MetaFrame XP an administrator's dream
- By Tim Fielden
- May 23, 2001
Distributed systems and application integration, while hugely beneficial
to any agency or department, also can cause nightmares for the systems administrators
who have to support them.
While application servers generally provide much of the functionality
required to operate a distributed system, software delivery and license
management often are excluded. Moreover, not every vendor fully supports
all the nuances of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 and its Active Directory.
Thanks to the efforts of Citrix Systems Inc. and its MetaFrame family
of solutions, help has arrived. Best likened to an application server on
steroids, MetaFrame is the company's most powerful application serving and
management platform to date. It enables customers to deploy Windows applications
to virtually any device over any network connection wired, Web and wireless with ultimate flexibility.
The Citrix solution provides administrators with all the tools necessary
for managing diverse computing environments ranging from departmental workgroups
to large agencies. It comes with support for load management, resource management,
installation management and network management.
Citrix offers the MetaFrame XP platform in multiple flavors MetaFrame
XPs, XPa and XPe each with increasing levels of functionality and scalability.
XPs, for example, is designed mainly for departmental workgroups and, as
such, works best for Windows 2000 configurations of fewer than five servers
hosting no more than 30 users on each. XPa is a step up, increasing support
to 100 servers and adding load-management capabilities.
At the top of the stack is XPe, which is the product reviewed here.
It provides an enterprise-level application server infrastructure for network-based
Windows 2000 environments requiring extensive scalability, rapid application
development and robust management.
Our first impressions of the product were favorable, as we found all
administrative tasks centralized into a single graphical application interface
called the Citrix Management Console. From here, we could easily control
all of our other servers, applications and resources across our small server
farm. We also found the solution was quite adept at enabling us to manage
all of our user and product licenses from within the same interface.
With performance always an issue, we found the solution's ability to
balance the application load among multiple machines a real boon. Requiring
nothing more of us than selecting Load Evaluators from the console and answering
a few questions, we were able to quickly create a couple of evaluators (rules),
assign them to our servers and begin to enjoy the benefits of having our
applications fed from the least-busy machine. Users should note, however,
that MetaFrame is currently limited to allowing only a single evaluator
Our look at the application packaging and delivery feature also proved
fruitful, as we found the solution capable of centrally configuring and
managing our software. Using the Packager component, we were able to build
package files, which added registry keys, created shortcuts and copied the
code at hand. We found ourselves replicating applications across our server
farm with little effort.
The solution's system monitoring and analysis capabilities include real-time
monitoring and alerting, application monitoring and usage, as well as user-configurable
settings for metrics and thresholds.
Anyone who has ever worked a help desk or attempted to solve a remote
user's problem knows how valuable and timesaving it can be to perform "shadowing" logging on to the user's computer and observing all the actions during
the help session. Thankfully, MetaFrame includes this ability. As a means
to eliminate some of the "Big Brother" feelings of it, users being shadowed
will notice an on-screen indicator that activities are being logged. This
feature can be disabled, however.
Current users of other Citrix products, namely MetaFrame 1.8 and WinFrame
1.8, will be pleased to find interoperability among the applications, allowing
for a flexible phased server upgrade.
In all, we give the solution a big thumbs up. MetaFrame XP's ability
to centrally manage and monitor huge numbers of servers as well as clients,
often spanning geographical boundaries, is sure to please even the most
Fielden, a freelance writer, can be reached at [email protected].