Missing features in XenDesktop 7 RDS

By | October 9, 2013

With the release of XenDesktop 7 there is a lot of news about the exiting new features. With the merging of XenApp in XenDesktop 7 App Edition with Remote Desktop Services (Terminalserver) the benefits of XenDesktop VDI do also count for RDS, like easy deployment and a single architecture for management. But you have to realize that with the merging of XenApp in XenDesktop 7 there are some features that are missing in the new version. In this article I want to share my experience with missing features and possible alternatives.

First of all Citrix is already publishing a list of missing features, which can be found at http://support.citrix.com/proddocs/topic/xendesktop-7/cds-overview-features-not-in-this-release.html. I will mention the most missed features of that list and possible workarounds.

Shadowing is no longer available like it was in XenApp. Shadowing was often used by helpdesks to support users and used the ICA protocol. The new way to do this is via Microsoft Remote Assistance. Remote Assistance is not working out of the box. You have to enable this via a Microsoft policy on your virtual desktops. Configure a policy in System / Remote Assistance / Offer Remote Assistance and assign a group to it. Next you can go to XenDesktop Director to find the session and Shadow it.

It is no longer possible to disconnect users from taskmanager on RDS servers. This is often used by administrators to reset frozen sessions. When you try this, you get an access denied error. The way to do this is to use XenDesktop Director. Find the session and Disconnect or Reset. You will notice that XenDesktop Director is becoming an important tool to manage your usersessions.

Session Pre-Launch is no longer available. Session Pre-Launch lets you create an empty session so when a user is actually starting a session he or she will simply connect to the already created session. This can enhance the user experience. There is no workaround for this, it simply doesn’t exist anymore.

Virtual IP addressing is not available. I have used this several times for applications that must be identified as unique connections to back-end systems. There is no workaround for this.

Health Monitoring and Recovery in XenApp made is possible to monitor if a server was healthy. For example you can monitor if certain services are running, and if not, then remote the server from loadbalancing. The alternative is using EdgeSight, but this is only included in the Platinum Edition.

Citrix Streaming is deprecated. Citrix recommends Microsoft App-V 5.0 for this. Although App-V 5.0 is a very good alternative, you will miss some things. Citrix Streaming was really simple in creating streams. It was also possible to stream to VDI desktops or end-user devices with the same concurrent user license. For App-V 5.0 you will need additional Microsoft MDOP licenses to stream to VDI and end-user devices. With the built-in RDS license you are only allowed to stream to the RDS desktop.

Citrix CPU Management is no longer available. I think CPU management is a must have on RDS because there will always be users that use CPU intensive operations. They will have a negative impact on the other users. The alternative is to use Fair Share CPU management of Windows Server. More on this can be found in an excellent blog post of Barry Schiffer.

StoreFront pass-through authentication is no longer working with webbrowsers. Pass-through is only working in the native Receiver. We often used pass-through authentication with Web Interface as a solution to use fat clients as a kiosk client. The user logs on in to local Windows and by replacing the shell with the Web Interface page the user can pass-through to the Citrix desktop. ThinKiosk is also a good alternative for this, and also uses the pass-through functionality of the webbrowser. The alternative is to use the native Receiver.

RES Workspace Manager is not supporting published applications in XenDesktop 7. It is not possible yet to publish directly from the RES console, like in XenApp, and process interception is not working in published applications that are published from XenDesktop Studio. The alternative is to use published desktops instead of applications. RES will support this in a future version.

Some features will be “fixed” in future releases of XenDesktop, but most of above features will probably not come back. You will have to use the Microsoft alternative. It is plausible that Citrix will stop developing features that are already included by Microsoft. Sometimes these are just as good as the Citrix features, sometimes you will have to accept that good things don’t come back.