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The alternatives for Citrix Presentation Server Part Three

Introduction

This is the last article in the series about Citrix Alternatives. First the last two product Thinworx and Virtual Access Suite will be described, followed by the final conclusion and recommendations for more detailed information. 




Genuit Thinworx

 

Thinworx is one of the newer players on the market. The manufacturer Genuit is based in Canada. This description is based on version 2.8, but version 3.0 will be released soon (or even may be released).

Thinworx central point is the so called Controller. In version 2.8 this part is a Single Point of Failure, but in version 3.0 they have a solution build-in. Other components are the application servers (Terminal Servers), a portal component and the Ad Server component. This Ad Server is pretty exceptionally. This component can show advertisement in the portal, can be useful for ASP, but will not be used much internally. At least one server should be host the role Domain Agent, which handles the communication with the Active Directory.

The first time you start the administrator console you need to specify the controller computer and the communication port. Like more consoles you need to get used of the console. The options in the left will open on a new tab in the right pane, but you are used to it pretty quickly. For the communication the standard username "sa" is being used. Remember that this account is used on every application server for connection with the controller if you want to change the password. Configuration of Thinworx is pretty easy, because only the most used features are available. Do not forget to add the portal server and the gateway otherwise clients can not connect to the applications. Thinworx only support Published Applications. When creating a Published Application you can specify the amount of licenses available for that particular application. Load Balancing exist of three counters (CPU usage, Memory usage and Server Priority) which can be combined and given a weight value. Monitoring is very basic in Thinworx, but Genuit offers some nice reports.

The only way to connect to the published applications is using the Thinworx portal. It's a pity that you still need to install a client where administrative rights are needed. The client part has some wonderful options. Examples are the session management (users can see which applications they have open on other workstations or disconnect sessions are can reconnect those), terminating of the application by the user, shadow management where users can shadow each other. Unfortunately Thinworx does not support Full Seamless Windows, when you minimize the application a grey screen will be displayed. Also Thinworx does not support session sharing.

Advantages:

  • Web-based SSL connections possibilities;
  • Advanced options for end user like terminating their own sessions and shadowing options;
  • Report functions with possibility to store reports in PDF format.

Disadvantages:

  • Single Point of Failure via the Thinworx Controller;
  • No 100% Seamless Application Publishing (and without session sharing);
  • Some options relies on the RDP protocol and can not be configured using the Thinworx manager.

Provision Networks VAS

Provision Networks is one of the younger players on this market, but are already experienced because they are a spin-off the Emergent Online Thinessentials tools. Provision extended these product with their own full SBC product previous known as Framework Enterprise. From April 2007 they combined this product with their VDI software solution and called in Virtual Access Suite.

With the integration of both products the VAS suite has also a central point called the Broker (this term is out of the VDI market). This broker has a connection with all other components like the VMware Virtual Center machine and the Terminal Servers. The installation exists of one single MSI where you can select which options you would like to install. Provision Network supplies their product with the most features to manage the environment. For example they have a hybrid profile solution, printing solution, UBS support, Redirection support, Desktop Management, Virtual IP, Application restrictions, CPU/Memory optimization and many more. Some of these components need to have a separate storage on a server, so you should consider where you want to store all these components.

After the installation the first time you should create the database. With the 5.8 release the complete management is organized in one console, also for your VDI and/or Blade PC infrastructure. Although this VDI/Blade PC part is pretty impressive, for this article I will focus on the Terminal Server part. The new console is easy to use. The VAS suite support Published Desktops, Published Content and Published Applications. (You can also Published Applications from your VDI/Blade PC infrastructure to your users). Provision also has a very good implementation of the seamless windows. They are definitely in the top for this feature.

Also the Load Balancing feature contains the most used evaluators including the user load support. You can configure the load weight of each counter and also specify that a combination or one counter can create a full load on the server. As already described VAS has many features, so these can not described all in detail in this article. I will pick out some options briefly. For example you can configure you applications restrictions based access hours and group rights, configure time zones based on client or user/group level, configuration of the desktop with drive mapping, printer mappings, registry settings, wallpaper settings and so on. VAS also has host access restrictions, so you deny access to machines out of the Terminal Server environment based on the client within the VAS suite.

These clients can exist of user, group, device TCP IP addresses or device name. These clients should be added into the console before they can be used for assignment (no direct Active Directory connection). It is a pity that the suite does not have any reporting possibilities, but Provision is working on that feature. Like most other products VAS has een Portal and Secure Access solution included.

With the latest release VAS has client available for the Windows, Linux and Windows CE platform. The Windows client has also desktop integration, so you can configure that application automatically appear in the start menu or on the desktop.

Advantages:

  • VAS included the biggest set of available features;
  • Besides a Terminal Server product you get with the same product (for the same price) a complete VDI/Blade PC software solution;
  • Very good seamless implementation.

Disadvantages:

  • No reporting functionality;
  • Active Directory object should be added to the product, before resources can be assigned to them;
  • Because of all features installation of the component should be considered thoroughly.

Are there more out there?

After three articles all available product are described and discussed. Not really actually. There are still more, but even I did not have overlooked all the available products. For example I also have seen a French company with their Appledis software, which offering SBC technology. Also there are other products available that are not using Windows Terminal Services for publishing desktops, content or applications. But from the view from a end user the functionality is the same. GoGlobal is an example of such a product and probably there are more where I never heard of.

Conclusion

With this three part article series we discussed and described the most known alternatives for Citrix. For every product I mentioned the most outstanding features, how they perform on the basic functionality and what is missing in the product. Every product has his advantages and disadvantages. Every product has the most basic functionalities (all operating at a decent level) and some special features which are not available in other products. The decision which product you should evaluate/implement depends on the needs and other system available in your infrastructure. Also check the article Selecting an SBC Product for your Environment or see my product reviews of most of the products on my personal website

Article previous published at MSTerminalServices.org.