Product Documentation

Strategies and best practices

May 09, 2015

Device collections and machine catalogs

The Connector provides a clear mapping between your XenApp and XenDesktop machine catalogs and Configuration Manager device collections. In addition, as you prepare a deployment, the Connector provides assistance through Configuration Manager console messages and the Machine Catalog Properties so you can correctly target application installation and updates.

If you are not familiar with the machine catalogs in your Citrix environment, determine which catalogs are the correct targets for particular application and update deployments. The following table can help you determine the machine catalog to target based on the following characteristics:

  • The machine catalog, desktop, and allocation type
    • Desktop OS machine catalogs are used to deliver generic or personalized desktops to users or to deliver applications from desktop operating systems. Each machine hosts one user session. A random allocation means that users connect to a new desktop each time they log on. A static allocation means that users connect to the same desktop each time they log on.
    • Server OS machine catalogs are used to deliver applications or hosted shared desktops to users. Each machine can host multiple user sessions. Server OS machines always provide randomly allocated desktops to users.
  • How user data will be handled

    The user data on a randomly allocated desktop is discarded when a user logs off. The user data on a statically allocated desktop can be stored on the local disk or on a Citrix Personal vDisk (PvD).

  • Which component notifies users before a pending application installation

    As indicated in the following table, the component that manages deployment varies based on the provisioning method and the machine catalog type.

    When the Connector orchestrates application installation, it notifies users before the next maintenance window to ensure that no users are logged in when the software is being installed. That feature is based on the idle policy, which does not apply if user data is saved on a local disk. For more information, refer to Deployment orchestration.

Provisioning method Machine catalog type Desktop type Allocation type User data handling Notifications managed by
MCS Desktop OS Generic Random Discarded Studio
Personalized Static Saved on PvD Studio
Generic Discarded Studio
Personalized Saved on local disk Studio
Server OS Hosted shared Random Discarded Studio
 
Provisioning Services Desktop OS Generic Random Discarded Not applicable
Personalized Static Saved on PvD Not applicable
Server OS Hosted shared Random Discarded Connector
 
Manual Desktop OS Personalized Random or Static Saved on local disk Configuration Manager
Server OS Hosted shared Random Discarded Connector

How user data is handled generally determines where you install software and updates:

  • If user data is stored on the local disk, you install an application on the local storage attached to each XenApp or XenDesktop worker.
  • If user data is discarded or stored on a PvD, you install an application on an update device. An update device represents a VM with a master image used with MCS or Provisioning Services. The Connector identifies VMs with the XenApp or XenDesktop VDA as master images.

For information about application deployment, click a link in the preceding table, in the Provisioning method column.

The Connector provides for each machine catalog a summary of its characteristics, including information about how to handle the catalog. To view that information, navigate to Device Collections > Citrix Delivery Sites > Catalog, right-click a catalog in the list, and choose Machine Catalog Properties. Click a property to view its description.


Machine Catalog Properties

Device collection maintenance

When considering whether to edit or delete a device collection created by the Connector, be aware that:

  • Citrix recommends that you edit device collections only if you need to change a custom maintenance window specified in the Citrix Connector Configuration wizard.

    Changes to other device collection properties might adversely impact Connector operations.

  • Configuration Manager will allow you to manually delete a device collection created by the Connector. However, the Connector synchronization task will restore the device collection and the machines in it. After that, you must designate the update device again.

Application deployment types

The Connector supports the MSI, App-V, and Script deployment types built in to Configuration Manager. The Connector also provides a Citrix-specific deployment type, named Citrix XenApp 7.5 and XenDesktop 7.5, which is required only to deploy Citrix hosted applications to the Configuration Manager Application Catalog or Software Center on devices managed by Configuration Manager.

When choosing a deployment type, consider the following:

  • Whether you use an MSI or App-V deployment type depends on your requirements and preference. The choice does not impact Connector operation.
  • The Connector requires the Script deployment type to publish an application that is already on a server image, such as Internet Explorer. In that case, you would create a Script deployment type that references Internet Explorer on the server and then reference the Script deployment type to publish Internet Explorer. The steps in Create a Script-based application use Internet Explorer as an example.

