XenDesktop 4 vs XenDesktop 5, differences ?

If you’re used to check the IMA service and verify if everything is running fine on your XenDesktop 4 or XenApp environment, you won’t find any IMA in XenDesktop 5. This is one of the huge changes Citrix have done in the new XenDesktop, this is a major change because no more IMA means many things in term of architecture and product functionality.

So as I just mention, no IMA in XenDesktop 5 Controller (DDC), which means there is no IMA data store or local host cache (!!!) No more XML Blob, there is no more Active Directory Configuration Wizard or Farm OU, XenDesktop 5 doesn’t need Terminal Services any more, everything is stored in a brand new SQL database and there is no support for Oracle or Access. <– Wow ! These are a big changes right ?  I will explain more the impact of these change regarding what we’re used to and the consequences.

First thing first, when you want to install XenDesktop 5, you have choice between the “Quick Deploy”, “Join existing deployment”,  “Desktop deployment” and “Application deployment”. You can also notice the installer is simpler than the one in XenDesktop 4

  • “Quick deploy” option is the fastest way to deploy a fully functional XenDesktop installation. All in one box, Citrix License Server, the DDC, and Database.
  • “Join existing deployment” add a XenDesktop Controller to an existing site.
  • “Desktop deployment” advanced installation for large deployment, to use with Citrix Provisioning Services.

Regarding the installation, on the server side, XenDesktop Controller supports Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 only, exit Windows 2003.

If you want to use the “Quick Deploy” mode, then all components must be on same box, it also assumes SQL Express is installed on same machine. Microsoft PowerShell 2.0 is downloaded during the installation, you will need to manually install PowerShell 2.0 if you don’t have internet access.
You can use the same License Server as XenDesktop 4 (11.6.1)
Desktop Controller – System Requirements
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2008, Standard or Enterprise Edition, with Service Pack 2
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2, Standard or Enterprise Edition
  • Service Pack 1 will be supported
  • Microsoft .NET Framework, Version 3.5, with Service Pack 1
  • Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) and ASP.NET 2.0
  • IIS is required only if you are installing the Web Interface, the License Server, or Desktop Director
Controller – Database Requirements
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Express Edition
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008, with Service Pack 2 installed
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Express Edition, with Service Pack 1 installed
  • will we ship with SQL Server Express 2008 R2
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2005, with Service Pack 3 installed (Thanx Rene Lindeboom)
  • Windows integration authentication required
As the concept did change, the terminology changed as well. I created two simple schema to make it easier to understand and remember. You can click on the picture to maximize it.
For example : in XenDesktop 4 we had farms, now in XenDesktop 5 farm = site

Then in XenDesktop 5 we have Machine Creation Services, this is the “internal build in” Provisioning Services which come along using the “Quick Deploy” option, ideal for POC and small deployment.

New administration consoles, Citrix Desktop Studio and Citrix Desktop Director. Of course you will still need the Provisioning Services console if you’re not using Quick Deploy, you’ll need the XenCenter (XenServer Console) as well (or another hypervisor…), the Citrix Delivery Service Console if you chose to integrate some XenApp applications and the Citrix License Management console. This is still a lot of console to manage a full Citrix environment.

Regarding the possibility to shadow a XenDesktop 5 session, I didn’t had time to dig this part yet but the “classic” shadowing doesn’t exist and you’ll now need to set up WinRM (Enabling WinRM for Desktop Director and How to Enable Remote Assistance for Desktop Director)

The DataStore and the suppression of IMA LocalHost Cache made some noise in the v-community. No more cache on the DDC and Citrix recommanding a SQL Cluster (XenDesktop 5 eDocs HA) wasn’t really expected. I will write more about that in a next blog.

To sum up a bit, XenDesktop 5 with the “Quick Deploy” option will make us save a lot of time while creating POC, it’s obvious. But if you’re use to XenDesktop 4 you’ll need the learn the new terminology, and to use the new tools and the new way to debug XenDesktop 5 in case of issue. My first XenDesktop 5 installation was a bit weird, I had issue with the DataStore creation, I need to check what has happen (As my XenServer crashed, I need to reinstall XD5)

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