HDX Leading Best Practices for your Modern Secure Workspace

By Lyndon-Jon Martin posted 09-15-2017 11:37 AM

  

In my personal experience, if you have a decent vs. great internet connection (fibre, broadband, 3/4G, MPLS) and you're accessing a Citrix virtual app and/or desktop, it should be near to local like or better than local like! But, it is dependent upon the end-point you're connecting from: legacy vs. traditional vs. current vs. next generation (each means something different to everybody in my view). This blog post will focus on and cover a few key areas from a UK Partner SE perspective to better optimise the end-users' experience when accessing their Modern Citrix Secure Digital Workspace powered by Citrix and Microsoft technologies.

Summary of what I'll be covering:

  • HDX Graphics Modes,
  • Optimising Skype for Business,
  • Providing that Windows Continuum experience on tablet devices users are used to at home on a Windows 10 tablet,
  • Empowering users before calling the Helpdesk.


1. HDX Graphics Modes

For me, the ultimate HDX Graphics mode to implement as a standard baseline is HDX Adaptive Display v2 7.11+ when testing vs. evaulating what HDX Graphics Mode you need. Why? Firstly, it provides the up to 60% bandwidth savings 7.13+ and you get the best of two, YES TWO, Citrix HDX Graphics Modes combined into one! It combines H.264 also referred to as the SuperCodec which is great for video vs. 3D graphical app delivery, but expensive on compute (you can offload to supported NVIDIA GRID cards the H.264 encoding, check out eDocs at - http://docs.citrix.com/en-us/xenapp-and-xendesktop/7-11/whats-new.html#par_anchortitle_59c9) and then Thinwire Compatible Mode (also referred to as Thinwire+, ECM and others), which is super efficient on saving compute on the backend and delivers a great balanced experience to new vs. traditional vs. legacy end-points. Finally it overlays lossless text to avoid blurred vs. unclear text. The below table summarises my own personal preferences including policies from left to right and yes H.264 is last. Why? In the end, I should be able to connect from any type of device vs. internet connection type and get a near to local like experience that is my personal goal here or better. For me as a user of a corporate Citrix virtual desktop for 5 years now, I want a better than local experience personally, always +.

HDX Adaptive Display v2 HDX Adaptive Display v2 (Balanced) Thinwire Compatible Mode Thinwire Compatible Mode (Balanced) H.264
1."Use video codec for compression" then select the option to be "For actively changing regions" 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.
1."Use video codec for compression" then select the option to be "Do not use video codec" 1."Use video codec for compression" then select the option to be "Do not use video codec"
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.
1."Use video codec for compression" then select the option to be "For the entire screen"
2. "Frames Per Second" then enter in a value of "30" (Optional)


Now, you're probably wondering why I have not included HDX Framehawk or EDT +? While these are super awesome HDX Graphics Modes, and I do personally recommend them both! I am aiming for any device vs. internet connection type (decent) in this post including catering for anyone with little vs. expert Citrix experience when it comes to delivering virtual apps & desktops powered by Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop (XAD). So, for me, it means you should be able use it out of the box with a min version of XAD 7.6+ (CR vs. LTSR) and NetScaler 10.5.x.n-12 with minimal effort e.g select to enable 1-2 HDX Graphics mode policy(s) and configure remote access in NetScaler using the XAD or Unified Gateway Wizard, both of which are easy as Pi these days.


2. Optimising Skype for Business

Delivering a near to local like vs. better than local like experience can be easily be achieved (above), but in the end, it's not just the HDX Graphics mode that is set mine vs. yours! It's one part or piece of the puzzle when delivering a modern Citrix secure digital workspace that requires virtual apps & desktops not just UEM, Enterprise file sync and share with workflows powered by ShareFile - https://www.citrix.co.uk/file-sharing/automate-document-workflows.html e.t.c.

So, with that in mind, what about communication or UC apps like Skype for Business? Surely delivering (HD) video and audio via a Citrix session is going to consume tons of compute resources on the backend and valuable bandwidth slowing it down for everyone? Not with HDX RealTime! Citrix has worked with Microsoft to jointly develop the next generation HDX Optimisation Pack 2.x for Lync 2013 and now Skype for Business 2015-2016, which was first released circa 28 April 2016 ref - http://docs.citrix.com/en-us/hdx-optimization/2-0/about.html and we are now on 2.3 release as of 14 Aug 2017 - http://docs.citrix.com/en-us/hdx-optimization/current-release.html. Why is this joint co-development important? Watch the outcomes described by UBS at Citrix Synergy 2016 at - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVnoewM9qqU and you'll quickly grasp the importance of the HDX Optimisation Pack 2.x+.

