Deep Dive: Citrix App Layering in Microsoft Azure


Jeff Mitchell, Cloud Solution Architect, One Commercial Partner

Last week, Microsoft Cloud Solution Architect Jeff Mitchell detailed the multiple VDI deployment options for Citrix solutions on Microsoft Azure—including virtual apps, desktops, data and networking (read the article). This week, Jeff offers an overview of Citrix App Layering on Azure, which can help you manage your applications and operating systems regardless of which hypervisor or provisioning service you use.

For more details about Citrix Cloud on Azure, join the Applications and Infrastructure Community call on Friday, January 19.

Citrix App Layering is an application management platform that provides hypervisor and provisioning service obscurity through separating the management of apps, operating system, and infrastructure. Traditionally, deployment of golden images was the preferred method for multiple user roles within the organization. Sure, golden images are great and served their purpose, however it introduces yet another management layer just for the golden images. App layering provides easy management of applications across images and the ability to deploy the layered image across any hypervisor in the datacenter.

Layered images

Layered images are built consisting of OS, Platform, and Application Layers to provide the complete desktop experience for a user group:

  • OS Layer - The OS Layer contains the operating system software and settings. All Platform and App Layers are packaged and tied to the applicable OS layer. Therefore, it is recommended to have one OS layer per OS (i.e. Windows 10, Windows Server 2016, etc.) and to build this layer according to Citrix leading practices.
  • Platform Layer - Platform Layers are typically comprised of the provisioning tools, broker tools and domain join. This layer is the highest priority layer, so its settings override the settings contained in all other layers.
  • App Layer - At the App Layer we can have one or more applications in a single layer. As a rule of thumb, you should be putting each application into a separate layer with exceptions based on how the application is updated. For example, if you have a suite of apps installed as a group through the same package, they would go in the same layer. An example of this would be Microsoft Office. If one of your apps has a prerequisite that may be updated separately, they should each get their own layer. Application Layers can be included in a Layered Image or deployed through Elastic Layering at user logon.

Layered Image(s) are published using Image Templates where you save your layer selections for a particular use. Using layered images, you can transport your on-premises images to Azure by creating a new Platform Layer for Azure. For example, you can have a layered image comprised of a Windows 2016 OS Layer, Hyper-V Platform Layer, and the relevant Application Layers. By creating a new Azure Platform Layer, you can reuse your OS and Applications Layers in Azure—centralized management of your images in hybrid cloud!

Citrix App Layering also lets you create User Layers. User Layers let you persist user profile settings, data, and user-installed applications in non-persistent VDI environments of Windows 7 or Windows 10. An Office 365 User Layer also exists for Citrix App Layering 4.8 or later, enabling the persistence of Microsoft Outlook files.

App Layering considerations with Azure

  • Network File Share – Use premium disk here when building your share. Azure File Service is not supported.
  • ARM – App Layering is supported with ARM but not with ASM (Azure Classic deployment model)
  • Start with 350-500GB Premium Storage disk on the App Layering Appliance. It’s the cloud you can dynamically grow here.

For more information on recommended practices for Citrix App Layering, review these Citrix resources: App Layering 4.x Best Practices and Citrix App Layering Lessons Learned.

Community call

If you'd like to hear more on this topic, register for the Applications and Infrastructure Community call on Friday, January 19. The call will provide insight into what is most important in the Microsoft partner ecosystem. We'll have a conversational dialogue between two technology professionals that is designed to appeal to technical, sales, and business professionals. One presenter will discuss Citrix on Azure from an infrastructure perspective, the other from an application development perspective.

For those of you looking for additional deep dive, join myself and Citrix Enterprise Architect Kevin Nardone on Thursday, February 1st to hear the top lessons learned when deploying Citrix on Azure. Webinar registration will open next Friday; however, you can visit bit.ly/CitrixTIPs now to subscribe to the series and receive notification once it goes live. At the conclusion of the event, Kevin and I will open the line for Q&A to answer your cloud questions, live!

Register for the January 19 Community call

Register for the Citrix TIPs webinar and Q&A 

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