful planning of OU structure is required to be effective.

Security Filtering – This is used to restrict the policy set in an ou from applying to certain objects. A common example is Disabling lockdown settings to Admins so they have full functionality logging on to a VDA. Denying a group, a policy via security filtering or removing the group from Security filtering prevents the GPO from applying to that group.

WMI Filtering – This is used to further restrict how a GPO is applied. At this level you can specify the OU should only apply to 64 bit and not 32 bit computers. Just be aware that WMI filters can cause logon delays.

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/access-protection/windows-firewall/create-wmi-filters-for-the-gpo

Understanding the LOOP-BACK policy

Allows user settings to be applied to a computer object.

You have two modes –

Replace – This will only apply the user settings specified to the computer object in the OU. No user policies outside this will be applied.

Merge – Other user settings outside the OU will apply.

I usually go with REPLACE but that is my preference.

Citrix Policy Templates

Citrix provide “best practice” templates to reduce your administrative tasks. There are a set of predefined templates for use cases that apply to certain situations such as low bandwidth, WAN and internal connections.

Additional predefined templates can be obtained via the Citrix support web site.

Simply open a template and use the configured settings or apply your own from this best practice point.

The below table highlights how to carry out actions using templates.

Backing up and Importing Policy

You can also import and export policy templates from the Actions tab. So, if you have your own predefined best practices from out in the field you can use these templates and configure as necessary.

Another way to backup your policy settings would be to use Powershell.

To import the Policy, carry out the following cmd.

Comparison and Modelling

Citrix provides a tool for comparing policies.

Warning signs indicate conflicting settings. You can drill down in to the warning signs for more information.

There are also two wizards provided which help you assess how policies are applied to your users connecting to VDA’s.

The Citrix Group Policy Modelling Wizard will show you results of Citrix and Microsoft GPO’s. This is found in the Group Policy Management Console.

You also get the Citrix Modelling Wizard. This will only show you the Citrix Policies and is found in the Studio console.

How Policies are Applied

Computer policies will apply at a system start. So, changes made will take affect after a reboot.

User Policies will apply when a user logs on. So, make your change, log the user off and back on for it to apply.

Policies are refreshed every 90 minutes plus 0-30 minutes.

Reconnecting a session will cause policies to re-evaluate and using GPUPDATE /FORCE will also trigger a refresh.

The Full Process

  • User logs in and Winlogon process starts up.
  • Client Side Extensions are then loaded. Both Microsoft and Citrix.
  • Citrix CSE will start to process policies (Local GPO first)
  • The Citrix CSE will then process Farm policies
  • Lastly the Citrix CSE will process Active Directory policies.
  • Now the precedence order will take effect.
  • A resultant set of policies file is generated (RSOP.GPF)
  • This file is used to make the actual policy settings in the registry.
Policy Folders

The Citrix Client-Side Extensions are responsible for caching the policies on your VDA system. The CSE is contained within the VDA itself.

  • HDXSite – Indicates it is a Citrix Policy
  • GUID – Indicates it is an AD GPO
  • Local Group Policy – Indicates a local GPO
  • 0 = User Policy
  • 1 = Computer Policy

The other folder of significance is where RSOP files are stored on the machines. These are the active combined policy settings. The numeric folders indicate the session ID.

Tip: Deleting the contents of both folders and performing a GPUPDATE /FORCE will completely refresh the policies.
Registry Policy locations

The below registry location is where policies are stored in the registry.

(Note: User Profile Manager settings too!)

This registry directory requires some explaining.

The numeric numbers are the user policy settings stored under a session id.

In each of the folders you will see the values of the policies set.

Events – This is the timestamp of the last computer update. There is an Events key also located in the User session ID folders. Using this key you could figure out when the user last logged on. As this would be when user session policies applied.

Evidence – This is where the filter criteria is tracked and stored.

ICAPolicies – Computer settings

Troubleshooting

The following information will provide you with good troubleshooting knowledge and methodology.

