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How to use Azure Resource Manager with XenApp and XenDesktop

Now that XenApp and XenDesktop in Citrix Cloud work with Azure Resource Manager, IT can more easily deploy cloud-based virtual desktops and apps to users.

Citrix integration with Microsoft's Azure cloud service took a significant step forward with the addition of Azure...

Resource Manager support, a native service for provisioning and managing Azure resources.

Citrix and Microsoft incorporated Azure Resource Manager (ARM) into XenApp and XenDesktop on Citrix Cloud, making it easier for Citrix shops to deploy and manage cloud virtual desktops and applications hosted in Azure.

 Find out how to connect to Azure, use the ARM service, create a catalog of virtual machines and more.

 Connecting to Microsoft Azure cloud service

The cloud-based versions of XenApp and XenDesktop in Citrix Cloud provide many of the same capabilities as the on-premises versions of the products. They provide secure access to Windows and Linux desktops and applications, but as a cloud-based service.

Although XenApp and XenDesktop supported Azure deployments prior to integration with Azure Resource Manager, the deployments relied on the Azure classic provisioning service, which had a number of limitations. Administrators had to manage resources independently and couldn't group them in a single unit, which led to more complex deployment and management.

Microsoft originally introduced ARM to administer resources as a single resource group, rather than as individual components, and provided additional features for streamlining deployment and management. For example, Azure Resource Manager lets admins manage resources through templates as well as define dependencies between resources so they can deploy them in the correct order. It also provides a more effective mechanism for applying access control to resources within a resource group.

Azure has been moving toward ARM as its default provisioning method, so it's only logical Citrix should follow suit with XenApp and XenDesktop in Citrix Cloud. They are the first Citrix products to integrate Azure Resource Manager natively, giving admins an important tool for managing cloud-based virtual desktops and applications.

 Azure Resource Manager step by step

Before setting up a host connection, you must create an Azure subscription as well as an Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) user account in the directory associated with their subscription. Azure Resource Manager uses Azure AD to authenticate the connection to the Azure resources.

Set up the host connection. The XenApp and XenDesktop services include the Citrix Studio console for managing virtual desktops and applications. You can use Citrix Studio to set up host connections, the connection admins establish from Citrix Cloud to a service such as Azure.

With Azure credentials in place, select Microsoft Azure as the host connection. Then type in Citrix Studio to connect to ARM in Azure, to deploy desktops and applications to Azure. After establishing the host connection, select the region you want to deploy the VMs in and specify the Azure Resource Manager virtual network and subnets the VMs can access.

You also have to give consent to create a service principal that the XenApp and XenDesktop services use to perform tasks such as provisioning desktops. A service principal is an Azure AD object that defines the policies and permissions applications need to access Azure resources at run time.

Create a machine catalog. Once you set up the host connection, you can create a machine catalog, a collection of physical or virtual machines that IT can manage as a single unit. To do so, you must have a master image in Azure that serves as a template for creating the VMs in the catalog. Configure the master image with any applications you need to install on the VMs, including the Citrix Virtual Delivery Agent (VDA), a client application that makes desktop resources available to Citrix users.

With the master image in place, you are ready to create a machine catalog in Citrix Studio. Select an operating system type, which determines how to deploy the VM infrastructure. Select the Server OS option if you’re implementing a large-scale VM deployment that provides all users with the same standardized desktop. Select the Desktop OS option if you’re providing users with individual desktops.

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After picking the OS, select Citrix Machine Creation Services (MCS) as the machine management option for working with Azure Resource Manager. You can use MCS, part of XenDesktop, to design and deliver virtual desktop images.

Next, select the master image from the list of available resource groups. Then choose how you’d like to store the images and provide specifics about the VMs they create, such as the number of machines, number of cores per machine and amount of memory. Also specify the network card the VMs should use and what Azure AD account to assign to each machine. In addition, provide the account operations domain credentials.

After all this, you can create a resource delivery group to identify which users can access the new VMs. You can add VMs from one or more machine catalogs to the delivery group and specify which users can access those machines or their applications.

Next Steps

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This was last published in October 2016

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How does the addition of ARM affect your view of XenApp and XenDesktop Services?
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Great article, it gives a quick overview of the ARM provisioning and XenApp and XenDesktop in less than 5 mins.
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