Category Archives: XenApp

Director Integration for Ask SysTrack

One of the unintuitive results of the progression of technology is the massive proliferation of different sources for different pieces of information that are critical to managing an environment. There are just so many tools that provide a depth of detailed data that the sheer number of them makes it difficult to figure out which one to use and how to find it within the interface. Information seeking behavior then takes users across multiple tools with multiple methods of interaction; the net result can be confusion and lost time. This is where cognitive analytics and the ability to ask simple questions can make the difference between solving a problem and bouncing between reporting tools.

The popularity of Ask SysTrack’s recent set of advanced integrations has been very eye opening to how pervasive the need to have a single, easy to use interface for getting contextually relevant answers to questions can be. Because of this we’ve worked with our partners to try and provide a single source to answer IT questions that then provide what’s needed when it’s needed.

At Citrix Summit we’re showcasing one of our most recent examples: plugin integration with Citrix Director. This plugin not only displays SysTrack information in the Director interface, but also provides Director and Citrix related answers to questions that are found in the interface through Ask SysTrack.

The key is providing the Ask SysTrack plugin interface directly in the Director interface home page. Now any IT administrator that makes use of Director has a Watson power cognitive helper to answer questions like “What is the user experience of my environment?”

Clicking the link takes them directly into the relevant data in SysTrack. Alternatively, they can also just ask questions about Director.

We’ve also added a User Experience Trend for delivery groups that are discovered in association with the instance that allows administrators to view what kind of user experience their end users have been getting alongside the other data presented in Director.

This makes it much easier for administrators to now get the key details they need when they need it without having to spend time working through multiple interfaces.

For more details check out a quick video run through.

Citrix Secure Browser Assessment with SysTrack Cloud Edition

The web browser has come into its own as an indispensable part of the enterprise software portfolio. With web based apps an amazing amount of flexibility can be achieved, but paradoxically one of the ubiquitous and useful applications can also be the most frustrating. For an end user that has to interact with potentially dozens of web portals with numerous plugin dependencies they can often find themselves moving experiencing browser hangs or crashes with great frequency or having to switch between different browsers to just complete different business functions. More critically IT has to support any number of different browser types with any combination of required plugins, user added extra components, and possibly dozens (or hundreds) of different versions. The reality of the situation is that the component that’s supposed to be “platform independent” or give a uniform user experience can create headaches for everyone involved.

There’s another side to this problem, too: how do you make sure that users get the most straightforward pathway to their applications? With internal web apps especially there’s frequently a need for a user to either be connected directly to the network or use a VPN to broker a connection. This introduces yet another component that can fail or make basic user interaction a hassle. Worse, in some scenarios, especially when users are highly mobile, this also potentially exposes data to loss.

That means there are really two problems: making sure that users get access to a browser that always works and making sure they can connect securely and minimize breach potential. This is where Citrix Secure Browser introduces a really interesting resolution. By publishing a known good browser that can be embedded into any modern browser seamlessly existing XenApp customers can provide their end users with a great experience and minimize their support needs.

The SysTrack Citrix Secure Browser Analysis assesses the current state of browser usage in the environment to try and articulate the net advantage of moving to Secure Browser. How many different web applications are currently used? How many internal web applications are interacted with? How frequently do browsers hang or crash? What plugins are the most common in the enterprise?

SecureBrowserSummary

The lead in summary from the Citrix Secure Browser Analysis establishes the massive number of different browsers in active usage in most environments, and the numerous plugins that are employed. From there we break out more interesting pieces of information like the monumental number of application faults associated with browsing apps that users interact with daily. Throughout the report we expand on all of the details that are critical in determining what kind of impact implementation of Secure Browser may have in an enterprise. Brett Waldman covers some of the key details on Secure Browser in a blog entry, but essentially imagine taking all of the aforementioned concerns and eliminating by publishing a browser that always works with business critical web applications and is, by nature, secure.
The SysTrack Cloud Edition for Citrix is a free service that allows you to assess your environment for Citrix solution fit, including another report focused on Skype for Business and how Citrix can optimize delivery of Microsoft collaboration tools. Check it out here.

