I want a Citrix XenAPP Server on Linux

We use Citrix XenApp 4 (Presentation Manager) for Solaris as the worldwide portal into our EDA/CAD Design server environment. Citrix XenApp is the latest name for Citrix Presentation Manager which was formerly named, Citrix Metaframe. The use of Citrix’s Solaris based products is common in the Chip Design and Manufacturing industry. For many years, Citrix’s customers have been asking for a Presentation Manager Server product that runs on Linux. Now that Oracle has purchased Sun, will Citrix finally release a XenApp server for Linux?

When we recently asked Citrix about a XenApp server on Linux this is the response that we got:

    “To answer your question, XenApp does not currently run on Linux. From its original development, XenApp has always been focused on delivering Windows-based applications, which have and continue to represent the majority of the applications that our enterprise customers use. We will continue to evaluate customer needs but we don’t currently have any plans to extend XenApp to the Linux platform.”

To provide the same functionality of XenApp on Solaris with the XenApp product for Windows a customer must:

  • Purchase Microsoft Windows Terminal Server 2003 or 2008.
  • Purchase Terminal Server Client Access Licenses, CALS, for each user.
  • Purchase Citrix XenApp for Windows.
  • Purchase Citrix concurrent user licenses.
  • Acquire a X-Windows Display Server product for Windows Terminal Server.
    • Free versions such as: Cygwin/X, Xming and WeirdX
    • Commercial versions such as: Exceed, MKS X/Server, MI/X, WinaXe and X-Win32

If Citrix does not address Linux, then I suspect they will have a number of customers switch to other products. Most of the chip design and manufacturing companies use tools that run on Linux and utilize X-Windows. Many of them use Citrix XenApp, Metaframe or Presentation Manager for Unix. The chip test and assembly suppliers that we deal with use a Citrix XenApp Unix product as well. All of these companies that I deal with run their XenApp server product on Solaris Sparc.

Unless Citrix has changes their licensing; “Why would I replace my XenApp Solaris product with XenApp on Windows?”. To run XenApp on Windows, you must purchase both Citrix and Windows Terminal Services Licenses. The functionality in Windows Terminal Server 2008 is much improved. Given the improvements in Windows 2008, I will be hard pressed to convince my management that they should spend the additional $$$ for Citrix. Instead, we may consider using the Citrix $$$ to purchase X-Windows display software for Windows. Although, my 1st evaluation might be the free open source Xming software.

A promising replacement option might have been the Sun Secure Global Desktop. However, with the Oracle acquisition, I’ll be waiting to see what Oracle does with this product before I give it any serious consideration. I did a thorough technical evaluation of this product prior to version 4.4. The product performed well and was secure. The AIP protocol used competed well with Citrix’s ICA protocol. However, it would not integrate with our standard PAM security mechanisms that are in place. This was a “show-stopper” and quite a surprise since PAM is the standard method to integrate authentication schemes in UNIX. According to the Sun Secure Global Desktop 4.5 Administration Guide, this limitation appears to have been eliminated in the 4.5 version.

Aother product that I will re-examine is Go-Global for UNIX. They have support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux.

Some of you may be asking; “why not use VNC?”. Basically, VNC is insecure and the VNC networking protocol does not perform as well as the Citrix ICA protocol. I can use a network sniffer and extract account ids and passwords from VNC traffic. There are versions of VNC, like RealVNC , which to some extent address the security issues. However, I have users on the other side of the world using CAD tools via Citrix XenApp. I do not obtain similar network performance from VNC.

To be fair, Solaris will not go away tomorrow. However, given all of the products and technologies that Sun was supporting with considerable losses and with the profits the Oracle has promised, something must give. I quit believing in the “tooth fairy” a long time ago. To me, this means that I must be thinking about this now. In addition to considering the use of Windows 2008 Terminal Server and an X-Windows Display server, there will be a number of other Remote Desktop Software products to consider.

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  • John

    You should take a look at NX/ NX Free

    I think it can answer your problem

  • david

    Thanks. I’ll take a look at it. One area that I’ll be interested is how well their network protocol performs compared to ICA.

  • Joanna

    If you are already using the Solaris version of XenApp for UNIX (XAU) you can add in backend Linux application servers and make use of the X Windows remoting capability to publish your Linux applications through Solaris XAU. See the following blog page for suggestions on this from an architectual level.

    http://community.citrix.com/blogs/citrite/joannaf/2008/04/01/Publishing+Linux+Applications+and+Desktops

    along with

    http://community.citrix.com/blogs/citrite/eizanm/2008/07/10/SSH+and+XenApp+Unix

    which describes the use of ssh in achieving this. A number of existing XAU customers use these techniques.

    Producing a native port of XenApp for UNIX to Linux is not a technical issue its all about the commercial opportunity and unfortunately we have not been given the go ahead to engineer a release on Linux. The above solution of using a Solaris/AIX/HP-UX XAU server as a proxey does work well though in most situations.

  • david

    Thanks Joanna.
    We’ve been publishing Linux via Solaris XAU vis SSH and LSF Jobs for some time. We actually want to retire all use of Solaris Sparc. For us, there is no value in deploying Solaris X86 verses Linux. This is especially true now that Oracle has acquired SUN.

    This is why we would like a Linux Version of XAU.

  • Joanna

    David, Do you mind if I dig a little deeper into your requirement? I can understand a migration away form SPARC hardware but what is it that puts you off deploying Solaris on x86/x64 hardware? Is it a cost issue to do with support or some other issue? On the hardware front Solaris runs on a lot of non Sun x86/x64 hardware.