For information about creating deployment packages and software update groups, refer to the Microsoft TechNet documentation for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager.

MCS image management

The Connector enables you to target applications to MCS based machine catalogs that have a single master image and many machine clones based on the master image. The Connector integration with MCS incorporates the tasks that you normally perform during provisioning setup and configuration.

As you review the following diagram, consider how the provisioning setup and configuration tasks will fit into your workflow. For example, if administrators for both Configuration Manager and XenApp or XenDesktop will be involved the following process, determine how those teams will coordinate their efforts.


MCS administrative tasks

Steps 1 - 3: After a master image is created, a Citrix administrator uses Studio to create a Machine Catalog and Delivery Group.

Step 4: After the Connector synchronizes Configuration Manager with XenApp or XenDesktop, a Configuration Manager administrator designates an update device for the master image and then deploys applications.

Step 5: A Configuration Manager administrator monitors compliance status to ensure that the application deployment is complete.

Step 6: A Citrix administrator uses Studio to update the machine catalog, which applies the updates to the master image.

Step 7: A Configuration Manager administrator monitors compliance status to ensure that deployment to machine clones is complete. Applications are then ready for publishing.

Note: Steps 4 - 7 are performed repeatedly over the life of the machine catalog.

Provisioning Services image management

The Connector enables you to target applications to Provisioning Services based machine catalogs that have a single master image, known as a vDisk, and many machine clones based on that vDisk. The Connector integration with Provisioning Services incorporates the tasks that you normally perform during provisioning setup and configuration.

As you review the following diagram, consider how the provisioning setup and configuration will fit into your workflow. For example, if administrators for Configuration Manager, XenApp or XenDesktop, and Provisioning Services will be involved the following process, determine how those teams will coordinate their efforts.


PVS administrative tasks

Steps 1 - 3: A Citrix administrator uses Provisioning Services to create maintenance and clone VM templates, create a vDisk, and then run the XenDesktop Setup Wizard. That wizard deploys virtual desktops to VMs and adds the virtual desktops to a machine catalog.

Step 4: A Citrix administrator uses Studio to create a Delivery Group.

Step 5: A Configuration Manager administrator designates an update device for the master image and then deploys applications.

Steps 6 - 7: A Citrix administrator uses Provisioning Services to create a new vDisk version and then boots the maintenance VM with the new vDisk version.

Step 8: A Configuration Manager administrator monitors compliance status to ensure that the application deployment is complete.

Step 9: A Citrix administrator uses Provisioning Services to promote the new vDisk version to production.

Step 10: A Configuration Manager administrator monitors compliance status to ensure that deployment to machine clones is complete. Applications are then ready for publishing.

Note: Steps 5 - 10 are performed repeatedly over the life of the machine catalog.

Deployment orchestration

Deployment orchestration refers to how updates to machine catalogs are rolled out, including when they occur and the user experience. The provisioning method and OS type of a machine catalog determines which product handles the orchestration, as shown in the following table.

Provisioning method OS type Product handling orchestration tasks
Deployment to master image Deployment to clones Notifications
Machine Creation Services Desktop OS or Server OS Connector Studio Studio
Provisioning Services Desktop OS Connector Provisioning Services Not applicable
Server OS Connector Connector Connector

For manually managed Desktop OS (VDI) machines, Configuration Manager handles deployment orchestration. Deploying an application to VDI machines makes it available to users.

For manually managed Server OS (hosted shared) machines, the Connector handles deployment orchestration. Applications are available for publishing to users after all specified machines are updated.

The remainder of this section discusses how the Connector orchestrates deployment. To minimize disruptions to user sessions, the Connector:

  • Deploys applications to device collections during a customizable maintenance window.
  • Works with the Configuration Manager idle policy feature to defer and trigger application installation.
  • Notifies users about pending installations, according to Connector policies.

