A Workspace technology that enabled Flexible Working styles 30+ years with a continuous Vision focused on the Current vs. Future of Work Acumen I decided to put together my second blended doodle together to better explain Citrix Workspace + Citrix Modern Networking, how it works in a visual illustration format to have more meaningful conversations and discussions. I picture can tell a thousand micro stories and the big picture here depicts a simple story which tells you the IT + Business value unlocking your organisations potential using Citrix on Citrix, including the why and why now. A Citrix Workspace supports legacy, traditional and very forward thinking ways of working that prior to the COVID-19 world wide pandemic would take a while to get going however today organisations can leap at pace within there Transformation journeys by unlocking ready to consume Citrix as a Service operating models inclusive BUT also well beyond virtualisation to a world where you can swipe left or right vs. enter in up to 3-5 fields and tap submit/approve to achieve an business and human outcomes within seconds.
The stark truth is that a Citrix Workspace for Citrites is “AWESOME” and the productivity time I get back routinely using our own technologies inspires me more with each day, it allows me to accelerate ‘economics of time I get back’ or take a well deserved break when I need it on my own terms.
Understanding Citrix Workspace + Citrix Modern Networking“Best Together” The following links below will help you better understand the different Citrix service offering capabilities, terminology, strategy and business + technical acumen (>).
Consider this an evergreen article with *pro-active adds/moves/changes inclusive of errors/mistakes until I remove this statement.
The following content is a brief and unofficial prerequisites guide to setup, configure and test delivering Microsoft teams within a Citrix virtual desktop powered by Citrix Virtual Apps & Desktops (CVAD) Service – https://docs.citrix.com/en-us/citrix-virtual-apps-desktops-service.html in Citrix Cloud prior to deploying in a PoC, Pilot or Production environment. The views, opinions and concepts expressed here are those by the author only and do not necessarily conform to industry descriptions nor leading practises. The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Citrix.
Shortened Names SKYPE FOR BUSINESS – skype4b CITRIX VIRTUAL DESKTOP – cvd CITRIX VIRTUAL APP & DESKTOP – cvad VIRTUAL DELIVERY AGENT – vda HIGH DEFINITION EXPERIENCE – hdx VIRTUAL DESKTOP – vd VIRTUAL APPS – va REALTIME MEDIA ENGINE – rtme CITRIX WORKSPACE APP – cwa MICROSOFT TEAMS – teams CURRENT RELEASE – cr LONG TERM SERVICE RELEASE – ltsr
Understanding a HDX Optimised vs. Non-Optimised CVAD Deployment The following HTML diagram depicts the differences between (un)optimised, I’ve also included a few suggested considerations as well.
Optimised for HDX Teams Offloading
Teams app 1.2.00.31357
End-point + Citrix Workspace app (CWa)
Windows OS VDA YYMM
ICA/HDX Virtual Channel*
Teams app 1.2.00.31357
HDX Teams Services
End-point + Citrix Workspace app (CWa) – Windows 1911*
A/V Traffic to other End-Point
HDX Embedded Media Engine
1. It’s very important to recognise that employees will find themselves in a situation where the connected end-point is unoptimised during work from home scenario e.g COVID-19 and therefore you should plan for these scenarios by implementing the right vs. relevant HDX policy strategy “Balanced” vs. “Preferred” see below guidance. 2. Educate employees when using a non corporate device e.g personal device at home during to COVID-19 they will likely be consuming an un-optimised version of Teams in CVAD, its important to set a exception to avoid unnecessary help desk tickets/calls. 3. Any and all exchanged IM’s and documents live within the CVAD lens meaning that your IP + Pii in any documents lives within the employees CVAD resource e.g Virtual Desktops when they exported it from a IM’s vs. channel(s) in Teams. It is also important to recognise that those same IMs’ vs. channel(s) originate and are available in Microsoft Teams on any device as the source, so if employees re-frame teams outside of your Citrix virtual desktop your IP + Pii in documents could be exfiltrated if the employee device(s) are not properly managed by IT e.g MEM, UEM, MAM, Secure SaaS check out – https://www.mycugc.org/blogs/lyndon-jon-martin/2020/03/27/secure-saas-on-zero-trusted-vs-earned-trusted-devi for more information.
LTSR vs. CR Strategy for HDX Offloading of Microsoft Teams? It’s worth understanding that if your CVAD deployment strategy is to use the Long Term Service Release (LTSR) then you will not receive any new features only bug fixes this thinking keeps inline with the current CVAD strategy between CR vs. LTSR (stability and long-term – https://docs.citrix.com/en-us/citrix-virtual-apps-desktops/1912-ltsr.html) release cycles. Consuming a CR branch means that you can unlock new features as they become available by upgrading your CVAD on-premises of upgrade the CVAD Service components within your Resource Locations (RL).
