My last post Citrix Provisioning Services Part 1 – What Is It? served an introduction to what exactly Citrix Provisioning Services is capable of. Below I hope to open people’s eyes to using PVS for something other than VDI, as it is often thought of as a part of the XenDesktop suite. However PVS is actually independent of XD or VDI, and can be utilized in combination with XenApp to bring single-image benefits to the Terminal Services world.
Provisioning Services allows for server consistency, easier maintenance, dynamic servers, and aids in disaster recovery.
- Consistency – As a best practice every XenApp server delivering the same applications should be 100% identical to the rest of the farm. However, obtaining this is easier said than done. By streaming the same image to every server, each server is inherently and 100% the same as the rest.
- Maintenance – Updating and patching large farms can be a very time consuming task, and anything done to one server must be repeated for the entire farm to maintain consistency. With PVS, patches and software installations are applied once to the master image and on next reboot, each XenApp server boots the new updated image. In addition to software patching and installation, Terminal Servers need to be completely refreshed periodically to keep them clean and performing optimally; they are used by dozens of different users, reducing performance and resulting in inconsistent servers. A typical server refresh requires the server to be re-imaged and the software redeployed, a time consuming process that can be prone to error, leaving a server in an unusable or inconsistent state. Operating system streaming with PVS results in a completely fresh and optimized server on every reboot.
- Dynamic – PVS allows for a dynamic XenApp farm instead of a static one. As load rises and additional servers are needed, they can be quickly brought online in seconds instead of hours. Conversely, as load drops, un-needed servers can be powered off or repurposed as needed. A server becomes a vessel for different workloads and can be a XenApp server one day and an IIS server another if need be. Since Provisioning Services is capable of streaming to both physical and virtual servers, administrators have the ability to utilize different types of resources all from the same master image(s).
- Disaster Recovery – Creating a disaster recovery plan for the XenApp environment often requires complex processes, scripts and configurations. Assuming a PVS server has been built in the DR site, and that the master image has been replicated as well, quickly bringing an entire farm of XenApp servers online becomes a simple task.
Creating a XenApp environment that is more dynamic and easier to maintain is a goal for many XenApp administrators. The addition of Provisioning Services to a XenApp implementation can go a long way to achieving those goals. By leveraging the single-image management capabilities of PVS, administrators can dramatically reduce the costs involved with deploying and maintaining their XenApp farms. While at the same time, guaranteeing consistency between and ensuring peak performance of each server in the farm. All while being capable of quickly adapting to changes in load and disaster scenarios.