If you run Citrix MetaFrame in your environment, you can use Citrix NFuse portal software to offer access to MetaFrame applications via a Web browser without any client software. However, this portal software requires dedicated Web servers, and it's best to set up load balancing to optimize the performance and uptime of these portal servers. In this article, I'll show you how to configure a load-balanced NFuse portal application using network load balancing (NLB) in Windows.
Pros and cons of NFuse
Before we get started, let’s briefly review a few of the advantages and disadvantages of configuring an NFuse Web portal. With NFuse, all of your users can access Citrix MetaFrame XP applications through one Web address that you specify. In addition, you will no longer have to install the ICA client software on local client machines or push out updates via Group Policy.
But as I mentioned above, for this to work properly, you'll need to set up a dedicated Web server or group of Web servers. Also, you may run into older operating systems that do not work with NFuse. I've found that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, but that's a decision your company must make based on your network environment and budget.
Sample network setup
Let's take a look at an example of how NFuse is typically set up on a network and how clients can use it to access applications. In Figure A, we have two IIS Web servers configured in a DMZ to load-balance an NFuse portal. On another segment of the LAN, you can also see a domain controller (DC) and the Citrix MetaFrame XP server farm.
Configure the IIS Web servers
Prior to installing Citrix NFuse, you must perform the following on the two dedicated Web servers we'll use in this example:
- Install Windows 2000 Advanced Server with the default options for IIS.
- Configure basic network load balancing between the Web servers.
You can review this article for information on how to set up basic NLB for the Web servers. Once you have your IIS Web servers installed, configured, and load-balanced, you're ready to move on.
Set up Citrix NFuse
Before you install Citrix NFuse on your Web servers, I recommend that you perform the following procedure on the MetaFrame server that's running the Citrix XML service. This procedure will modify the Citrix XML service so that it doesn't conflict with IIS port sharing.
First, verify that the MetaFrame server is running the Citrix XML service by opening your Citrix Management Console, expanding Servers, right-clicking on the Server icon, and selecting Properties (Figure B). If you haven’t already changed the port, the Citrix XML service will be grayed out.
Next, open a command prompt and type ctxxmlss /R### (replace ### with a port number other than port 80), as shown in Figure C.
After you register the XML service on a different port, open the Services window and start the Citrix XML service (Figure D).
With the service running, you can return to the Citrix Management Console and go into the Properties of the server (Figure B). Click on the MetaFrame Settings tab and enter the port number you configured (8090, in this example).
Now that the XML service is running on a separate port, you're ready to install Citrix NFuse on both Web servers. First, place the Citrix MetaFrame XP Components CD in the CD-ROM drive, click the Autorun.exe icon (if it doesn't start automatically), and then click the NFuse Classic icon (Figure E).
When you're asked whether it's okay to restart IIS during the install, choose Yes. You'll then be prompted to enter the name of a server in your MetaFrame farm and the appropriate port number, as shown in Figure F.
Repeat this process on both of the Web servers in the NLB cluster. Now, you're ready to have your clients connect to the Citrix MetaFrame XP server farm via a Web browser. Once connected, clients will see a screen that looks like the one in Figure G.
Weighing the benefits
Now that you know how to quickly install and configure Citrix NFuse Classic in a load-balanced cluster, you may wonder why you would want to use this technology when you can do basically the same thing with Terminal Services Advanced Client (TSAC), which does not require MetaFrame XP. If you'd like to see when MetaFrame provides value over Terminal Services, take a look at this article. To learn the benefits of upgrading to MetaFrame XP from older versions of Citrix MetaFrame, read this article.