Introducing PortICA (ICA server on XP)

Recently at iForum, the Trinity project was announced. The concept was presented in the context of Dynamic Desktop Initiative. There seems to be a number of alternative names (VDI, DVI) but the basic concept is the same. Administrators want the ability to host desktops in a more flexible way. This can include using racks of blades or hosting desktops in virtual machines. Currently the most common way to support this is using RDP on Windows XP.

This is where PortICA comes in. For the first time, it will be possible to host ICA on Windows XP. This makes it possible to use existing ICA clients and infrastructure to access Windows XP desktops.

The project started early this year with a team from Sydney, Australia. I’m a part of this team. Members of the team have worked on a number of projects like Application Isolation (AIE) and Access Gateway in the past.

Now that PortICA has been announced as part of Trinity, I can finally start talking about it.

I’m interested in what people are doing with XP remotely and what kind of things they would like to see happen. As a team, we’d like to see some validation of what we have been working on from the real world.

It is important to mention that this is not a project to port Presentation Server to XP. For licensing reasons, we cannot use Presentation Server on XP. It’s complicated (well sort of) to explain. Essentially PortICA uses none of the Terminal Services interfaces and is designed only for a single user environment.

PortICA was first demoed to the public at iForum in Orlando during this last week. Andrew (team lead) went to iForum and the feedback has been really good.

If you have any questions (which I can answer without hitting something confidential), please let me know in a comment.


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Live near Brisbane, Australia. Software developer currently focused on iOS and Android. Avid Google Local Guide

Posted in Citrixclusive
22 comments on “Introducing PortICA (ICA server on XP)
  1. It sounds like PortICA is similar to users being able to remotely access an XP desktop using RDP. I work with several IT departments that use Presentation Server and also provide users remote access to their office desktops using VPN over the internet and an RDP client. In this regard PortICA could simplify this scenario since using the ICA client will work on about any platform/OS, including a web based version.

    If users can use the Citrix Access Gateway or Web Interface w/ Secure Gateway and be provided the icon at login to a dedicated XP desktop (either a full PC fat client or a blade running XP) There would be value in that as well. It would be better than having to give each user the name or dedicated IP address of their desktop as with the current RDP scenrio I described above.

    Another request I get is if there is a way to have a screencast of-sorts using a desktop. I have run in to situation where users want to be able to train people on specialized software that is not installed on Presentation Server and wants to be able to control the desktop and allows others to view the desktop. While services such as GoToMeeting.com may be a solution. they typically want a simple solutiojs that keeps traffic on the LAN or WAN. If PortICA could do somehting like that, it may add value as well.

    I can also see value in using PortICA along with EdgeSight for remote control of users desktops.

    With straight RDP to XP, the local monitor on the desktop is blacked out (with the exception of a remote assistance connection). Will this be the same with using PortICA?

    I haven’t looked in too much detail yet in the Dynamic Desktop Initiative. Will there be a centralized management interface to manage (provision, deploy applications, update, monitor, etc) the XP desktops such as using agents or other means in a blade/desktop environment?

    Is there ANY information on how this would be licensed, such as Per Device/ Per User/CCU?

  2. jeffreymuir says:

    Jason,
    Thanks for your detailed response. The kind of things you are discussing are all things we have been talking about within the PortICA project for some time.

    Some of the features you are talking about are actually considered part of the larger (parent) project Trinity. Trinity is more interested in the integration with the existing Citrix infrastructure (IMA and management) than PortICA is. I’ll try to best answer your questions but keep in mind that these answers are based on the current design and not the final implementation.

    The goal is to support using Web Interface (WI) to list the XP user desktops right along side any Presentation Server applications. This would all be done under the covers from the user point of view. It would be just the same as the current WI experience with the added benefit of starting XP desktops.

    PortICA is not going to care whether it is being deployed on a fat client, a blade, or even on a VM. This makes it easy to remote variants of XP without having to customize PortICA for each. So, it will be possible to publish XP desktops from a diverse range of possibilities.

    The current design does not allow for a gotomeeting like feature. It is very interesting to have this kind of support (meaning that people do want it and we agree with the value) but it is too big of a feature for the first version.

    I have heard a rumor that Citrix Online has come up with a solution to hosting meetings internally (not using the Internet brokering) but I have not looked into it to see how real it is.

    I do not know much about Edgesight yet so I can’t comment on that.

    To answer your questions:

    PortICA will not show the content of the user’s screen on the local video display when the user is connected remotely. Obviously this is a security concern. Instead, the local display will display a message saying that the local user will need to type “CTL-ALT-DEL” to gain local control again.

    Trinity will be responsible for the management and I cannot commit to what they are going to be doing. In general, I can say that most of the initial management will focus on managing the publishing process of workstations. I suspect that it will not be as focused on supporting the full line of operation like provisioning, deploying applications, and updating. Obviously feedback will help dictate what is focused on.

