Yet another experience posting: Citrix XenDesktop 4 Express - part 1

Two months ago, I heard Citrix was giving away a free VDI version called XenDesktop Express for a maximum of 10 users. The general idea is that you can experience the Citrix product advantages without investing anything but time and hardware. I downloaded it but didn’t have time to actually get some hands-on experience until last Wednesday.

I had some time on my hands and I got this crazy idea: why not try out XenDesktop for kicks. So I unpacked the ZIP file with the ISO’s, a license file and an idiotproof instruction video. In all my enthousiasm, I installed a Windows 2008 server on my VMware host, uploaded the Citrix Desktop Controller ISO to my ISO store and mounted it. First disappointment: a screen informing me that this product ONLY works on a Windows 2003 server. Excuse me? This is supposed to be modern technology and it only runs on a 8 year old platform?

OK, so back to the drawing board. Watch the vid first. It starts with an installation of XenServer, which I don’t need as a virtual platform is already in place. I skipped the XenServer part and moved to the Xen Desktop Controller installation. The vid states “for this example we use a Windows 2003 server..”. It never states you CANNOT RUN it on a Windows 2008 server. Ah well, let’s not criticize all the small details. Moving on, start the installation of XDC. Erm, I’m not quite there yet. I first need to build me a 2003 server. I already deleted all ancient ISO’s from my ISO store so I need to put one up first.

So, I uploaded a Windows 2003 ISO, installed a fresh new server and started again. The installation procedure first installs IIS as part of it’s requirements (webaccess) but then it starts installing the various components. After installing the prerequisites, the license server and the webaccess server, I am confronted with this:

How I love errors like this. It really reminds of you of the old days, in more ways than one. (Personally, I always read errors like this as a ‘fuck you’ message, they piss me off) And it really was becoming the old days. I dived into this nice-to-find and easy-to-read logfile (8 megs of plain text lines to scroll through) to find the following message:

  • Saturday, March 27, 2010 13:57:30: Installation of MSI File ‘Z:\w2k3\en\Citrix Presentation Server\MPS.msi’ failed with code ‘1603’

  • Saturday, March 27, 2010 13:57:30: Failed to install component ‘Citrix Desktop Delivery Controller’

  • Saturday, March 27, 2010 13:57:30: Recording installation failure from component ‘Citrix Desktop Delivery Controller’

  • Saturday, March 27, 2010 13:57:30: Installation failed

Excuse me? Presentation Server? How oldschool is this?! Anyway, if you dig into the eventlogs of the server, you find even more ancient artifacts:

  • Product: Citrix Presentation Server for Windows – Error 1904. Module C:\Program Files\Citrix\system32\icaperf.dll failed to register.  HRESULT -2147220991.  Contact your support personnel.

Jolly, I am my own support personnel, gents.. not cool. If you search the net for this message, it turns up nada. If you dig a bit deeper, it seems that it has to do with the good old Windows performance counters errors, language settings and acces rights. The articles I found are all dated back to the day that Windows 2003 was all new and most of us still ran Windows 2000., one site you probably all know, even pointed me to fixed that are not available any longer.

Anyway, as the other boys know me, I’m not a person known for his unlimited patience. In fact, it’s more the opposite. So I will put this project aside for now until I find the motivation to give it another go. There are some things that I’d like to point out though:

  • The ‘instruction video’ states you should be finished within 90 minutes. After nerding around for at least 4 hours, it still is far from up and running. So much for that statement
  • The message about “Presentation Server” brought me back to the old days of Citrix. Finding this message in ‘modern’ technology makes me go ‘hmm’ about Citrix clean-up policy in their installation packages.
  • Also, the requirement of Windows 2003 points out, in my opinion, that this product isn’t the latest technology around
  • Even with no configuration at all and all settings done in the ’next-next-finish" way, this ’easy to install’ package is certainly not as easy. Searching the net doesn’t point you to an immediate solution apart from alot of forum messages at Citrix where the majority of the offered solutions require you to do some manual (or even programming) labour.

I must say that it is pretty disappointing. Even with Citrix in cooperation with Microsoft in their ‘V-Alliance’ are moving up to position their VDI solution based on this XenDesktop, this product, to me, looks far from ’the razors edge’ of technique.

Now I know that all you Citrix lovers out there will want to hunt me down and shoot me for this, but my experience here is pretty clear. It looks like it that in a extremely simple straight forward ’next-next-finish’ scenario with a product to propagate a VDI solution, it simply fails to do the most basic thing: installing..

I will try to troubleshoot this and get back to you all with my experiences.

…to be continued..