VMware vSphere App-HA 1.1 Released

VMware vSphere App-HA 1.1 has just been released, with backward capability with vSphere 5.1. A full list of features can be reviewed below –
or URL (http://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2014/04/app-ha-1-1-ga-now-available-download.html) :

App HA overview

The latest version of App HA, 1.1, was released last week and is now available for download. This release has a number of cool new features that will greatly increase the usability of App HA. I will do additional post(s) on these in the next few weeks.

  • More applications: Oracle (10g & 11g) and PostgreSQL (8.x & 9.x)
  • Support for custom services: Any service Hyperic agents are currently able to start/stop
  • Increased interoperability with vSphere: now supporting both vSphere 5.5 and 5.1
  • More flexibility: ability to edit App HA policies
  • International support: 6 additional languages now supported

Here are some links for getting started with App HA 1.1

AppHA Interop

One important note about upgrading to App HA 1.1 is that there is not an upgrade path from App HA 1.0 to 1.1. To move from App HA 1.0 to 1.1 requires that you document your current policies, uninstall App HA 1.0, upgrade Hyperic to 5.8.1, and vCenter and ESX to 5.5 U1, then install App HA 1.1 and reconfigure/reassign policies.

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Two Computing Systems from over 5 years ago – Trip back down memory lane

Two Computing Systems from over 5 years ago Trip back down memory lane

I was showing my daughter what I used to use as a computer many years ago (showing my age) and she was amazed more astonished so I thought I would share with you all a brief trip down memory lane.

Commodore 64

First of all if you can remember the Commodore 64 (C64) a 1Mhz, 8 bit, 64k RAM (Commodore Computers, 1983) computer created by Metal Oxide Semiconductor Technology (MOS Technology) also known as Commodore Business Machines (Veit, 1999) should be listed as one of the most symbolic and state of the art personal computing systems of the 1980’s. The C64 was focussed to provide a great video game machining experience, outstanding performance and value for money compared to the other market players of the time.

· In January ‘1981 engineers decided to produce a state-of-the-art video and sound chip. The VIC-II 6567 video chip and the SID 6581 sound chip were created to be the most powerful chips of their time. The C64 equipped with these chips was able to display 16 colours and be reproduce a human voice without additional peripherals. (Matthews, 2010). Personally the game I enjoyed was a flight simulation called Ace of Aces (Personal Computer Museum, 2006) Ace of Aces very simple compared today’s 32bit graphics and millions of colours in say Flightgear (Flightgear Flight Simulator Project, 2010 – 2014)

· Initially called the VIC 30 the C64 design started 1981 and main production ran from 1982 through to 1989 (Matthews, 2010) (Bagnall, 2005) even today not many machines can say they have lasted that long in production the Apple iMac G3 lasted 1998-2001. (Edwards, 2008)

· The C64 made it into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2007. As of 2006 the C64 was the “Greatest selling single computer of all time”. Sources count units sold between 12 and 17 million (Peggy Mihelich – CNN, 2007).

· The C64 priced at $595 was less than half the price of the Apple II at $1395. (Commodore Computers Canada, 1983) and establish an estimated dollar value market share in the US of 43%. (Personal Computer Museum, n.d.)

· 20 Games That Defined the Commodore 64

Click for more on the references below or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodore_64

Apple iMac G3

Apple iMac G3 computing system should be badged as the system that ignited the drove colour into the personal computer industry and enable internet experience. What also made the iMac a focus was it marked the return of Steve Jobs as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) role.

· The iMac G3 design was led by Jonathan Ive (Arlidge, 2014) and Steve Jobs. Steve jobs launched and marketed the iMac in 1998 at Macworld (Channel, 2006). The marketing line most generally associated with the iMac G3 was it wasn’t another ‘beige box’. (Edwards, 2008) Still today you don’t see many beige box computers mainly grey black or coloured. (Lohr, 2002)

· The iMac G3 was launched 1998 and discontinued in 2003. The G3 name came from the PowerPC 750 G3 processor, and coupled with an ATI Rage graphics card creating excellent rendering performance. The newest generations have replaced the PowerPC chip in favour for Intel chip sets. (Simon, 2009)

· The main case colour was “bondi blue” but later thirteen colours became available. Today nearly all Apple Mac products are White, Silver no more bright colours but still no beige (Simon, 2009)

· Making iMac G3 more user-friendly, with attractive design translucent back and at the time of i for internet, built in browser and modem enabling internet access brought Apple in to the future, on this Steve Jobs interim CEO 1997 (Stone, 2011) started to rebuild the company. The built in speakers and internet access was personally a simple and easy to use experience.