    I can see that there is a level of FUD around the pending Oracle purchase of Sun but what is it that concerns you? Is it increased support fees for Solaris or the fear of Solaris being killed? Although I could see Oracle rationalizing Sun’s product line it would seem strange for Oracle to kill Solaris given all the money they are spending buying Sun.

    With Linux what particular distribution(s) do you use? With support for Linux generally the binaries run fine on most distributions but certifying numerous distributions costs money and effort.

    I’m just trying to get a feel for your requirements and concerns.

  • david

    Joanna,
    Our issue with Solaris x86/x64 is the “Total cost” of supporting a new OS architecture with hardware, infrastructure, and training. This cost includes fitting this into our security, storage, backup and disaster recovery environment. In addition, today, all of our Administrators know Linux and only a few know Solaris. When we originally deployed Citrix XAU in 2003, the primary platform for the EDA tools market was Solaris Sparc. At that time, our admins were equally versed in Linux and Solaris Sparc. Today, EDA tools run primarily on Linux; specifically x86_64 Enterprise versions of Red Hat and SUSE. We use quite a few EDA tools and none of these EDA tools support Solaris x86. There are a few technical incompatibilities that we have to work around in the area of shared file systems between Linux and Solaris which affect all of our EDA tool users.

    Aside from ongoing costs, our experience is that the initial cost of the Solaris Sparc platform exceeds that of Linux x86_64. It is also our experience, that when system growth/usage dictates that we should purchase additional RAM or CPU, the Solaris Sparc platform is not price competitive with Linux X86_64.

    Even before the Oracle acquisition of SUN, when our Solaris Sparc hardware needed to be replaced, where possible, we have been replacing it with Linux x86_64. This is even true of our Oracle Systems. The only system that we currently can’t migrate from Solaris to Linux x86_64 is Citrix XAU. Although this has no bearing on this topic, it is my understanding that the base platform for most Oracle software development has switched from Solaris Sparc to Linux in the past 5 years.

  • Joanna

    Thankyou David, I will make sure our product management people read this blog thread. What you describe in the EDA market is known to Citrix. With the ability to use XAU as a proxy server, especially on Solaris x86/x64 which gives similar hardware costs to running on Linux, this is a solution currently in use by other XAU customers. I understand though this solution may not work for all for other reasons.

    For Citrix the overriding decision for producing a Linux XA solution is around the perceived opportunities weighed against the engineering cost. This decision making takes into account the existing capabilities of the using an XAU proxy server with backend application servers. This decision is reviewed periodically and maybe the Oracle/Sun takeover will play a part in the next review.

    Regarding Oracle and their plans for Sun and Solaris I could see some changes in the importance of Solaris now they own this platform but as you say that is unrelated to your requirements.

  • david

    Joanna,
    The EDA market went through this same Linux version support issue a few years ago. The most common approach appears to be that vendors require certain kernel versions and specific glib/glibc/X11/OpenMotif libraries and certify on a few enterprise Linux x86_64 platforms e.g Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 or 5 and SuSE Linux Enterprise 10. I know that some companies are using CentOS 4 or 5 in place of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 or 5. However, sometimes in working a problem with the vendor the problem must be reproduced on the certified platform.

    One option that Citrix XAU could consider supporting is to offer XEN and VMWare virtual machine versions of a specific free Linux x86_64, like CentOS. This may minimize the multiple the Linux “distro” issue.

    Our plans to completely retire Solaris will accelerate should we be unable to obtain replacement parts in a timely and cost-effective manner. When this happens to me, it will happen to everyone.

    Personally, if I was a product vendor, I would feel very uneasy if I had any significant future product revenue attached to Solaris.

  • Marc

    I would like to add a comment in favor of a Linux release as well.
    I work in Oil & Gas Exploration computing and we are also migrating away from Solaris as application vendors have shifted their products to Linux.
    We also are experiencing greater interest in remote access as exploration activity has become more global, even to smaller companies that might have previously been restricted to domestic U.S. activity.

  • Francis

    I can only reinforced the requirement above.
    I am in the same situation as David and we have the same requirement. We are asking the exact same thing since years and nothing have changed.
    It is very Urgent Citrix is providing a supported solution to Linux published desktop without going through proxy solutions. Containers do not adress anything

    thanks
    Best regards
    Francis

  • http://misconfig.blogspot.com misconfig

    I have successfully implemented XenApp on RHEL 5 x86_64, if you’re still in need of a XenApp web interface on the Linux platform, please contact me VIA email.

    I have developed an install script that will make this daunting task MUCH easier.

  • http://www.nomachine.com John

    David,

    If you would like to review our products and protocol implementations we offer a NX Free Edition for Linux and Solaris as well as 30 day evaluation versions of our Enterprise products that you can download from our website here:

    http://www.nomachine.com

    Clients are available for Windows, Linux, Solaris and Mac.

    NoMachine has developed exclusive X protocol compression techniques and an integrated set of proxy agents that make it possible to run complete remote desktop sessions, even at full screen, using narrow-band Internet connections, at speeds as low as those offered by a 9600 band modem.

    For more specific information on NX technology you can read the following article:

    http://www.nomachine.com/documents/intr-technology.php

    We have seen more and more customers moving away from Solaris and migrating to Linux as a lower cost platform.

    If you would like any more information shoot me an email. I would be happy to discuss.

    Thanks,

    /John

  • Guanghui

    I am also from an EDA(IC design) company,we are using Citrix 4.0 for solaris 10 x86.

    Now,it seems works well.

    But,i would like to use freeNX for linux.It’s free…

    David,I would like to advise you adjust your desktop,using fvwm for instead.
    Your current CDE desktop load is more higher,and the fvwm can be custom,it’s more simply.