2X ApplicationServer: Applications at the Speed of Cheap

If you're looking for a way to beat the high cost of application publishing, look no more, 2X has it under control.

What’s better than saving money on a required technology? If you can find something, let me know. I want in. Application publishing through Citrix XenApp is expensive and difficult. XenApp is difficult to install and setup. And, it’s not easy to publish applications. With no experience, you can download 2X ApplicationServer for Windows Terminal Services (2XAS) and publish applications within minutes. Try that with Citrix. 2XAS comes complete with no dependencies. No java required. No IIS required. No .NET required. And, no hassle required.

Sure, you have to use Windows Terminal Services (WTS) but on the client side, you’re free to use Windows, Mac, and Linux. Now, you can satisfy the “corporate standard” by using Windows applications and satisfy your need to be free by using them on your Linux desktop. That’s almost as good as the cost savings, isn’t it?

Note: This demonstration doesn’t include configuration of the 2X ApplicationServer. It’s a very simple installation but out of scope for this article which focuses on the Linux side of things.

The Basics

For this demonstration, I used a Windows Server 2003 virtual machine (VM) patched to the latest level using Windows Update for the application server. On the client side, my trusty Ubuntu 10.10 GNOME workstation. I downloaded the software from 2X. You may download, install, and use the 2XAS software on a single Windows Server at no cost. This software allows three simultaneous connections.

On the client side, you’ll need to download the client software and install it on your Linux system. 2X has RPM, DEB, and a zipped package available. For this demonstration, I use the zipped package. Your mileage may vary with the packages but the zipped version works across all distributions but with no automatic desktop integration. You have to install it manually.

Installing and Configuring the 2X Client

Download and install the 2X client package or unzip and untar the zipped package. The package unzips into your home directory under opt/2X/Client. Under the Client directory, you have four directories: bin, doc, scripts, and share. The installation script, and uninstall script, is in the scripts directory. Launch the install.sh script with elevated (root) privileges.

$ sudo ./install.sh
Finalising settings .... Done

Setup is going to install/update 2X SingleSignOn component.
When this component is installed your credentials will be used automatically.

Do you want to install this component (yes|no)? [yes]: no

I chose to bypass the single sign-on component of the 2X client. If you’re installing 2X ApplicationServer into a large environment, you might want to use it. The 2X Client installs into your graphical menus under Internet but it won’t work quite yet, so don’t bother launching it. Before you can launch it sucessfully, you’ll have to copy the 2X Client tree to /opt.

$ sudo cp -pR opt /

Now, the 2X client is in the expected location for the application. Alternatively, you can untar the package with root privileges in the / directory so that it installs correctly.

Launch the 2XClient and begin configuration. When you first launch the client, you’re prompted to setup a new configuration as shown in Figure 1. You’ll find that setting up a 2X connection is very similar to setting up an RDP connection.

Figure 1: The 2X Client New Connection Wizard
Figure 1: The 2X Client New Connection Wizard

Click the Yes button to continue. Enter the details of your Application Server as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: 2X Client Connection Properties
Figure 2: 2X Client Connection Properties

Before you click OK, select the Local Resources tab and make your selections for sound, keyboard, display, and devices. See Figure 3.

Figure 3: 2X Client Local Resources Setup
Figure 3: 2X Client Local Resources Setup

Select the Experience tab and make selections based on your connectivity between the 2X client system and 2X server as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: 2X Client Remote Desktop Experience
Figure 4: 2X Client Remote Desktop Experience

Select the Network tab and enter your proxy server, if any, parameters. See Figure 5.

Figure 5: 2X Client Proxy Server Setup
Figure 5: 2X Client Proxy Server Setup

Finally, select the Advanced Settings tab and make the appropriate selections. Note: Don’t be put off by the odd spellings on the menus. Obviously, the people who wrote the software have a strong British* influence. Be sure to select Create shortcuts configured on server to create a new menu entry that contains the server’s published applications. Click OK, when finished as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6: 2X Client Advance Settings
Figure 6: 2X Client Advance Settings

When the setup wizard completes, your 2X client is setup for your 2X server. All published applications will appear in the right-hand pane for you on a per server basis. I setup a Windows Server 2003 Desktop and Internet Explorer on the 2XAS that I created. See Figure 7.

Figure 7: The Completed 2X Client Connection Profile
Figure 7: The Completed 2X Client Connection Profile

Using the 2X Client

Now that you’ve finished the 2X Client setup wizard, the published applications appear in your Applications menu under their own entry: 2X Remoted Desktops & Applications. See Figure 8.

Figure 8: 2X Application Server Published Application Entries
Figure 8: 2X Application Server Published Application Entries

These entries are quite handy for quick launch, since you don’t have to find the 2X Client entry, and then launch the application or desktop that you want. To see an example of a published application running on the Linux desktop, refer to Figure 9.

Figure 9: Internet Explorer Running on Linux
Figure 9: Internet Explorer Running on Linux

I know it seems that I’m violating a sacred trust by placing Internet Explorer onto a Linux desktop but you have to see it from the perspective of my renegade spirit. To setup a 2XAS and to run Linux on the desktop, I’ve bypassed the requirement to run a Windows operating system. No, this type of rebellion isn’t the best use of your resources but it proves a point: That you don’t have to have your hands tied in any environment.

Beyond the sheer rebellious bent of this article, you have to appreciate the practical aspect of it. Let the data center hold the servers, common applications, storage, and centralized management regardless of operating system. And, let the desktop become a free, secure, non-virus susceptible, flexible operating system that can run Windows applications and desktops as required.

* And, they talk funny too.

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