Citrix / VDI Pilot – The XenApp / XenDesktop Install process

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

Once our hardware was selected, we worked with our Citrix partner for implementation to ensure we followed established best practices.  We used the recommended hotfixes list when building the XenApp base image, and ensured the initial set of apps were included.  Our cache drive is a locally attached VHD stored on a storage pool LUN that is fronted by FAST cache.  The event logs are redirected to the VHD, and as I would learn later, that drive is also used to persist Edgesight data.  “Large Send Offload”, “TCP/IP Offload”, and “Last Access Time Stamp” were all disabled, along with DEP, tcp chimney and receive side scaling.  The power scheme was modified to prevent core parking, XenApp was installed and the post-install hotfixes were applied.  These have all now been replaced by Hotfix Rollup 1.  The final piece before imaging was Profile management, which is just a simple install and configuration via group policy, discussed below.

The provisioning services imaging wizard came next and was really a slick operation.  Much like other p2v utilities, it copies all of the data from the disk into a VHD.  In addition it was able to create the device on the PVS server and associate the disk.  With this, we were prepared with the initial foundation to spin up as many XenApp servers as we could support depending on our needs.  I would later learn some of our more intriguing experiences would be profiling some apps for streaming that have no business being around but we still must use (and, despite what the sales pitch said, I learned that Citrix streaming can not in fact help with 16-bit apps on 64-bit systems.

XenDesktop was a much simpler exercise.  We would host two desktop delivery controllers (DDC) for redundancy and configure SQL mirroring for database availability.  The installation and configuration of the DDC and the XD site was quite simplistic.  After specifying a few basic values, we spent much of the time focusing on the base image for the Windows 7 experience.

Since VDI is a different beast for hardware, I/O and memory requirements, careful thought was given to each application and setting.  I determined early that I would forgo much of the ‘standard’ group policy settings that we applied for regular desktops and laptops and instead opted for a separate OU and a group policy with ‘loopback’ mode configured for merge.  This ensured I could apply user and computer settings without adversely affecting the experience outside of the VDI environment.  I’ll cover more of what I configure and why in a later post.

After taking care to make sure the application optimizations, PVS recommendations, and anti-virus were tuned to our liking, we imaged the device and had our first Windows 7 golden image and we were on our way to our 100-user pilot deployment.

XenApp 6.5 System requirements
XenDesktop 6.5 System Requirements
Provisioning Services Requirements

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