The Full Policy Troubleshooting Process

  • Check  Citrix CSE versions (Client Side Extension folder -CitrixCseEngine.exe)
  • Check the GPMC version (Group Policy – Management Components folder – CitrixGPMCConnector.dll)
  • Compare the versions to your appropriate product version (Support Site)
  • Check AD cached policies in C:\ProgramData\CitrixCseCache
  • Use the GUID to take a closer look in AD
  • Search in GPMC (Unique id) or use powershell to find a match
  • Look at the Created and modified dates of the GPO and compare this with the cache folder. This will tell you if the cached folder is up to date.
  • If it did not match you could issue a GPUPDATE /FORCE
  • If this does not work check event viewer for errors
  • Now check the Studio Policies in C:\ProgramData\Citrix\GroupPolicy
  • Computer and User files will both contain rollback and rsop gpf files if not something is wrong.
  • Check the registry locations
  • Check how policies are filtered
  • Check HKLM\Software\Citrix\ICA\Session\ (shows connection details – name, client address and full client version). Issues with policies not applying could be due to subnet changes or client rebuilds.

High Level Troubleshooting Methodology

  • Find out the problem
  • Replicate the problem
  • Gather evidence
  • Investigate
  • Test scenarios
  • Resolve

On a shared hosted server system, you may need to RDP to the server as an administrator and drill in to the registry and folder locations highlighted in this document to figure out issues.

You may need to set the policy priority to the highest and apply to a test user to see if the policy applies.

Use the tools at hand you have been provided to gather evidence such as the comparison and modelling tools, resultant set of policy etc.

Corrupt policy cache scenarios could involve deleting the contents of the CSE folder locations and the RSOP folder locations for the policies.

Sometimes you may have a locked down environment and you will need to relax this for troubleshooting if you have no run command or cannot access the registry.

One other method to get around this is to inject a cmd shortcut in to the affected users profile and opening elevated.

I find the following command is also useful to provide you with RSOP information from the GPO whilst logged in to a user’s session.

Command Prompt:

GPResult.exe /H %TEMP%\%USERNAME%.htm

%TEMP%\%USERNAME%.htm

PowerShell:

GPResult.exe /H $ENV:TEMP\$ENV:USERNAME.htm

$ENV:TEMP\$ENV:USERNAME.htm

Troubleshooting Policies Using Tools

CTXCSEUTIL

CtxCseUtil is a tool that can generate resultant set of policy (RSOP) report (per computer, per user or both) for Citrix policies on a device that has the Group Policy Management Console installed.

It can be run locally or remotely against a server VDA. This tool will convert RSOP.GPF to HTML report. The end user does not have to be actively logged in but does need to have logged in at some point. This tool needs WinRm configured so it can run on the machine you are running it from and the target.

Also run the tool with AD privileges.

Example elevated cmd prompt targeting a logged in user using the /u switch and c/ switch (u= user/ c=computer)

Retrieved Citrix User Policies

Retrieved Citrix Computer Policies

Citrix Group Policy PowerShell Module

Import-Module C:\Citrix.GroupPolicy.Commands.psml

The following commands will provide you with help on how to use this module –

Get-Command

Get-Help

This command will backup your policy settings in to the specified folder.

Export-CtxGroupPolicy c:\Tools\GroupPolicy

Exporting Citrix Policies from AD GPO is outlined here – CTX140039 and more on using powershell to create policies can be found here –

https://www.sinisasokolic.com/how-to-set-citrix-xenapp-7-6-policies-with-powershell/

WMI Issues

WMI filters can cause issues. Logons and reconnects can take a long time to occur.

You should enable Group Policy logging – HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Diagnostics\

“GPSvcDebugLevel”=dword 00030002

The log file location is %WINDIR%\debug\usermode\gpsvc.log

If you see FilterCheck: Evaluate returned error. hr=0x80041069 – This means AD is timing out on WMI calls.

