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Citrix Presentation Server 4.5

Probably the release of the newest version of Citrix Presentation Server 4.5 created the most post and blog entries on the community websites. I never saw so much previews and quick looks of CPS45 in comparison with earlier releases. There were so much pre(reviews) I even doubted to write my own review of this product. On the other hand a website were most of the content is about reviews it would be a little bit silly that a review of the market leader in SBC product would be absent.

In comparison with Citrix Presentation Server 4 Citrix introduced the following new features: Health Monitoring & recovery, Configuration Changes logging, ADFS support, enhanced product security, management enhancements, graphics improvements and the biggest application streaming.

In this review I will go quickly through the current and new features.




Installation of Citrix Presentation Server 4.5

The installation process of Citrix Presentation Server 4.5 is very comparable with the previous versions. Only the prerequisites of the helper applications changed a bit, because the installation needs higher version. Now Java Runtime Environment 1.5, Microsoft .Net Framework V2.0 and Visual J# .Net 2.0 are needed for the several components. As we are sued from Citrix these versions are available from the installation media. Presentation Server 4.5 also includes a new version of the license server, which is necessary for CPS4.5 to function. I do not see many changes to license server is selves.

The installation procedure is almost comparable with the CPS4 or earlier editions installaton. Of course you still need to choose which version of Presentation Server you want to install. (Citrix released a new comparison sheet of features in the several edition and version available, which can be found here<<LINK>>), followed by choosing the create or join a farm. If installing the first server you select the Create Farm option. Choose the database you want to use (you can now use also SQL Express 2005, which is also included with the installation media), specifying the administrator credentials, choosing the license server, specifying the shadow options and choosing the XML port. When joining a farm you almost need to fill in the same options, except that you just choose the database type which you have chosen during the creation of the farm (when installing the first farm). Because Citrix has changed the management consoles the installation of the Access Suite is changed a bit. It installs every administration component separately.

Just like in Citrix Presentation Server 4 the unattended installation is not changed. The same parameters are available for automated installations.

Taking a closer look to the features within CPS4

A long time ago Citrix promised that the Java based Citrix Management Console would be disappeared and replaced by a MMC based console.

With MPS3 and CPS4 the first very small steps were made, but everybody wondered if Citrix ever fulfilled their promise. With CPS 4.5 they made a big step, but they did not reached the finished yet. About 80% of the components are now moved to MMC based console, with the new name Access Management Console. Some parts like printing, policies, load manager and installation manager are still hosted in the old console. If you try to browse to components that have moved to the new console, you will find a button to launch the MMC console.

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First take a quick overview at the features which were also available in earlier versions of Presentation Server:
Publishing Applications
Like most options the display of the wizard is a little bit different because of the new console. Biggest changes are the application type (streaming application is also fully integrated here), the selection of the users (you can also choose the Windows user selector, just like assigning rights to directories) and that option like content redirection, file associations, access control, client options have been moved to a advanced section that is only available when you check that option in the last windows of the "default" wizard.
Load Balancing
New within Load Balancing is the evaluator Load Throttling. This evaluator is the solution for the black hole effect. Within CDPS4 this feature was available as a separate hotfix, but now you can determine with this evaluator what the impact on the server is when logons are handles.  This is the only change and the whole configuration is still available within the old CMC.

Resource Manager
The big part of Resource Manager is still configured from the CMC like the summary database, farm metric servers, billing and so on. But there is a change concerning resource manager. Configuration of the metric is done using the MMC console and they really improved that part. You can now configure monitoring profiles (a set of metrics and their thresholds) and assign server to a profile. A nice improvement if you considerer the old way where you only could copy a configuration from one server to the other servers.
Installation Manager
No new features or changes to Installation Manager. Sound logical if you are introducing Streaming Applications to your product.
Policies
The policy component has small updates because of the streaming application feature. Beside these additions no additional no new features or changes to the policy component.
CPS4 New features
With the introduction Citrix Presentation Server 4 several new features were introduces like TWAIN redirection, PDA support, Printing subsystem and CPU/Memory optimization. All of these features are available in CPS45 without any changes or addition to these features.

Now it's time to take a look at the new features. The most introduces features are relative small and be combined in the following groups:

- High Availability & Monitoring

In this category you can place the earlier mentioned load throttling and a small update the PNAgent where now more than one url can be added. With the new Health Monitoring & recovery you can monitor four services at the moment (IMA, XML, Terminal Server and Logon. Citrix will add more components out via download in the future). With an executable Citrix test the functionality and if the test fails you can define what should be done: Alerting only, Remove Server from Load Balancing, Shutdown IMA, Restart IMA or shutdown the server completely.

- Enhanced Security

In CPS4.5 Citrix added a set of new security methods into the product. Now you can active a change log into the console, so every change made by the administrators is recorded in a logfile. The IMA service can now also be protected with a shared secret key. Using this key the IMA service knows that it is communicating with another server that is trusted (because they both use the same key). Also Citrix restricted the usage of the local system account for their services (they also renamed all the servers so they all start with Citrix).

- Graphical performance

Citrix changed the graphical performance for 2D applications. They called this feature SpeedScreen Progressive Display. I have seen a demo with a hospital application that cleary runs better in comparison with CPS4. Also the way the server determines to lower the resolution of the color depth when the connection becomes to slow is improved.

- Citrix Streaming Server

This product is previous known as project Tarpon. Citrix integrated the Streaming Server within Citrix Presentation Server. The server can thus be used to stream applications to workstations and also the server can be streaming client so applications can be streamed to the client. With Streaming Server the Application Isolation Environment (in which the application will be loaded) is enhanced and improved a lot. It is way to much to go into detail about this product in the review. Probably I will write down a special review for this part.

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Managing your Citrix environment

Through the whole article the differences in administration your Citrix farm are already discussed. It would be nice if also the latest tasks are migrated, so there would be one final Citrix Console at the end. As I could see there were no new reports within the Access Management Console and also the other options in access management console are looking the same. Like already mentioned in the CPS4 review the monitoring and reporting functionality is pretty good in Citrix. Although it would be perfect if more reports will be available, so you do not need to use Crystal Reports or similar tools.

Conclusion

With Presentation Server 4.5 the set of new features is not that impressive as with the launch of CPS4 except the Streaming Server. Although it worth upgrading if you some troubles with application because you could use the improved Isolation Environment in combination with the streaming component and the 2D Graphical enhancements. If you are not going to use the streaming component not much convincing enhancements have been made to upgrade to this version. Also still a disadvantage is that almost all new features are only available in the Enterprise edition.

Advantages:
- Application Streaming & Virtualization added to the Presentation Server product;
- Facto standard on SBC level
- The long awaited features from CPS4 are (logically) also available in this version.

Disadvantages
- Dependency of several third party products
- Still no full Single Point of Administration
- Most new features only available in the Enterprise version

Citrix Presentation Server