I can’t remember the last time I wrote about one of the new XA and/or XD releases, I think it was version 7.5. However, with version 7.12 comes the new and improved LHC, which is something a lot of ‘us’ have been waiting for. Or at least were/are curious about. Go here to find out more about the LHC, now part of the FlexCast Management Architecture, I covered it in detail. And while writing I thought I’d cover some of the other (new) 7.12 features as well.
But first… Why this (rapid) release cycle makes sense
Every now and again I hear people complain about the (rapid) pace with which Citrix is releasing these new XenApp/XenDesktop versions. They can’t keep up, it doesn’t make any sense and I’ve even heard them call Citrix crazy for taking this approach. While I do understand where these ‘complaints’ are coming from, to me it makes perfect sense. Think about it for a minute. Before Citrix announced the Current Release (CR) and Long Term Service Release (LTSR) of both XenApp and XenDesktop, new releases/versions might have been further apart time-wise, sure, however, back than we had multiple so-called Feature Packs coming out every four to six months on average. In fact, before XenApp/XenDesktop 7.6 was marked as a LTSR Citrix had already released up to three 7.6 Feature Packs adding in new features, functionalities and services.
FMA fact: While the 7.5 release did introduce some new features and functionalities, this release primarily marked the date that XenApp became available as a separate purchase/product again.
When version 7.6 became the first LTSR this approach stopped. We now have new versions coming out every three to six months, thought currently it’s closer to three than six, one building on top of the other, introducing new features and functionalities. Basically like the above mentioned Features Packs did before them. For the Long Term Service Release (soon to be releases, plural) they came up with Cumulative Updates, exclusively aimed at overall maintenance including certain fixes and updates improving the overall stability of your environment, but no new features, services and so on. Next to this we also still have security updates, patches and fixes where and when applicable, which apply to, and are also part of both Releases — the CR and the LTSR.
My point? Not that much has changed, except that Citrix has been far more innovative, focused and on top of their game when compared to previous years, and I know a lot will agree. Ok, they had to ‘re-innovate’ and rebuilt some of the ‘lost’ XenApp features and functions in the 7.x platform (when compared to 6.5), yes, but we are passed that now. It’s all there, most of it anyway, plus a whole bunch of additional goodness we didn’t had before, and this applies to both XenApp as well as XenDesktop. Having said that, I do agree that going from four to, let’s say two to three releases annually would make it somewhat easier to stay up to date for certain companies.
Before, we had Feature Packs being released every x number of months, now we have new versions, before, we had Rollup-Packs, today we have Cumulative Updates, while general (hot) fixes and updates will be included within the new (CR) versions of XenApp and XenDesktop as well.
You don’t have to upgrade, you don’t have to keep up, just as before, it’s a choice (most of the time anyway). And as far as support goes, CR isn’t that different than what you were used to, or perhaps still are — it’s basically a name change, nothing more. As a CR customer (and my guess is that over 95% are) you might be asked to upgrade to a new (er) version, this could happen, but how is that any different prior to the CR era? Or the 7.x platform all together for that matter. It’s not that installing Feature & Roll-Up Packs all over the place was, or is a walk in the park.
What we didn’t had before was a single, more stable release including guaranteed support for at least 5 years, extendable up to 10 years. We also didn’t have the Citrix Cloud. And while not many customers make use of it, at least none that I know of, it does play a very important role in developing and testing all that is coming to the on-premises XenApp and XenDesktop versions – remember, cloud first, on-premises will follow.
Right, having said that… what is new with 7.12?
While more details are available on the accompanying E-Docs pages, the below will provide you with an overview on some of the most important improvements and new functionalities introduced with the 7.12 release.
- To start and as mentioned in the intro, Local Host Cache, read my (separate) article on it here.
- Tags. As of version 7.12 machines within your Delivery Groups can be individually tagged (in earlier versions it was already possible to tag applications). When launching specific applications and/or desktops, using machine tags certain machines can be considered for launch, while others will be ‘left alone’. Tags also help in splitting certain machines into two, so to speak, so that they can be used for various, multiple tasks. This might help in saving costs associated with deploying and managing additional machines, meant to publish one or multiple specific applications and/or desktops.
- Using PowerShell, you can create multiple restart schedules on a per Delivery Group basis. Also, based on the abovementioned machine tags you can setup a restart schedule where only machines with a specific tag will be restarted, while other machines within the same Delivery Group won’t be interrupted.
- The upload of install and upgrade analytics using Citrix Insight Services is now enabled by default. The option to enable or disable this feature within the graphical user interface, while installing is no longer there. It can now only be disabled directly in the Registry or by using a newly introduced command-line option.
- The Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) will be enabled by default when you install a new 7.12 VDA.
- Multiple (smaller) enhancements around the Azure Resource Manager, see the accompanying E-Docs pages for more information.
- They introduced a new standalone VDA installation package named: VDAWorkstationCoreSetup.exe. This will install a Desktop OS VDA optimized for using Remote PC Access on a physical machine or for VDI, when a virtual machine is used. This package does not include components used for App-V, Profile Management, Machine Identity Services, Personal vDisk and/or Citrix Receiver, making it one of the ‘lightest’ releases up to date.
- New Director features include:
- User-friendly Connection and Machine failure descriptions.
- Increased historical data availability in Enterprise edition. Up to one month.
- Custom reporting features.
- Automate Director notifications with SNMP traps.
- New Session Recoding features include:
- IP address or IP Range based Policy Rule Criteria.
- Highlight Idle Periods in Player.
- TLS 1.2.
- New VDA (Desktop and Server OS) features include:
- 8-bit color depth thinwire support.
- HTML5 video redirection for internal web sites.
- Citrix Universal print driver supports stapling and paper source selection in EMF print format.
- Keyboard layout synchronisation.
- NetScaler Gateway High Availability (HA) is supported with Framehawk.
- VDA feature for evaluation only:
- New enlightened data transport layer (for evaluation only). IT administrators can evaluate a new HDX data transport layer designed for challenging long-haul WAN and Internet connections. This alternative to TCP delivers a superior user experience while maintaining high server scalability and efficient use of bandwidth. This new transport layer above UDP improves data throughput for all ICA virtual channels including Thinwire display remoting, file transfer (Client Drive Mapping), printing, multimedia redirection and others.
- New StoreFront (3.8) features include:
- Multiple Internet Information Services (IIS) web sites.
- Firefox browser. StoreFront 3.8 will still support Citrix Receiver for Web client detection and launch in Firefox for Windows and Mac.
For more information and details on the above make sure to visit the accompanying E-Docs pages regarding the 7.12 release, you’ll find them here.