Are you using x64 Terminal Servers or Citrix? Why or why not?

At BriForum last month, Steve Greenberg, Joe Shonk, and Brian Madden led a breakout session about using the x64 version of Windows for Terminal Server and Citrix Presentation Server.

At BriForum last month, Steve Greenberg, Joe Shonk, and Brian Madden led a breakout session about using the x64 version of Windows for Terminal Server and Citrix Presentation Server. It was an interesting conversation, and something that's worth discussing in the larger context of the community.

So for everyone reading this, we're curious: Are you using x64 for your Terminal Servers or Citrix? If so, why did you go down this path? How are you handling printing? How many cores and how much memory are you using? Is it just about user density, or is there another reason?

And what if an 8-core, 16GB RAM server just appeared on your doorstep? Would you run x64 Terminal Services natively, or use a hypervisor and carve it up into maybe four smaller 32-bit Terminal Servers?

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Coming from a small country like Denmark we dont have that many really large(in US terms) farms. So for most of our customers they would not want to put more than 30-40 users pr. server.
Reasons are simple, if hardware fails, how big is the impact? If you need to rush a change on a server that requires a reboot? how big is the impact?

I can understand the use of 64bit to get 200+ users on the same box when you are in a large scale enterprise with thousand and thousands of users. The overall impact in case of hardware failure is not as great and on top of that these organisations typically need to save anything they can when it comes to Datacenter Space and cooling.


They way i have mainly seen x64 bit used it when it comes to extreme workload application silos. In these cases where it is simply memory intensive workloads some times it is a good solution to go x64 and be able to keep a normal 'user load' on the servers.


All in all i think alot of people are hesitant moving to 64-bit when they are unsure whether they can rely solely on universal printer drivers, and when they fear losing half their organisation in case of hardware failure.


The great results i have seen with Terminal Servers and XenApp virtualized lately makes me sure i would carve up a box like the one you mentioned. Atleast until we get Live User Migration.. and money rains from the sky ;-)


/LamerSmurf

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We adopted x64 to reduce our server count, we are seeing 3x + users on 8 core, 16GB blade configs.  We outsource the support of our server infrastructure and are charged by the operating system so carving beefy server into virtual servers is cost prohibitive with our support contract.  Huge savings for our situation, traditional infrastructure consolidation efficiencies (power, cooling, cabling, real estate) are a bonus. 
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Maybe I wouldn't have done a year ago though, ESX v's the cost of XenServer justifies it today.

Lee
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P.S. this is a rapidly growing enterprise environment, currently approaching 400 servers.
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I don't run x64 TS or Citrix mostly due to the applications. Many are not coded for x64 and since application delivery is the name of the game, I stayed on 32 bit.  I have been able to split the load by running more 32 bit OS on in a hypervisor environment.


x64 sounds nice in theory, but it think it missed its window of opportunity with all the hypervisors coming onto market and subsequent competition for market space. Chances are if you can afford x64 operating system, you can afford x32 running on a hypervisor.  

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There is no difference in cost for x64 Windows Server Operating System license unless you jump editions (ie. Std > Ent or Ent > Datacenter) and there is no need for that.  Only additional cost is for more memory and x64 uses it much more efficiently than 32-bit OS did so you get benefit of app stability
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For huge user amounts, x64 is a most .. hardware and memory costs are dropping everyday, and 16GB blades are there ... virtualizing via Vmware or XenApp will NEVER deliver the same performance .... I am starting now a rollout on a Belgium consumer (Belgium-Brazilian, and now American – in the news lately, you should guess), which will grows, to a 20.000 user potentially within the next years, I cannot why to have hundreds of smaller servers in this case,
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We decided against using x64 verison of windows 2003 becaue there were not enough MUI langauage packs available (we use 30 MUIs for our Citrix desktop environment) and because of difficulty obtaining print drivers from vendors etc.  Also the version of Citrix for x64 was never truly a 64 bit version, just presentation server/Xen app ported to work with the x64 version of the OS.


We are going to investigate the 64 bit version of windows 2008 when Delaware is eventually released.