Event Viewer will also highlight WMI errors.

Conclusion

Having a fundamental grasp on how policies work is vital. After all the hard work of implementation is done you are left with the user experience. If this is not good, all that hard work goes down the drain. This is what people hear about, the user gripes, frustrations, session experience etc.

Citrix have supplied you with great tools to troubleshoot HDX environments and getting your policies right for your devices and connections whether they are WAN, LAN, REMOTE or VIRTUAL/PHYSICAL is paramount and once your users are satisfied then you as a Consultant can relax. Remember policy best practices are always changing so, after the implementation is all said and done never forget to do the following:

Manage – Maintain – Assess – Re-evaluate- Improve – Manage – Maintain – Assess – Re-evaluate – Improve – Pay Rise!!!

@ CITXEN

CTP – CITRIX TECHNOLOGY PROFESSIONAL

Carpe Diem!

NETSCALER GATEWAY SECURITY 101 – HOW TO GET FROM GRADE C TO GRADE A+ IN 4 STEPS

A bit of a hot topic right now is security and rightly so.

I will keep this simple. You are allowing access into your environment externally using a NetScaler Gateway. Let’s make sure we secure this beast and get an A result in your Qualys SSL Labs tests. Actually no, let’s go for the A+.

I don’t need to go into all the security jargon here, I will leave that up to your own research, plus, it is very dry reading. I will supply links at the bottom of this post for those wishing to know more. What I will show you is the last in my series of the overlooked-but-somewhat-familiar and delve in to NetScaler Gateway security.

Some environments I have witnessed just have an SSL certificate on the appliance and that is that. If that gets you to sleep at night, that is fine but, you really can do a lot better on security matters and it will not impress the boss when he looks at the results of those penetration tests.

The Four Steps to Success

My NetScaler was configured with an SSL cert and the bare-bones configuration for it to work so I could log in and launch my applications externally.

I decided to see what grade I would get by using Qualys SSL Labs Checker Tool.

https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/

Just your everyday C grade. That for me is not going to set my boss’s expectations on fire but it isn’t bad.

STEP 1 – DEAL WITH SECURITY PROTOCOLS /CIPHERS

Remove SSL3 off your NetScaler Gateway and add Custom Ciphers, setting the ECDH protocols at the top.

Set ECDHE at top priority shown below within your custom ciphers.

 

Surely my grade will improve.

Ok a B grade and we got rid of that pesky…

 

STEP 2 – THE CHAIN (NOTHING TO DO WITH FLEETWOOD MAC)

The next action was to import the intermediate Certificate in my certificate chain on to the NetScaler appliance. I used the Intermediate SHA2 server certificate obtained from my trusted CA. I installed this on to my NetScaler appliance and linked my NetScaler Gateway Server Certificate to the intermediate.

Link server certificate to Intermediate certificate as shown here.

 

Click OK and now your certficate chain is linked.

Shall we see what the scores are?

So now we all understand we should never break the chain 😉.

We are close but no cigar yet. I want A+, remember.

STEP 3 – AVOID SSL RENEGOTIATION DENIAL OF SERVICE ATTACKS

Open up a putty shell and log on to your Netscaler.

Type in the following command:

set ssl parameter -denySSLReneg FRONTEND_CLIENT

Congratulations on your A!

Remember that teacher in school that was never satisfied with your efforts? I had many such teachers, but now I will follow suit and say we can do better than that! I have one more trick up my sleeve.

STEP 4 – CONFIGURE HTTP STRICT TRANSPORT SECURITY (HSTS)

Open up putty and SSH to your NetScaler. Once logged in, type the command below.

Add rewrite action insert_STS_header insert_http_http_header Strict-Transport-Security “\”max-age=157680000\””

Add rewrite policy enforce_STS true insert_STS_header

Now bind the rewrite policy to your NetScaler Gateway:

bind vpn vserver Name_of_NetScaler_vServer -policy enforce_STS -priority 100 -gotoPriorityExpression NEXT -type RESPONSE

Congratulations, my friend, on achieving a tremendous result on securing your Netscaler appliance!

