Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Xendesktop 5 MCS and Office 2010 Activation via Microsoft KMS

I have just completed a XenDesktop 5 project for 450 users whereby I needed to create a KMS infrastructure with VM's deployed via MCS in a Windows 2008R2 and Windows 7 environment. The Citrix official stance is that this is supported via a workaround. You need to create the KMS server, add Office 2010 KMS functionality and finally enable XenDesktop 5 MCS to deploy pooled images with unique CMID's that successfully authenticate with KMS.

The process is fairly simple but these are the basic steps that are needed:

Step 1: Create KMS Server

The first step is to enter your KMS key on your Windows 2008 R2 server you have chosen to host the KMS service.

1. Login into the MS volume licencing centre at the following address:  https://www.microsoft.com/licensing/servicecenter/
2. Go to the licences tab and the MAK and MS keys assigned to your organization will be visible.
3. Copy the product key labelled Windows 2008R2 Std/Ent KMS B.
4. Go to Control Panel >System and change product key and enter the key.
5. If you already have an existing MAK key installed on the server you can replace the key. Open a command prompt and run > slmgr /ipk *Your KMS B key*
6. Run > slmgr /ato to activate the KMS server.
7. Install the Microsoft VA Management tool 2.0. This allows you to have a GUI snap-in interface for KMS for easier mangement. To install this software go to the following link:  http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?displaylang=en&id=11936
8. Create a KMS DNS service entry. Go to your DNS server and open DNS > Your domain > TCP and edit the _VMLS service property with your relevant server name.
9. Open the relevant firewall port on the server (1688) or allow the listed Key Management Services as a exception.
10. Check that the KMS server can publish its SRV records in your domain by running the following command > nslookup -type _vlmcs _tcp.
11. Check the KMS server has the correct key installed and is listening for a connection by running the following command > slmgr.vbs /dli*

Step 2: Create Office 2010 KMS Server

1. Install the Microsoft Office 2010 KMS host pack from the folowing link:http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?displaylang=en&lc=1033&id=25095
2. Install the KMS key for Office 2010 when prompted. This is located at https://www.microsoft.com/licensing/servicecenter/
3. Check the Office 2010 KMS Key has been successfully installed on the KMS Server by opening a command prompt and navigating to c:\windows\system32 and running > cscript slmgr.vbs /dlv all.
4. All Office 2010 clients come installed with a generic KMS key. Test activation and run > cscript slmgr.vbs /dlv all. You will see the current count or Office KMS increment by 1. This is to be expected as the KMS server will not start activating until it has received 5 unique requests.

Step 3: Create XenDesktop MCS Gold image

1. Create a fully patched Windows 7 image with Office 2010 installed and place in snapshot mode. Use the the relevent client KMS key listed here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff793421.aspx
2. Use the instructions in the following Citrix support article to rearm Windows 7:  http://support.citrix.com/article/ctx128580
3. Run ospprearm.exe in %installdir%\%Program Files%\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\OfficeSoftwareProtectionPlatform. This will rearm Office 2010. 
4. Shut down the image and use MCS to create your XenDesktop pool.
5. You can use slmgr.vbs dlv to check for Virtual desktop KMS activation. You will see the KMS activation count increment once 25 Windows desktops have registered and 5 Office 2010 clients.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


I have just spent the last week getting to grips with product called App-DNA, and I must say I am impressed. OK so what is App-DNA and where does it fit in todays landscape?

I think its best to take a high level view.The simple facts are there is a fundamental shift to IT as a service. If we look at desktop virtualization, it is a key enabler for IT organizations to modernize their existing desktop architecture and how they consume services. Modernization of the desktop environment enables organizations to evolve from a device-centric world to an user-centric model where users can flexibility access their applications and data from any device while providing IT with greater control to deliver increased efficiencies linked to centralization.

Thanks to cloud based mechanisms and faster and more resilient links, the future of end-user computing is shifting away from the traditional desktop. The future will be about the secure delivery of applications anywhere, anytime and on any device type. Whether its a desktop application such as Word, a SaaS application such as Salesforce.com, what is key is that the user will be able to gain access to the tools they need from the device they have whatever the location.

I think in 10 years time we will all be casting our minds back to the days when the guys from CityLink would arrive at goods in with a pallet of Dell workstations.

Many IT organizations have already engaged a thought process shift to modernizing their entire desktop environment. In this environment, both the desktop, applications and user workspace are virtualized. Virtualization provides IT and end users an abstraction layer that isolates the applications and the desktops from the operating environment. A virtualized application (such as App-V) is much more stable in its behavior as it does not have write acesss to local machine registry

A classic example would be a shift from a Windows XP platform with locally installed applications to a Windows 7 platform with Virtualized applications or even a session based applications via a 64 BIT XenApp environment. To reach this promised land we need to know how applications will function and how long this takes to get there.

This is where App-DNA fits. In any project, the analysis phase is key in providing timelines attached to deliverables. If we were to perform the application migration and packaging manually it would be in all probability ran with a "finger in the air approach" and a loss of credibility for all involved. App-DNA essentiality provides intelligent remediation, detailed reporting and in my eyes most importantly; reduced risk and cost.

