Dutch CUGC: March 2023 Meeting Recap

NOTE: This blog was also posted on the now defunct MyCUGC.org site on May 22nd, 2023.

On March 22nd 2023, it was time for the bi-annual meetup of the Dutch Citrix User Group (DuCUG). Since it was another great edition, I wanted to give everyone a recap of it.

It started once again around 9:15 with DuCUG crewmember Niek Boevink doing his usual opening with the agenda, the mentioning of the sponsors (ControlUp, Liquidware, RawWorks, Nutanix, ThinScale, eG Innovations, Orange Business, etc.) and the evaluation of the previous edition.

Since DuCUG events are made possible by sponsors (which also is the reason why it is a free event), logically there are a lot of sponsor session. Although that doesn’t bother me because the sponsors know all the attendees are not there to listen to sales and marketing talk. For the most part they manage to keep it technical while still showing off new functions and improvements.

On to the sessions: First up was Stefan Pieters (@stefanpi), who has been a Citrix employee for 18 years now and he is currently part of the ShareFile team. He talked about the acquisition and history of ShareFile as well as the current portfolio and its roadmap. He did a demo of a new feature, but this is covered by an NDA, so that’s about as much as I can tell/type about it, other than that it is a cool feature. I haven’t worked with ShareFile a lot, but it does seem to be a much bigger and feature rich product then what it was when Citrix acquired it.

eG Innovations was next, which have been a sponsor of DuCUG for a while now. Erik van Veenendaal was on stage again with his session ‘How end-to-end monitoring increases efficiency in IT’. He walked us through how eG innovations can provide you with end-to-end monitoring (and show you the entire chain) and how it’s essential for monitoring your (virtual desktop) environment properly.
eG Innovations also offer a free logon simulator that now supports multiple MFA options (so no creating security leaks when creating test users). Other new features include an auto correct for VDA registration and support for Linux VDI machines.
They also added monitoring capabilities for:
– Microsoft Teams optimization
– Azure AD application registrations
– IGEL devices
– Zoom (service status for example)
– Physical desktops
– FSLogix (not just capacity monitoring, also the mounting of the virtual disks)
There is a free trial available that you should really try (if you haven’t already).
Once again a good session by Erik.

Time for the first coffee break, with another ‘Bossche bol’ (see previous recaps for a picture and a description). I am not a fan myself, but seeing as to how quick they are gone, the other attendees certainly are. These breaks are also a very good moment to network and catch up with old colleagues and acquaintances.

After the break, Kees Baggerman and Niek Boevink took the stage. Both are part of the DuCUG crew and have a wealth of experience in the field of virtualization. They gave a session called: ‘Public cloud, a means to an end, not a goal’ (loosely translated). I have been saying the same thing for years, but you still see a lot of business moving to the cloud just for the sake of moving to the cloud, usually with the expectation that it solves all their problems overnight. But it doesn’t.
Niek and (business-) Kees highlighted the fact that moving to the cloud also requires new core skills and brings along new challenges (like vendor lock-ins). The presentation described the most relevant (current) Customer Cloud Adoption Modes:
On-Prem (Operating own datacentres, running apps on legacy infrastructure)
Modern On-Prem (Running apps on modernized infra on-prem, complementing with public cloud services)
Cloud First (Running legacy workloads on-prem and new workloads directly in public cloud)
When moving to the cloud it’s vital to have a cloud strategy instead of just to wing it.
They also introduced us (well, me at least) to eXperience Level Agreements (XLA’s). A new norm described by NEN (Nederlands Normalisatie Instituut – Dutch Normalisation Institute) that puts the focus on the user experience (link – currently only in Dutch) instead of the usual uptime and level of service that current Service-Level Agreements bring.

These XLA’s consist of a commitment to create a defined experience for the user as well as linking the technical performance with the customers perception (think of the dreaded ‘it works fine on my end’).
A ’measurement’ of an environment results in a so-called Employee eXperience Score (EXS) on a scale of 1 to 10.
It sound like a very good idea, although the norm is still a concept and not yet definitive. I’m also curious how a user’s perception (since these can be very personal and subjective) can be translated to a single score. Probably more to come on this topic.
One of the most important quotes of the presentation however is one that everyone should remember when dealing with EUC: ‘User experience is your number one metric’.

After Kees and Niek it was up to the first international speaker to do his session. Saša Petrović (Citrix) gave a session called ‘Single-Session vs. Multi-Session – TCO comparison of non-persistent desktop deployments’. This was a very interesting one since you see many companies moving to VDI from or instead of SBC, while VDI is a lot more expensive. This session made the cost-comparison between each (non-persistent) solution in a thorough way combining virtual machine, operational and licensing costs (Total Cost of Ownership).
Saša divided it up into five solution types, each based on 10.000 users:
1. On premises single-session
2. On premises multi-session
3. Public cloud single-session
4. Public cloud multi-session (Server OS)
5. Public cloud multi-session (Client OS)
He used the rule of 5 and 10, which is 5 users per core on single-session and 10 users per core on multi-session.
I won’t go into every detail, but as expected solution number 2 was the cheapest and solution number 3 the most expensive. More interesting though was that the other solutions (1, 4 and 5) are close cost-wise. That being said: Every environment unique and must be assessed individually. Also support for Microsoft 365 Apps on Windows Server 2022 ends in 2026, so you might be ‘forced’ to single-session when running on premises.
This was a very good session that went into almost every detail (much further than I’m outlining here) and I hope Saša will update this session from time-to-time and maybe give a virtual presentation for MyCUGC.