 

CONCLUSION

This article is not meant to go into the technical waffle on security. What I want to show you here is how easy it is to secure your NetScaler Gateway appliances in 4 steps within a matter of minutes.

Yes, there are other security settings you can add, but to be fair, I am happy with an A+ and your boss will be too when those penetration tests come in.

For those who wish to know more and fill in the blanks check out these resources:

https://www.citrix.com/blogs/2016/06/09/scoring-an-a-at-ssllabs-com-with-citrix-netscaler-2016-update/

https://discussions.citrix.com/topic/374534-netscaler-chain-incomplete/

https://www.antonvanpelt.com/make-your-netscaler-ssl-vips-more-secure-updated/

https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/alerts/TA14-290A

https://www.derekseaman.com/2013/05/import-iis-ssl-certificate-to-citrix-netscaler.html

https://blog.qualys.com/ssllabs/2011/10/31/tls-renegotiation-and-denial-of-service-attacks

https://support.citrix.com/article/CTX121149

https://support.citrix.com/article/CTX205221

This will be the end of my introductory series on overlooked settings. There is so much more on this topic, but the aim was just to highlight 3 seperate strategies that are simple, effective yet overlooked.

Application Groups

Out of the Box Printing 

Netscaler Gateway Security

I hope you have enjoyed my initial CTA posts and more will follow.

Follow me on Twitter:

@CitXen

CITXEN BLOG

Carpe Diem

Everything you wanted to know about out of the box printing but were afraid to ask

In my  blog on the overlooked, but somewhat familiar, Application Groups feature:

http://wp.me/p8leEE-cl

I advised users of a way to provide an active/active, active/passive solution at the application level without the need for any additional software other than XenApp post 7.9.

This blog will touch upon another overlooked, but somewhat familiar, practice of Printing and highlight some great scripts provided by fellow CTA Martin Therkelsen to clean your printing environment.

It seems there is plenty of information out on this subject, yet time and time again, I see fundamental mistakes being made and then users and administrators wondering why they cannot print successfully. It is also a subject that people assume you know about and therefore are afraid to ask.

When it comes to printing and design, I will always start with the below strategy and tailor it based on customer requirements:

  • Limit the number of printers within your RDS sessions.
  • Allow default printer only and map network printers via GPP.
  • Assess and analyse printing requirements.
  • Prevent print driver installation for your users.
  • Use Universal print drivers or Easy Print to reduce amount of print drivers.
  • Non-native print drivers should be tested using a print stress tool.
  • Use Print Detective and remove any Non-Native drivers.
  • Use print driver isolation to minimize crashes related to drivers.
  • Roaming Users, map printers using GPP proximity based printing.
  • Have the Print Server and RDS on the same O/S version.
  • Clean out your printers.

Note:

This is my own set of baseline best practices and may not fall in to specific niche requirements. There are quite a lot of good 3rd party solutions out there for special circumstances but what I want to define at this point is an out of the box methodology without the need for 3rd party tools or even Citrix.

So, what does this look like in practice and how would you go about achieving the above?

Let me show you.

 

Limit the Number of Printers within Your Terminal Server Sessions

You can prevent printer redirection by using this local policy setting:

Local Computer Policy / Computer Configuration / Administrative Templates / Windows Components / Remote Desktop Services / Remote Desktop Session Host / Printer Redirection

Do not allow client printer redirection

This can also be set at GPO level.

This setting will prevent client-redirected printers at the computer configuration level. Consider it an all-or-nothing switch for client redirection. This setting will override client settings.

 

Allow Default Printer Only and Map Network Printers via GPP

If users require client printer mapping, provide them with default printers only. If they require any additional printer, try to adjust their expectation first and deal with this issue by setting the correct default printer outside the session. This way you are still limiting the amount of printers that are redirected.