Click for more on the references below or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IMac_G3

References locations you can find out more

 

Apple, 2013. Apple Reports Fourth Quarter Results. [Online]
Available at: http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2013/10/28Apple-Reports-Fourth-Quarter-Results.html
[Accessed 07 04 2014].

Arlidge, J., 2014. Jonathan Ive Designs Tomorrow. [Online]
Available at: http://time.com/jonathan-ive-apple-interview/
[Accessed 08 04 2014].

Bagnall, B., 2005. On the Edge: the Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore. First ed. s.l.:Variant Press.

Channel, T. A. H., 2006. Steve Jobs introducing The First iMac 1998. [Sound Recording].

Commodore Computers Canada, 1983. Commodore Computers. [Online]
Available at: http://commodore.ca/gallery/adverts_commodore/computers_for_everybody_compute_aug83.jpg
[Accessed 08 04 2014].

Commodore Computers, 1983. Commodore 64 Brochure (USA). [Online]
Available at: http://www.pcmuseum.ca/Brochures/C64BrochureUSA0283.pdf
[Accessed 07 04 2014].

Edwards, B., 2008. Eight Ways the IMac Changed Computing. [Online]
Available at: http://www.pcworld.com/article/149878/apple_imac.html
[Accessed 08 04 2014].

Flightgear Flight Simulator Project, 2010 – 2014. FlightGear Flight Simulator Gallery V2.10. [Online]
Available at: http://www.flightgear.org/about/gallery-v2-10/
[Accessed 08 04 2014].

Lohr, S., 2002. The Beige Box Fades to Black. [Online]
Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/18/technology/the-beige-box-fades-to-black.html
[Accessed 08 04 2014].

Matthews, I., 2002. Commodore Innovations. [Online]
Available at: http://www.commodore.ca/history/company/commodore_firsts.htm
[Accessed 07 04 2014].

Matthews, I., 2010. Commodore 64 – The Best Selling Computer in History. [Online]
Available at: http://www.commodore.ca/commodore-products/commodore-64-the-best-selling-computer-in-history/
[Accessed 08 04 2014].

Peggy Mihelich – CNN, 2007. CNN -. [Online]
Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/2007/TECH/ptech/12/07/c64/index.html
[Accessed 07 04 2014].

Personal Computer Museum, 2006. Personal Computer Museum – Software – Ace of Aces. [Online]
Available at: http://www.pcmuseum.ca/details.asp?id=37822&type=Software
[Accessed 17 04 2014].

Personal Computer Museum, n.d. World of Commodore. [Online]
Available at: http://www.pcmuseum.ca/3BCBE66B-3392-42DB-BAF5-4DBC97CD24A0/FinalDownload/DownloadId-F5A4246356AA43F57139BCF4A2F04C19/3BCBE66B-3392-42DB-BAF5-4DBC97CD24A0/Brochures/WOCProgram.pdf
[Accessed 07 04 2014].

Shaw, D., 2012. Commodore 64 turns 30: What do today’s kids make of it?. [Online]
Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-19055707
[Accessed 07 04 2014].

Simon, M., 2009. The Complete iMac History — Bondi to Aluminum. [Online]
Available at: http://www.maclife.com/article/feature/complete_imac_history_bondi_aluminum
[Accessed 08 04 2014].

Steil, M. & Biallas, S., 2011. How many Commodore 64 computers were really sold?. [Online]
Available at: http://www.pagetable.com/?p=547
[Accessed 07 04 2014].

Stone, B., 2011. Steve Jobs: The Return, 1997-2011. [Online]
Available at: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/the-return-19972011-10062011.html
[Accessed 08 04 2014].

Veit, S., 1999. PC – History COMMODORE 64. [Online]
Available at: http://www.pc-history.org/index.html
[Accessed 07 04 2014].