    I have no information on how it will be licensed. It is usually a late announcement in the project about how it will be marketed and sold.

    Being an engineer, I am usually not involved in such discussions. 🙂

    Thanks for your feedback.
    I hope you take an active interest in how Trinity and PortICA evolve.

  3. Jeff, Thanks for the response to my inquiry. Working for a Citirx solutions provider I am extremenly interested in the new projects/technologies Citrix is developing. Citirx has done a great job with implementing new functionaility into existing products and developing new innovative ideas. As far as the acquisitions, from what products I have had training on, I think they are a good fit for Citrix and Citrix Partners. Although I think Partners need to do a better job changing their view of Citrix as a provider of Terminal Services solutions and examine the new product lines better.

  4. Simon Bramfitt says:

    Jeff

    I actually asked for this capability four years ago at Customer Council, so it’s fair to say I’m very pleased to see the idea has finally got some legs. The reasons for wanting it then were complex and are now (thankfully) no longer relevant, but it’s one of those concepts that continue to provide great utility. There are always going to be scenarios were centralized application hosting is clearly the right path, but where technology constraints either totally prevent implementation on a server OS or where other factors make it uneconomical to do so, both of which effective close the door to leveraging Presentation Server for management or presentation services.

    Granted if I want to provide remote access to a central pool of PC based application hosts, I can do that to day using PC Anywhere, GoToMyPC or any number of similar applications, but this class of tool tends to assume a one-to-one or many-to-one connection matrix and don’t work too well when a large group of users need to be provide connections to a smaller pool of resources for remote access. The lack of a connection arbitration (load management) service makes for a poor user experience. While I understand this is more Trinity than PortICA having ICA enabled Trinity would be of more value than RDP. Most PortICA customers would already have WI + CSG or CAG to allow ICA to traverse the firewall.

    I’d be interested to see how PortICA enabled services would compare/compete with GoToMyPC Corporate in the remote desktop access space. I can see how both could co-exist, and there’s nothing like a little healthy competition to drive products fwd.

    Considering the likely presence of CAG/AAC in a PortICA deployment, are there any thoughts about being able to leverage security features such as end point validation capabilities to control access to my personal desktop PC in the same way I can control access to CPS resources.

    One important point when considering the desktop space; the Info Sec team knows that an ICA connection is part of a secure managed service and therefore allow it; whereas PC Anywhere, GoToMyPC Personal etc, frequently are ad hoc implementations funded from a personal credit cards, implemented outside Info Sec control and often explicitly disabled at the firewall.

  5. Jim S. says:

    Jeff…I think Citrix is in a unique position to leverage the ICA/IMA backend management that has been so successful in Presentation Server at the XP level. There are several “Connection Brokers” on the market or coming soon, however, they lack the finesse of the Citrix Web Interface / CAG / PN Agent connectivity. Also, the thin terminals all support the ICA and PN Agent connections, which would really help to cover the strategy.

    Many years have gone into the development of the Citrix “Access Anywhere” stragegy. Now that the XP/Vista VDI solutions are gaining steam, having the same connection options as a Presentation server but to an XP desktop, and management of the pool via IMA, would put the Citrix Connection Broker to the top of many customer’s lists.

    My $.02. Please keep us posted.

