Extending Citrix MetaFrame XP with Feature Releases

MetaFrame XP was released in February 2001. In October 2001, Citrix released a "Feature Release" for MetaFrame XP.

MetaFrame XP was released in February 2001. In October 2001, Citrix released a "Feature Release" for MetaFrame XP. This feature release, called "Feature Release 1" (FR-1) contained updated options and functionality for MetaFrame XP. This is not a free upgrade. It is similar in concept to a "minor release" of a software platform, for example, version 1.0 to version 1.1.

In May 2002, Citrix released Feature Release 2 (FR-2) for MetaFrame XP. In addition to its own new features, Feature Release 2 includes all new features that were introduced with Feature Release 1.

FR-1 Enhancements to MetaFrame XP

Let's take a look at the increased functionality that you get with Feature Release 1. This section will detail the functionality that is added to all versions of MetaFrame XP (XPs, XPa, and XPe.)

SSL Encryption Support for ICA Sessions. Using FR-1, ICA client to MetaFrame XP server session traffic can be 128-bit encrypted using standard encryption methods. This replaces MetaFrame XP's old proprietary encryption (SecureICA) with industry standard SSL encryption. The major advantage to this is that SSL traffic uses common TCP ports and is most likely able to traverse standard firewalls.

NDS Support. When FR-1 is applied to a MetaFrame XP server, applications and content may be published to NDS users and groups. Additionally, pass-through authentication has been updated to support NDS logins. Previously, in order to use NDS, you had to duplicate users in the NT domain and then associate their NT user accounts with their NDS accounts, since MetaFrame XP would not recognize native NDS accounts. With Feature Release 1, Citrix ICA clients and NFuse can pass NDS credentials in addition to a user's NT domain credentials when an ICA session is launched. See chapter 8 for complete information about integrating MetaFrame XP with Novell.

Program Neighborhood Agent. Remember that one of the features of MetaFrame XP is Program Neighborhood, which allows you to easily push connection icons to end users. The major drawback to Program Neighborhood is that there are many configuration files that need to be configured on the client device in order to make it work and customize it the way you want it. With the Program Neighborhood Agent introduced as part of FR-1, you can automatically push connection icons to the Start Menu, desktop, or system tray of your users' workstations. Everything is controlled from the server, so you don't have to worry about users breaking or changing the configuration of their clients.

Citrix Universal Print Driver. Printing in MetaFrame XP environments can be challenging. The Citrix Universal Print Driver included in FR-1 is a print driver that theoretically works for all printers. Using it can reduce print job sizes by up to 50% (and therefore print times can by reduced by 50%). However, the downside of the Universal Print Driver is that it only supports 300 dpi monochrome printouts.

Content Publishing. This functionality takes the concept of "published applications" a step further, to "published anything." Without FR-1, the only things that you could publish to users were executable applications. However, the content publishing features of FR-1 can be used to publish video, audio, Word documents, web pages, or any other files. When a user clicks a content published icon, the content is opened on their client device. This ultimately allows users to seamlessly access both MetaFrame XP applications and local applications from one single location.

Citrix Web Console. This is a web version of the Citrix Management Console, which can be used for performing common administrative tasks via a standard web interface.

Improved Performance. Advances in the ICA protocol allow for improved bandwidth usage across the board, highlighted by a 50% bandwidth reduction when using 24-bit color over low bandwidth connections.

Auto Client Reconnect. ICA client devices that are unintentionally disconnected from a MetaFrame XP server when their session is interrupted by a bad network connection can now be configured to automatically attempt to reconnect without any user intervention.

Citrix Management Console Improvements. When FR-1 is used the CMC displays more detailed information about MetaFrame XP servers, including the Feature Release and Service Pack levels and the operating system platform.

FR-1 Enhancements to MetaFrame XPa and XPe

Feature Release 1 also provides enhancements that are only available to MetaFrame XPa and MetaFrame XPe servers.

Connection Control. This enhancement allows you to limit the number of concurrent user and/or application connections and is convenient for applications that are licensed on a "per concurrent user" connection basis.

CPU Prioritization. This enhancement allows you to assign CPU priority to applications running on Windows 2000 servers, ensuring that one user's "Solitaire" session is not taking away valuable CPU cycles from a payroll processing application.

FR-1 Enhancements to MetaFrame XPe

The following enhancements are only available when Feature Release 1 is installed onto MetaFrame XPe servers.