After this session it was time for lunch. The location (The Duikenburg in Echteld) always provides very good catering and this time was no exception. Also, if you have any special dietary requirements, they are happy to help.

With lunch finished Dave Brett took the stage with his session ’10 quick wins for red team testing’. Any security related session is usually a good one, because they give new insights into vulnerabilities and exploits that hackers can use to access your environment.
After a short introduction (but how doesn’t know Dave Brett?) we got an explanation what a red team is and a notice that the topics in his presentation are all based on real world examples.
I am not going to list every item in this presentation (I’m guessing he will give this presentation more than once), but some overlooked once are worth mentioning:
– Remove and block access to insecure ports (port 80)
– Gain central control of certificate expiration
– Don’t forget about patching applications (instead of just the operating systems)
– Command Line Interfaces are usually the first thing red teams will go after
– Enable PowerShell logging and transcription
– Consider other parts of the business being not as secure as you
– Audit your groups often and ensure ‘critical’ groups are protected
A lot of the examples mentioned by Dave come down to people (regular users as well as support staff and administrators) being lazy. Just be mindful when working in a customer’s environment.
Good session with new insights I can take back to the environments I’m responsible for.

And now for something completely different: Every IT event should have at least one ‘fun’ session. This can be in the way it’s presented, by anecdotes given by the presenter(s) or the topic itself. The DuCUG organization managed to get Martijn Hoogesteger to do a presentation, who is one of the Digital Forensic Investigators of the Dutch TV program Hunted. In this program five sets of two people will do anything to stay ‘under the radar’, while the programs search-team (which includes people that worked for Dutch intelligence) will stop at nothing to find them. While being proportional and taking the contestants privacy into account of course (they are not real criminals after all).
Martijn went through several examples of how they managed to find the contestants and the mistakes they made along the way. They found old devices of the contestants for example and used them to gain access to their (personal) cloud accounts. This gave them enough information to get a pretty precise location. Or they sent them wrong information to get them to react in a certain way.
One fun remark was that the current European GDPR laws help them, because once you have hacked a cloud account, you can download all the available data at once and search through it.
Really fun session and good show to watch (link).

Next up was a sponsor session by Liquidware called ‘What makes a workspace modern and how do you manage it?’ (loosely translated once again). You can find Liquidware really at every Dutch IT event, but that might cause the presentations to seem a bit repetitive. But still, Andreas van Wingerden does a good job by outlining new features and how these can help to improve your application and image management. To me it looks good in a demo environment. But maybe next time Liquidware could bring along a customer that has been using the products for a while to share their experiences with it (sadly I don’t have any customers that use it right now, but I’m curious what the real-life experiences are).

Now it was time for the presentation ‘Cloud cost optimization with Citrix Analytics’ by Christian Schwendemann. Christian is a Principal Product Marketing Manager for Citrix. He started of comparing the available Citrix tooling for EUC environments. These consist of:
Administrator and helpdesk troubleshooting console.
HDX insight
HDX traffic monitoring through Citrix ADC.
Application Delivery Management
Monitoring & management tool for ADC & Web-App analytics.
Provides analytics across products as well as guidance.

Christian walked through four different situations where Citrix Analytics provided insights that weren’t available (or not easy to ascertain) with other tooling. In the situations user experience was sub-optimal which resulted in less productivity or the environment was under-utilized and inefficient which resulted in more costs.
As with other presentations the focus was once again on user experience and Citrix Analytics can help to improve this. Christian ended with a live demo of the product (there is also a trial available) which also works with on premises workloads (although you do need Citrix Cloud).
The last session of the day was by Sridhar Mullapudi who is the General Manager of Citrix. This was more of a conference call then a presentation. He talked about the return of the NetScaler and XenServer names (which is a very good development in my opinion) and the current Citrix marketing strategy. Rather than pushing every customer to Citrix Cloud they plan to focus more on the ability to run hybrid setups wherever and however you like. So the old ‘anywhere, anytime, any place’ gets expanded with ‘any configuration’.
Sridhar also showcased some other new features, but these are still under NDA I believe, so I will not go into them.
He ended with the possibility to asks question, which was nice. It’s not often someone higher up is available for questions, unless you are a CTP of course.

By now it was already late in the afternoon, so Niek took the stage once again and thanked everybody for attending and of course each presenter for their time and effort. There is always some sort of prize draw by the sponsors which results in a couple of attendees getting cool stuff or swag. It wasn’t me this time sadly.
The last couple of years they added to possibility to stay for a nice diner, which of course (being Dutch) I did.

The DuCUG organization once again set up a great event. This was the 20th or 22nd edition (Niek said 20th, the website says 22nd) and there are still more to come and they have no signs of stopping. Bram Wolfs, Niek Boevink, Kees Baggerman, Remko Weijnen, Wilco van Bragt and Barry Schiffer: Thank you, you guys rock!


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