Computer Configuration / Policies / Administrative Templates / Windows Components / Remote Desktop Services / Remote Desktop Session Host / Printer Redirection

Redirect only the default client printer

By enabling the next policy, the Client Printers will be redirected, but will not be set as the default printers.

Computer Configuration | Policies | Administrative Templates | Windows Components | Remote Desktop Services | Remote Desktop Session Host | Printer Redirection

Do not set default printer to be default printer in a session

Should users want networked printers to be mapped automatically within the session, then my out of the box suggestion is to use Group Policy Preferences (GPP) to deploy printers. You can target specific users / groups to have certain printers using item level targeting. You can also set the default printer for your users at this level.

User Configuration / Preferences / Control Panel Settings / Printers

 

Assess and Analyse Printing Requirements

This part is all about how to configure your printing traffic flow and when to redirect the print job based on site criteria. For example, the below setting should be used if your RDS Servers and Print Servers are within the same location and you want to save on resources on your RDS host.

Computer Configuration / Policies / Administrative Templates / Printers

Always render print jobs on the server

Disabling this setting increases the resources on your RDS server.

In my opinion, it is wise to offload print rendering to the print server when mapping Network printers, as you would want to reduce load on your RDS Server provided your Print Server has a lot of resources and is in the same site as your RDS server.

More on this can be found in an article I have highlighted at the end of this blog post!

 

Prevent Print Driver Installation for your Users

There are various ways to achieve this. Within your preferred GPO navigate to:

Computer Configuration / Windows Settings / Security Settings / Local Policies / Security Options

Prevent users from installing drivers

Also:

Computer Configuration / Policies / Administrative Templates / Printers

Package Point and Print – Approved Servers

Specifying a false printer name will stop users from installing printer drivers.

Most modern printers do not require Kernel mode drivers, so it is also worthwhile configuring this setting:

Computer Configuration / Administrative Templates / Printers

Disallow installation of printers using kernel-mode Drivers

 

Use Universal Print Drivers or Easy Print to Reduce Amount of Print Drivers

This one is self-explanatory. Again, it centers around limiting drivers on your RDS servers to avoid compatibility issues and spooler problems. My preference is to use universal drivers for session based printing when possible and if you have client redirected printers use TS Easy Print. The Easy Print settings can be found at these locations:

Computer Configuration / Administrative Templates / Windows Components / Remote Desktop Services / Printer Redirection

Use Remote Desktop Easy Print Printer Driver First

Note:

If Do not allow client printer redirection policy setting is enabled, the Use Terminal Services Easy Print printer driver first policy setting is ignored.

Computer Configuration / Policies / Administrative Templates / Remote Desktop Services / Printer Redirection

Specify RD Session Host server fallback printer driver behaviour

With this policy, you can define whether to use PCL, PS version or both when the Easy Printer driver will be used as a fallback scenario.

https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc732264(v=ws.11).aspx

Note:

If you have to use printer drivers use PCL5 or postscript drivers as advised by the very knowledgeable Thomas Kotzing.

Make sure you use isolation for HP Universal Printer Drivers.

 

Non-native print drivers should be strained using a print stress tool

I have provided links providing detailed information on how to use the Print Stress Tool.

https://support.citrix.com/article/CTX129574

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv_Up23vKiQ

https://support.citrix.com/article/CTX109374

 

Use Print Detective and remove any Non-Native Drivers

Print Detective is an information- gathering utility that can be used for troubleshooting problems related to print drivers. It enumerates all printer drivers from the specified Windows machine, including driver specific information. It can also be used to delete specified print drivers.

Just to highlight: it is a Citrix tool but can be used for non Citrix environments!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sI7Xpy8w4Oc

 

Roaming Users, Map Printers using GPP Proximity Based Printing

To configure proximity based printing configure your Terminal Servers with loopback policy processing enabled and navigate towards this setting:

User configuration / Preferences / Control Panel Settings / Printers.