Great product and great guys as well.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Citrix Xendesktop in 2011

I think 2011 will see a tremendous amount of traction in desktop virtualization, I say desktop virtualization and not VDI because I believe to absorb truly the benefits of a virtualized desktop you need to use it as enabler to a more efficient and centralized desktop management. To achieve these goals you need to move from a monolithic design to layered approach whereby the user environment space, operating system and applications are all separated in a layered fashion. These are then dynamically delivered to the end user on demand and from any device.
Citrix have recently released Xendesktop 5 and also made fundamental changes to their supporting suite of products and how they integrate into application and desktop delivery. Here is how I see things panning out....

Hello Xendesktop 5 - Goodbye Xendesktop 4
Xendesktop 5 - Xendesktop has undertook a complete overhaul, IMA has been removed and replaced with a SQL database which also means no mixed mode farms, but greater functionality and scalability. Existing SQL management and BCR techniques must be implemented as any failure of the SQL side of things means a loss of desktop connections. Desktop Director is smart way for 1st line support guys to manage and support any Xendestop 5 VDI infrastructure.

Hello Machine Creation Services - Goodbye Citrix Provisioning Server
I have always found Provisioning services as clunky and extremely complex. The requirement for physical servers and scalability has always made me think that there has to be better way to manage images. With MCS quick deploy you simply point to a master image and the linked clones are created using an identity disk and difference disk, and the Active Directory configuration via the AD identity service. Citrix suggest you use MCS for smaller deployments and Prov Server for the larger deployments as they scale better and utilize the different write cache mechanisms. I would suggest a different approach here for two reasons.

1. The use of HSP (hybrid storage pools) and proprietary storage software that augments the current SAS/SATA storage stack and utilize SSD disks for smart disk cache; thus providing the required IOPS and performance VDI environments demand. Products such as Nexenta ZFS, FalconStor's NSS, and Disk systems from Dell and NetApp provide different features around SSD. Fusion-io's io-Drive takes a different approach and sits direct on the PCI bus and hence there is no SAS controller overhead, they OEM these to Dell and HP and the IOP'S you can pull from these devices are huge.  A typical SMB/SME environment that has a requirement for say example 500 desktops each requesting an average 10 IOPS on a 70/30 read and write ratio would require 28 SAS 15k disks to supply 5000 IOPS. This could possibly mean 4 disk shelves and the CAPEX becomes quite expensive. A hybrid SSD solution would require less hardware and are great in terms of providing the required read IOPS to cover boot storms. Something like the NexentaStor also allows the use of SSD's running on agonistic disk shelves. Although more expensive, SSD also means less disks and thus reduced CAPEX and carbon footprint.

2. Xenserver Intellicache is supported in XenServer 5.6 FP1 but not yet on Xendesktop 5. Intellicache  utilizes SSD local storage to create a smart disk read cache and uses NFS to store the gold image, the great thing about Intellicache is that it will dynamically look into desktop read patterns and cache these locally. If you were to run 100 Windows 7 desktops you will find that read patterns will be very similar, thus the net affect is fast disk access and read data deduplication. The requirement for Intellicache is MCS, so again there is no need for Provisioning server.

Hello NFS - Goodbye iSCSI and Fibre Channel
Citrix recommend Xendesktop to be run from a NFS platform; the rationale behind this is file I/O works better than block based I/O for VDI and performance. When you start to look at large amounts of desktops you can see issues with SCSI locking. I also think this is a smart move as often enterprise storage arrays are used to house virtual desktops that provide the bells and whistles of such features as synchronous replication,VSS and dual connectivity. These are not needed generally for VDI disk access, the main requirements I see are NFS, Smart caching and deduplication. High availability is a topic of discussion on VDI environments but my view is that if you take a layer cake approach and implement stateless desktops you simply need to restore the gold image and use MSC to recreate the desktops in the event of failure. NetApp and Nexenta provide some simple cost effective NFS solutions with these features.

Hello Access Gateway 5.0 VPX - Goodbye Secure Gateway
Secure remote access is critical component of any Xendesktop solution this is also driven by the consumerization of IT as we speak and varied spectrum of mobile devices. Typically in the past you either use client VPN access or a SSL VPN such as Secure gateway. Secure gateway runs on Windows and is quite limited in its functionality. With the CAG 5.0 we now have a Linux appliance that includes enterprise features such as HA, Smart Access functionality and also support for Receiver and Two factor authentication. A Xendesktop and Xenapp platform licence is included with the appliance so this is a smart and cost effective move in my opinion. This model is also crucially available as a XenServer and VMware virtual appliance, I am a great advocate of virtual appliances where possible as they bring ease of deployment, scalability and management that sits great in a datacenter infrastructure.

*Citrix have also just released Branch Repeater VPX as a VMware virtual appliance, when you need QOS, data compression, de-duplication or plan to implement soft phones and VoIP these are a great fit.

Hello Receiver and Delivery Services - Goodbye Dazzle
Dazzle is replaced by a self service plug-in in receiver and nice new ITunes like interface; this when combined with Citrix Merchandising server provides a modular and manageable delivery mechanism for applications and plug-ins. The receiver front end has a similar look and feel across all platforms so as we look into multiple device access we get a similar end user experience whether they are accessing their desktop from a Mac, IPad or Thin client. I think this makes sense when we start to look at Google Chrome OS, Nirvana Phones and Open Cloud Access which are all on the horizon.
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