Citrix MetaFrame XP Features

For the sake of those of you who are new to MetaFrame XP, let's take a brief look at the features available features.

For the sake of those of you who are new to MetaFrame XP, let's take a brief look at the features available features. We'll look at each of these features in depth throughout this book, not just from a "features" standpoint, but also from a design and best practices standpoint. If you've used previous versions of MetaFrame but are new to MetaFrame XP, you will notice that several core features have been carried over from earlier products while others are completely new.

Application Publishing. MetaFrame XP's "application publishing" capability allows users to connect to applications by a friendly application name instead of a server name. For example, with application publishing enabled, a user can connect to an application called "Word 2002." The MetaFrame XP system would automatically connect the user to the proper server based on that application name. Without application publishing, a user would need to connect to a specific server, such as server01.yourcompany.com, and then run a specific application, such as winword.exe.

Server Farms. Multiple MetaFrame XP servers can be logically grouped together to form what's known as a "server farm." All servers in a server farm can then be managed together as one single unit. This is similar to the concept of a Microsoft Windows domain. Larger farms can even be partitioned into multiple "zones," allowing them to efficiently scale a wide variety of networks. We will spend a great deal of time in Chapter 3 drilling into the details of server farm and zone design.

Program Neighborhood. This feature allows your users to make one single connection to a group of MetaFrame XP servers. Based on that one connection and their network logon credentials, users are presented with a complete list of published applications that they have permissions to access. Program Neighborhood (coupled with application publishing) greatly simplifies your life as an administrator. By using Program Neighborhood, you do not have to worry about how to provide your users with access to a new application. All you have to do is grant them permissions to the application. The next time your user connects, the icon for the new application will automatically be available in their Program Neighborhood.

Session Shadowing. This feature is similar to "remote control" features in some helpdesk applications. Shadowing allows any user with appropriate permissions to remotely view the screens of other users' sessions. This is most often used for training and support purposes.

NFuse Classic. NFuse Classic is a free Citrix component that allows MetaFrame XP environments to be extended to web-based application portals. Users simply access a web portal and log on. Based on their credentials, users are presented with links to launch MetaFrame XP applications. NFuse greatly simplifies access to MetaFrame XP servers. All you have to do is give users the URL to the web server-the web pages will do everything else. (It's important to note that the NFuse feature included with MetaFrame XP is the "NFuse Classic" product. Citrix also has a product called "NFuse Elite." NFuse Classic and NFuse Elite are not the same product. For more information on NFuse, see chapter 11.)

Web-Based Client Installation. Users that will access your MetaFrame XP environment through the web (and NFuse Classic) do not need local ICA client software on their computers. Upon their first visit to the website, users will be prompted to automatically download and install the required client software.

Encryption. All MetaFrame XP-related network traffic can be encrypted. This includes traffic between the ICA clients and the MetaFrame XP servers, between the ICA clients and the NFuse web servers, between the NFuse web servers and the MetaFrame XP servers, and between various MetaFrame XP servers in the server farm.

Universal Client Access. The Citrix ICA client has been written for over twenty platforms, ensuring that users can connect into MetaFrame XP environments from almost any type of client device.

Seamless Windows. MetaFrame XP application sessions can totally integrate with users' existing Windows desktop environments. For example, old-fashioned remote application environments (like PCAnywhere) were confusing for users because they had a second desktop (complete with a second start menu) inside the remote application window. It was painfully obvious that the application was being run remotely. However, with MetaFrame XP's Seamless Windows feature, applications look and feel like they are local. They can be minimized, maximized, and dynamically re-sized. Users can even "Alt-Tab" between local and remote applications.

High Color Depth and Resolution. MetaFrame XP sessions can support 24-bit color at resolutions up to 64,000 x 64,000. This means that MetaFrame XP can support the graphics requirements of any application.

Access to Local System Resources. Applications running on MetaFrame XP servers can map back to a user's local disk drives, ports, printers, and clipboard. Even though applications running via MetaFrame XP ICA sessions are remote, the remote applications can totally integrate with a user's local applications.

