XenApp 6.5 Advanced Administration Class

I’ve meant to swing back and do a post about this class for a while, and I’m finally getting around to it.  During the last full week of May, my coworker Wojtek Biernacki and I drove down to Atlanta to take CXA-301-1, also known as the XenApp 6.5 Advanced Administration class.  This was an unusual class for me, as I’ve taken all my other classes in Nashville at HQ of our Citrix reseller and Platinum Partner, LPS Integration.  We were lucky enough to get to piggy back on a private class LPS was holding for another customer in Atlanta.

It’s kinda funny how my perspective on these classes has changed over the last year or so.  I helped manage a smaller XenApp, or rather Presentation Server (4.0, then 4.5) system for about eight years, when it was transferred to our Labs Support group because we had a lot of experience making all sorts of applications work in multi-user environments.  We ordered new hardware and migrated to a system we built from scratch, and, in the absence of any training or prior experience, proceeded to learn the hard way by making a bunch of mistakes.  But we kept that system up and running, almost in spite of itself, and it became the foundation on which we planned our much larger system that we’re deploying today.

After eight years of that and a couple of years of building one POC after another, not only of XenDesktop & XenApp, but competing products from other vendors, I looked forward to attending official Citrix training.  I walked into those classes with high hopes and they were mostly met.  My instructors were good, mostly consultants moonlighting as trainers, which was just fine with me, as I still remembered how pathetic the MCSE training classes became after I worked on my NT4 MCSE by taking classes from a moonlighting Compaq Tier 3 engineer.  You can read two posts about my NetScaler class here and here.  Whereas I felt like my XenApp and XenDesktop classes mainly served to fine-tune things I’d been figuring out on my own, and the NetScaler class definitely pounded me with tons of new information and skills I hadn’t had an opportunity to develop before, I think I expected this XenApp Advanced class to push me as much as the NetScaler class did.

But it didn’t, and in hindsight, it really couldn’t.  I’ve had my hands in the guts of Presentation Server and XenApp for a long time, so there wasn’t much in the Advanced class that was new to me.  There was, though, a great deal of troubleshooting and optimization material and discussion, and that was useful.  The courseware was decent and the labs, when they weren’t painfully slow or even kinda broken, which seems to be the norm for remote, hosted training labs, weren’t bad.  What was more valuable, though, and the reason I would attend this sort of class for XenApp vNext, was the classroom discussions with my fellow students and with our instructor.  Just chatting with the other students and comparing notes about our respective environments was enlightening.  The same was true for the instructor, especially because he runs his own consulting firm and deals with all kinds of different environments running every combination of Citrix product.

One other neat thing about the class is that one of the other students was Mark Schill, president of the Atlanta PowerShell User Group and Atlanta Citrix User Group.  He’s also one of the co-authors of Windows PowerShell 2.0 Bible.  Having Mark in class was pretty neat, especially since he was quick to point out, “you can do that in PowerShell.”  Finding the time to learn PowerShell has been on my to-do list for a while, so I bought Mark’s book, had him sign it, and am now working through a video training series by Don Jones.  So even if I didn’t walk away from the XenApp Advanced class having learned a ton of new XenApp material, I definitely walked away with a renewed interest in learning PowerShell.

Overall I’d say the class and the road trip were a great experience.  My coworker had only been with us about 6 months at that point, so it was nice to get to spend a week doing the “Nerds Away from Home” bonding thing, which mainly involved trying a bunch of local restaurants; one of which was an Irish pub called Mac McGee that was so amazing we had dinner there three nights in a row.  I’ll be doing a post about Mac McGee on my food blog soon.

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