Citrix releases Tech Preview for XenApp codenamed “Parra” (XenApp 6?)

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Yesterday Citrix released the beta (or "Tech Preview" in their words) for the next version of XenApp which has been known by the codename "Parra." It's not known how this will be branded, but with the changes we're seeing it's quite possible that you might be looking at XenApp 6.

Yesterday Citrix released the beta (or “Tech Preview” in their words) for the next version of XenApp which has been known by the codename “Parra.” It’s not known how this will be branded, but with the changes we’re seeing it’s quite possible that you might be looking at XenApp 6. (Right now it’s simply called “XenApp for Windows Server 2008 R2.”)

I’ve actually begun downloading it, but at 2.5GB, I’m still waiting for the download to complete as I write this.

We’ve been hearing about Parra for at least two-and-a-half years. I first wrote about it in June 2007 after attending Citrix iForum Edinburgh, and Tim Mangan shared more details after attending iForum 2007 a few months later. (Here’s a snippet of what he wrote:)

The version after Delaware is called Parra, and we heard a bit about it as well. They plan on a lot changing in Parra.  From a management standpoint, Citrix is getting high on PowerShell and intend to rewrite the APIs to make everything available from Powershell scripting. There will be a single console, of sorts. Everything will go to MMC snap-ins, and multiple snap-ins will exist that are more task oriented, allowing you to create a MMC console with just the snap-ins you need (or all of them). A separation of functions of the installed components is also planned. Currently called "Controller" and "Worker" categories, the concept might help larger installations if it doesn't manage to just confuse the heck out of us. No progress without pain. Also they promise to be more AD integrated for customers using Active Directory.

Of course those two posts are more than two years old, and we’ve seen several XenApp releases since then. Gabe Knuth actually wrote about Parra more recently as part of a larger level-set he did a few months ago around XenApp Feature Pack 2. From Gabe on September 18:

We also know that Citrix has announced a Tech Preview program called XenApp for Windows Server 2008 R2 Tech Preview that you can sign up for right now. After a few tweets and emails, we incorrectly came to the conclusion that this was nothing more than Project Cache [a.k.a. XenApp 5 Feature Pack 2] tweaked to run on 2008 R2. In fact this is actually Project Parra--the next major release of XenApp! As we talked about earlier, Parra represents a new code base and will only support Windows Server 2008 R2 (which, as we know is x64 only). Little information about Parra is public at this point, but here's what we've gleaned from various conversations and presentations:

  • It will include the features that are in Cache (including the features that built for Windows Server 2003 only).
  • Citrix is working to make a single management console (Cláudio will have to find a new topic to tweet about!)
  • They are also working to add Citrix Policies into AD

According to the Tech Preview sign-up page, the Tech Preview will be launching soon, and the final release will be available sometime in the first half of 2010. This is pretty much in line with past platform releases from Citrix--XenApp 5 was released about six months after Windows Server 2008 was released.

What’s new in Parra?

Citrix’s Sridhar Mullapudi blogged about yesterday’s Tech Preview release, sharing information about Parra’s features, including:

  • 20% more users per server. (Like View 4, I don’t know if this is due to improvements in Parra or improvements in 2008 R2.)
  • Role-based installation, which means that if you want a dedicated data collector, you can install a server as that. No longer do you have to build a normal member server with no apps published! Similarly your “worker” servers will just serve apps—they don’t have to participate in elections and won’t need the XML or STA services.
  • Unified application management console. (Did hell just freeze over?)
  • Management through Active Directory group policies
  • PowerShell 2.0 support
  • HDX RealTime audio support with support for Microsoft Office Communicator and VoIP softphones.
  • HDX Plug-n-Play for more general USB device support
  • Integration with Dazzle
  • Support for the latest version of XenApp Streaming, which now supports Windows Service isolation and Microsoft App-V integration (which we discussed in July).

So that’s the short version. As an old school Terminal Server guy, it goes without saying that I’m really excited about Parra. And a lot of these changes seem pretty substantial as we get what appears to be the rearchitecture of the core product that we’ve wanted for a long time.

I’ll try to get a Parra Server set up in my lab over the next few weeks. So between this and XenDesktop 4 and View 4, it looks like we’re going to have an exciting Q1 next year!

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We're now rolling out a Win2008 R1 \ XenApp5 \ x64 platform.  Parra's release is a little too late for us.  The next desktop we rollout after this one, probably featuring Office 2010, is likely to be based on R2 and Parra.  A lot of customers I guess will be migrating from Win2003 to R2 environments, missing out R1.


Anyway, I wanted to quickly mention that in line with the final release of Parra (and Gabe I think referred to a catchup for Win2008, of FP2 features that only Win2003 had), some HDX MediaStream for Flash components will be released. These aren't mentioned in the blog, but are fairly important for a lot of customers.


Since end Sep, via FP2: XA5/W2003 - PUBLIC HDX MediaStream for Flash with CLIENT side content fetching.


End Nov: XA5/W2003 - PRIVATE HDX MediaStream for Flash with SERVER side content fetching


End Q1: XA5/W2003 - PUBLIC HDX MediaStream for Flash with SERVER side content fetching


End Q1: XA5/W2008R1 - PUBLIC HDX MediaStream for Flash with CLIENT & SERVER side content fetching (first releases for Win2008)


I guess R2's XenApp will have these too.


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Parra sounds very promising. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the VOIP component of HDX. Does it flow through the ICA port? Is there QOS capability? Anyone using this today that can comment on its performance over the public internet?


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One of the most important changes is the integration of Citrix policies into Microsoft group policies. Single console and dead-easy usage!


Read more here: blogs.sepago.de/.../parra-tech-preview-integrates-policies-into-gpos-this-stuff-rocks


Regards,


Nicholas, twitter.com/NicholasDille


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Brian,


The 20% improvement in single server scalability is stuff that we tweaked to optimize the performance. Not because of R2.


Btw, we have role based install but we are still not at the worker controller separation. We will be there soon and this is a foundation towards that. Hope that clarifies.


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I came accross another Blog post highlighting the XenApp TV series and more specifically an interview with Juliano Maldaner, XenApp architect, on XenApp for R2. 45 mins well spent and without requireing an NDA ;)


Video: www.citrix.com/tv


Blog: community.citrix.com/.../XENAPP+TV+-+XenApp+Expert+Series+Interviews+Juliano+Maldaner+on+XenApp+for+R2


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@TomL Yes, Citrix Secure Gateway is part of the Parra release.


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@ljames18 Yes, the VoIP is routed over ICA. And we are mainly targeting Microsoft OCS A/V conferencing (though other softphones work as well) since that is the most popular app that we get request for support. For the initial release, we are targeting LAN environments and future updates will add WAN capabilities. Check it out and let us know how it goes


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