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The alternatives for Citrix Presentation Server Part Two

Introduction

In the first article we went back to the start of SBC technology and why Citrix is the biggest player in this market and described the first alternatives. In this second part of the article we will continue with the alternatives 2X Application Server, Ericom PowerTerm WebConnect and Jetro COCKPIT.




2X Application Server

From one of the oldest SBC product we step to one of the latest products that entered the market. After 2X released SBC related products like the 2X ThinClient server and 2X Load Balancer, they made the step to the Terminal Server part.

When you start with 2X you will probably double check the size of the installation file. In stead of the massive installation sources we are used nowadays, the installation is only one single file from 5 MB. During installation you can choose a single 2X Application Server or Multiple servers. Logically we use the multiple server options for this article.

Configuration is done using a central console, where you should add the server into the console. A nice option is the possibility to group servers. The groups can be used to add applications to a set of server easily (for example when using the silo concept). The load balancer can be set in two modes. Round Robin is similar to Microsoft Network Load Balancing, but the second type is resource based. The Resource Based mode is based on three possible counters: User Sessions, Memory and CPU.

2X already predefined some Published Applications, which can be setup with two mouse clicks. Also a neat option is the possibility to drag an executable or shortcut into the console and the software automatically creates a published application with the default settings. A published application has filter options to show the application based on client IP addresses and client names. 2X Application Server have limited monitoring options. You can configure notifications via e-mail or message boxes when some counters rise above the configured value. Also a log file can be created containing performance counters and activities handled by the software.

What you should remember is that only one console can be used to configure the settings for all your servers. On this machine all your settings are also saved, so this is a potential Single Point of Failure (cold standby solution supported by 2X).

2X provided a client for Windows, Linux and MAC clients to connect to the servers. The default behavior was a little surprising, because it's hides the default client when you start a Published Application, but this can be changed in the options of the client. No much spectacular in the client, but it is doing what's made for with seamless windows and access to the local resources. Implementation of a portal is extremely simple, just copy the 2X web directory on your web server and you are finished.

All alternatives are (much) cheaper than the Citrix Presentation Server software, but 2X is really cheap.

Advantages:

  • Small installation package (with unattended options), easy administration;
  • Client support for Windows, MAC and Linux;
  • Very affordable.

Disadvantages:

  • One load balancer configurable;
  • Configuration is only available in one console.

Ericom PowerTerm Webconnect

Ericom is known from their client that connects to almost every legacy host system. Since a few years Ericom also concentrates on the SBC market with their PowerTerm Webconnect software. Remarkable was that this software was the first 64 bit ready SBC product. Their latest version is 5.5.1 which had several add-ons comparable to their previous version.

The product exists of a server component, a terminal server agent, load balancer, a portal and a client. Remarkable is that the server component can be installed on Windows or (L)Unix. Also the component can be configured redundant to avoid a single point of failure.

Within the console you can configure besides your Terminal Server environment also the connections to the legacy system, but I will concentrate on the SBC part. First thing you will notice it the console that looks differently than "normal" Windows consoles, you will use the menu bar mostly.

Ericom supports Published Desktop, Published Content and Published Applications. Within the Publishing wizard you can use the start menu (or just browse to the executable) to select the applications; also you can select the option that the client first looks local on the system for the content of application. If the application is not available the Published Application will be started. Ericom has another nice feature called Publish Multiple Windows Application. With this feature the complete start menu will be read and by clicking the shortcuts all those are published in the product. Ericom also support desktop integration by the possibility to add shortcuts to the desktop and start menu. In the latest version direct Active Directory integration is added, so you can add directly AD groups to the Published Application.

PowerTerm WebConnect has one load balancer, which can monitor on CPU, Memory, Sessions or an (adjustable) combination of those counters. The configurations need to be configured out of a separate console. New in the latest version of Ericom Powerterm WebConnect is the addition of third party products for a universal printer solution (Tricerat Screwdrivers) and CPU/Memory management using RTO TS Scale Advanced (Citrix is using a smaller version of RTO CPU/Memory management). Monitoring can be done out of the console on several levels. Remarkable is that Ericom differs user sessions and administrations sessions. Also a intruder detection monitor is included where failed attempts are stored). Off course is shadowing (using VNC) available. A nice addition to the send message system is the possibility to give the user the option to give a reply to the message. Ericom stores information about the usage of the servers in a CSV based file. So reporting can be done using an additional tool (like MS Excel).

Clients can connect via a client or the portal component. Also a RSA tokens can be used. The client has some nice options like the possibility to ask assistance from the IT personnel (divided in two groups). Simple but clever is the option to add (or remove) the client to the startup folder using the options within the client.  Ericom has clients for Windows, L(Unix) and Windows CE.

Advantages:

 

  • PowerTerm WebConnect support besides SBC functionally all kind of legacy host servers.
  • Nice features like reply option by send message, SSL support within the products and handy client features.
  • True Seamless Windows support.

Disadvantages:

  • Administrator Guide is written with a technical backgroup
  • Administration consoles are not convenient
  • Reporting can be improved

Jetro COCKPIT

Like more manufacturers Jetro has his origin in Israel and have their product in the market for quite some time now.

The product has like other a central server component that is running on Internet Information Server. The COCKPIT server functionality can be implemented in a clustered solution so no Single Point of Failure is created with this component. For the Terminal Servers there is single MSI file installation file for installing the agent. One of the servers should also host the role Directory Connector to communicate with Active Directory. Jetro has also his own universal printer component that supports both EMF and PDF based printing.

The administration console is web based, so you can administrator your Jetro environment from any machine. You need to add the server manually to the console and they are disabled by default. Because of the web based console I personally find the configuration less convenient then the other product. Jetro is working with security policies, which are also used for assigning rights to the Published Applications. In this way you can also deny access to an application for a special group of users. A nice option is application scheduling. With this feature you can assign time when the application can be started. Jetro support Published Applications and Published Desktops. Also Desktop integration is available in the product.

Jetro has the most extensive load balancer of all products. Every Windows Performance counter can be used in the Load Balancing. Each counter can be given a weight for the total load balancing. This total value will be translated to three states: low, medium, high, where you can define which level will be reached when. Although the configuration is much extended, this can also make it pretty difficult to configure you load balancing policies.

Jetro has good monitoring and reporting functionalities. In the monitoring option you can via queries see the current activity on your servers. Besides the monitoring view again with queries reports can be created.

During startup of the client already a Terminal Server is contacted. Because of this behavior it takes some time before the applications are displayed. But if the selected application is available on that server (and has the lowest load balancing value) starting up the application is done very quickly. The Seamless Windows capacity is in the middle of the products, but convenient for most environments.

Advantages:

  • Additional features available like Jetro's Printing solution and the scheduling feature;
  • The product is well documented;
  • Web based console can be used from every system.

  Disadvantages:

  • Assigning application to users is not intuitive using the security policies;
  • Client is automatically logging on the user on one of the Terminal Server agents servers;
  • Console is not always convenient.

Conclusion

In this second article some more alternatives described. In the following article Provision Networks and Genuit Thinworx will be described. Also a brief overview to some other alternatives, pointers to more information and a final conclusion can be found in the final article in this Citrix Alternatives series.

Article previous published at MSTerminalServices.org