Citrix Hones Terminal Servers Farm Skills

Harvests higher performance in NT/2000 fields.

Terminal Server for Windows isnt the only game in town anymore for managing large Windows server farms. Citrix Systems Inc.s MetaFrame XPe 1.0 extends Terminal Server to allow better network resource management.

Now more than ever, companies need to share data among heterogeneous architectures. And with the rise in remote and mobile additions to company environments, wireless access to data is a must. MetaFrame XPe provides data sharing and wireless access capabilities that Terminal Server alone cannot. MetaFrame is not designed to replace Terminal Server but runs with it to extend the capabilities of Windows servers.

eWeek Labs tests showed companies running Windows server environments will gain more flexibility by using MetaFrame XPe, without drastic changes in architecture. MetaFrame XPe also integrates into third-party SNMP consoles.

MetaFrame XPes ease of use and lower IT costs will justify its price for larger sites that need more flexibility and the tighter centralized management that Terminal Server allows. For other companies, however, Terminal Servers compelling price—its free with Windows NT and Windows 2000 Server—makes it the only choice.

At $350 per user connection, MetaFrame XPe, which was released in March, is priced comparably with other farm managers. MetaFrame XPe 1.0, Citrixs first enterprise-level release, does not support Solaris and Unix servers, although client Solaris and Unix machines are supported and can transfer files using MetaFrame XPe software.

By contrast, Tarantella Inc.s Enterprise 3 supports Solaris, Linux and Unix servers but only Windows clients. Hummingbird Ltd.s Genio Suite supports Windows, Unix and Solaris servers but falls short of MetaFrame XPes file transfer performance and scalability in large environments.

Terminal Server allows IT managers to administer and share information on Windows server farms. However, managers must purchase additional software to analyze and monitor data, and managing this software can become a burden using the base Terminal Server management utilities.

MetaFrame XPes speedy server and application deployment methods, able monitoring tools, and centralized management—which gives administrators single-point control of system resources—make it worth a look by administrators of large networks. Competing products provide centralized management and file transfer capabilities but cant match MetaFrame XPes monitoring tools and ease of application deployment.

We tested MetaFrame XPe on a network of five Windows 2000 servers and multiple clients using Windows 98 and Windows 2000 Professional. Installation on the main server was a bit tedious; we had to run six CDs to install the necessary software for user restrictions and application management. However, this seems to be the norm for most management packages.

After the initial setup was finished, we added the other servers using the automated deployment feature, new in this version, which can save IT time for large-scale deployments. The automated deployment feature can be used to deliver applications to all necessary clients and servers.

Even novice administrators will find the management consoles intuitive interface easy to use. The included monitoring and analysis tools provided real-time monitoring and alerting in tests, as well as logging reports and usage analysis. This tool is not as savvy and flexible as third-party wares such as Telemate.Net Software Inc.s NetSpective, but it also doesnt cost extra.

MetaFrame XPe includes a pair of features that arent found in many applications: enhanced printer management and client time-zone support. The printer management feature allows administrators to manage user resources with tools enabling print driver replication and client printer compatibility. Time-zone support allows real-time updates to resources in any time zone, ensuring accuracy of records and appointments.