Client Time Zone Support. Users do not need to have their client devices set to the same time zone as the MetaFrame XP server. In fact, MetaFrame XP servers can differentiate between local time and the user's time zone, enabling each user's session to operate in the proper time zone. One MetaFrame XP server can support multiple simultaneous users in different time zones.

Citrix Management Console (CMC). Most MetaFrame XP systems management tasks are done via a Java application called the Citrix Management Console (CMC). This is similar in concept to (although not compatible with) the Microsoft Management Console (MMC).

Centralized Printer Management. Printer drivers and configurations from one MetaFrame XP server can be automatically replicated to other MetaFrame XP servers in the server farm. This saves time in large environments because you don't have to manually configure the same printer connection over and over for every single server.

Centralized License Management. All MetaFrame XP licenses for multiple users and servers are managed at the server farm-level from one central location.

Active Directory Support. MetaFrame XP is fully Active Directory compliant, meaning that administrators, users, and permissions can be configured based on Active Directory groups. MetaFrame XP does not extend the schema of Active Directory.

Pass-Through Authentication. If you have users connected to MetaFrame XP sessions from Windows client devices that are already logged onto the network, the Citrix ICA client software can be configured to automatically pass the user's current credentials to the MetaFrame XP server, without the need for the user to re-enter their logon information.

SpeedScreen. This feature allows users to experience a quick, responsive ICA application environment, even over slow WAN connections, by providing instant mouse feedback and screen response.

Panning and Scaling. MetaFrame XP sessions can be dynamically scaled if the session resolution does not match the resolution of the ICA client. In addition to being able to scale a MetaFrame XP session, a high resolution session can have scroll bars and be panned on lower resolution clients. (Of course even with these features, it's still hard to use real applications on a palm-sized CE device.)

MetaFrame XP Optional Features

MetaFrame XP comes in three versions: XPs, XPa, and XPe. MetaFrame XPs is the "base" version, and all the features previously described are available to MetaFrame XPs servers. The XPa and XPe versions have some advanced features and options not found in MetaFrame XPs. These options include:

Application Load Management. Users and applications can be load-balanced across multiple MetaFrame XPa and XPe servers, increasing scalability and redundancy. For example, a user can simply connect to "Word 2002," and MetaFrame XP will (behind the scenes and transparent to the user) figure out which actual server of all the MetaFrame XP servers is least busy and connect the user automatically.

Application Packaging and Delivery. In larger environments where many MetaFrame XPe servers run the same applications, Citrix Application Packaging and Delivery (known also as Citrix Installation Management) allows you to create application packages on one MetaFrame XPe server and automatically deploy them to multiple target MetaFrame XPe servers.

System Monitoring and Analysis. Also known as Citrix Resource Management, System Monitoring and Analysis allows you to proactively monitor MetaFrame XPe servers. This is useful in larger environments.

Network Management. MetaFrame XPe can be plugged into your existing SNMP-based management tools, both for monitoring and management purposes.

Managing MetaFrame XP with the CMC

The Citrix Management Console (CMC) is the main configuration utility used to view the status and change the settings of MetaFrame XP servers. This tool is similar in concept to the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), although unfortunately is in no way compatible with the MMC.

For some reason, Citrix decided to write the CMC in Java. This means that even through it's a Windows application, it doesn't perform like one. For example, the scroll-wheel on a mouse does not work in the CMC.

No one is really sure why Citrix reinvented the wheel and wrote their own Java-based management tool from scratch, instead of making a management plug-in for the MMC. Citrix claims that they chose Java for compatibility reasons. Because the MMC only runs on Windows NT/2000, they wanted to write their tool to work on any platform. (Apparently they couldn't think of any other way to provide a Windows application to non-Windows clients.) What's really funny is that the CMC requires fairly heavy communication between the machine that it runs on and the MetaFrame XP server that it communicates with. Because of this, Citrix's official recommendation is to run the CMC on a MetaFrame XP server and connect to it through an ICA session anyway.

The CMC will be covered in greater detail in chapter 16.

 

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