by Alice Goldstein
Daniel Feller, Lead Citrix Architect, has built and led a team of technical experts to be the source of best practices for Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop solutions. Each best practice is based on real customer deployments, lab testing and product analysis.
CUGC HQ: Are there specific bloggers or conferences that help you stay up to date on mobility?
You can’t go wrong with most CTP blogs, but I usually end up reading Helge Klein, Marius Sandbu, Bas (Sebastiaan) van Kaam, Nick Ratalan and Microsoft blogs about RDS, VDI, RemoteApp, HoloLens, Band. For conferences, besides Citrix, of course, I attend Microsoft Ignite. Last year’s Ignite was awesome when they demoed the concept of Continuum. I can go from my phone to my tablet and to a PC and it’s the same interface except it will adjust itself whether I am on touch or keyboard. It’s really cool and you think back to Chris Fleck who had this concept ages ago with the Nirvana phone. It was a phone ahead of its time. You could plug your phone into a docking station, hook it up to a monitor, and connect your desktop or app. You use your phone as a PC, and it just works.
CUGC HQ: What groups are you working with at Microsoft?
I work mostly with the Remote Desktop Services (RDS) teams, and on the Azure side with RemoteApp. The work I do with Microsoft is related to XenApp and XenDesktop.
CUGC HQ: What are some best practices for being most productive that you recommend to other architects?
The biggest thing is to listen. I remember once, I was pulled into a project that had been going on for a while. We had numerous meetings about the project’s status, issues, and future plans. I did not say anything for the first hour – then the project lead leaned over and asked, “Are you paying attention? Do you understand what is going on?” And I said, I am gathering the information. Too many times I see people who only hear the first part of the story because they have already formed the solution in their minds. What ends up happening is you waste a lot of time because you are throwing out solutions and they may not work for the environment.
It’s the same when people deliver a presentation. People like to have a lot of interaction but that slide may be coming up in the next 5 minutes. Be patient and listen to how everything fits together. A good presenter will have anticipated many of the questions ahead of time.
CUGC HQ: Let’s talk a little bit about your Tech Update webinars! You had the challenge of fitting 50 slides into a 45 minute time frame, which was then slashed to 20 minutes. Can you tell us how you adapted your presentation style?
I know from experience that I typically present pretty fast, about a slide per minute because I tend to have very little text on each slide. So I planned on 50 slides for 45 minutes. But because of a scheduling issue, my time got slashed to 20 minutes. So I changed the style on each slide so that it was only about a single point with as little text as possible and a picture or graph.
You see I remember attending a session once where a speaker did the same thing. One point per slide. Keep moving. I never got bored. Many presentations I see have tons of text. So I end up reading the slide, then go check twitter for 5 minutes until the next slide. It is funny when I get reviewers feedback on my slides, it is usually something like, you can’t have that many slides.
CUGC HQ: Can you give us an example of how you simplify a technical concept down to one picture?
Let’s look at Skype and how Citrix optimizes it. I could go into the details and talk about how there is the UI, business logic, media engine and how we rearrange those onto different devices and how all of those things communicate at the API and service level. This information is probably important for the engineer developing the code, but not for me. So when I talk about Skype optimization, I tend to use simplified diagrams that explain before and after while trying to tie it together with a simple best practice.
Here are the 3 slides I typically present together:
CUGC HQ: What are two design questions you would want to cover for “Ask the Architect?”
I am open to suggestions. I have been blogging about XenApp and XenDesktop since the mid to late 90s. Technology has changed so much over the years that sometimes you can’t trust content that is more than a year old. This past year it was a few months where I did not blog at all. I completely ran out of ideas because I have been doing it for so long. And I finally realized people still reference old blogs that I wrote 3 or 4 years ago, MCS vs PVS is a great example. So my strategy is to now devise a set of best practices that can stand the test of time, or at least a few years. Then blog about how different design decisions align and try to maintain them.
CUGC HQ: Is there a tech gadget that would be perfect if it only had a feature that the manufacturer obviously forgot?
I’m a very active person, so I’m loving the smart watches, health trackers, whatever we call these devices. But every single one is missing something important to me. I like the Microsoft Band 2 the best, but it isn’t waterproof. Not good for a person who swims, windsurfs and sails. I also want one where I don’t have to carry my phone for it to work. That means it needs music and Bluetooth so I can wear headphones while jogging.
CUGC HQ: If you could teach a class on a subject other than technology, what would that be?
Astronomy or anything about the Simpsons. I started watching the Simpsons in the 80s and still love it. I actually started watching the series with my oldest son, starting with the first episode, but I have to stop and explain some of the pop culture references. For instance, there is one episode where Homer is singing a spoof of the Flintstones song. It’s a funny song, but it is even funnier if you know about the Flintstones. So we had to go watch the beginning of the Flintstones first.
And don’t forget, a total solar eclipse passes across the USA in 2017. Don’t miss it.