Citrix has release MetaFrame XP as the successor to MetaFrame 1.8. In the past, the MetaFrame product has provided solid solutions in various roles for many types of customers. Citrix administrators will attest to the robustness, stability, and performance of the MetaFrame products. While MetaFrame XP extends the features of this product, we always have to ask ourselves if there is enough value in the upgrade to justify its cost. Let’s examine that question.

Functionality and platform operability
Three versions of Citrix MetaFrame XP now exist: XPs (workgroup), XPa (advanced), and XPe (enterprise). MetaFrame XP operates on the following platforms:

  • Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server Edition (TSE)
  • Windows 2000 Server/Advanced Server/Datacenter Server
  • Windows 2002 Server (forthcoming)

This provides administrators with options for integrating MetaFrame XP into their current Windows NT/2000 and MetaFrame environments. However, Citrix customers may be caught in a precarious situation if they choose to implement MetaFrame XP into a Windows NT 4.0 TSE environment. Systems on Windows NT 4.0 TSE may have restricted functionality in the future because of the limitations of Windows NT 4.0. Current literature does not specifically state this, but it is something to consider in choosing a platform on which to deploy MetaFrame XP.

New features in MetaFrame XP
MetaFrame XP’s features are an extension of the base functionalities of MetaFrame 1.8. These new features include:

  • Citrix Management Console—This is a single point of administration for a MetaFrame server farm. It can be run on a server that does not have MetaFrame installed.
  • Client Time Zone Support—Administering geographically distributed clients can now reflect their local time zone.
  • Application Packaging and Delivery—MetaFrame XPe supports unattended installations, MSI install packages, rollbacks, and other tools that can enable a large server farm to push applications out across other servers.
  • Advanced Load Management—MetaFrame XPa and XPe have enhanced load-balancing capabilities to maximize performance across resources.
  • Active Directory Support—MetaFrame XP can publish applications to Active Directory users and groups as well as administer information about network resources and users.
  • NFuse 1.5—The MetaFrame add-on that can enable a Web portal is now part of MetaFrame XP. This Web portal piece of MetaFrame allows for customized, Web-based application delivery. (NFuse 1.0 is available as an add-on to MetaFrame 1.8.)
  • SpeedScreen 3—This improves performance for screen updates and mouse/keyboard context displays to give the user maximum throughput.
  • New Licensing Model—MetaFrame XP is now licensed on a connection-based model, replacing the server-based licensing model. This linear pricing will allow administrators to make more simplified licensing decisions.

Interoperability with MetaFrame 1.8
If you have MetaFrame 1.8, there are options to integrate MetaFrame XP into a server farm. MetaFrame XP mixed mode allows limited license pooling and publication of applications across servers. Be aware that bringing MetaFrame XP into a server farm requires the XP server to be the Master ICA browser on the subnet and that the farm name for the XP and 1.8 servers must be the same.

Citrix strategy
Having a role for a MetaFrame implementation will balance the needs of the organization with the availability of resources (training, hardware, etc.). When a new MetaFrame implementation is planned, these roles are extremely important to help form the best solution. Reality dictates that these roles will overlap and a Citrix solution may encompass some or all of these roles. It is good to have defined roles to divide responsibility, resources, and priorities. Here are some example roles for Citrix solutions:

  • Rapid application deployment—Used to push out software upgrades or different versions or to provide titles that require more hardware resources than the current client environment can handle
  • Remote access—Used to provide applications to clients at home and/or across a low-bandwidth WAN connection
  • Terminal computing (WYSE terminal, Compaq T1010, Oracle’s ThinkNIC, etc.)—Used to provide total computing environment via a remote desktop or Web portal, letting field offices operate without an IT staff, or to reduce client hardware costs

Citrix hardware planning
MetaFrame XP continues the trend of requiring resource-intensive hardware for ultimate performance. Depending on the number of users and applications and the requirements of the applications, the hardware requirements will vary. Various formulae exist to determine your requirements for a MetaFrame implementation. Here are some general rules of thumb to consider:

  • Requirements of core operating systems
  • Requirements of MetaFrame
  • Requirements of each session of each application
  • Possible future roles of a MetaFrame solution

These types of calculations can quickly accumulate to require powerful hardware. But it is important to plan what resources are needed to adequately support all of your current services, as well as potential future solutions to be deployed via MetaFrame.

What about Windows 2000 Terminal Services?
Windows 2000 Terminal Services (a native component of Windows 2000) offers a feature-rich alternative to the extra costs of Citrix solutions. MetaFrame tends to offer a package that’s more for thin-client application needs, but every situation is unique. I like MetaFrame for deploying applications to clients, but I like Windows 2000 Terminal Services for remote server administration. To determine your needs, a thorough test of Win2K TS and MetaFrame is appropriate to see whether your application performs well and to make sure that the interface is easy enough for clients to use. For additional help in making this decision read “When does Citrix provide value over Win2K Terminal Services?”

Should you upgrade to MetaFrame XP?
An upgrade from MetaFrame 1.8 to MetaFrame XP will not be necessary for most organizations. In some situations, a mix of XP and older versions of MetaFrame may be appropriate. It might also be helpful to upgrade to MetaFrame XP if support for an older MetaFrame environment is discontinued. Otherwise, unless some of new features in MetaFrame XP will bring considerable value to your organization, I’d recommend staying with your current stable MetaFrame environment. If you are considering an upgrade, you should order the MetaFrame XP evaluation software from Citrix and try it out in a testing environment to see if the new features meet your expectations.

How do you use Citrix MetaFrame in your organization?

What are your plans for upgrading to MetaFrame XP? We look forward to getting your input and hearing about your experiences regarding this topic. Join the discussion below or send the editor an e-mail.