In this feature, Citrix and AVD Consultant Cormac Long discusses the technical benefits of combining Citrix with Azure Virtual Desktop:
The past 12 months have seen Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop (formerly known as Windows Virtual Desktop) really coming into the mix from a VDI, Desktop-as-a-Service and remote application provider perspective. Microsoft also announced it as a genuine player in a space previously dominated by the likes of Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops (formerly XenApp/XenDesktop). As with its on-premises based predecessor, RDS, AVD is naturally going to be compared with similar products such as Citrix Cloud Virtual Apps and Desktops service.
A lot of businesses thinking about deploying a cloud based VDI solution to provide their end users with remote applications or desktops will be scratching their heads and weighing up the pros and cons of both trying to decide which solution is best for them.
Today, I want to emphasise the point that it does not need to be one or the other. It is possible to provision your VDI workloads in Azure using an AVD based Windows 10 multi-session operating system and deliver it to your users via Citrix Cloud Workspace. This allows you to take advantage of all the fantastic features of both Azure and Citrix Cloud. I have chosen four areas of Citrix Cloud Virtual Apps and Desktops Service that I feel add unique business value on top of an AVD deployment.
Autoscale (with Azure on-demand provisioning)
When provisioning workloads in Azure, one of the primary concerns is cost. You need to ensure workloads are always sized correctly and that your running costs are optimised. For example, you do not want to leave a VM running 24/7 that only needs to service users between 08:00 and 18:00.
Citrix Autoscale helps accomplish this by powering off unneeded virtual machines during off-peak times or during times of low load. On the other side Autoscale can ensure that sufficient machines are powered on for when a shift starts to handle the anticipated load while avoiding having long user logon times while the machine boots up. I also want to call out Azure On-Demand Provisioning alongside Autoscale. When a VM is shut down in Azure, it will still incur storage costs. On-demand provisioning means Citrix machine creation services only creates the VM at the time the power command is received – thus reducing costs further.
Monitoring and Analytics
I have always believed that Citrix Director (now just known as Citrix Monitor within Citrix Cloud) is a powerful tool for any Citrix administrator. It gives the helpdesk deep insight into the user sessions for troubleshooting real time issues, performance monitoring and viewing trends within their environment. Running workloads in public cloud can reduce visibility and control, making monitoring and troubleshooting harder. Citrix Monitor and Analytics can provide an in-depth view into all aspects of an environment such as:
- Real time Session Details.
- Helpdesk Monitoring and Alerting.
- Breakdown of logon times.
- Session Shadowing, Session Control, Session Recording.
The below screenshot shows an example of the type of session detail visible within Citrix Monitor:
The default protocol of AVD is Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol. This works really well, and Microsoft seems to be really investing in developing and improving it in line with AVD. However, it cannot compete with the Citrix HDX (High Definition Experience) Protocol which has been around for over 30 years. HDX uses a multi-stream protocol made up of different technologies to optimise the user experience, decrease bandwidth consumption and increase user density per hosting server. This becomes even more valuable with workloads hosted in different Azure regions where session latency and low round trip times are critical. HDX adaptive throughput can measure the RTT in real time and adjust the session throughput on the fly to provide the best user experience.
Workspace Environment Management
Ever since Citrix acquired Norskale, I have been recommending this product to our customers. At the end of the day, the most important thing is user experience. This means quick logon times, no lag or delay and a snappy, responsive desktop. But this can also mean resource management which in turn leads to increased user density and a lower VM footprint in Azure which reduces cost. WEM can manage both CPU and Memory in real-time by monitoring and analysing application usage and adjusting RAM, CPU and I/O within the user environment. WEM can also improve user logon times by moving much of the logon processing to after the user logon. This gets the user to the point where they are in a usable desktop faster while WEM can continue configuring the user environment settings in the background.
These are just a few of the reasons why Citrix can add excellent value on top of Azure Virtual Desktop. If you are a new or existing customer of either solution, I would definitely recommend looking into the business value of combining both.
To help, Citrix has provided a cost calculator where you can calculate the potential savings and ROI for this scenario: Citrix Savings Calculator for Azure Virtual Desktop – Citrix.
Find out more
As a Citrix Partner, Gold Solution Advisor and Microsoft Azure Expert MSP, we have the product-specific technical expertise to provide you with a secure digital solution, so you can manage your environment, no matter how large or complex.
Want to know more? Send us a message and we’ll be in touch shortly. Or find out more about how we deliver Azure Virtual Desktop through our solution Azure Serve, here.