Introducing the Citrix Health Assessment

We’re seeing a never ending IT scenario – the landscape of how applications and workstations are delivered – continue to play itself out right before our eyes. BYOD and mobile workstyles are becoming more and more common as we march towards web based applications, published apps, and fully featured virtual desktops rapidly displacing more traditional IT infrastructure. Administrators are relying heavily on Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop, among other Citrix products, to meet their user’s needs and deliver the performance they expect. Of course, actually delivering the performance they expect can be easier said than done, in most cases. Tracking down problems with published apps, without the right data, is like trying to put together a puzzle in the dark. That’s why so many of our customers who manage Citrix environments rely on SysTrack – it provides the insight they need to make smart, data-driven decisions and keep their users happy and productive.

Our traditional SysTrack setup requires an on-premises server to act as the master system. And while this works perfectly well for long term deployments, it can be a bit burdensome for short term assessments. Some of the admins we speak to want a quick look at the state of their Citrix environment, or to get an idea of how they might benefit from investing in XenApp and XenDesktop. In order to make sure those needs were met we streamlined the process of setting up SysTrack and moved the main infrastructure to the cloud, enabling customers to simply register, download and the deploy the data collection agent, and then login to our assessment website to get immediate access to dashboards, data visualizers, and SSRS style reports telling them exactly what’s going on in their environment.

The Citrix Health Assessment is a free, cloud based service that delivers SysTrack’s unparalleled data to help admins manage and plan for Citrix environments. Utilizing SysTrack’s patented distributed database architecture and SSL connections for data transfer, users get the data they’ve come to expect from SysTrack with the security to make sure it’s kept safe. The assessment was designed, in part, to answer specific questions like what quality of service the users have, what level of demand exists, and what are the best delivery options, while also providing the platforms for doing ad-hoc investigations and deep dives into the data to discover a variety of other insights.

Outside of XenApp and XenDesktop, which are standard virtualization solutions, Citrix has introduced Secure Browser and the HDX RealTime Optimization Pack, which allows for Skype for Business to be delivered as a virtualized application or within a virtual desktop. These new products fit well with the philosophy of XenApp and XenDesktop – centralize the management of the application or desktop to reduce costs and overhead. Before investing in new products it’s always a good idea to look at some data in order to get an idea of what type of benefit you’ll see from that investment. We’ve developed reports as a part of the Citrix Health Assessment that analyze the data collected by SysTrack and present detailed analysis of the browser and Skype usage in the environment so you’ll know exactly how Secure Browser or the HDX RealTime Optimization Pack would fit into your enterprise.

Don’t make guess work a part of your IT planning or management strategy. If you’re already utilizing Citrix solutions, or if you’re planning on them, check out our Citrix Health Assessment. This free, cloud based service lets you know things like the health of the environment, detailed session information, XenDesktop readiness, latency summaries, software usage, and a variety of other useful data. It’s simple to setup and use, and you’ll never have to make an IT decision that isn’t data driven and fit for your environment.

The Citrix Lifecycle Management official launch enables a hands-free installation of Lakeside SysTrack to any Citrix environment

Back in August, Citrix announced the long awaited Citrix Workspace Cloud technology along with the associated Lifecycle Management  tools. The blogs by my friends Kailas Jawadekar and Joe Vaccaro explain these stacks in detail, but here’s the gist the way I see it:

Workspace Cloud adds the ability to manage Citrix environments (XenApp, XenDesktop, XenMobile, etc.) from a cloud-hosted control plane. Gunnar Berger  has a few videos out that explain the concept. The key to this technology is a new cloud connector that allow your environment to communicate with the Citrix hosted consoles. Why would you care, you might ask? Because at some point, you might wish to have multiple Citrix deployments in disjointed networks, or have a portion of your infrastructure or session hosts in a private, public, or hybrid-cloud. Rather than introducing more complexity in the configuration and management, workspace cloud gives you the ability to manage all these otherwise independent environments centrally.

So far so good.