Maintenance windows

You can configure maintenance windows in Configuration Manager and in the Connector configuration wizard. If no maintenance window is defined, Configuration Manager uses a 24x7 maintenance window.

If you specify a maintenance window in the Connector configuration wizard, the Connector assigns a maintenance window named Citrix Service Window to all device collections when they are first created. You can later add, edit, or delete maintenance windows in the Maintenance Windows tab of the device collection Properties.


Citrix Service Window in machine catalog properties

During a maintenance window, Citrix Connector orchestrates:

  • Installation of software and updates.
  • Application deployment to master images (managed by MCS or Provisioning Services).
  • For Provisioning Services managed Server OS machines, the restart of cloned session machines so they can receive changes made to the update device for the master image.
  • Deployment to manually managed Server OS machines.
    Note: For manually provisioned machines, the Connector does not install MSI applications if there are connected user sessions. The Connector installs App-V applications regardless of user session status.

Configuration Manager idle policy

The Connector works with the Configuration Manager idle policy feature to defer and trigger application installation for pooled desktops managed by MCS or Provisioning Services. In those scenarios, user data is not stored on the VM.

The Connector enables the Configuration Manager idle policy feature by adding a Citrix XenDesktop Client Settings item in Administration > Client Settings. That item includes the Additional software manages the deployment of applications and software updates property.

With the idle policy enabled, the Connector orchestrates application installation:

  • The Connector drains the systems and notifies users before the next maintenance window to ensure that no users are logged in when the software is being installed.
  • The Connector forces user log offs after the deployment deadline passes.

User notifications

The Connector policies control user notifications about pending installations for Server OS machine catalogs managed by Provisioning Services or manually. For information about the default settings, refer to Connector for Configuration Manager Policy Settings.

Note: As indicated in the table at the start of this topic, the Connector does not orchestrate deployment for all machine catalog types. For example, Studio manages user notifications for machine catalogs managed by MCS.

To ensure that the Connector policy settings are tuned for your environment, review them in Studio. The policies include how far in advance users are notified about pending installation and updates, the interval between subsequent notifications, and the message title and text.

For forced logoff situations, the policies include the grace period between a notification about a forced logoff and that action, as well as the message title and text. The following timeline, from the start of the maintenance window through scheduled maintenance, indicates the advance warning time period, the advance warning frequency interval, and the force logoff grace period.


Maintenance timeline with related policies

Be sure to review whether the default policy settings are appropriate for your environment. If you choose a custom maintenance window when you configure the Connector, the default start and stop times (1:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.) and the default advance warning time period (16 hours) mean that a user notification is sent at 9:00 a.m. You might wish to change those settings to improve the user experience.

Application publishing

The Connector enables you to publish applications to user devices. While you can use the Connector to manage master images for desktops, you cannot use it to publish desktops to users.

The following diagram shows the application publishing process.


Application publishing workflow

Application publishing and the user experience

Before you begin publishing applications to user devices, consider the type of user devices you want to target and how the applications should appear on those devices. Your answers to the following questions will guide your choices when setting up application publishing.

  • Do you plan to use Configuration Manager Application Catalog or Software Center to deliver Citrix hosted applications and desktops to users?
    • No. Use the Citrix Publishing Wizard to publish applications to Citrix Receiver on all user devices supported by XenApp or XenDesktop. In this scenario, the Citrix deployment type is not needed.
    • Yes. To make applications available to the Configuration Manager Application Catalog or Software Center on managed user devices, each user device must have the Configuration Manager client and you must use the Citrix deployment type.
  • How should an application appear to the user?
    • What icon do you want to appear in Receiver and in the Windows Start screen or menu?

      For MSI and App-V applications, Connector defaults to the icon specified in the deployment type. For script-based applications, Connector defaults to the Citrix Application icon.

    • Do you want to specify an application category in Receiver so the application appears in a particular folder?
    • Do you want to add an application shortcut to the user desktop?
    • Do you want the application to be visible to all users in the Delivery Group or to a subset of those users?

