This past weekend was the fifth semi-annual PubForum organized by Dr. Conti (a well-known contributor to the Citrix Support Forums.) This time around PubForum was held at a hotel in Dublin, Ireland. 85 people came for the three-day weekend event where everyone basically sits around with their laptops and drinks beer and talks about Citrix and Terminal Server technologies. (There are “real” presentations there too.)
I learned a lot in Ireland this weekend. Here’s a quick rundown (in random order):
The biggest news to me was that Citrix Presentation Server 4 is just a service pack for Presentation Server 3 with new licensing that “activates” the new features—just like the Service Release / Feature Release functionality has been for years. This means that the Service Pack 1 code and the Presentation Server 4 code are identical. Too bad Citrix named this PS4.0 instead of PS3 FR-1, because now people will be afraid of the “dot zero” release even though that’s not the case. To be fair though they did need to “true up” the versioning across their whole suite, and there was really no other way to do that.
Dublin is where Citrix’s EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) support center is located, so there were about six Citrix employees there who work locally for Citrix support. Filipe Fiel gave us a preview of a document called “Citrix Technical Support: Brief Troubleshooting Guide.” This 46-page spiral-bound troubleshooting “cheat sheet” logically steps through the things you should check for various problems in your Citrix environment with links to the appropriate KB articles. I think this is a really cool paper.
Another Citrix support guy, Marc Kiduff, talked about the architecture of the IMA data store. There was nothing new here, although this is the first time that I heard anyone from Citrix say that they build their own binary blob structure on top of SQL for security reasons. (i.e. so that no one can reverse-engineer their products) I guess I can’t blame them for that, although it is too bad that we in the field can’t (and will never be able to from the sound of things) just connect to the database and “fix” things.
Francisco Alves gave a presentation about how to perform memory dump debugging on Citrix servers. During his presentation one of the guys sitting next to me leaned over and said, “This is just Citrix's attempt to train users to help them debug their own code." Enough said.
However, Francisco also gave a great presentation about troubleshooting seamless applications. Even though this was the same presentation he gave in at PubForum in Munich six months earlier, it’s still great information and something that you can watch multiple times.
On the client side of things, an Access Suite universal client package is coming soon. This will work like the current ICA Client Packager but will include all of the Access Suite products.
We asked Citrix why their search engine was so terrible for support.citrix.com, and why Google doesn’t index it. Citrix confirmed that there’s a robots.txt file that prevents any search engines from indexing that site. They claimed there was a good reason for that, although when pressed they couldn’t actually say what that reason was. They did say that this will be changing soon.
Simon Frost (from Citrix in England) gave a really good presentation about how the actual ICA protocol stack works. He went into detail about the various flow control and compression algorithms. He'll give this presentation at iForum in Edinburgh in a few weeks, and it should be publicly available (in PPT or white paper form) after that.
Jetro Platforms sent their new CEO, Giora Shaked. (Jetro makes an add-on product to Terminal Server that competes with Citrix Presentation Server.) It was great to see that Jetro is paying attention to the community, although they should’ve sent a technical person along with the CEO. Giora laid out Jetro’s vision. They basically want to build a common application management environment that can be used to manage applications no matter where they are—server-based computing or traditional fat PCs. They’re trying to bridge the gap between pure SBC (Citrix) and pure management desktop (SMS, for example).
Fabrice Cornet from BrainSys presented a profile management and lockdown tool that they will give away for free. (More on this in the next few days.)
Jeroen van de Kamp from Login Consultants mentioned a new free tool (being written by Dennis Damen, also from Login Consultants) that will do “reverse” seamless windows. This tool, called Scheveningen (sounds like “shave uh nig nen”) will allow you to seamlessly access applications running on your local computer from within your remote Terminal Server desktop session. Pretty funky.
All-in-all it was a great event—52 hours straight of geeky talk in a cool city. The next PubForum will be November 4-6, 2005 in Monaco.