    jim

  6. […] If you have followed recent Citrix announcements and a number of blogs and other postings, you probably already know that we are working on a product line in the “Virtual Desktop Infrastructure” (VDI) space, codenamed “Project Trinity” (by the way, “Dynamic Desktop Initiative”, or DDI, is Citrix’ name for VDI). As the product architect assigned to Trinity, I intend to post here occasionally to keep you up to date on our plans and progress. As always with this type of blog, please note that much of this information is about work in progress, and I certainly cannot commit to dates or promise that certain features will make it into a final product.With that out of the way, I would like to devote this first post to a brief overview of where and how Trinity originated, and then talk about the first couple of deliverables in the Trinity product line. Some topics I had in mind for future postings include thoughts and impressions from VMworld 2006, which I attended last month, my view on where we are as an industry with VDI, and a more detailed dissection of the various types of virtualization that are part of, or relate to Trinity. Do let me know if there are any topics you are particularly interested in, and I will try to cover them if I can.Trinity did not just start out of the blue recently at Citrix; in some form or fashion, its roots reach all the way back to 2003, when product idea #408, “Machines on demand”, was submitted. In fact it is quite likely that ideas in this area had been floating around well before that submission. The gist of that product idea pretty much covers what subsequently became known as VDI. Oh, and by the way, we are up to product idea #2098 in the meantime.In any case, some initial investigation efforts were kicked off in our “Advanced Products” group, and I remember a presentation that Richard Mazzaferri and Anatoliy Panasyuk gave to the UK engineering team, outlining the concepts of brokered access to virtual desktops. This sparked quite a few “ooh, I’d like one of them, please” comments from our development team.I do not have much visibility on what happened subsequently, except that there was never really any resource available to work on it in more detail, until things started to bubble up again early this year, which was also when “Trinity” was coined as a project name. After a more detailed architecture and design had been worked out, there was a bit of to-and-fro between the various engineering sites in Citrix, until eventually we ended up with engineering resource being provided in both the Sydney and the Chalfont sites.Now to complicate matters a bit, there is a second strand to the Trinity lineage, which has also been going for some time, originating from the project Dart (which was never released but influenced a number of other Citrix products such as Access Essentials, or the Access Management Console – but I digress). After several iterations, this culminated in the Remote Desktop Broker (RDB) for Presentation Server, which was released earlier this year as the first Citrix DDI deliverable. You can read all about RDB in a FAQ on the Citrix web site, but in a nutshell it allows you to publish an RDP proxy component on a Presentation Server, which will route the connecting user to their virtual desktop based on a configuration of virtual desktop pools that an administrator controls through a management GUI.All this begs the question, how all these things fit together, and what we are planning for the next couple of Trinity releases. Assuming that you have a basic understanding of Remote Desktop Broker, this can be summarized as:·         We target a first release of Trinity for the first half of next year, based on Remote Desktop Broker that you have already seen. It will build on the existing combination of “CPS + RDB”, but deliver an integrated product and improve the administrative experience by delivering consistent access to both shared and dedicated desktops. Maybe a word about nomenclature here: “shared desktops” are what you are already used to from CPS’s published desktop feature, while “dedicated desktops” are single-user OSes, whether they run on physical hardware or as a virtual machine image. Terminology hasn't been finalized yet, though. We are also working on a simpler licensing scheme for this release of Trinity, but details are still being finalized.·         In the meantime, we are working on the second release, which is currently slated for release in the second half of next year. This is when we will integrate PortICA, and thus deliver the benefits of ICA that can get lost in RDB’s double-hop solution. While the ICA stack for dedicated desktops will certainly be big news for this release, we are also planning to take advantage of the server-side infrastructure that we built for Presentation Server to bring you an integrated, seamless experience for both administrators and end users. Our goal is to make it as simple as possible for end users to access their desktop, building upon the existing application delivery infrastructure, i.e. Web Interface, PNAgent and the like. On the other hand, administrators will be able to benefit from the same tools and features that they are used to from Presentation Server.So much for the marketing piece…I’ll flesh out our current plans for the second Trinity release in a bit more technical detail in a future post, but until then I’d be interested to hear your views on Trinity, VDI, DDI, RDB, or any other three-letter acronym. Published Tuesday, December 05, 2006 7:48 AM by martinm Filed under: product architecture, architecture, dynamic desktops, virtualization […]

  7. […] The point of this blog, if there is indeed a point, is to sum up the year from my perspective.  Work-wise, its been all about working on PortICA.  Its been an interesting journey that continues into 2007.  There has been a lot more focus on the new DDI (Dynamic Desktop Initiative) inside Citrix with the upcoming Trinity project. […]

  8. brian lilley says:

    jeff, thanks for taking the time out to discuss portICA.

    we have a specific requirement for ICA the desktop in order to provide remote access for developers to access development workstations (close to market data streams), over high latency network connections (via the Internet).

    We use ICA and the Citrix ‘through the Internet’, and hop off onto Citrix Presentation Servers, and RDP from there.

    In terms of performance and useability – works but is painful. THe RDP over ICA stream is obviously larger than it need be and we struggle without all the ICA nice bis. Speedscreen latency reduction, printing et al.

    my questions are

    * Does portICA deliver ability to have user desktop icons listed in WI without using Trinity?

    *Will portICA provide printing support

    *Will portICA provide speedscreen latency reduction?

    thanks,
    Brian

  9. Eric Neumann says:

    Hi Jeff,

    just out of curiosity – is there a reason why Citrix specifically refer to ICA on XP rather than ICA on Windows desktop OS? Vista is now out (even though most corps don’t use it yet) but my question is – will this Port ICA business come to Vista?

    Cheers,

  10. jeffreymuir says:

    Eric,

    The group within Citrix has been focused on Windows XP for the initial work but has plans to support Windows Vista as well.

    Your statement that it should be more for Windows Desktop OS is correct. When we initially announced PortICA, Vista had not yet been released. We are not targeting anything older than XP however. Saying recent Windows Desktop OS would be more accurate.

    There are some important internal differences between XP and Vista that we will need to account for but the most of the PortICA code will not need to be changed.