    When you publish an application, you specify these settings in the Citrix Publishing Wizard. The Connector publishing task resets the options in Studio with the choices specified in the Citrix Publishing Wizard.

Deployments with XenApp 6.5 Connector

A Mixed environment with Citrix Connector and XenApp Connector enables you to:

  • View a unified list of hosted applications from XenApp 6.5 farms and XenApp or XenDesktop Delivery Sites.

     

    Citrix Sites and farms in Assets and Compliance

     

  • Deploy applications to the mixed environment.

     

    Two Citrix DT versions in Type list

     

  • Publish applications to the mixed environment.

     

    Two Citrix Publications items under Application Management

     

    To see a unified list of applications from XenApp 6.5 and XenApp (7.6 or 7.5) or XenDesktop (7.6, 7.5, or 7.1), Receiver users must connect to StoreFront. Receiver users who connect to a particular XenApp or XenDesktop server will see only the applications published by that server.

Follow these best practices when using Citrix Connector 7.5 with XenApp 6.5 Connector:

  • Ensure that the console extension for XenApp 6.5 Connector and Citrix Connector 7.5 are both installed. The Configuration Manager console is unable to load a deployment technology that is not registered with it. You can install the two console extensions in any order.
  • If you plan to make applications available to the Configuration Manager Application Catalog or Software Center on managed devices, the Citrix XenApp 7.5 and XenDesktop 7.5 deployment type and Citrix Receiver are required for support of StoreFront application aggregation.
  • A deployment that uses the Citrix XenApp 6.5 deployment type must include the global condition "Existential of Citrix XenApp Server Version Not Equal to 0". For more information, refer to the topics under Deploy applications and software updates to XenApp servers.
  • Before uninstalling either Connector, review Uninstall the Connector.

Administrator roles and responsibilities

This topic summarizes the roles and Connector-related responsibilities for administrators who manage Active Directory, System Center Configuration Manager, and Citrix products. The size and structure of your organization determines whether one or several administrators handle the responsibilities.

  • Active Directory administrator

    Active Directory administrator responsibilities include the management of user accounts and their permissions, computer accounts, and security groups.

    An Active Directory administrator must create a service account for Connector.

  • Configuration Manager administrator

    Configuration Manager administrator responsibilities include the management of applications, asset inventory, client desktop software, OS updates, and client device compliance. A Configuration Manager administrator uses the Configuration Manager console to:

    • Set configuration values necessary for timely updates
    • Add and remove systems
    • Create and delete collections
    • Deploy applications
    • Publish applications
    • Verify that deployed applications and desktops work, OSs are patched, and any security vulnerabilities are addressed
    • Monitor compliance status and progress

    A Configuration Manager administrator uses the Citrix Connector configuration wizard to:

    • Enter credentials for the Connector service account
    • Specify the Citrix Delivery Controller and the Configuration Manager site server
    • Create a maintenance window for a XenApp or XenDesktop Site collection
  • Citrix administrator

    Citrix administrator responsibilities include the management of host connections, machine catalogs, and Delivery Groups. The capacity and infrastructure planning by a Citrix administrator includes the number of virtual desktops needed and which desktops and applications are provided to Delivery Groups.

    A Citrix administrator uses Citrix Studio to:

    • Build machine catalogs from the virtualization infrastructure, MCS, Provisioning Services, and physical machines
    • Manage base images and install software
    • Create Delivery Groups
    • Deliver applications, desktops, and machines; manage the associated sessions
    • Orchestrate deployment to machine clones in MCS-based machine catalogs
    • Manage the Citrix infrastructure

    A Citrix administrator uses the Provisioning Services console to:

    • Create vDisks
    • Use the XenDesktop Setup Wizard to deploy virtual desktops to VMs and to add the virtual desktops to a machine catalog
    • Promote new vDisk versions to production
    • Orchestrate deployment to Desktop OS machine catalogs managed by Provisioning Services