Citrix / VDI Pilot – The User Experience Design


This is part 4 of an ongoing series of posts to document and describe my journey implementing Citrix VDI with XenApp.  Part 1 Part 2 Part 3.

Early on we set out with a number of problems we wanted to solve and see if VDI would be a good fit to resolve them.  First, our users aren’t the most technically apt (does anyone have users who can claim to be technically apt?), so using a layer 3 VPN client to connect in for remote access can be quite problematic.  Couple that with the complexity of things like Comcast DNS Helper and Qwest “Web help” DNS Helper (hint: DNS Hijackers), split-tunnel layer3 VPN is a difficult solution no matter how you slice it.  Our users would get frustrated at trying to opt out of these ‘helper’ services and not understand why they had to do anything when they themselves had not changed anything but rather it did at the ISP level.  “What is an ISP?!” 🙂

Another objective was to increase the number of endpoints available to our students so they had the best opportunity for access to the highest level of education possible.  With limited staffing capabilities (and seemingly ever shrinking), increasing our physical deployment above the 6,500 we already have would prove to be problematic no matter which approach we took.

With that in mind, we set forth designing the various needs of the classrooms and roles they perform.  After laying out a variety of roles, it became apparent that given the technology available, such as Citrix Profile Management coupled with folder redirection that we should be able to create a maximum of one to three ‘golden’ Windows 7 images.  Our granular application-based delivery could be performed through XenApp 6.5.  For applications that do not need to be streamed, we can even use pre-launch to speed up the launch that much more.

The user logs on, sets their background, their favorite office customization, changes their homepage and all of the other wonderful things that comes from traditional desktop experience and those settings all persist, despite being on a completely different machine the next time the log on.  The user is then able to utilize workspace control to travel from school to home to finish the same session they were working on previously and simply and easily access what they need after installing just the Citrix Receiver.  No more ‘authorized machines only’ policy.  No more messy opt-out of DNS helper.  Log on to a single, simple website and launch whatever application you need to use and it looks like it is running on their PC.  

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