Is application compatibility still a problem for Terminal Server?

With the new features of Windows 2008 R2 like per-session and per-app IP addresses, multi-session Microsoft Installer compatibility, and CPU fair share technology, is application compatibility still a major problem for Terminal Server?

Microsoft just updated their TS Application Analyzer, a free tool that analyzes EXEs to help figure out whether they’ll work on a Terminal Server (or how much effort will be required to get them to work). But that got me thinking: With the new features of Windows 2008 R2 like per-session and per-app IP addresses, multi-session Microsoft Installer compatibility, and CPU fair share technology, is application compatibility still a major problem for Terminal Server?

I don’t even mean in a “Terminal Server versus VDI” context. Instead, I’m thinking back to the old days where we would dread looking at a customer’s app list because we knew a third of them wouldn’t run on TS. But now it seems that those days are largely behind us. Even in the rare case where an app doesn’t work on TS, we can easily virtualize it with one of the many app virtualization products on the market. (Although not with Microsoft’s own App-V, ironically. Yes, Windows Server 2008 RS is x64 only (which means the “current” version of TS is x64 only). Unfortunately App-V is still only 32-bit (although an x64 version is currently in beta).

So what do you think? Does terminal server still have app compat issues that limit its usefulness? Or are those days behind us now?

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Based on my experience as a consultant dealing with TS/Citrix most of my time I would say this is behind us now. Sure every once in a while you will get hold of an application that poses an issue but these are not that common anymore. The majority will just run out of the box.


Will this issue be completely fixed? Nope. As long as developers exist, bugs and stupid applications will still exist.


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I am interested in the feedback here as well. We also have a community site set up for anyone to look and share information on specific apps.  


community.citrix.com/citrixready


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In my view, the problems are reduced some, although I think that fast user switching that Microsoft added in XP had more to do with developers changing their products than anything else.  In particular, software understands HKLM better, and understands not to put user state into Program Files better, but still falls flat on other accesses that require admin (or elevated) permissions.


And maybe only the customers with problems ever seek me out, but I still see lots of customers running "a few" old applications that they just can't live without which have problems.


And while Multi-user in the TS sense is better, Multi-tenant (in the ASP sense) is generally not solved.


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My concern is x64 and MS is trying to force to market to go there. Seems like TS is *** step child of the Server Team who see x64 as good for SQL, Exchange, Sharepoint etc. TS is used to deliver apps. Although I see that most apps will run on x64 with the WOW. MS has done nothing to help customers figure out if this is an issue. MS tried to force Vista, spent a ton of money advertising it, it sucked and failed. They are forcing x64 but it may be ok in most cases, but they are not doing anything to help customers figure out app compat........


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b a s t a r d step child. I wonder it the filter will catch that.


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Application compatibility IS still a problem. That part is still not solved till producers of software keep TS in mind.


The TS application analyser is still needed to quickly see what programs have problems en to quickly choose what solution (application virtualisation, repackaging, isolation) is needed to get it running.


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It is better than it was in the TSE 4.0 days that is for sure. I find that still to this day almost every application I enable on CTX/TS still requires some level of attention. Some software vendors are getting better. Five years ago I would hear more flat out NOs on TS support, now at least they are willing to work with you and they should, a well performing TS app is a great sell.


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The remaining issues that are most common now are:


- Commercial apps that "work" but require significant intervention, things like SalesLogic, AutoCad, Adobe come to mind


- Legacy apps that are often "home grown" and poorly written.


- The other area of concern are things like huge Java apps that simply take up alot of resources and impact the benefit of sharing resources


In general the issue is not as much about making it work but the skill and effort it takes to get there. As a consultant we are have to factor in the impact on operations- can the client/end user update the apps and install new ones successfully in the future on their own?


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Personally, I'm a big fan of the Visa UAC dialogs.  Love the mac ads, but more than those, the UAC dialogs on end user OS have forced app vendors to fix their apps so they run multi-user friendly.


The commercial applications seem to have received the message.  This hit home for me some time back when I went looking for example applications that do it wrong.  Go down the commercial list and most of them are fixed, even quicken!


The customers' home-grown applications though still require work, and still keep isolation systems busy.  


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If MS wants to solve x64 app compat, then they not have made 2008 R2 64-bit only while Win7 was shipped in a 32-bit flavor.  If they truly believe that app compat isn't a challenge on TS, then Win7 should have been 64-bit only and we'd solve this once and for all.  But we all know that's not gonna happen.  I for one know a whole bunch of Citrix environments that'll be running on 32-bit 2003 and 32-bit 2008 (non R2) for quite some time.


Shawn


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I rarely run into applications that will NOT run in a multi-user environment.  However, that does not mean the process is painless.  There are still a significant number of applications that require bizarre file and registry access privileges\hacks.  So I still find myself in situations where I have to compromise the security of a Terminal Server to enable an application to run.  At that point I am forced to implement extremely granular permission sets to minimize the exposure of the core OS.  I hate depending on the "perceived" ignorance of Citrix end users as a security measure.


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Yes most apps "work" but I find I am still tweeking in ways I would not have to for desktop installs.  Definitely in the areas several mentioned like Glenda regarding walling off the OS from expanded perms just for the one app.  Sure all the standard mix shake out of the box onto TS well but there is still the 30% imo that give issues.  That 30% can be made to run now which was not the case in the past but a long field of improvement is still desired.  Has TS come a long ways - for sure - but don't sound like a salesman on me now and tell me about how its all behind us.  I guess I interpret "works" & "ready to deploy" as the same... it don't work till its ready to deploy imo.


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