Many of you, who have been managing dynamic datacenters for a while, are pretty familiar with the concepts of virtual machine templates, Provisioning Services golden images, and similar tools that helps you to “build once, and deploy many times”. These approaches, however, are  not entirely without challenges as these templates are often closely bound to the specific hypervisors you wish to use and are not easily re-usable across all instances of hybrid clouds. That’s where Lifecycle Management comes in. Think of it as an automation / scripting engine that allows you to define all software installation and configuration steps that have to be performed to turn an plain  OS image into the workload you desire. This is called a Blueprint in LCM parlance and I have written about the concept in a recent blog.

Well, today is the day that we’re ready to announce that we have developed and published a Citrix Lifecycle Management Blueprint for the SysTrack master server, which is the central component of any SysTrack deployment. It is available for you by logging into manage.citrix.com and selecting the Blue Print Catalog. You will see the Lakeside SysTrack blue print in the partner section and you can simply add it to your library by clicking on the little ‘+’ symbol on the bottom right.

The SysTrack blue print takes your standard Windows Server 2012 base image and then automatically downloads and installs the SysTrack master server along with all its technical pre-requisites. After the blue print has been deployed successfully, all that is left for you to do is to request a SysTrack license from us and deploy the agents to your workloads. These can of course be other Citrix infrastructure or session hosts in your hybrid cloud, but also general server and desktops, including the physical machines that you already have.

The SysTrack Blue Print for LCM simply allows you to add the award winning success platform for end user computing to your environment without having to manually install and configure an additional server.

 

Citrix Guest Blog: SysTrack and XenApp/XenDesktop

My name is Mayunk Jain and I manage Technical Marketing for HDX technologies at Citrix Systems, Inc. I am excited to author my first guest article on the Lakeside Software’s blog today and would like to talk about the Citrix – Lakeside Partnership and specifically about our joint value in the XenApp and XenDesktop space.

Citrix and Lakeside Software have been working together for almost two decades now and our relationship goes back to the roots of Resource Manager Services in MetaFrame and maybe even back in the WinFrame days.

Today, Lakeside Software markets and sells its SysTrack product, which is certified by the Citrix Ready partner program.

Here at Citrix on the Windows App Delivery side, we’re focused on the development of the XenApp and XenDesktop product lines and many of our customers are thinking about upgrading their IMA based XenApp farms to the latest and greatest FMA based architecture. In order to make this process as easy as possible, we developed Project Serenity (try the tech preview here), which helps customers automate the replication of published applications, policies, and settings from XenApp 6.5 environments to a new deployment running XenApp 7.6 or XenDesktop 7.6.

SysTrack can actually add tremendous value to this process and Lakeside Software describes the process and the methodology in their latest XenApp migration whitepaper.

In a nutshell, organizations can leverage SysTrack to determine detailed statistics about the existing XenApp deployment. Think about it as deep insights into  the daily operational items. What applications are being launched? What other processes and applications are executed as part of that initial session? Which backend application resources does the XenApp server connect to? What resources does each user consume over the course of a session, a week, a month? What is the user experience like? The answer to all these questions can contribute to optimize the environment when implementing XenApp 7.6.

More importantly, SysTrack adds value as an on-going assessment tool. Many organizations think of IT assessment as a one-time event. However, the truth is that visibility into every operational parameter, alarm, alert, dashboard, or trend is an on-going assessment of the day-to-day situation that triggers certain actions. One example of this is the integration Lakeside has been working on with the Citrix HDX protocol and NVIDIA GRID cards, which enable virtual delivery of complex and high-fidelity visual computing and 3D graphics use cases when GPUs are used. SysTrack can uncover the applications that benefit from this technology, providing guidance on the sizing, segmentation, and health monitoring of user sessions and their GPU-specific parameters.

Another example is SysTrack’s ability to consume, process, and analyze additional data from the Citrix Director and provide a single pane of glass reporting across all end user computing systems.

While I can’t give away the details quite yet, I fully expect us to deepen the relationship and SysTrack adding more functionality and value to our joint customers. Watch this space, and follow me on @mayunkj for more information as it becomes available.

We recently released a joint solution brief for Citrix and Lakeside technologies. If you are interested, download a 90-day free trial for XenApp and contact Lakeside Software for more information on SysTrack.