    I cannot commit to any dates and cannot even declare anything that is considered under the ownership of Citrix. Being an employee in the AdProd group does not give me the right to say what Citrix will do. I’ll leave that to the people in charge.

    I can say that Vista is in the plans and that the PortICA team understands the value.

    Thanks,
    Jeff

  11. Hi Jeff,

    Do you know if some sort of Wake on lan capability is going be included. Some of our larger clients have been using RDP through a CAG/AAC solution from home or OS to access there PC’s, and they having problems where the pc’s have gone to sleep and have no way to wake them. Espeically now with all the “Power Savings” that GOVT are pushing, i can see more and more people having this problem.

    It would be nice 🙂

    Cheers
    Daniel.

  12. jeffreymuir says:

    Daniel,

    That’s a great suggestion. It had crossed our path before but was not taken that seriously. Based on your advice we are reconsidering the importance of doing this for PortICA. Power management is becoming a hot topic and obviously it would be better to have the machines in sleep mode until someone needs to use them.

    Thanks,
    Jeff

  13. Hi Jeff,

    That is great if you could do that, from what I hear tis a pain to get this works across vlans. Even MS SMS can’t do it, you need a addon from another company. (SMSExpert.com).

    Anyways another cool option (if it were desired obvisously) would be for the the ica broker to work out your workstation name and make the connection directly to it, without having the end user have to remember there workstation name. (it often happens) A large client of ours have solved this with a little vb app and some updates in AD. They update the computers “Mangaged by” field in AD with the the users ID as part of there logoff process. The published VB App just intergates AD and then just passes the paramters to RDP.

    Cheers,

    Daniel.

  14. jeffreymuir says:

    Daniel,

    Trinity will be able to map workstations to users without the user needing to know any workstation names. This will be done using the already well-known publishing model within CPS. Trinity will be able to support Web Interface so that desktops appear as icons along with any other potential CPS applications.

    The concept is that users will not need to know their resource identifiers by heart. The administrators will need to configure for this kind of support (to assign workstations to users) but Trinity should provide the core of doing this without too much effort.

    Thanks for the excellent feedback. I see that you are in Australia as well. Perhaps Queensland too?

    Thanks,
    Jeff

  15. Dave Harding says:

    Hi Jeff,
    Thanks for the information on PortICA — very interesting. Performance over the network is more relevant for our remote desktops, which have streaming-media requirements, than our traditional SBC. I am, therefore, also interested in Brian Lilley’s question: is speed screen a feature of PortICA? Same question for bi-directional audio?
    Many thanks, Dave

  16. jeffreymuir says:

    Dave,

    I cannot fully commit to the feature set since some items are still up for negotiation. I can tell you that Bi-directional audio and SpeedScreen are planned for inclusion into PortICA. SpeedScreen is only going to be partially supported. I don’t think we are supporting the multimedia (Media Player) videos.

    Which aspects of SpeedScreen do you consider the most important?

    Thanks,
    Jeff

  17. Marc Gijsman says:

    Hi Jeff

    As I understand it PortIca can be used as an alternitive for RDP.
    When will it be available for testing?

    Marc

  18. jeffreymuir says:

    Marc,

    It really isn’t about being an alternative to RDP. In fact PortICA is not a project that is a product itself. PortICA will be part of the Citrix Desktop Server product line.

    Given that I am a developer, I cannot comment on when it will be available. At least, I cannot do that yet.

    Thanks,
    Jeff

  19. Matz Rudhag says:

    Very interesting product this PortICA, we’ve been using a published RDP client for years because users want to get access to their local pc’s from anywhere. But PLEASE Citrix, do not make this accessible to windows users only, it’s ok that you make the PortICA component a windows only product, but you should be able to access it from other operating systems. We have hundreds of thin clients that are not windows based, and we have many users that are running other operating systems than Windows. Remember “from any device…..”

    Thanks
    Matz

  20. jeffreymuir says:

    Matz,

    Our goal has been to provide access to the existing ICA clients. This means that if you have an ICA client available for your type of machine, that PortICA should work with it.

    We have been testing with a mixture of Thin Client, Unix/Linux, and Mac clients.

    Thanks,
    Jeff

  21. […] L’accès à ces machines se fera à l’aide du protocole ICA. ( voir l’article sur PortICA de Jeff Muir ) […]

  22. Gael CORLAY says:

    Hi Jeff,

    My question is about the need of RDP capabilities on the operating system to use the PortICA.

    Actually, Windows 2000 Pro do not have a RDP connector.

    So, if the PortICA is a “stand-alone” component, I think that it would be possible to use it with Win2kPro. But, if PortICA is an add-on to Windows XP/vista “TS” component, Windows 2000 Pro will be probably excluded !!

    So, do you have the answer ?

    Thanks

    Gael.

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