Right Click and add new Shared printer. Choose Action – Replace and enter shared printer details and set the printer as default.

The Common tab will allow you to do some Item-level targeting – Choose the options below.

 

In my example, I have targeted terminal sessions coming from a specific client IP range to be chosen. So these specific users will only get the printer mapped. Continuing with this method you can set different printers to different IP ranges. If a user moves to a different location they will get the nearest printer mapped within their Terminal Server session.

You can use a variety of settings to map the printers within Group Policy Preferences (GPP) or a combination of settings such as Client IP range and AD group. All Items are defined below:

 

Have the Print Server and Terminal Server on the same O/S

The print server and TS server should be on the same O/S so we avoid any issues to do with 32-bit and 64-bit drivers and driver conflicts.

If for some reason you do have some type of driver mismatch you should configure your client to server print driver mapping.

 

Use Print Driver Isolation to Minimise Crashes with Drivers

Computer Configuration / Policies / Administrative Templates / Printers

Execute print drivers in isolated processes

This policy setting determines whether the print spooler will execute print drivers in an isolated or separate process. When print drivers are loaded in an isolated process (or isolated processes), a print driver failure will not cause the print spooler service to fail.

The video link provided here highlights at the end how and why to use print driver isolation to limit spooler crashes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv_Up23vKiQ

We also have this setting to help in driver related crashes:

Computer Configuration / Policies / Administrative Templates / Printers

Isolate print drivers from applications (2012 above)

Determines if print driver components are isolated from applications instead of normally loading them into applications. Isolating print drivers greatly reduces the risk of a print driver failure causing an application crash.

Note:

Make sure you use isolation for HP Universal Printer Drivers.

 

Clean Out Your Printers

Scenario:

So, it’s all very well from the outset achieving these goals, but how do you deal with the mess that has been made before your arrival? You have inherited chaos and you need to tackle the situation. The predecessor did not share your mindset and allowed all printers to be redirected, did not think about driver installation, users could map printers themselves, when users have left stale profiles have been removed incorrectly and users are accepting of all the issues because it is what they have become accustomed to.

Now your user profiles and TS servers contain a ton of incorrect printer mappings.

First things first, as quick as you can, reset user expectation and get the above steps put in to practice to form your baseline for your printing solution. You will then need to clean out the old/stale printers in the environment.

There are various ways to achieve this such as run the following when shutting down/rebooting machines:

reg delete “hkcu\printers\connections” /f

This will delete all GPP and manually added printers.

My fellow Citrix Technology Advocate Martin Therkelson, who is very good with scripting solutions, has kindly provided some scripts which must be run under both HKLM and HKCU context to aid in the above problem. There are two scripts. One for computer logon and one for user logon.

If you do not clear the HKCU part (within the profiles) the old/stale printers will be mapped back and you will see them start to re-appear.

The scripts should be run on user logon and machine startup. You could create two GPOs for this and apply to your RDS servers.

Note:

Remember to back up your registry before trying this out and always in a test environment first folks!

Script Instructions:

The script is a simple function called from the last line where you just need to change the name of the stale printer server. You can also choose to run the script with verbose.

EXAMPLE

Cleanup-StalePrinters -StalePrintServer StalePrinterServerName

EXAMPLE

Cleanup-StalePrinters -StalePrintServer StalePrinterServerName -Verbose

You need to edit both scripts so the bottom line is running the function with the parameter for the stale server.

The scripts are available here to download:

Print Scripts

Note:

When removing stale profiles, manually make sure you do this via the Advanced System Settings / System properties / User Profiles location.

Simply right clicking and deleting the user’s folder directly will leave stuff in the registry and you can get a build-up of stale servers!

 

Conclusion

I have one more tale to tell on this series of the somewhat familiar but often overlooked, but until my next post, I hope some of you found this useful and it gives you a good baseline on how to move forward with your printing solutions.