 

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We decided against using x64 verison of windows 2003 becaue there were not enough MUI langauage packs available (we use 30 MUIs for our Citrix desktop environment) and because of difficulty obtaining print drivers from vendors etc.  Also the version of Citrix for x64 was never truly a 64 bit version, just presentation server/Xen app ported to work with the x64 version of the OS.


We are going to investigate the 64 bit version of windows 2008 when Delaware is eventually released.


 

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We're using x64 for our primary farm in order to get user density (25-30 heavy users on 2 dual-core procs with 16GB of memory per blade).  We scrounged up x64 drivers for our 3 main printers, and these people are mostly heavy Office users, so we don't have a lot of other application problems.  Our big obstacle to packing more people on though is that our VoIP application is not compatible yet, so we're doing a 32bit server to get 10 accounting users going with that software.  Our vendor has promised an x64 client by the end of the year, so we'll consolidate folks back onto the main servers once we test that app.  I wish more vendors would jump on the x64 bandwagon though, I still think its where things are going...
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True, there's *technically* no cost difference, but the added RAM and cores in big servers typically bump you up from a lessor edition to a more expensive edition.
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We run x64.  We use the Citrix UNIVERSAL Printer for printing, and it works like a charm. 

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Softgrid can't run under an enterprise class OS provided by its own vendor.  Comedy GOLD! </sarcasm>

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Most Citrix customers get bombarded with marketing messages telling them that 64bit is the answer and solves all their datacenter problems - in my experience this is rarely the case.


Main reasons why people generally steer clear of 64bit platforms;



  1. Application Performance - 99% of commercially available applicatons are only available as 32bit applications. When running on a 64bit OS these are run in an emulation mode similar to NTVDM when running 16bit apps on a 32 bit platform. This means there's a natural overheaed to your applications, therefore you at best won't see any performance improvement in your apps and worst they may be slower.

  2. 16 Bit Applications - if you have any of these, good luck running them on 64bit! Most Larger banks and insurance companies maintain legacy applications, normally some of them will be of the 16bit flavour.

  3. Softgrid - No 64 bit client til version 5, so this rules out any softgrid houses!

  4. Printing - yes, the UPD will work in 64 bit, but for customers with thin client environments this isn't a viable option normally. This should improve when Citrix finalise the UPD Print Server, but until then you're stuck managing at best multiple versions of printer drivers or at worst having to replace a whole load of printers.

  5. Stability - loading a server with 500 users in a 1000 seat environment might seem like a good idea when looking at datacenter footprint and server management costs - right up until the day when Server A blue screens and 50% of your users are out of action.

  6. Disk speed - unless you've dumped your annual budget on buying in flash disks for you servers, disk speed is going to be a big bottleneck when loading your servers with 200+ users. When your Write Cache is full terminal services is pretty much dead in the water. You can normally accomodate 150-200 users with Battery Backed write cache add-ons, but even considering multiple array controllers, your going to have a big pain point if you're trying to accomodate 200-500 sessions on a single box!

Virtualisation is far more common with enterprise customers that 64bit platforms in my experience, with the exclusion of Exchange and SQL servers.


Also I can't match up the user load stats that are fed to me by the multiple marketing machines extolling the virtues of 64bit...


Typical real world workloads using MS Office Suite and CRM application based on "Acceptable Performance";


2003 Enterprise R2 x64, XenApp 4.5 x64 R02, 16GB RAM, 2xAMD Dual Core Proc = 120 Users


4x 2003 Standard R2 32bit, XenApp x64 R02, 4GB RAM, 1x vCPU, VMware VI3 Enterprise = 35 Users per server


DISCLAIMER: This is based on real world systems - not a performance testing lab. Interpret it how you wish!


So... If i've done my maths correctly - on my 64bit platform I'm getting 120 users before the performance degrades, across my 4 virtualised instances I'm getting 140 users. 


As soon as software developers begin to develop as standard for 64bit platforms, it brings the 64bit versus 32bit argument into scope, however until then - in my opinion - there's no incentive to transition.


Anyway, thats my two cents!

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Whoops - that should have read:


Typical real world workloads using MS Office Suite and CRM application based on "Acceptable Performance";


2003 Enterprise R2 x64, XenApp 4.5 x64 R02, 16GB RAM, 2xAMD Dual Core Proc = 120 Users


4x 2003 Standard R2 32bit, XenApp 4.5 R02, 4GB RAM, 1x vCPU, VMware VI3 Enterprise = 35 Users per server

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We have stayed away for now.