Announcing VMware Mirage 5.0

Along with our major announcement of VMware Horizon 6 Wednesday, VMware have announced VMware Mirage 5.0!

We’ve been working hard to support various new and exciting features. With Mirage 5.0 we continue with our unified image management support for the latest Windows operating system – Windows 8.1. IT can use VMware Mirage to migrate their end user’s existing Windows 7 devices onto Windows 8.1 The dynamic layering flexibility that Mirage customers are used to with Windows XP, Vista, and 7 has now been extended to support Windows 8.1. And with our previous Mirage 4.4 release, Windows 8 and 8.1 devices could be protected with automated backup and full system recovery options. We also introduced the Mirage Gateway in 4.4. We’ve been enhancing the Mirage Gateway for higher scalability and performance across distributed environments. Let’s take a look at these Mirage 5.0 features more in-depth:

  • Windows 8.1 Migration Support – Windows 7 devices can be migrated to Windows 8.1 in Mirage 5.0. Customers will realize the same great benefits with using Mirage for migration of Windows 7 to Windows 8.1 as they did for migration of Windows XP to Windows 7. A snapshot is taken before the migration even begins, so a safety-net is in place in case anything goes wrong during the migration. The end-user downtime is still a minimum amount, usually 30 minutes to an hour. And migrations from Windows 7 to 8.1 can be performed at grand scale. IT can mass migrate dozens to hundreds of devices per day.
  • Windows 8.1 Image Management Support – One of the key differentiators between Mirage and other image management solutions is the dynamic layering technology available in Mirage. As part of these layers that IT manages, IT can now distribute base and application layers to Windows 8.1 devices. This means IT can provision OS images, applications, and patches across distributed LAN or WAN environments. The flexibility in layering allows IT to easily manage which applications are removed or preserved during layer updates on Windows 8.1 devices. This fast type of provisioning even complements and extends IT shops that already have PCLM tools they may be using, and helps lower helpdesk support costs.
  • Windows 8 and 8.1 Disaster Recovery – Automated backup and full system recovery were features that were added to Mirage 4.4, which is already GA. However, we thought we’d highlight this feature to reiterate the benefits received with disaster recovery support for Windows 8 and 8.1. Several quick restore options are available, such as self-service restore, restoring entire devices from one piece of hardware to another, or just restoring applications and user data.
  • Mirage Gateway Enhancements – The Mirage Gateway was also introduced in Mirage 4.4. It essentially gives end-users an automatic way to connect from remote or branch locations, without the need to VPN back into the Mirage infrastructure in the datacenter. For distributed environments, the Mirage Gateway helps simplify endpoint management of distributed users across the WAN. In Mirage 5.0, we’ve tuned up the performance and scalability so that less infrastructure is required to support the Mirage Gateway. This greatly simplifies manageability of not only the backend infrastructure, but also the managed endpoints.

Mirage 5.0 will be generally available soon. If you have a next-generation environment that supports Windows 8.1, you’ll definitely want to give Mirage 5.0 a try! For more updates, please visit us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or discuss in our Communities.

By Sachin Sharma, Product Marketing Manager, End-User Computing, VMware

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Horizon 6.0 – Cloud Pod Architecture Details

Cloud Pod Architecture and Multi-Data-Center View in Horizon 6

One of the key features of the Horizon Cloud Pod Architecture is the high availability and scale-out of virtual desktops in VMware Horizon 6. Many of you may have heard about this feature referred to as Linked-Mode View or Multi-Data-Center View or Federated View Pods. All of these mean the same thing.

Today, virtual desktops provided by Horizon can be deployed using a block and pod architecture, or design. (Refer to sections titled View Building Blocks and View Pods in the View Architecture Planning Guide.) A single View pod can contain up to five View blocks, can scale up to 10,000 (10K) desktops, and can be deployed in a single data center. Customers looking to scale beyond 10K desktops can deploy multiple View pods. However, each View pod is an independent entity that has its own user entitlements and is managed separately. With the new Horizon 6 Cloud Pod Architecture, customers can aggregate multiple View pods in either the same data center or different data centers and entitle users to a desktop in any location.