1. You will require the following MSFT teams version “1.2.00.31357” in order to be able to take advantage off the HDX Offloading capabilities within a supported CVAD environment. The following Citrix Workspace app (CWa) versions are the suggested vs. minimal versions that will be required to HDX offload Teams A/V traffic onto the employees endpoint:
Suggested HDX Broadcast (Remote Graphics Mode) Policyfor 7.15 Long Term Service Release (LTSR) *Please be aware that Citrix eDocs is very clear when it states that Citrix does NOT support Teams HDX Offloading Optimisation for 7.15 Long Term Service Release (LTSR) as it is NOT listed as a supported CVAD platform, you still may wish however to test Microsoft Teams operationally e.g test out its impact on compute, I/O, user profile e.t.c and then purely for fallback failures aka NO HDX Offloading Optimisation BUT you will not be able to test the employee experience of HDX Offloading the audio/video traffic as it is NOT supported remember*). You’ll make use of your UAT 7.15 LTSR environment to be ready for a 2020-21 deployment on a supported CVAD release that supports HDX Offloading for Microsoft Teams, therefore use the built-in default HDX policy “Use video codec for compression” selecting “Use video codec when preferred” which means the following “This is the default setting. No additional configuration is required. Keeping this setting as the default ensures that Thinwire is selected for all Citrix connections, and is optimized for scalability, bandwidth, and superior image quality for typical desktop workloads.” reference the 7.15 LTSR documentation at – https://docs.citrix.com/en-us/xenapp-and-xendesktop/7-15-ltsr/graphics/thinwire.html which will probably be ok for testing under the current release that you are consuming. Final Remember: CVAD formerly XAD 7.15 LTSR platform is NOT supported for Teams Optimisation. TIP: Definitions can change between CR vs. LTSR within the HDX stack which is consistently improving and being updated to offer better employee experiences all the time e.g introduction of net new H.264 standards so always be sure to check the differences between CR vs. LTSR and CR vs. CR versions.
Transitioning from Skype for Business to Teams A number of few folks have asked the question can I mix and match Skype for Business and the Teams Optimisation Packs together? Its actually a complex answer but the immediate answer as of 03/08/2019 is below, BUT always be sure to circle back and review Citrix’s documentation for the latest supporting statements and interoperability at – https://docs.citrix.com around Teams Optimisation and when searching use “Teams Optimization”. Tip use American spelling for better results.
We only support windows CWA at the moment, which can coexist with RTME. A Mac CWA will be simply not load Teams in optimized VDI mode so we fall back to server side rendering.
The response is complex and is as follows, answers received vary dependant upon your role Citrix vs. Skpye4B/Teams SysAdmin or Consultant. As I work at Citrix today (Aug 2019) lets focus on a Citrix based role to Teams response:
1. Complete LOB app readiness of Teams including new HDX services/API’s to enable HDX Offloading within a the master image but hidden + unavailable using techniques like disabling the services for each (whatever you prefer), Citrix app layering, MSFT app masking e.t.c. TIP: Pay attention to understand the compute utilisation differences between Teams vs. Skype4B there is a difference.
2. I still need to push out the required RTME to all employee end-points so I don’t want to break the employee experience while we transition to Teams. It is expected to have backwards compatible within Citrix Workspace app for older Virtual Delivery Agent (VDA) versions check eDocs for the backwards compatibility.
3. I only want to transition employees by AD or Citrix Delivery group (department, trusted test groups e.t.c) to Teams based upon point 2 and perform a staggered canary rollout like Citrix Cloud does for each of its services.
4. The person(s) within the Skype for Business/Teams based role(s) need to setup/conf and then test the audio/video codecs prior to enabling Teams at a company wide scale, for me personally this point is actually the most critical because as you offloading the audio/video to the end-point when using HDX Offloading the back-end compute + network resources low aka aren’t taken any much of a real hit HOWEVER if the HDX Offloading fails then you really, really need to understand the impact of processing of the A/V within the Citrix session and what affect it will have on the employees experience so when he/she is completed there final tests, you should prior to a final rollout perform a test side by side two identical end-points one optimised and the other un-optimised and be sure to capture the compute + network requirements client and server side, including the network traffic and score the experience out of 10 for voice and video, the test should be done with wired (where possible today), wireless (Wi-Fi) and 4G internet connectivity in two separate locations an Office (think QoS) and at home (no QoS).
5. Once you have the results from point 4 you may want to re-evaluate your existing HDX Broadcast policies (remote graphics mode e.t.c) and take into account a fall-back scenario if HDX Offloading fails whatever the reason, you may also prefer to leave it as is, however I would strongly suggest creating an emergency fallback HDX Broadcast policy stack but it should be DISABLED and only manually pushed out only if required. The fallback HDX Broadcast policy stack is to preserve the employee experience as best you can if something goes wrong and when I mean something goes wrong I mean a non-Citrix update breaks the optimisation somehow as in reality the Citrix components e.g VDA, HDX Services/API, RTME and Citrix Workspace app are less likely to change within a 12 month period.