We have about 3500 different individual external users(only about 350 concurrent) with every printer under the sun. This has always made it hard to supporting all these different printers. Needless to say getting 64 bit drivers and having 3500 clients install them on all sorts of different hardware and OS versions is not going to happen. But with 4.0 we started using UPD and the universal printer, and think we have things beat. That universal printer is nice.


We are about to start upgrading to 4.5 and will start testing some 64 bit. Hopefully it works. We are a rare case that falls under Microsoft's "external connector License" for terminal server so if we could cram 200+ users on two boxes that would greatly reduce our TS licensing.


 Right now we have 6 servers that our customers hit and we cram about 60 users on each leaving one out for n+1. If I could take that down to 3 servers that could save me 24k on licensing.


 


Now that said there is always the fear if I go 64 bit and a server takes a dive I just bounced 200 customers as apposed to just 60.

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What about 2003 Enterprise R2 x32 bit and 16 GB of RAM?  You should be able to get more than 120 users.

Joe

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Truth is TS is a glorified workstation that happens to allow multiple users to connect a single host.  Organizations have yet to consider running their fat clients on x64 versions (there are x64 versions of XP and Vista) so how can we be expected to make that transition on this glorified multiuser workstation (Terminal Server)?

The guest above makes a great point on how many users on a single host is too much?  This is a Microsoft world we are living in.  Not Unix or Mainframe.  One important lesson that Microsoft given us is, "its good enough".  That doesn't translate to security and stabiliy. To be fair, Microsoft has done a lot (and still is) to correct this but their partners have not...  But what good is a stable OS when a flaky application threatens to take down the entire system?

Now take in the fact that Microsoft announce that Windows 2008 will be the last 32-bit OS.  That means at some point in time we will have to solve the x64 problems and migrate... Or dare I say,  VDI!

Joe

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We tested that route while testing x64 and we saw similar loads but memory management was horrible with 32 bit with varied performance.  64bit presented a consistent experience while managing the memory much more efficiently.  Couldn't justify the extra $1,100 for Ent license if we were already forking that much out for the extra memory.
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Hi Joe, 


I'd say that single server scalability is largely subjective based on the applications, but again in a similar setup with 16GB RAM and 2003 Enterprise 32bit I'd expect to see 100-120 users (ballpark).


Although 32bit Enterprise edition addresses the compatibility aspect, you're still likely to encounter similar scalability issues as when you have a large number of users on a 64bit platform albeit with the added limitation of the 32bit memory management.  


I'd agree there will be cases when you can get more but again i'm basing this on a situation where users are running 3-4 apps of the types in my previous post. It also largely depends on what you would deem to be acceptable performance. 


Andy

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Aside from what has been stated above we found additional areas of concern.No 64-bit setup capture tools for application deployment.

Lack of true x64 support by application virtualization tools. I.e. ThinApp doesn't currently capture 64-bit applications, SoftGrid has no x64 support, SVS isn't x64 compatible etc...

32-bit processes cannot load 64-bit dlls and vice versa.Performance and memory consumption.
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa384219(VS.85).aspx

Some nice info on Itanium processor restriction of 32-bit processes.
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms241064.aspx

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On 6 x HP Proliant BL480c (8 way blades), 8GB RAM, running Windows 2003 Enterprise 64bit R2.


We used HP x64 Universal Print drivers & Lexmark x64 Universal Print drivers for Session printers and Citrix Universal Print drivers for client mapped printers.


We managed to get 85% of their applications streamed to server using Citrix Application Streaming. Even difficult applications like SAPGui 640 worked fine :) Just have to remember the registry redirection for 32bit applications ;P


If I could do it all over again, I'd definitely suggest 64bit but with Provisioning Server for Datacentres instead!


Rgs Sharin Yeoh (sharin.yeoh@mlogic.com.au)

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We run a data center and lease a set number of applications to businesses for basic Office usage, for this we use Citrix and Windows 64-bit to handle the larger user base over less boxes. We also have custom Citrix VMs (scary huh?) running 32-bit versions in the same farm to allow them to use custom applications (ERP etc...) should they need to.