It's not just about offloading audio vs. video. What about security, enabling the swift move to an agile workspace? The HDX Optimisation Pack, as described earlier, forms part of HDX RealTime, which aims to deliver "Voice and video for real-time collaboration" via the HDX protocol, and forms a key piece of the HDX puzzle and enables the offload processing of audio and video to the local end-point while maintaining the Skype4B session on the VDA in the data centre (e.g IM chats remain in the data centre). Which means a scalable + securely controlled solution for delivering audio-video conferencing and voice over Internet Protocol enterprise telephony through Skype for Business, which is clear and crisp utilising an optimized architecture for delivery. It's simple to implement it, in my personal view, as all it requires is the HDX Connector on the backend sat next to the VDA + Skype for Business client. And on the user's device, all he/she needs is a supported version of Citrix Receiver on Mac, Linux or Windows along the RealTime Media Engine or RTME which can now be auto updated - http://docs.citrix.com/en-us/receiver/windows/4-8/configure/config-xdesktop/config-auto-update.html for select platforms. The following HTML table below describes an Un-Optimised vs. Optimised Skype for Business implementation using the HDX Optimisation Pack 2.x.n.

Un-Optimised  Optimised with the HDX Optimisation Pack 2.x.n
VM running Windows OS
VDA 7.x.n
Skype4B Client + Media Engine
Internet
End-point + Citrix Receiver
VM running Windows OS

VDA 7.x.n
ICA/HDX Virtual Channel* 

 ↓
Skype4B Client
HDX RealTime Connector powered by HDX Optimisation Pack 2.x.n
Internet  ↑
 ↓

End-point + Supported Citrix Receiver (Windows, Mac or Linux)
HDX RealTime Media Engine (RTME) powered by HDX Optimisation Pack 2.x.n

 

How many people do you think are using this approach to delivering Skype for Business with Citrix? A few thousand? No how about 300,000 daily active users yes thats right 300,000 daily active users! My source? Look no further than our PM for HDX Derek Thorsland - https://twitter.com/derektcitrix.

The @Citrix #HDX RealTime Optimization Pack for #Skype4B now has over 300,000 Daily Active Users! #FieldProven #BattleHardened

— Derek Thorslund (@derektcitrix) September 13, 2017


Finally, the following video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-F7vlIz5e4 is from the "SfB Video Broadcast: Ep. 9 VDI" YouTube channel and I'd encourage you to watch it as it describes, from a Microsoft perspective, our joint co-development on the HDX Optimisation Pack. Its no smoke and mirrors!


3. Enabling that Windows Continuum Experience

Delivering that Windows Continuum experience is possible from a Citrix-powered Modern Secure Digital Workspace, provided that your hypervisor is XenServer 7.2+. The following embedded video at the Citrix Blog at https://www.citrix.com/blogs/2017/07/24/in-action-windows-continuum-with-citrix-xendesktop/ demonstrates this capability. To learn how to implement this feature if you utilise XenServer as your hypervisor for Citrix workloads, then please refer to - http://docs.citrix.com/en-us/xenapp-and-xendesktop/7-14/hdx.html and search for the "Tablet mode for touch screen devices" to find out more.

 

4. Empowering users before calling the Helpdesk

All of the above is great, however, when users' internet connections degrade, who is the first to receive blame? I'm not going to state the obvious, as it's obvious! When you make a video call from a smart device to another individual with a similar smart device and the signal degrades (let's say your end), you notice the video quality degrades or becomes grainy vs. pixelated. Next, potentially no video is displayed and you are left with a black screen vs. a message that appears and indicates to the receiver of your video call and yourself that you have a poor signal. So, you as a user know to change from Wi-Fi vs. 3/4G or vice versa, and you get your video back (keeping in simple). Great happy days!

When delivering virtual apps & desktops, we can apply a similar methdology using the "Connection Quality Indicator" which is installed alongside the VDA in the data centre and indicates to users as a pop-up in-session that their current internet connection is red(not so great or poor), amber (weak) or green (strong). What this means is that users can now make a choice on their own to switch from 3/4G vs. Wi-Fi, or vice versa, to achieve a green status which will provide a near vs. better to local like experience without the need of contacting the Helpdesk to be advised to change their internet connection at the coffee shop from Wi-Fi to being tethered via a smart phone on 3/4G. The Connection Quality Indicator grades are as follows: - No Data Available = Grey - Strong Connection = Green - Weak Connection = Amber - Poor Connection = Red. To learn more, download it and to get started today: navigate to - https://support.citrix.com/article/CTX220774.

The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Citrix.

Comments

09-21-2017 12:42 PM

@Thorsten Ellmers

Hi Thorsten,

I'll respond to you directly initially and include guidance on this in a future HDX leading best practises follow-up I am planning next month or earlier time permitting.

L-J 

09-20-2017 02:16 AM

ICA in ICA sessions

Hi Martin

first, thank you for the good and easy readable article!

we are a small provider in Switzerland and our customers are mostly Banks.

All our employes work in a Byod environment, so they connect from any device to our virtual Desktops (Servers, Win10 and Win7) including skype for business.

Inside this session, they make one or multiple connections to the sites from our customers, so they always work Session in Session ICA in ICA or RDP in ICA.

Do you have any experience or hints to setup. At the moment we run only legacy mode, also with 2012R2 best for scrolling in Excel or working with toad for oracle and stuff like this.

thx and remain
Thorsten

09-19-2017 11:10 AM

HDX Monitor Tools

Director can show you what graphics mode a session is using.  I also like Remote Display Analyzer and HDX Monitor

09-15-2017 05:02 PM

Monitoring

This is great information. Note that using a number of monitoring applications available from various sources will also enable the checking of performance and how various settings affect the EUX.