Alternatives to Citrix Presentation Server (Part 2)

by [Published on 10 July 2007 / Last Updated on 10 July 2007]

In this part we will discuss the alternatives 2X ApplicationServer, Ericom PowerTerm WebConnect and Jetro COCKPIT.

If you would like to read the other articles in this series please go to:

Introduction

In the first article we went back to the start of SBC technology and why Citrix is the biggest player in this market. We also described the first set of alternatives. In this article we will discuss the alternatives 2X ApplicationServer, Ericom PowerTerm WebConnect and Jetro COCKPIT.

2X ApplicationServer

From one of the oldest SBC products we move on to one of the latest products that has entered the market. After 2X released SBC related products like the 2X ThinClient Server and 2X LoadBalancer, they took the step into the Terminal Server domain.

When you first begin using 2X you will probably double-check the size of the installation file. Instead of the massive installation sources we are used to nowadays, the installation is only one single file of around 5 MB. During installation you can choose a single 2X ApplicationServer or Multiple servers. Logically we will use the multiple server option for this article.

Configuration is done using a central console, where you should add the server into the console. A nice option is the possibility of grouping servers. The groups can be used to add applications to a set of servers easily (for example when using the silo concept). The load balancer can be set in two modes. Round Robin is similar to Microsoft Network Load Balancing, but the second type is resource based. The Resource Based mode is based on three possible counters: User Sessions, Memory and CPU.

2X has already predefined some Published Applications, which can be set up with two mouse clicks. Also a neat option is being able to drag an executable or shortcut into the console and the software automatically creates a published application with default settings. A published application has filter options to show the application based on client IP addresses and client names. 2X ApplicationServer has limited monitoring options. You can configure notifications via e-mail or message boxes when some counters rise above the configured value. Also a log file can be created containing performance counters and activities handled by the software.

What you should remember is that only one console can be used to configure the settings for all your servers. On this machine all your settings are also saved, so this is a potential Single Point of Failure (cold standby solution supported by 2X).

2X has provided a client for Windows, Linux and MAC clients to connect to the servers. The default behavior was a little surprising, because it hides the default client when you start a Published Application, but this can be changed within the client options. Nothing very fancy in the client, it is doing what it is made for, with seamless windows and access to the local resources. Implementation of a portal is extremely simple, just copy the 2X web directory on your web server and you are finished.

All of the alternatives discussed are (much) cheaper than Citrix Presentation Server, but 2X is really inexpensive.

Advantages:

  • Small installation package (with unattended options), easy administration;
  • Client support for Windows, MAC and Linux;
  • Very affordable.

Disadvantages:

  • One load balancer configurable;
  • Configuration is only available in one console.

Ericom PowerTerm WebConnect

Ericom is known for their client that connects to almost every legacy host system. For the past few years Ericom has also concentrated on the SBC market with their PowerTerm WebConnect product. What was truly remarkable was that this software was the first 64bit ready SBC product. Their latest version is 5.5.1 which had several add-ons comparable to their previous version.

The product is comprised of a server component, a terminal server agent, load balancer, a portal and a client. The server component can be installed on Windows or (L)Unix. The component can have a redundant configuration in order to avoid a single point of failure.

Within the console you can configure your Terminal Server environment and also the connections to the legacy systems. But let us concentrate on the SBC part. First thing you will notice is it the console looks different than “normal” Windows consoles. You will mostly use the menu bar.

Ericom supports Published Desktop, Published Content and Published Applications. Within the Publishing wizard you can use the start menu (or just browse to the executable) to select the applications; you can also choose that the client first looks locally on the system for the application content. If the application is not available the Published Application will be started. Ericom has another nice feature called Publish Multiple Windows Application. With this feature the complete start menu will be read and by clicking the shortcuts all those are published in the product. Ericom also supports desktop integration by allowing the addition of shortcuts to the desktop and start menu. In the latest version direct Active Directory integration has been added, so you can add AD groups to the Published Application.