 Down the track (we have only just started up), we will be looking to move to 2008 once Xenapp 5.0 is released and hopefully I'll be able to convince the powers that be to take a hold of Provisioning server to...

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Forgot to mention, the printing isn't an issue as clients we deal with we run two pipes for, one for Citrix traffic and one for print traffic. So we don't make heavy use of the Citrix printing system. When a user accesses the site outside the company infrastructure they get the Citrix Universal Printer.
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We utlize x64 for user density as well. We had a rough start with CPS 4.0 x64 but have very pleased since upgrading to 4.5. We utilize a lot of printer drivers that are Native to the OS and use the UPD for everything else. Unfortunately we have one of those "citrix admin's worst nightmare" environments where uses are allowed to put that yard-sale printer on their desk and we're supposed to make it work and we do what we can with the UPD but obviously some of them just get told "sorry, aint gonna happen". Our environment has been EXTREMELY stable and I'd hate to know i'd have to support a LOT more 32bit OS's. 


I'm anxious to get some XA 5.0 and 2008 x64 boxes out in the wild.  

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Cost is not always just the price tag. Are you also factoring in the cost of now having to support two different versions of the same brand name operating system?  Now add the cost of supporting both x32 applications and x64 applications and things start to compund quickly.


x32 has plethora a forums and support sites which addresses nearly every issue conceived. x64 adds another layer of complexity and troubleshooting with a lot less resources to pull from. TCO for two operating systems and multiple applications will always be more expensive to care and feed than one, no matter what the brand or model.

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We recently bought a new Dell 1950 with 8 cores and 16GB to add to our farm. All users run the Citrix Desktop and lots have thin clients. Printers were upgraded prior to make sure everything had 64bit drivers. Currently it is running as an x64 box. The problems I have experienced have mainly been due to Adobe software. Adobe dont make a 64bit flash player so you cant use 64bit IE. Furthermore printing PDFs has been a major headache. There is a windows bug but the hotfix hasnt helped for us so for users that are having issues printing PDFs when on the new server I have setup a new application for them that logs them onto one of the 32bit citrix servers. Apart from that the server is super fast and can handle everything I throw at it without slowing down. If only adobe/MS would fix up these last couple of things it would be perfect.
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My detailed 7-part article series on Windows x64 might be of interest. It starts here:

 http://blogs.sepago.de/helge/2008/01/09/windows-x64-all-the-same-yet-very-different-part-1/

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I disagree on the performance with hypervisors. There is no basis for that claim.

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There is a ton of basis on this claim.  It is very well known and understood that, right now, you cannot get the same performance out of a virtual machine like you can from a hypervisor.  A little searching will turn up a ton of results that back this up.
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Migrating our 5-year old Citrix servers (DL360 G3 Win2003 w/ Citrix PS4.0) to new x64 servers (G5, dual quad 2.8GHz, 10GB mem) but ran into a snag with, of all things, Websense.  We use Websense for enterprise web filtering and use their filter plug-in for Citrix on our Citrix servers (had tried Citrix virtual IP for a while, but lacked functionality we needed compared to using filter plug-in for Citrix).  There is currently no x64 version of the filter plug-in (x86 version does not work on x64), but is supposed to be available with 7.0 release (sometime in Q3 2008 per tech support).  Waiting...

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Have a read through this report:

  http://www.tollygroup.com/ts/2008/Citrix/XenServer%20Enterprise%204.1.0/Tolly208304CitrixXenServer.pdf

  

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We are building a new thin client farm using IBM Bladecenters and x64 blades with 32GB of memory and dual-quad core systems.  This will give us much more flexibility to scale up than our current environment to handle growth in our user base, as well as system/application demands.
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Mark,


We run both 32 bit and x64 TS boxes, depending on the environment. We support customers running a large variety of apps, and I have seen very few that will not run as a 32 bit app on x64. Not sure what specific apps you're dealing with, but you may want to look into this some more.


Saying that x64 missed its windows of opportunity because of hypervisors, etc. is like saying the combustion engine missed its opportunity because we already have steam engines. ISVs will start to write their code with x64 in mind and you will eventually see 32 bit windows go by the wayside.

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