Now, let’s look at an example that describes this feature in its entirety. Figure 1 below shows two View pods—Pod 1 and Pod 2. Pod 1 is located in a data center in the United States, and Pod 2 is located in a data center in India. Each pod has two connection brokers—VCS1 and VCS2 in Pod 1, VCS3 and VCS4 in Pod 2. Both Pod 1 and Pod 2 maintain their own user entitlements, which provide a mapping of an end user to a virtual desktop in the respective pod. The new architecture in Horizon 6 introduces two new elements:

  • A global entitlement layer which spans multiple pods (shown as a single layer spanning Pod 1 and Pod 2 in the diagram)
  • An inter-pod communication layer (shown with a bi-directional arrow between Pod 1 and Pod 2 in the diagram)

This new architecture provides three major benefits:

  • Support for active-active deployments – Customers who have multiple data centers can now leverage all the data-center assets efficiently. They can entitle users to desktops either in one or in multiple data centers.
  • Consolidation of multiple pods within a single data center – Multiple pods of desktops within the same data center can be consolidated and managed centrally through a single global user-entitlement layer.
  • Disaster recovery – The global user-entitlement layer can be used to assign a user to desktops in both Pod 1 and Pod 2. If Pod 1 were to become unavailable either due to a data-center failure or to another form of failure, the user could always get to a desktop in Pod 2. It is important to note that this feature assumes that the desktops in Pod 1 and Pod 2 are replicated using some form of data-replication technology.
VMware-Horizon-6-Cloud-Pod-Architecture
Figure 1: Cloud Pod Architecture with Pod 1 in U.S. and Pod 2 in India

Brokering a Desktop in a Cloud Pod Architecture

Figure 1 conceptually illustrates how two View pods can be used to entitle users to desktops in different data centers. Brokering a desktop to a user who logs in from any location follows the simple workflow below:

1. The end user enters the URL or IP address for their View environment, which can be an address of a View Connection Server (broker) or a load balancer, and enters their credentials.

2. The broker looks up both local and global entitlements for the user.

3. The broker gets the current desktop state via inter-pod protocol and returns a list of desktops to the client.

4. The user selects a desktop.

5. If the desktop is remote, the broker launches the remote desktop via inter-pod protocol.

6. The client connects to the remote desktop directly or via a local tunnel.

The top use cases for end-user desktop access are as follows:

  • Global roaming desktop – This is a use case where the end user needs access to a desktop only to access their Windows-based applications. An end user can be located either in India or the U.S. with an entitlement to a nonpersistent desktop pool. The end user gets a desktop in their connected pod (that is, close to their client location—If they connect from India, they get a desktop in India).
  • Global home desktop – This is the typical case where the end user wants to get the same persistent desktop every time they request access, irrespective of their location. To accomplish this, persistent desktop pools in all pods need to be set up. The FromHome policy can be used to direct the user back to their home site. The end user gets the same desktop machine irrespective of which pod they are connected to.
  • Local scale desktop – In this use case, each site has multiple pods, each offering a standard nonpersistent desktop pool. A global entitlement layer provided by Cloud Pod Architecture joins all these pools together. Using the site’s Scope policy, one can control and limit access to a desktop that is available within the site.

Global Entitlement

The global entitlement layer controls the mapping of end users to desktops in a Cloud Pod Architecture. Global entitlement consists of a set of parameters as shown in Figure 2:

VMware-Horizon-6-Cloud-Pod-Architecture-Global-Entitlement
Figure 2: Global Entitlement in the Cloud Pod Architecture

Following are the various parameters of global entitlement:

  • Name – Name of the global entitlement
  • Members – The users and/or groups that share the global entitlement
  • Desktops – Desktops that the members of the global entitlement are entitled to
  • Scope – Controls the scope of search when placing a new desktop session. This allows the administrator to control the amount of cross-data-center traffic.
  • FromHome (true/false) – This controls where the desktop search is started. When false, it starts from the current pod; when true, it starts from the user’s home site.

