In the current age, technology changes by the minute. This is no exception for us folks administering Citrix. Citrix touches all aspects of the Virtualization/EUC space. From utilizing host compute/memory, sending packets across the network, inserting hooks into the Operating System, Cloud, all the way to the applications that users are actually trying to run. This is what I love about Citrix. We get to have exposure to almost the whole technology stack.
So, where does one start the day when trying to learn about Citrix, and continue to stay up to date on the technology? I wish the answer was easy. I wish there was a certain formula to use or a certain product to buy on an infomercial. Unfortunately, a shake weight won't help you here. This article will help show you how to get the content, where to get the content, who to talk to, and most importantly, how to be a Citrix Jedi.
Get Involved With The Community
User groups are a great way to get connected with the community. What better user group to join than Citrix's very own, Citrix User Group Community (CUGC). CUGC does more than just meet quarterly, though. The website is filled with different blogs, webinars, discussions, and events. What I really like about the articles and the forums is that they seem to go more in-depth and focus on the 'Best Practices' and 'Trends' of what everyone else is seeing in the wild.
Another great aspect of CUGC is the XL event. These events are where multiple CUGC groups combine to form a single regional, one-day event. The most recent was CUGC XL: Great Plains for Wisconsin/Illinois, however, they are popping up all over. This is an all-day event lined up with expert speakers, awesome content, and great food. Be sure to keep tabs on future events.
Another area I wanted to point out are the CUGC webinars. Lately there has been such a plethora of technical subjects. A few of my favorites have been authentication mechanisms, Netscaler GSLB, and WEM. Be sure to keep an eye on the webinars page for future subjects.
Did I mention that all of this is FREE!?!?! If there is anything new you want to see or something process-oriented you'd like CUGC to adopt, be sure to reach out to the CUGC leaders (members at each location) or contact the main support area.
Keep Tabs on Citrix Resources
Citrix equips us with so many different resources to be successful at our jobs. One of my favorite resources is the Citrix Blog. Citrix releases new blog posts almost daily. These range in nature from technical, such as Citrix Scalability or how XenServer updates are QA'ed, to more general IT initiatives world wide (GDPR). Do yourself a favor and head over to https://www.citrix.com/blogs/ and click on 'Subscribe.'
Citrix Discussions is another great resource. This area contains thousands and thousands of questions and answers from real situations. Chances are, when you search for a Citrix problem in Google, you'll land on one of these pages. That or a support article.
If you ever want to search for the 'manual' for a product, then head over to the Citrix Docs area. You'll find tons of useful information on what the product is, how to use it, interactions with other products, etc...
A few other resources I'd like to call out are the VDI Handbook and Citrix Master Classes. The VDI Handbook contains a wealth of knowledge on deploying best practices for your environment–from creating role groups for the help desk to configuring group policies. Visit the Master Classes if you want to hear some crazy-smart experts walk you through setting up products from scratch. These are YouTube-style videos that contain a wealth of information.
Get Started in the Cloud
No matter which way you turn these days, there seems to be a hand in the cloud. AWS, Azure, and Google are the main cloud providers. Pretty much all of them have a 'free trial' type of service that lets you test drive it for a period of time at no charge. I was fortunate enough to attend a session at Synergy where Citrix CTP Mike Nelson was giving away free passes. So, be on the lookout for these. If your company has a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, you might be granted some free credits too. All of them offer some really comprehensive documentation and even free lab classes. Pay attention to Citrix's cloud services. They are 'doubling down' their efforts in this space. Their Xenapp and Desktop Service is gaining popularity and market percentage, and the features are being released crazy fast.
One great way to showcase your Citrix Jedi skills are through certifications. Citrix offers a wide array of Certifications. In 2017, three of the 15 top-paying Certifications in IT are from Citrix....I think I need to say that again. For the top-paying 15 certifications in IT, THREE of them are Citrix certifications. MIC DROP!
