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VisionApp Access Portal

Most people already know visionapp from their wonderful Freeware version software product vRD to easily connect to your Terminal Servers and/or vPMS (Platform Management Suite) to install and configure Servers and applications complying with thebasic concepts of a Terminal Server infrastructure.

Visionapp has also another third product called vAP. This stands for visionapp Access Portal. This portal makes it possible to deliver several types of applications to the end users from one access point. The portal has Multilanguage possibilities and supports several layouts and Citrix farms. In this way you can create a single point of access for several business units with their need for supported languages and using a business unit’s layout for presentation of the application.




Installation

 

vAP is built around Citrix Presentation Server concerning the presentation of the applications. The VisionApp product works together with Citrix Web Interface for enumerating and presenting the applications within the portal. Because of big changes Citrix made to the Web Interface with version 4, visionapp supports only Citrix Web Interface (WI) version 3.

Logically IIS and WI should be installed on the on the vAP server before installing the software. vAP is using a database to store the configuration, so a SQL server (SQL 2000, 2005 or 2005 Express) should also be available for the visionapp databases.

Visionapp has integrated the management of both products into one console. Therefore this console (called visionapp Control Center) should be installed first.

Because the Control Center can be installed more than once, one of the first questions is if this is the initial configuration or on console installation (database already exists). When choosing initial installation you need to specify the SQL server and an account that has permissions to create the database and database user as specified. If you install a second console you need to specify the database server, database name and database user to create a connection to the database.

After the installation of the Control Center vAP can be installed. First of all you can specify the locations where the web folder of IIS and path to Citrix Web Interface are located. During the first installation a database needs to be created to store the vAP configuration. Like the Control Center, you need to specify an account with the right to create the database and connected users as specified in the installation wizard. Also connection to the Active Directory should be specified, so the software can query the Active Directory. If you don’t want that all users within the Active Directory can access the portal, you can specify an Active Directory group for access to the portal.

Both installations are available in the MSI format. Using this MSI file, the installation can be completely carried out unattended. Both installation manuals have a clearly explanation of the possible parameters.

Configuration

After the installation, the Control Center can be started for configuration of the portal.
The first step is configuring the basic settings. You can specify the web servers where vAP is installed and the location of the Web Interface site. In this part you can configure the Web Interface using the WIAdmin website within the console. Also the options specified during the installation can be altered within the portal options.

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Within the user interface components the portals can be defined. You can define several dashboards within the page component. A Dashboard is the actual page containing 4 “zones” showing the assigned web parts. A zone can be seen as a frame in a web site. After specifying the name of the dashboard (in the desired languages) you can add the web parts to the zones you like. Visionapp delivers several web parts within the product, but you can develop your own web part if necessary. VisionApp delivers a documented API for your own development.

Visionapp also delivers several style sheets with the product for the design of the page, but you can also create your own style sheets. Within the language part you can select the languages you would like to support on your portal, so you can fill the language part at every component (not selected languages are not visible if you want to configure one of the other components).

At the application presentations part you can add the applications to the portal. vAP supports Citrix Farms and Web Applications. First you need to add your Citrix Farm within the Infrastructure Management pane to make it possible to add the Farm to your portal. In the Infrastructure Management pane you add the farm, followed by adding a zone. In the zone you specify the servers you would like to use as the XML gateway.
 
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When the servers are added to the Infrastructure Management you can add the Citrix farm(s) to your vAP. When the farm is added you might need to use the import button on the application tab to add the Published Applications into the console. In the console you need to assign the applications to a group or Organization Unit within Active Directory to show the applications shortcuts in the portal.

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In the same component you can add web applications and assign them to an Active Directory group. Here you can also create your own ICA templates or use the default templates provided by visionapp and create several categories to present both applications.

Also a nice feature is the news option. In this part you can message news to your users. Because you assign groups, you can create messages for everyone or for a selected group of people.

At all these options you can configure your own text in all the languages you selected within the language part.

At the Organization Entities all the configuration settings will be combined, so the presentation of the portal for the end user will be reaching the final stage. For every identity (Active Directory group) you need to specify the dashboard(s), applications, web applications and style sheet(s).

Using the portal

When an entity is completely configured users belonging to that entity can be using the portal via their web browser. At the logon page the user can, besides entering his credentials, already specify if he would like to automatically reconnect to active and/or disconnected sessions.


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At the portal homepage the use will be presented with the applications, web links, web applications and the news assigned to the entity. Each user has a so called first page. On this first page the user can add his favorite applications and links so the access to these resources is even quicker. Via settings the user can change the way icons are presented and the language of the portal.

Also a nice feature is the file center component. With this component it is very easy to exchange files between the local machine and the home drive of the user.

Managing the portal

Using the Control Center there are also some features to manage the portal. At the user part you can see which users have been using the portal and when their last login was. In the log component errors are reported created by actions carried out by the users.

Conclusion

With the vAP product visionapp delivers a nice portal if within your company needs are present for several layouts and extended Multilanguage support.

The product can be completely changed to your company needs. Design can be completely created using CSS style sheets, web parts can be added and also more additional languages can be created.

Besides the flexible configuration the portal also has some nice features like the news function and the file center options.

It is a pity that the product is only compatible with Citrix Web Interface 3.0, although it is explainable by the big change Citrix (again) made to the Web Interface code. Also you need to have a SQL server in place to store the configuration of the portals.  A big technical plus is the extended possibilities to install the products unattended.

Advantages:

  • Very adjustable design of the portal;
  • Supporting one global configuration using several layouts and templates for several businesses;
  • Support of multiple Citrix Farms.

Disadvantages:

  • Only online help functionality, no readable manual;
  • Web Interface 3 is the only supported Web Interface.

* After contact with VisionApp they told me some new features in their upcoming 2007 version.

  • In the 2007 version Citrix Web Interface 4.5 will be used;
  • Remote Programs within Windows Longhorn Server will be supported in the 2007 version;
  • A Browsing mechanism in DownloadCenter will be available. UploadCenter will upload to the folder active within DownloadCenter.

Visionapp VAP