Managing Employee Experience when Teams HDX Offloading is NOT available Most folks are not aware that you can control what happens when Microsoft Teams is NOT been HDX offloaded also referred to as Optimised in a Citrix Virtual Apps & Desktops session. You can achieve or rather control the following when “Fallback Mode” occurs either when a the employees connects from an unsupported endpoint + CWa version e.g CWa for HTML5 or they switch from a IT managed endpoint to a BYO endpoint with the incorrect CWa installed (older and unsupported) or IT has not updated the VDA stack within the master image within the Citrix Cloud Resource Location or preferred cloud data centre type.
Suggested “Balanced” HDX Broadcast (Remote Graphics Mode) Policy for Fallback In 2016 I proposed the following HDX policy for remote graphics “Use video codec for compression” to be set to “For actively changing regions” to preserve the employee experience in a fallback scenario, its now 2019 and my Suggested HDX policy remains unchanged as long as the key goal is to preserve the employee experience to meet that HD experience and it will come at a back-end compute + network traffic spike, including increased network traffic between server and client to process the video H.264/H.265 streams.
Once upon a time I was a SysAdmin and still am at my core so I’ll have an emergency HDX policy in place BUT disabled I call it “HDX Adaptive Display v2 (Balanced)” you configure it as follows selecting the following HDX policies in Studio:
1.”Use video codec for compression” then select “For actively changing regions“ 2. “Preferred color depth for simple graphics” then select “16 bits per pixel” and also try 24. 3. Select “Frames Per Second” and select the target FPS to circa 25 from the default which is 30.
I wrote a myCUGC article entitled “HDX Leading Best Practices for your Modern Secure Workspace” at – https://www.mycugc.org/blogs/cugc-blogs/2017/09/15/hdx-leading-best-practices-for-your-modern-secure which has some interesting thoughts and insights from nearly 2 years ago which you may find useful and yes I will write an updated article this year time permitting to complete my testing which requires extensive field testing with different devices I don’t just use a lab + network at home, I base 95% of all my article suggestions of what/how to configure settings vs. practises from my personal lab hosted in AWS EC2 in N.Virginia to delivered to end-points in the City of and Greater London, England so its not definitely poppy cop its real world + life scenarios and use cases that I test.
Suggested“Preferred”HDX Broadcast/RealTime/MediaStream (Remote Graphics Mode, Audio and Video) Policy inclusive of Fallback YES I am contradicting the above suggested HDX Broadcast fallback policy, which I have now renamed to “Balanced” from my initial post and why it still remains is that it will support organisations of any size vs. scale vs. deployment rollout vs. connected devices supporting a balance between video, audio and the remoted display so when an outage occurs and neither I nor will you know what its going to be impacted for example it could be 1x MPLS circuit failure (tip check out Citrix SD-WAN link bonding demo from Jan 2016 vs. case study vs. product page) vs. degradation of all internet circuits due to bad BGP route injections, you get the idea. I’m cautious being an ex-SysAdmin/Consultant and therefore I will summary the key differentiators from my own perspectives as follows in order:
1. How important is the employee experience? For me personally this is always #1 as today’s 2019 reality, employees want an HD 4K experience consistently therefore my personal advise is utilise the built-in default HDX policies within the Current Release (CR) typically minus 2/3 of current CVAD release with your desired HDX employee experience policy tweaks. 2. Once you understand how the humans (employees) within your organisation work using Skype for Business vs. Teams you will have better context as to the WHAT should be in your fallback policy for DR, business continuity or just individual employee devices going into fallback mode. For example understanding your employees is key lets take a look at a practical example by industry vertical, a call centre employee is more interested in better audio quality with customers vs. a clinician on a video call discussing a patients surgical/recovery plan looking at patient records. 3. Re-evaluate once every 3-4 months by asking, polling quick surveys and looking at the metrics made available in both Skype for Business vs. Teams as lets be honest its not a light switch its a journey from one to the other.
Now that you understand your humans (employees) keeping point 3 in mind and begin building out your HDX employee experience policy which most likely be the using the defaults in the 19XN releases as the HDX product management team have done an brilliant job working with engineering decreasing the amount of toggles and dials to tweak the HDX protocol and its now these days automatically adapting and adjusting to maintain the human (employee) experience.
1.”Use video codec for compression” then select “Use video codec when preferred“ 2. Select “Frames Per Second” use the default which is 30 or increase up to a maximum of 60. 3. Select “Visual quality” set to “High” going beyond this will incur high network bandwidth utilisation, but going beyond this is ok but remember if you are having continual networking performance issues unrelated to Citrix or the HDX offloading capability and employee experience has decreased overall think about a micro change for the current window and then revert. An example of using “Always lossless” is the clinician use case described above.
Tech Insight – Microsoft Teams Optimisation with Citrix
What Supported Hardware Can I Use With Microsoft Teams? Strongly suggested to only use Microsoft Teams certified headsets, speaker phones, conference phones, cameras e.t.c are listed and available at – https://products.office.com/en-us/microsoft-teams/across-devices/devices. Are my existing Citrix Ready thin clients, headsets, cameras e.t.c using with Skype for Business using Citrix’s HDX Offloading capability compatible? You will need to check with your vendor for there support status with the new optimisation pack for Teams and Microsoft Teams as there have been changes made from both Citrix + Microsoft.