As Joe pointed out in his blog about the integration of XenApp&XenDesktop and CloudPlatform, one of the really exiting new features of the new XenApp & XenDesktop 7.5 release is its native integrated provisioning and interaction with AWS EC2. Allowing one to make use of the many advantages that such a public cloud can offer. Be it extending your existing on-premises infrastructures or ramping up quickly with little to no upfront costs or idle capacity.

Now from within Citrix Studio you can provision directly to EC2 you virtual desktops or applications.  Simply create a new host connection using the Amazon EC2 option. Provide your AWS credentials (preferred would be to use an IAM user, allowing you to control and limit the access to AWS resources and services)

 

Each host connection allows you to select an AWS region, Availability Zone, VPC and network subnets.

 

And than create Delivery Groups that can span Availability Zones, utilizing one of the beautiful freebies of public clouds. Built-in High Availability. The AWS EC2 Availability Zones are distinct physical locations having Low latency network connectivity between them inside the same region and are engineered to be insulated from potential failures from other AZ’s. They have Independent power, cooling, network and security. Bringing HA to your Mobile Workspace initiatives by a single click of a button.

The same HA approaches can be applied to all components that make up a XenApp or XenDesktop infrastructure. SQL, AD, Delivery Controllers, StoreFront etc.

 

This approach can be extended to multiple regions using an unified StoreFront, utilizing NetScaler GSLB and AWS Route53 to provide a global span of your Mobile Workspace services. Either to accommodate organic usage growth in areas where you have no IT facilities (or don’t want to have any, following the principle of DOS. “Don’t Own Stuff”) or to deal for example with Seasonal Workers.

Multiple Connectivity Options

A variety of connectivity options exits to interconnect your On-Premise datacenter and your Amazon VPC. Ranging from the standard AWS offering of an internet IPSec based Site-to-Site VPN , to the NetScaler CloudBridge which provides a two-way accelerated bridge between your Data Center and AWS. Reducing bandwidth usage and a “LAN like” experience for applications migrated to AWS. See http://support.citrix.com/proddocs/topic/ns-system-10-map/cb-2-0-conf-cb-aws-dc-con.html for guidance on how to set this up.

Then there’s the AWS Direct Connect option which establish a dedicated network connection from your premises to your AWS VPC.  Its direct 50Mbps up to 1Gbps and 10Gbps connection options allow you to treat your AWS VPC as an extension of your LAN with very low latencies.

Optimize cost and capacity utilization

With the integrated solution of XenApp or XenDesktop and AWS  one can easily define offerings that reflect the desired user scenarios. As most environments have typically more than one user group with requirements that must be met. Citrix Studio allows you to create Catalogues that reflect the needs of different set of users.  Hosted Apps, Shared Desktop, Personal Desktop and Pooled Desktop Catalogues. Matched against the various AWS resource options available to us and their associated costs.

Instances such as the g2.2xlarge. Equipped with:

  • NVIDIA GRID (GK104 “Kepler”) GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), 1,536 CUDA cores and 4 GB of video (frame buffer) RAM
  • Intel Sandy Bridge processor running at 2.6 GHz with Turbo Boost enabled, 8 vCPUs (Virtual CPUs)
  • 15 GiB of RAM
  • 60 GB of local SSD storage
  • $0.650 per hour per instance

Combined with Citrix HDX 3D Pro as the base for Hosted Apps or Shared Desktops makes this a perfect “candidate” for “second tier” users who may not be designing the next airplane or automobile but need to view or edit large 3D models that can’t be satisfactorily delivered using CPU-based software rasterization. Since this technology directly leverages the NVIDIA GPU video driver it doesn’t suffer from the performance limitations of GPU virtualization implementations based on API Intercept where the graphics commands have to be transferred from the user session to the session that controls the graphics processor. Nor is it limited to older versions of DirectX and OpenGL. During tests conducted internally and with large ISVs we’ve seen very good performance with as high as 10+ concurrent users.

At only $0.650 per hour per instance for those 10+ users. Very appealing. To give you an idea of how well this works, check out the this quick YouTube video that I’ve made while using one of these g2.2xlarge instances from my mountain cabin in Pragelato in the Italian Alps (where I only have 2Mbps of ADSL available) with a latency that hovers around 150-200ms. I’m working with Autodesk Showcase as well as some GPU intensive demo applications, accessing via Citrix HDX 3D Pro a g2.2xlarge instance in the AWS US-West-1 region (North California), basically at the other side of the planet. Judge for yourself how well this works.

Adding new resources to your EC2 zones is an easy task and the beauty is all of this is abstracted from the XenDesktop deployment. So you want to quickly grow from 200 users to 2000 of these “second tier” graphics users without up front investment? No problem, just add additional instances of the required type to your Catalogue and off you go. You no longer need them? Just remove them from the catalogue and delivery group. The embedded MCS technology inside XenApp & XenDesktop does all the hard work for you.

Can’t wait to get started and try this out yourself? We’ve created some tools (an AWS CloudFormation template) and accompanying documentation to get you going in around an hour. With a fully functioning XenApp or XenDesktop infrastructure. With a configured AWS VPC, NetScaler Gateway (your CloudBridge would reside on here as well), AD, Delivery Controller and a VDA Master image. Take a look at http://support.citrix.com/article/CTX140427 for the documentation and the CloudFormation template itself can be found here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/cf-XenDesktop/XD75NSonAWS_CF_v1_3.json .

Happy offering Mobile Workspaces from the cloud, responding to your users needs and requirements. If you want to read more about XenApp and XenDesktop 7.5 or what it means to deliver this to AWS as well as CloudPlatform take a look at the blogs from my colleagues here and here.