The scope can be one of:

  • Local – Look only in the local pod for available desktops
  • Site – Look in all pods in the local site (typically in the same data center)
  • All – Look across all pods for an available desktop to service the request

The search order favors local resources, starting in the same pod that the user connected to, then extending to the same site, and then across the entire linked environment. In addition to this default search order, administrators can nominate a home site for a single user or for a group of users. When a global entitlement has the FromHome policy set, the search for a new desktop is started in the user’s home site and not the current connected pod. This ensures that, where needed, the desktop session remains close to any backend resources it needs.

Scale Limits and Maximums

The Cloud Pod Architecture was developed with the goal of scaling View desktop deployments to hundreds of data centers and tens of thousands of desktops. To deliver this capability in time for product launch, the VMware team has done a phenomenal job of validating this feature by focusing the testing efforts on the following scale-out parameters:

  • Number of pods – 4
  • Number of sites – 2
  • Number of desktops – 20,000

This scale is just the beginning, and the team at VMware is committed to increasing these numbers over the next few releases.

Architectural Assumptions

A number of architectural assumptions have been made in delivering this feature:

  • The deployment can have both persistent (stateful) and nonpersistent (stateless) desktops
  • A third-party load balancer such as Geographic DNS or a similar product provides the single-URL capability
  • Replication of desktops or end-user data is provided by a third-party data replication technology
  • WAN links between data centers are sufficiently provisioned and have good latency characteristics—however, the feature works on low-bandwidth, high-latency connections and does not impose either a latency drag or additional bandwidth. It is important to note that user experience varies with both the latency and the bandwidth between data centers.
  • All pods are accessible to each other across the corporate network

As you can see, the Horizon Cloud Pod Architecture further advances end-user mobility by delivering desktops from any data center in any geographic location. This is just the beginning of the journey to the hybrid DaaS era!

By Narasimha Krishnakumar, Director, Product Management, End-User Computing, VMware

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VMware Horizon 6 – A Closer Look At Application Remoting

By Warren Ponder, Director of Product Management, End-User Computing, VMware and Pat Lee, Director of End-User Clients, End-User Computing, VMwareToday, I am really excited to share another exciting project I was to be asked to support our team in delivering, with the announcement of Horizon 6. One of the many new capabilities that will be available is application remoting of RDS hosted apps and extended capabilities for RDS based desktops.

There’s been some speculation and many experts have had some really good questions about how, what and why we are doing this so I wanted to provide some color to many of the questions I know people have.

Why Application Remoting now?

Several factors came into play in our decision but the primary factor was customer demand. We spent a lot of time with customers across the globe that included all sizes, levels of expertise, and stages of their journey toward a mobile-cloud vision. We didn’t focus on what we already knew about application remoting, but how customers were actually using app remoting today – what they like, don’t like, and the role they see it playing in the future. We wanted to make sure we understood how their needs around app remoting had evolved so we could introduce the appropriate improvements.

With the increase of mobile devices and cloud services, the mobile-cloud era is upon us. It’s changing the landscape. More than ever customers are looking for simplicity and converged infrastructure. They look to VMware as a strategic partner to deliver SDDC and EUC capabilities supporting their Hybrid Cloud efforts. Working closely with customers it was made clear to us that delivering a single platform that converges virtual desktops, RDS hosted apps, SaaS apps, virtualized ThinApps and even third party solutions such as Citrix XenApp is what customers needed to be successful. This all needs to be possible though a unified workspace that gives their users one place to go for access and consumption.

Building upon what we already have

Some have speculated it would take years for us to build anything serious but that was not the case when adding this capability into VMware Horizon 6 because we had most of what was needed to support App Remoting for some time. Let’s take a look at some of the key components for on-prem or hybrid cloud deployments supporting app remoting:

  • Session Brokering, Load Balancing and Cloud Pods
  • Orchestration
  • Resource bursting, VM migration and Elasticity
  • Image management and provisioning
  • Blast and Blast with PCoIP remoting protocol
  • Broad set of clients for different access devices
  • Monitoring and Management

Integration with RDSH (Remote Desktop Session Host)

Support for RDS or Terminal Server based desktops has always existed in Horizon View. Expanding upon our existing support, we worked closely with Microsoft to build our own protocol provider for RDS. With our own protocol provider we are able to integrate our graphics and protocol stacks such as Blast with PCoIP. This also allows us to eventually enable other remoting capabilities we provide with the Blast user experience on virtual desktops

This is the only proper, supported, way to integrate with Microsoft RDS. Although it’s not an easy undertaking, it provides several benefits. Windows OS and other capabilities unique to RDSH like fair share CPU scheduling, or IP virtualization are all supported. Applications that need session level information, leveraging WTS API’s all work without ISV’s having to do anything special or unfamiliar. Administrators familiar with managing or designing RDSH based desktop or app remoting solutions will feel right at home.