In addition to Citrix, there are a lot of other Certifications to pursue. Get certified on Hypervisors, Cloud, Operating Systems, Networking, etc... Be sure to check with some of your vendors if they offer certifications. Vendors like Nutanix and Veeam offer them. A lot of the major companies, like VMware and Microsoft offer benefits for holding certifications. Click here to see the benefits VMware vExpert holders get. Click here to see benefits Microsoft MVP holders get.
Citrix Synergy is my favorite conference. Here, you'll find a variation of topics that are technical in nature as well as sales/marketing/high level type sessions. Mix that in with bands, amusement parks, food, iconic speakers, a great community, and you get a recipe for learning, excitement, and a great user experience! Citrix also has some other conferences like Summit and ServTech. These are tailored more for the Citrix Partners. If you can't attend Synergy, be sure to keep your eyes glued to YouTube. Citrix will usually release their sessions to the public around three weeks after the conference. They are the ones that start with 'SYN###'
If you are looking for another 'Virtualization'/'EUC' type conference, than I would recommend E2EVC. I haven't attended this one before, but it's on my bucket list. This one is held at some beautiful remote locations and also shares similar expert presentations.
Some other great conferences to attend are Microsoft Ignite, Nutanix .NEXT, and AWS re:Invent, among many others.
Be Present on Social Media
Staying up to date in this EUC space is tough. There are updates to products every day, new blog posts, new scripts, new tools, new clouds, new people, NEW EVERYTHING. How do you connect with the right people or get the latest content? My favorite way to do this is via Twitter. You can follow the right people and the right companies to get the right information you desire, tailored to your needs. You can also create 'lists' to separate different categories of feeds. A few different groups I'd recommend following are the Citrix CTP and CTA accounts. These groups contain the elite of the elite in the Citrix community. Tweetdeck (screenshot below) is a good way to see multiple different feeds in a browser. You can follow groups, hashtags, lists of people, etc...
If you are looking for more of a 'real time chatroom' place in the community, then head over to CitrixIRC and CitrixITPro. These are IRC and Slack-type chatrooms with a bunch of really smart people in them.
Looking for a podcast? Frontline Chatter and 5 Bytes are great ones.
Well, doesn't this topic narrow it down for us? I alluded to this in my opening paragraph. Citrix is a technology that touches all aspects of IT...the hardware, storage, networking, operating systems, cloud, automation, provisioning, active directory, SSL certs, applications, hypervisors...Citrix is like the Kevin Bacon of the movie world.
Learn as much as you can about everything you can!
Get a Lab Environment
In today's world, we can't afford 'downtime.' Almost all components that we have in an enterprise world are highly available or made active/active. As soon as a service goes offline, expect a call from the help desk. With all the changes taking place in our environments, we need a place to vet them. Without a test/lab environment, we are bound to make a mistake or suffer unintended consequences. This also provides a place to test new products, upgrades, integrations, scripts, changes, etc...
For those that want to go above and beyond, build a Home Lab. We so rarely get to build environments from scratch these days. Home labs are a great way for you to build something from scratch. You get to pick your hardware, pick your switches, routers, storage, backups...build AD from scratch, create your own policies, implement your own procedures, etc...
<---------My Home Lab
This consists of a few HP DL160 G6s, central storage, some network gear, and a UPS.
Document. Document. Document.
Let's face it, there is just too much out there to remember everything. Plus, once you document, that sets you up to share the information. I wanted to call out Mr. Stalhood, who has some awesome documentation on his website. Also, a special thanks to everyone else who has written a blog, support article, knowledge base, powershell script, presentation, etc... these are all sources of documentation that we all use each and every day. THANK YOU!
In this section, I really just wanted to make everyone is aware of the millions of tools out there–way too many to call out here. Everyday we run some sort of manual process, or waste valuable time doing something that someone else has already done and spent the time to make more efficient. Maybe you are writing a script that runs every morning that shows you a dashboard of your environment, or maybe you want to create your own snapshot schedule... just know that there is most likely a tool or some piece of technology out there that can help automate or improve upon your situation.
Well...IT has certainly come a long way here. It seems every different piece of technology these days is adopting an API of some sort...or has a tie in with a powershell snapin/module. Bottom line is that automation helps us apply repeatable steps the exact same way, each time. It saves us time and money and can make something that was undependable, now dependable. Want to automate a Netscaler build? Use Nitro API. Want to replicate your XA/XD Site configuration to another site? Use Ryan Butler's Powershell script.