ICA Session Monitoring. This enhancement allows you to monitor ICA network traffic, all the way down to the "virtual channel" level. With ICA session monitoring, you can see the exact amount of bandwidth that is being consumed by a single ICA session and tune your network accordingly.

Installation Management Improvements. With FR-1 installed, you can now filter Installation Management's target MetaFrame XPe servers according tooperating system type (Windows 2000 or NT 4) and whether or not Installation Management is installed. You can create and modify folders that can contain installation packages and also schedule target servers to reboot after a package has been successfully delivered. FR-1 also allows you to customize the message that is displayed to users when the system is pending a reboot after an Installation Management package has been installed.

CA Unicenter TNG Plug-In. Before FR-1, MetaFrame XPe's network management utilities only plugged-in to HP OpenView or Tivoli NetView. Feature Release 1 allows it to also plug-in to Unicenter TNG.

FR-2 Enhancements to MetaFrame XP

Feature Release 2 adds many new features to MetaFrame XP.

Windows 2000 Server is Now Required. Okay, maybe this isn't exactly a "feature," but before you get excited about any of the new features of FR-2 you should know FR-2 does not work on Windows NT Terminal Server 4.0.

User Policies. The CMC can be used to set user and group policies that allow you to easily specify which MetaFrame XP features can be accessed by which users. Similar to Windows policies, you can specify multiple policies with multiple priorities. For example, you might create a policy that disabled sound support for all users, and another policy for executives with sound enabled.

Delegated Administration. Before FR-2, MetaFrame XP administration was "all or nothing." User accounts configured as administrators had full rights over all servers in the server farm, and there was no way to limit the administration or to give certain users administrative rights over smaller subsets of the server farm. However, by using FR-2, you can designate certain administrative roles for certain Windows groups or users. For example, you might allow one administrative group to manage MetaFrame XP printers without giving them the ability to change any published application properties.

Transport Layer Security Encryption. FR-2 supports Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption. TLS encryption is even more secure than SSL, and is used more and more in the real world.

Non-Administrator Shadowing. This feature allows users to shadow other user sessions without needing to have administrative rights on the server of the user that they are shadowing. Many users can thus share a single session for online collaboration and training purposes.

Smart Card Support. The ICA protocol has been slightly modified with the release of FR-2. One of those modifications is the inclusion of support for Smart Cards (assuming you have the proper Smart Card reader hardware for your client devices).

Content Redirection. FR-2 provides an easy way for you to specify the location of applications that should open when users click on certain types of documents. For example, content redirection on the server allows users to double-click a Word document from within their ICA session while the document is opened locally on their client device instead of being opened with a copy of Word running on the MetaFrame XP server.

More Enhancements to the CMC. The Citrix Management Console has been further refined, with FR-2 introducing search capabilities, pass-through authentication, and better integration with Active Directory.

Windows Installer Support. Beginning with FR-2 (and Service Pack 2), all MetaFrame components are distributed as Windows Installer MSI files. This makes it easier to package MetaFrame XP for distribution to remote sites.

IBM DB2 Support. All MetaFrame XP server farms require a database to store configuration information. Prior to FR-2, that database had to be Microsoft Access, SQL Server, or Oracle. FR-2 adds support for IBM DB2.

Printer Management Enhancements. FR-2 further refines the management of printers for users. For example, with FR-2 you can set default printing preferences for autocreated printers and force users' printer settings to be refreshed every time they start an ICA session.

Citrix Web Console Enhancements. The Citrix Web Console has been modified to support more features, although it is still nowhere near as easy to use as the real Citrix Management Console.

FR-2 Enhancements for MetaFrame XPe

The advanced features of MetaFrame XPe also receive new functionality when Feature Release 2 is used.

Application Packaging and Delivery. The big FR-2 enhancement here is that you can stagger package delivery across multiple groups of MetaFrame XPe servers. This is useful when you want to deploy a single package to many MetaFrame XPe servers but don't want them all to get it at the exact same time. Also, with FR-2 you can configure a single package to be installed from multiple network share points. This allows Installation Management to actually be useful in WAN environments.

System Monitoring and Analysis. With FR-2, a centralized database can now be used to store all collected information from multiple MetaFrame XPe servers. (Before FR-2 each server maintained its own information.) Also, pretty reports can now be generated based on data collected and predefined Crystal Reports templates. This is useful in situations where you want to send invoices to users based on their system usage or the fact that you don't like them.

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