This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Citrix Synergy 2016 conference coverage

What's new in Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.7 and 7.8?

XenApp and XenDesktop 7.7 include integration with Microsoft's Skype for Business, Azure and App-V. Learn about those updates and the new features ahead in version 7.8.

IT shops can take advantage of a range of new Microsoft integrations and application layering capabilities in the recent updates to Citrix's desktop and app virtualization products.

The headliners in XenApp and XenDesktop 7.7 -- available now -- include full Skype for Business integration, the return of multilocation management in XenApp and Microsoft technology integrations that can improve virtual desktop and app provisioning. Coming up in 7.8, Citrix is baking its AppDisk app layering technology and Framehawk remote display technology into XenApp and XenDesktop.

XenApp/ XenDesktop 7.7 adds Microsoft integrations

Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop 7.7 improves its integration with several Microsoft tools, including the Skype for Business unified communications platform. Administrators can use Citrix's RealTime Optimization Pack to support Skype for Business on virtual desktops and applications running on Windows, Mac and Linux endpoints.

Citrix also streamlined integration between the Machine Creation Services feature admins use to deliver disk images and Microsoft's Azure cloud platform, which the company says will speed up virtual desktop provisioning. Plus, admins can now use Citrix Provisioning Services to configure, patch or update Windows 10 virtual desktops.

The last big addition in version 7.7 is for XenApp. Citrix brought back the MultiZone Management feature that allows admins to centrally manage XenApp deployments across multiple locations. Citrix previously dropped that feature during XenApp's transition from its old Independent Management Architecture to the FlexCast Management Architechture, which XenDesktop also runs on.

XenApp/XenDesktop 7.8 adds AppDisk

The new Framehawk integration will increase VDI scalability by reducing virtual desktops' and apps' memory footprint.

The XenApp/XenDesktop 7.8 release, due out later in the first quarter of 2016, is all about apps. Citrix is integrating AppDisk, which is now in preview, into all editions of XenApp and XenDesktop. AppDisk allows admins to package apps together and then deliver and manage them separately from the master image. Delivering users' applications independently simplifies VDI management, because admins don't have to bake applications into several department-specific base images. With AppDisk integration in XenDesktop 7.8, IT can update applications without touching the master image.

XenDesktop Platinum customers, who have access to Citrix's AppDNA app compatibility testing tool, will also gain AppDisk integration in that feature. That allows admins to pinpoint and resolve any operating system or application interoperability issues before deploying an AppDisk package.

XenApp/XenDesktop 7.8 also includes upgrades to the Studio management console. Admins will be able to deliver and manage Microsoft App-V application packages in XenDesktop and XenApp without any of the previously required App-V server and database infrastructure. Studio also comes with a new app publishing user interface and several new published app delivery, management and tracking capabilities.

Lastly, version 7.8 further integrates the Framehawk technology Citrix acquired in 2014 into its HDX 3D Pro graphics optimization technologies, which should improve graphics-intensive application performance on Windows 7 and 8 virtual desktops. The new Framehawk integration will increase VDI scalability by reducing virtual desktops' and apps' memory footprint, while also improving CPU and bandwidth efficiency, according to Citrix.

Updates to XenApp/XenDesktop servicing

There are also two new servicing options for XenApp and XenDesktop called Long Term Service Release and Current Release.

The Long Term Service Release option provides five years of mainstream support and offers the option for five more years of extended support for XenApp and XenDesktop, providing cumulative fixes every four to six months but only updating the product version every one to two years.

The Current Release service option is for shops that want to add new XenApp and XenDesktop features as they are available. Citrix is modeling its new servicing options after Microsoft and wants to accommodate customers that don't want to update their virtualization environment at the same pace as Citrix does.

After a tumultuous 2015, the company is taking some steps in the right direction with these new service options as well as updates to XenMobile and its flagship desktop virtualization products.

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