Providing a seamless remoted app experience

A key component of remoting apps is seamless windows. This is the ability to remote one or more applications to the user. Applications should have the behavior and experience of running locally. Two of our personal desktop products, Fusion and Workstation have provided a similar feature for years called Unity. Unity seamlessly integrates applications running in a local VM with the host operating system. Building upon this, we extended it to remotely display applications across networks.

Today, we bring all of our experience making Windows apps run well on multiple platforms with Horizon 6 and deliver an amazing Windows remote application experience for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android users.

From Windows XP SP3 to Windows 8.1 Update 1, the Windows client delivers a great remote application experience for Windows users. With individual applications that have seamless windows in the task bar, jumplist integration and favorites, and the ability to save desktop shortcuts for apps and desktops, the Windows client makes it’s easy to get to your apps and desktops when you want them.

Diagram 1

Mac users get the most seamless way to run remote Windows applications. Use common Mac keyboard shortcuts for cut, copy, and paste. Windows applications show up as individual applications on the dock and you can quit individual Windows applications or open windows using standard Mac keyboard shortcuts. Finally, you can leverage Mission Control to switch to any open Windows application or

window and much more.

Diagram 2

On iOS and Android, swipe to bring up the intuitive sidebar to switch between open application windows, close a specific open window or application, or easily open a new application.

Diagram 3

Integration across Horizon 6

Integration with VMware View is seamless and strait forward. Customers can upgrade existing environments and instantly have the ability to remote RDSH hosted desktops or apps. The only thing needed is the RDSH servers.

View provides ability to create farms, which are groups of RDSH servers hosting apps or desktops. Within View, app pools are created and used to organize application entitlement for users or groups. App Pools can be created automatically using applications discovered across farms. Unique apps that are not registered or started using scripts can also be created manually. Apps can mixed with hosts serving RDSH desktops. Apps can come from multiple farms and a user can also access multiple apps simultaneously.

Users will be able to access their RDS hosted apps or desktops using devices from our broad ecosystem of device partners and the Horizon Client for Windows, Mac, iOS or Android. A client for Linux will also be available soon.

A unified workspace is possible though Horizon Workspace integration. Users can access their SaaS, ThinApps, RDS hosted apps, even apps from Citrix XenApp from one, unified workspace that provides a consistent experience across any device.

Enhanced Management

Need some management? The vCenter Operations team has expanded vCenter operations to include support for RDSH hosts, including integration with PCoIP stats monitoring on a per session basis from RDSH.

Diagram 4

In support of our hybrid cloud delivery, all components of Horizon 6 have been built with a focus on flexibility to ensure that customers can choose on-premise or off-premise or both to deliver a common and consistent experience to their end users from a single Horizon client.

As you can see, a lot of work went into adding this capability to Horizon 6 but we truly believe customers will find that our unified approach and support for all types of applications and desktops can save them time, money and spare them a lot of headaches.

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Microsoft Release Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 Update (previously known as Windows 8.1 S14 Update) on April 8th 2014

Microsoft Release Windows 8.1 Update (previously known as Windows 8.1 S14 Update)

Important updates to the Windows platform: Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Update. With these updates, we continue to refine and improve Windows based on feedback from customers to deliver ongoing value to all their Windows devices. Joe Belfiore post goes into detail on all the awesomeness that’s in Windows Phone 8.1 (Cortana is rad – trust me!) but also gives some great context around our new engineering culture in the Operating Systems Group now that we’re in this mobile-first, cloud-first world. It also underscores how we are moving more quickly to improve the Windows experience for customers. In this post, I wanted to share a little bit more about the update for Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1.