Lastly, it never hurts to revisit the printing architecture and how printing works in a RDS/TS/Citrix environment. This guide is still very relevant today and is always worth revisiting. For me, it is the printing blueprint all RDS Admins should work from and it will help you assess your printing environments.

http://www.brianmadden.com/opinion/The-Ultimate-Guide-to-Terminal-Server-Printing-Design-and-Configuration

Follow me on Twitter:

@CitXen

Citrix Cloud -Smart Checks Revisited

I am really excited to be revisiting Smart Checks which is part of the Smart tools suite of products in Citrix Cloud.

I will make this post simple as the tool itself is intuitive and simple to use.I will also highlight the new custom checks features!

I have blanked out certain names in some screen shots as the machines do not wish to be identified.

Adding your Site

Log in to Citrix Cloud from your Delivery Controller browser and go to Smart Tools/Manage and choose Smart Check.

Once in add your site to the cloud.

The process is easy. Download the agent.

The agent will install.

You will be informed that the agent is installed to your Delivery Controller.

Nice green tick clearly letting you know you should proceed.

Enter your admin details that administer your site and the site will be added to your Cloud subscription.

Now I can see my site in Smart Check. That was easy!

Performance Checks

We can drill in to the site.

First we will go to Perform Check.

Choose the checks you wish to perform.

You have 4 standard checks:

You can choose to run all checks or individual checks manually.

Once you click the Perform Checks Now you will see Smart Check go to work.

You will now see any issues highlighted.

Drill in to the alerts by clicking on anything highlighted. This is all very intuitive so far.

One of my checks highlights a VDA is in Maintenance mode. It is a production machine so let me rectify that. Thanks for letting me know Smart Tools!

You also have LTSR checks. As this environment is 7.13 it rightly points out I am not compatible.

Agent Install Part 2

Remember the initial agent install process?

Now you can install the agent from within the Smart Check console to your other identified Delivery Controllers. No need to go through any manual process.

Custom Checks

This next part has been a long time coming and great from a support aspect.

Citrix have an initiative to bring all the tools out there under one umbrella and have been working closely with Carl Webster to achieve this. The idea is to bring your own custom checks and add them to Smart Check.

The Citrix Community will also be adding custom check blueprints over time.

The VDA health Check (Health Assistant) is a welcome addition.

Simply click the blue + icon and you will add this as a performance check in Smart Check.

Once clicked you are informed it is added.

Navigate back to Smart Check and your site and go back in to perform checks.

Once you click on this you can choose the machines the check will performed against.

Simply run the checks for your analysis.

You are also able to schedule your custom checks. This applies to the standard checks also.
Go to the Configure link.

You can choose the frequency of the checks (daily/weekly/time etc) and what machines they are run on.

Optimise your environment

Another Custom Check that is currently available is the Citrix Optimiser Check.

Everyone loves a bit of optimisation so let’s see how this works.

Once chosen run the performance checks choosing the new Citrix Optimiser check. I chose one of my VDA machines.

The check highlights that my machine is not optimised.

I am advised to download the Citrix Optimiser and run this on my VDA.

I even get a nice link to the article and download for the Citrix Optimizer tool .
More on this tool can be found in a previous blog on optimization here:
http://wp.me/p8leEE-bs

Adding to this you now have custom checks that can handle the following servers/services:

Manual Checks and Insight Services

If you choose not to install the agent, you can still use Smart Check to perform manual health checks. 
Smart Check analyzes Call Home and Citrix Scout data and displays potential issues or applicable updates. 
 
For Smart Check to discover your Site, the following requirements must be met:
Diagnostics uploads from your Site using Call Home or Citrix Scout must exist.
You must use the same Citrix account that's associated with those diagnostics uploads to access Smart Tools. 

Customers can control automatic discovery of XenApp and XenDesktop Sites from Call Home or Citrix Scout diagnostics uploads in Citrix Insight Services.
You can also enable Smart Tools access when you install a Delivery Controller. 

