Another month, another new build of the Netscaler. It seems that every month Citrix has a new incremental build of the Netscaler. A few weeks ago, version 9.3 of the Netscaler (and along with the VPX) was released. While these incremental builds are usually not blog worthy, 9.3 introduces some features, changes that are important to note as well as my thoughts on upgrading from a previous version.
Upgrading to Netscaler 9.3
It was a no brainer upgrading my 9.2 VPX 1000 Netscalers (running the “classic” code) to 9.3 by downloading the update from Citrix and following the GUI wizard. The process took less than 20 minutes and went without error or any downtime since my Netscalers are setup in an HA pair. It was pretty straightforward to perform a failover, upgrade, and repeat.
What is important to note is that after version 9.3 there will be no new releases of the Netscaler “classic” code in favor of the “nCore” code. To provide some background, with the release of Netscaler 9.2 last year, Citrix made their nCore code available to the VPX appliances as it was previously only available for the physical MPX boxes. At the same time, the existing code set was dubbed “classic” and each new revision of 9.2x was released in both classic and nCore flavors. The change also bumped up the minimum requirements of the Netscaler VPX from 1 vCPU and 1 GB of RAM (running on classic) to a heftier 2 vCPU and 4 GB of RAM if you are running nCore. For environments leveraging some of the advanced content caching and acceleration features, nCore might make sense, however for ones using the Netscaler for ICA/SSL proxy and application level load balancing, there is limited value in the nCore code. (I don’t care to go into the specific improvements to the code, architecture that nCore brings over classic, but feel free to read this Citrix Whitepaper if you are interested.) The notable here is that after version 9.3, Citrix will no longer be releasing updates to the “classic” version of the code, thus forcing you to run nCore going forward.
Integrated Citrix Web Interface on Netscaler nCore
While technically, this has been available since 9.2 version of the Netscaler running nCore, I figured I would mention this feature in this post. The Citrix Web Interface which is required for any XenApp or XenDesktop solution can be integrated within the Netscaler. (This Citrix Technote shows you how.) The ability to spin up Citrix Web Interface sites on the Netscaler appliance is an attractive solution for a number of reasons. The first is a reduction in at least two Windows 2008 R2 servers that are typically dedicated for the Citrix Web Interface. While this might not mean much from a licensing perspective when running Windows 2008 R2 Datacenter in a virtualized environment, an argument can be made that the all-inclusive (within the Netscaler) is simpler to manage than Windows 2008 R2 boxes that require patches and anti-virus among other things. I usually allocate 2 GB of RAM and 1 vCPU for a Windows 2008 R2 server running Citrix Web Interface, so reducing a couple of these servers also provides a nominal reduction of resources to the virtualization solution.
One thing to note about integrating the Web Interface on the Netscaler are the implications about customizing it. Most organizations brand their Citrix Web Interface to some degree. This might mean something simple as adding a banner, logo, disclaimer, or something more complex that includes custom fields, embedded links, etc. Completing these customizations on a Windows/IIS server is significantly easier for Systems Administrators than completing them on the embedded web server of the Netscaler. While Citrix does provide a GUI driven interface to customize the logo and banner, advanced customizations of the integrated Web Interface can be challenging.
Over the next week, I’ll be upgrading my environment with integrated Web Interface on my 9.3 Netscalers to replace my existing Windows 2008 R2 based Web Interface servers. I plan to follow up this post with my thoughts, findings and successes/failures in customizing it, so stay tuned.