With the current generation of Windows, we made a pretty big bet on touch and mobility. Along with building on top of the strong foundation in Windows 7, we also introduced a brand new approach to the Windows user experience that brought touch to the forefront. Since the original introduction of Windows 8 in 2012, we have been continuously refining the experience, and we are making steady progress. More than 40 percent of Windows PCs at big box retailers, like Windows Stores Only at Best Buy, this past holiday season were touch-enabled – up from only 4 percent a year ago. As Joe Belfiore recently said at Mobile World Congress, customer satisfaction for a device running Windows 8 with touch is actually higher than it was for a PC running Windows 7 without touch. We believe deeply in the notion that delivering a compelling personal and modern experience across all the devices that matter in your life should not mean sacrificing familiarity. Windows 8 and 8.1 were first steps, and we continue to make refinements based on customer and partner feedback.

Last fall, less than a year after we shipped Windows 8, we released Windows 8.1– bringing a large set of customer-driven improvements including the return of the Start button, tutorials, more personalization options, the ability to boot to desktop, improvements to multi-tasking, and more. Today marks the next step as we release a new update for your Windows experience.

The Windows 8.1 Update deliversa collection of refinements designed to give people a more familiar and convenient experience across touch, keyboard and mouse inputs. It also brings improvements for business customers, really accelerates opportunity for developers, and enables device makers to offer lower cost devices.

Easier access to your favourite apps and key controls:

On the Start screen, on select devices you will now find Power and Search buttons at the upper-right corner next to your account picture. You can now more quickly shut down your PC if you need to and do a search right from the Start screen.

If you like using the desktop, you will be happy to know that select devices will now boot to desktop as the default setting. And on your taskbar, you can now pin both desktop apps and apps from the Windows Store as well as your favourite websites. You can now pin any app you want to the taskbar so you can open or switch between apps right from the desktop. I’ve got some of my favourite apps like Xbox Music, Skype, Facebook, Flip board, and Mint pinned to my taskbar. You can also access the taskbar from anywhere when you’re using a mouse; you can see the taskbar on any screen by moving your mouse to the bottom edge of your screen. Just click on any of the apps pinned to your taskbar to open or switch to them.

More familiar mouse and keyboard options:

We’ve made it so your mouse works more consistently anywhere in Windows. If you move your mouse to the top of the screen when using a Windows Store app, you will see the familiar Close and Minimize buttons. And as I mentioned above, when you move your mouse to the bottom of the screen in a Windows Store app, the taskbar comes up.

On the Start screen, if you right-click on an app tile, you will get a context menu next to the app tile that shows you what you can do with the tile, like unpin from Start, pin to the taskbar, change the tile size or even uninstall the app. Right-clicking on an app tile on the Start screen works just like right-clicking on something on the desktop.

Simpler way to find new apps:

After installing the update, you’ll find the Windows Store is now pinned to the taskbar by default so you can easily discover new apps (yes, you can unpin it if you don’t want it there).

And after installing new apps, you’ll notice a message at the lower-left corner of the Start screen that points you to the Apps view so you can see what you recently just installed.

Seamless browsing on all devices:

With today’s update, Internet Explorer 11 adapts your browsing experience by detecting your Windows device and input type – whether an 8-inch touch tablet in portrait mode or a 24-inch desktop with mouse and keyboard. The web is still front-and-center but new design enhancements make your browsing experience feel like it was made just for your device – like the number of tabs on-screen, the size of the fonts and menus. You can also now control when the browser remains on-screen or hides away for full-screen browsing. Check out 22tracksto see these updates in action.

Improvements for business customers: We are introducing several key improvements for businesses such as Enterprise Mode Internet Explorer (EMIE) and extended Mobile Device Management (MDM). EMIE enables Internet Explorer 8 compatibility on Internet Explorer 11 so companies can run existing web-based apps seamlessly on Windows 8.1 devices. And with extended MDM, we are introducing additional policy settings that can be managed with whatever MDM solution an enterprise chooses including whitelisting or blacklisting Windows Store apps and websites. Look for a blog post later today on the Windows for your Business Blog that discusses these in greater detail and a post on the Springboard Series Blogon deployment guidance for the Windows 8.1 Update.

New low cost devices:With the Windows 8.1 Update, we have enabled our hardware partners to build lower cost devices for Windows such as devices with only 1GB RAM and 16GB of storage that provide customers with the experience they expect from a Windows device without sacrificing performance.