The good news is that a large percentage of the time you don't have to create your code from scratch. So many people are sharing their code on Github.
If you haven't started to take a look at Powershell, this is your chance to learn something new and helpful. I promise you, your boss will like the results.
Get to Know Your Citrix Professionals
There are so many talented groups of people in the community. These four groups deserve some extra attention:
- Citrix Employees
- Citrix Technology Professionals
- Citrix Technology Adovcates
- Citrix Partners
They are the elite of the elite. They get exposed to multiple environments. They get to play with all the cool toys. They get to see 20k+ concurrent usage. They get to see all the powerful hardware. They are the Jedi Masters. You can find them at CUGC events, on Twitter, at Synergy, on Forums, on Slack channels, and all over the web. So, feel free to reach out introduce yourself...they are always willing to help.
Top Suggestions from the Community
I took a small survey on social media and asked the experts on what their top three suggestions were for becoming a Citrix Jedi.
Here are the results:
- Slack Channel – “Learn how to master Google search”
- Ryan Butler (CTA)– “Always have a test environment”
- Beau Smithback –
- Read the Citrix blog every day.
- Lab every new version and test new features.
- NetScaler is as important as XD/XA - learn them both.
- Read the ltsr documentation end to end.
- Use the XD handbook.
- Rory Monaghan (CTP) –
- Be a jack-of-all-trades and master of all. You can't just be an apps person, server person or infrastructure. You must either be expert or willing to learn it all.
- Be adaptable. New releases are coming out very fast. New features and products are being added. You must be able to learn and adapt. Virtualization is evolving rapidly. Cloud is knocking on the door. Don't be afraid, embrace the change.
- Put your best foot forward. You can be the smartest most technical person on your team, but if you're not willing to communicate, be professional, be open to feedback and put forth the effort, or you can't really progress.
- Nick Prignano (Chicago CUGC Leader) – Home labs/practice, http://mycugc.org and covfefe!
- Nick Frank – Participate in the community.
- Greg Tiber (Madison CUGC Leader, CTA) – CUGC, learning & then sharing. Sharing is caring!
- DJ Eshelman (Nashville CUGC Leader, CTA) –
- Methodology Matters. Have a consistent plan no matter how big or small the task.
- What you knew yesterday is obsolete. No one cares if you were in it since WinFrame. LEARN. GROW.
- Leave IT Better than you Found it. Those that succeed, serve.
- Martin Therkelsen (CTA) – Be curious, learn, share. Lab work is important to me because that is how I learn the best.
- Steve Elgan (Omaha CUGC Leader, CTA) – You have to get plugged-in to the EUC community somehow and read the blogs, tweets, and go try what you read. It's constantly evolving, so deploying and never touching again doesn't work. All with the goal of putting UX first!
- Rene Bigler (CTA) – Time, community and dedication.
- Matt Bodholdt (CTA) –
- Plug-in to the community and don't be afraid to share.
- Get a lab environment and get hands on, try stuff, and don't get discouraged when something doesn't work the way you want it to the first time. Take that back to 1!
- Don't EVER say "We've always done it this way."
- Edwin Houben (CTA) –
- Absolutely love what you're doing.
- Learn, learn more, keep learning.
- Try the new stuff don’t be afraid–it won’t bite you.
- Share with the community.
Let's Tally those out:
Community/Share - 11
Learn everything - 6
Lab Environment - 5
Read Blogs - 4
Master Google - 3
As you can see, the community is so important. It's a great thing that this community is nothing short of amazing. So, go on my young padawans and learn, test, share, and teach all that you can.
In closing, I hope you all learned a thing or two about Citrix and where to go for information. There is so much to cover and so many people to thank for their contributions. I'd love to hear any comments/suggestions so be sure to leave them. Feel free to reach out to me on twitter @Steve_Noel, or join me in the IRC/Slack, and you can always email me as well at Steve.Noel@VerticalAgeTechnologies.com.