During Microsoft Ignite this week in Atlanta, Georgia, Microsoft announced the launch of Windows Server 2016 with volume licensing versions being available for download mid-October. This was a bit disappointing, as I was hoping to have final Windows Server 2016 ISOs available this week in the Volume License Service Center and MSDN libraries. Oh well, looks like we’ll have to wait another couple weeks…While the full licensed products are not quite available, Microsoft did release Windows Server 2016 Evaluation. You’ll note, this build is no longer considered Tech Preview, so it should be fairly close to the GA which will be released to VLSC and MSDN. In the following blog post, I’ll outline how to use this latest build of Windows Server 2016 and Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop 7.11 with NVIDIA GRID K2 GPU cards to deliver Windows 10 Hosted Shared desktops.

What are Hosted Shared desktops? Simply put, a Hosted Shared desktop is a session based desktop from a Windows Remote Desktop Session Host. In Citrix terminology this is typically called a XenApp server delivering a Published Desktop vs. Published Applications alone. The difference being, Hosted Shared leverages a multi-user Server OS (2008 R2, 2012 R2, 2016) vs. a Client OS (Windows 7, 10, etc.). Simply put, it’s a published desktop delivered from XenApp, or a collection of XenApp servers. With Windows Server 2016, users get a desktop interface, which has a Windows 10 Look and Feel. The desktop, applications, and system overhead are being shared by every user on the physical or virtual server. As a result of this shared approach, we can typically achieve higher density levels when comparing a Session-Based Computing (SBC) approach vs. a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) approach, given the same hardware specifications. This ultimately results in lower costs for servers, storage, networking, and hypervisor costs to deliver similar desktop experiences. In the case of this POC deployment, the NVIDIA GRID K2 card is being presented in pass-through mode to the XenApp server, and is therefore being shared by every active user or session on the server. Let’s get started!

To start, I’ve built two VMs:

VMWS16DDC711-01 <- Single, standalone Delivery Controller with all roles to be installed. Including: Delivery Controller, Studio, Director, License Server, StoreFront, Microsoft SQL Express

VMWS16XA711-01 <- Standalone XenApp VM with Server OS Virtual Delivery Agent (VDA) installed. Hardware based on 4 vCPU, 16GB RAM, 100GB SSD, NVIDIA GRID K2 in pass-through mode

To kick things off, we’ll mount the XenApp/XenDesktop 7.11 ISO to the delivery controller. Double click the CD-ROM drive:

Launch AutoSelect:

Click Start next to XenDesktop:

Click Delivery Controller on the left:

Accept the terms and click Next:

Leave default to install all components on the standalone server. Click Next:

Leave Microsoft SQL Server Express checked to use a local database instance for the POC. Click Next:

Leave defaults and click Next:

Click Install:

After a couple minutes, you’ll be prompted to restart the server:

After rebooting, remount the ISO and navigate to the appropriate drive letter (E:\ for example):

After clicking Select Folder, the installation will continue:

Once installed, configure Call Home for monitoring and insights. Click Connect:

Enter your MyCitrix credentials and click OK:

Confirm Call Home is connected and click Next:

Review the installation and click Finish:

Once installed, Studio will launch. Configure the site by clicking Deliver applications and desktops to your users:

Configure the Site name and click next:

Change the Database names or leave default and click next:

Configure licensing (typically use 30-day trial for POC) and click next:

Configure the hypervisor hosting connection (vSphere in my example):

If using vSphere with the self-signed default SSL certificate, XenApp/XenDesktop 7.11 will now prompt you to Trust and install the certificate. Click Trust certificate and OK:

Navigate to the appropriate vSphere cluster, select the desired shared or local storage option and click next:

Select the appropriate storage (Atlantis USX 3.5 Virtual Volumes in my example), and click next:

Name the resource, select a network and click next:

Configure AppDNA or App-V Publishing if desired. Otherwise, click next:

Once configured, click Finish:

Click Test Site Configuration to perform the validation checks against the environment:

You should see approximately 238 tasks complete successfully. Remediate any warnings or failed tests before proceeding. Click close to proceed:

Next, we’ll go configure the XenApp 7.11 Server with the Virtual Delivery Agent. We’ll come back to configure the rest of the XenApp/XenDesktop site later.