We have made the Windows 8.1 Update available today for MSDN subscribers, and will begin to roll it out for free to Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 customers via Windows Update next Tuesday April 8th. For the majority of folks, they will receive the update automatically. If you are still on Windows 8, you can get the Windows 8.1 Update via the Windows Store on April 8th as well.

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Citrix announces availability of XenApp 7.5

Citrix announced the availability of XenApp 7.5, a Windows app delivery solution that delivers apps as a secure mobile service to any device over any network, eliminating the cost and complexity of traditional app management.

XenApp 7.5 app delivery technology is available as a stand-alone product or as a feature of XenDesktop 7.5 app and desktop delivery solution. The new XenApp 7.5 is built on the same FlexCast Management Architecture used in Citrix XenDesktop 7.5, making it easy for IT to manage apps and desktops from an integrated architecture that can easily be deployed both in the cloud and on-premises.

With XenApp, IT can mobilize the workforce while reducing costs through centralized control and enhanced security by providing high performance anywhere access from any device. Only Citrix brings you the power to deliver apps and desktops to a wide range of use cases, empowering the workforce to safely and securely stay productive from anywhere.

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What’s New in XenApp 7.5
New Citrix XenApp 7.5 makes it simple to deliver any Windows app to an increasingly mobile workforce, while leveraging the cost saving and elasticity of hybrid clouds and the security of mobile device management.

5 reasons to move up to XenApp 7.5

New XenApp, simplified and more powerful than ever

Citrix XenApp 7.5 is built on the new FlexCast management architecture that dramatically reduces the costs and complexity of virtualizing five generations of Windows apps and delivering them to users on any mobile, desktop or thin client device.

What is XenApp?

Ease Migration, deployment and streamline operations

  • Reduce the cost and disruption of application migration by hosting 5 generations of Windows apps from the same infrastructure.
  • Speed the time to deploy corporate applications to mobile devices by securely hosting and then optimizing existing applications to be used by tablets and smartphones by taking advantage of new HDX mobile technology.
Citrix HDX Mobile Technology (1:20)
  • The full power of AppDNA is now included with XenApp – AppDNA reduces the time to virtualize apps for mobile delivery by automating the labor required to test and remediate applications by up to 90%, saving thousands of person- hours during application migrations and on-going lifecycle management.
Accelerate application migration projects
  • Streamline IT operations by offering one console with scope and role delegated administration for configuration and deployment tasks built 100% on powershell for easy workflow scripting.
  • EdgeSight user experience monitoring built-in to Director and integrated with NetScaler HDX Insights ensuring critical performance data capture without putting additional load on the network.
Management and Monitoring with Director & EdgeSite

Flex, grow, transform your virtual app and desktop infrastructure

Enable enterprise IT to flex, grow, or transform their virtual app and desktop infrastructure without additional capex by leveraging the elasticity and economics of the world’s biggest and most powerful clouds.

  • Provisioning to cloud infrastructure – Only XenDesktop can provision application or desktop workloads to private or public cloud infrastructure alongside a traditional virtual infrastructure deployment.
  • Any cloud – Support through Amazon Web Services or any Citrix Cloud Platform-based public cloud or a private cloud built with Citrix Cloud Platform. Support through Windows Azure will be available in the future.
Hybrid cloud provisioning with XenApp and XenDesktop

Mobility Promotion

Citrix is offering a limited time promotion offering free XenMobile MDM edition or 20% off of XenMobile Enterprise edition. Mobile Device Management is a technology that every organization should extend to their employees to ensure the full connectedness and potential of mobile devices without the risk of compromised networks or data loss.

Understanding Enterprise MDM
Learn more about the Citrix Mobility Promotion

Extended Web Interface support

Web Interface support is extended for XenDesktop 7.5 allowing IT to maintain their existing Web Interface investment throughout the migration to the new FlexCast management architecture.

Connector for Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager

With the new Citrix Connector for XenApp you can maximize your System Center Configuration Manager 2012 and 2012 R2 investments to reduce management costs. Use the connector to deploy applications across your Citrix environment, publish applications to all devices and take full advantage of Citrix image management features.

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