A browser window opens and navigates automatically to a Smart Services web page, where you enter your Citrix Cloud account credentials. (If you don't have a Citrix Cloud account, simply enter your Citrix account credentials, and a new Citrix Cloud account is automatically created for you.) 

After you're authenticated, a certificate is silently installed in the Smart Tools Agent directory.

More on this cab be found at this link:
https://docs.citrix.com/en-us/xenapp-and-xendesktop/7-15-ltsr/manage-deployment/cis.html 

There really is no reason you should not be proactive!

Conclusion

I am super excited by the cleverness of Smart Tools especially coming from a support area. This allows you to gain valuable insights in to your sites health and make corrective actions. You can keep on top of your environment and get those valuable changes implemented before you have to become reactive to problems. This tool will only get better over time.
The addition of custom and manual checks is a great move and the Insight/Taas functionality has also been migrated over. All in all a great one stop shop tool for analysis.

Told you I would keep it simple.

Carpe Diem! Love the Citrix Cloud!

 

LOGIN PI PREDICTS THE FUTURE

I am happy to highlight some exciting news that my fellow Citrix Technology Advocate Mark Plettenberg has kindly shared with myself. Those of you who are familiar with my 4 part optimisation series found in the below links will already know the advantages of using this software.

Login PI and Optimisation – Part 1 – http://wp.me/p8leEE-9p

Login PI and Optimisation – Part 2 – http://wp.me/p8leEE-9M

Login PI and Optimisation – Part 3 – http://wp.me/p8leEE-be

Login PI and Optimisation – Part 4 – http://wp.me/p8leEE-bs

The blogs highlight the  benefits of Login PI to simulate real world workloads in real time in your Xenapp environments. You will now be happy to hear that this software as of version Login PI version 2.1 now has a new predictive capability. That is right this software has gone all Mystic Meg!

Introducing predictive power

Login PI’s virtual users run their workflows 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These virtual users work in an extremely consistent manner, which allows them to detect even the smallest variations in system performance. Alerts are automatically triggered when performance thresholds are exceeded or when logons/applications do not work as expected. This lets administrators detect user-experience problems outside business hours while also helping them to minimize costly disruptions and downtime during business hours.

The new predictive capability of Login PI adds an extra dimension to the administrator’s capability to act proactively in preventing performance and availability problems. Where Login PI provided graphic representations of performance trends up to now, this new capability adds the option to extrapolate future trends (up to one month). This enables an even earlier warning system as the potential convergence of increasing latency trend lines and pre-defined thresholds can now be predicted in advance.

“The combination of our virtual user based 24/7 testing, using 100% consistent workloads, and this new prediction capability, will enhance performance and availability of virtualized desktop environments dramatically.” says Eric-Jan van Leeuwen, CEO of Login VSI.

The new predictive capability is available today in Login PI version 2.1. Existing Login PI users can upgrade to the new version for free at  https://www.loginvsi.com/downloads/login-pi.

New users can download a trial version of Login PI that includes the new capability at https://www.loginvsi.com/free-trial-request.

About Login PI

Where traditional monitoring systems only watch system health when real users are present, Login PI’s virtual user technology verifies desktop infrastructure performance and availability 24/7, without the need for real end-user activity. This approach offers an early warning system of potential problems in end-user experience, before real users experience these problems and business processes are affected.

Login PI is used by both enterprises and government organizations that run their key user processes on virtualized desktop environments, such as VMware Horizon, Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop and Microsoft RDS. Login PI offers detailed insight into every aspect of end-user performance, such as logon performance and availability, application performance and availability, and network performance and protocol latency.

The screen shots below highlight the latest features.

  • Predicted Login Times

  • Predicted Latency
  • Predicted Workloads

This is a great addition to the product and I predict that you will like it to. After all, I know these things as I can now see in to the future!