PowerTerm WebConnect has one load balancer, which can monitor CPU, Memory, Sessions or an (adjustable) combination of those counters. They are configured from a separate console. New in the latest version of Ericom PowerTerm WebConnect is the addition of third party products for a universal printer solution (Tricerat Screwdrivers) and CPU/Memory management using RTO TS Scale Advanced (Citrix is using a smaller version of RTO CPU/Memory management). Monitoring can be done out of the console on several levels. Ericom differs between user sessions and administration sessions. An intruder detection monitor is also included; where failed attempts are stored. Of course shadowing (using VNC) is available. A nice addition to the send message system is the option that allows the user to reply to the message. Ericom stores information about the usage of the servers in a CSV based file. So reporting can be done using an additional tool (like MS Excel).

Clients can connect via a client or the portal component. Also RSA tokens can be used. The client has some nice options like being able to ask for assistance from IT personnel (divided in two groups). Simple but clever is the option to add (or remove) the client to the startup folder using the options within the client.  Ericom has clients for Windows, L(Unix) and Windows CE.

Advantages:

  • PowerTerm WebConnect support besides SBC functionally for all kinds of legacy host servers.
  • Nice features like reply option to send message, SSL support within the products, and handy client features.
  • True Seamless Windows support.

Disadvantages:

  • Administrator Guide is written with a technical background
  • Administration consoles are not convenient
  • Reporting can be improved

Jetro COCKPIT

Jetro has its origin in Israel and their product has been in the market for quite some time now.

The product has a central server component that runs on Internet Information Server. COCKPIT server functionality can be implemented in a clustered solution so no Single Point of Failure is created. For the Terminal Servers there is a single MSI installation file for the agent. One of the servers should also host the role Directory Connector to communicate with Active Directory. Jetro also has its own universal printer component that supports both EMF and PDF based printing.

The administration console is web based, so you can administrator your Jetro environment from any machine. You need to add the server manually to the console and they are disabled by default. Because of the web based console I personally find the configuration less convenient then the other products. Jetro works with security policies which are also used for assigning rights to the Published Applications. In this way you can also deny access to an application for a special group of users. A nice option is application scheduling. With this feature you can assign time when the application can be started. Jetro supports Published Applications and Published Desktops. Desktop integration is also available.

Jetro has the most extensive load balancer of all products. Every Windows Performance counter can be used in Load Balancing. Each counter can be given a weight for the total load balancing. This total value will be translated to three states: low, medium, high, where you can define which level will be reached and when. Although the configuration is much extended this can also make it pretty difficult to configure your load balancing policies.

Jetro has good monitoring and reporting functionality. In the monitoring option you can see the current activity on your servers via queries. Reports can also be created using queries.

During client startup a Terminal Server is contacted. Because of this behavior it takes some time before the applications are displayed. But if the selected application is available on that server (and has the lowest load balancing value) starting up the application is done very quickly. The Seamless Windows capacity is average compared to the other products, but convenient for most environments.

Advantages:

  • Additional features available like Printing solution and the scheduling feature;
  • The product is well documented;
  • Web based console can be used from every system.

Disadvantages:

  • Assigning applications to users is not intuitive using security policies;
  • Client is automatically logging the user on one of the Terminal Servers;
  • Console is not always convenient.

Conclusion

In this second article some more alternatives were described. In the following article Provision Networks and Genuit Thinworx will be described. Also a brief overview to some other alternatives, pointers to more information and a summary will be found within the final article in this Citrix Alternatives series.

If you would like to read the other articles in this series please go to:

The Author — Wilco van Bragt

Wilco van Bragt avatar

After working for a couple of consulting firms as a senior technical consultant and technical project leader Wilco started his own freelance company VanBragt.Net Consultancy in April 2008. Wilco is certified n Citrix (CCIA, CCEE/CCEA, CCA), Microsoft (MCITP, MCTS, MSCE, MSCA) and Prince2 (Foundation). Wilco is also a RSVP (RES Software Valued Professional), Citrix CTP (Citrix Technology Professional) and a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) on RDS.

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