For XenApp, I’ve configured a single standalone XenApp VM for the POC with the following specifications: 4 vCPUs, 16GB RAM, 100GB SSD disk, NVIDIA GRID K2 in Pass-Through mode. NVIDIA drivers have been installed, as you can see in the screenshot below:

Mount the ISO and double click the CD-ROM drive:

Double click AutoSelect:

Click Start next to XenDesktop:

Click Virtual Delivery Agent for Windows Server OS in the middle column:

Since I won’t be creating a pool for this POC, just using a single standalone server, I’ll select the second option Enable connections to a server machine. Click Next:

For now, I’ll uncheck Citrix Receiver as I don’t need that installed inside the XenApp server for this POC. Click Next:

Type the fully qualified DNS name of the Delivery Controller, click Test Connection, then Add. You should see a green checkmark next to the server address. Click Next:

Leave defaults for the VDA installation and click Next:

Leave defaults and click Next:

Review and click Install:

After a minute, you’ll be prompted to reboot to proceed. Click Close and the server will restart:

After a reboot, mount the ISO and browse to the appropriate drive (E:\ for example). Click Select Folder:

Installation will proceed after the reboot:

Once installed, configure Call Home as we did previously:

Enter MyCitrix credentials:

Call Home should now be configured:

Click Finish to restart the server automatically.

Back on the delivery controller, we can now finalize the configuration. Click Set up machines for desktops and applications for remote PC access:

Review and click Next:

Select Server OS and click Next:

Since I’m using a single standalone VM for my XenApp server, I’ll select Machines that are power managed and Another service or technology. Click Next:

Browse to the applicable VM in your vCenter environment and enter the Active Directory computer account details. Click Next:

Enter a Machine Catalog name and description for administrators:

Next, we’ll configure the delivery group. Click Set up Delivery Group to assign desktops and applications to your users:

Click Next:

Add the machine from the catalog and click Next:

Enter the applicable Active Directory user accounts to permit access. Click Next:

Add a Published Application manually (Internet Explorer) using the following details:

Click Next:

Configure a Published Desktop with the following details:

Click Next:

Provide a Delivery Group name and description and click Finish:

Once finished, that completes the main steps for configuring the XenApp/XenDesktop site!

Next, we’ll login with an Internet Browser to StoreFront. The default path for StoreFront is: http://servername/Citrix/StoreWeb. You should see the following prompt. Click Detect Receiver:

Click Remember my choice and Launch Application:

You should see StoreFront attempt to detect Citrix Receiver. If you don’t already have Citrix Receiver installed on your test system, you’ll be prompted to install it.

Once Receiver has been installed and detected, you’ll be prompted with a login prompt. Enter the appropriate credentials for the test user that you had published applications and/or desktops to:

Once logged in, you’ll land on the Favorites page, which will be blank. To add Apps or Desktops to the Favorites page, click Desktops:

Click Details:

Click Add to Favorites:

You should see the Add to Favorites button change to Remove. That indicates that the Desktop has already been added. Click Apps:

Click Details:

Click Add to Favorites:

Again, you’ll see the button change to say Remove once added to Favorites. Now, click Favorites to verify both apps/desktops have been added:

Next, I’ll launch the Win10 Hosted Shared desktop to validate functionality:

Now I’m logged in via Citrix to my Windows Server 2016 Published Desktop (i.e. Win10 Hosted Shared)!

To validate NVIDIA GRID K2 GPU functionality and XenApp HDX 3D, I’ve installed and will run Redway3D’s Turbine demo with the following settings:

The screenshot below shows we are properly leveraging the NVIDIA GRID K2 GPU for offloading 2D/3D graphical workloads!

That’s it for this blog post! I hope this has been informative and has shown you how simple it is to setup a two server Proof of Concept environment for XenApp/XenDesktop 7.11 on Windows Server 2016 with NVIDIA GRID GPUs!

As always, if you have any comments, questions, or simply want to leave feedback, feel free to do so in the comments section below!

Thanks and enjoy,