I am excited about the possibilities for our customers and hope to back on these pages soon.

Mayunk

Introducing the Citrix Session Reporting Kit

SysTrack Kits – Integration and Custom Reporting

One of the most exciting features of our latest version of SysTrack (7.2) is the new Kits program. This provides use case specific reports and dashboards to cover a broad set of different operational and analytical needs for a wide set of different environments. This month we’re pleased to announce that our most requested Kit, an extensive set of Citrix reports for XenApp and XenDesktop management, has gone live and is ready for immediate use. With our latest Kit we introduce a path to continue many of the reports and capabilities of the EdgeSight for XenApp IMA environments (versions 6.5 and earlier). This is of particular interest for customers who are migrating to and adopting the FMA based versions of Citrix XenApp (7.0 and higher). This Kit helps complete the vision into the inner workings of environmental demand that IT administrators need to guarantee success in delivering a great user experience with Citrix products. This includes critical historical analysis and trending reports, consumption coverage, HDX utilization details, and other key items across both IMA and FMA deployments. Of course, SysTrack also extends many of the reports and analytics to the physical desktop world and infrastructure components in the data center.

The Citrix Session Reporting Kit

So, what can you expect? Through the Kits import mechanism a single import brings in dozens of Citrix specific reports which are then automatically configured to work with SysTrack and ready to go in moments. This opens the door to deep reporting on everything from peak concurrency and session trends to application consumption and network utilization. This also integrates in with several of our Citrix monitoring dashboards that can offer operational insight into advanced session issues. As a little bit of an extra we also have the ability to directly connect into the Desktop Director and its monitoring database to relate back session state and connection details directly with our in-system user experience collection. This helps answer some of the questions left over for enterprises moving to later Citrix product releases.

The obvious question: how do I get started? Directly from the SysTrack Launch page you can click through to the Kits area to get to the import center. From here, logging in with your SysTrack Portal Account credentials reveals the list of kits you have available. Find the Citrix Session Reporting Kit and select Import. This imports all the reports found in the table at the end of this post, but we’ll only cover a handful in this post.

 Citrix Session Dashboards

One of our newer tools is the SysTrack Dashboard Builder. There are a number of Dashboards that come with the Citrix Session Reporting Kit, so we’ll start here to give an idea of what’s presented. Note that the Citrix Session Reporting tag lets us filter for just the dashboards contained in this Kit.

ReportingArea

One of the first dashboards to check out is Citrix Session Startup Duration Details. This actually makes use of a Shared Data Source, so we’ll want to start in the Dashboard Builder to set up the connection to the Director database. Specifically, we’re interested in the MonitorData information, so if you’ve got your database distributed between multiple database objects make sure to select the right one. In our case we just have one database, so I’ll configure the Shared item to be used in each data block to use it. Note that I just have to do this once, and any future dashboard that uses that connection can just use our Shared item.

SharedDataSource

Now you can see a logon trend as well as a component breakout for a selected day with a complete record of your user session timings.

CitrixSessionLogonDetails

Naturally there are some unique SysTrack dashboards as well, and many of them use our Health Score to articulate how well people are enjoying their sessions. For example, the Citrix XenApp Published App Health with Session Concurrency dashboard uses our XenApp view to show details about health concerns and concurrency of demand for publishes applications in use in the environment.

PublishedAppHealthandDetails

SysTrack Reporting for Citrix Sessions

The majority of the reporting content is found in our SysTrack Reporting area. That feature is built into Site Visualizer and Report Center to provide easily exportable content. The Citrix Session content can be found in the Citrix Session Reporting folder and is organized by type (Figure xx).

As an example, let’s check out the Session Count by Day report. This has a breakout of the count of sessions on each app host over the time range you specify.

DailySessionsSummary

This and many other categories of reports exist to make finding the specific reporting you’re looking for simple. Obviously we can’t go through every item here, so check out the table at the bottom to see how some of the available reports from EdgeSight 5.4 maps into our Kit. Because this is community driven feel free to make requests as well.

As a side note, we’ve got a significant library of Kits available now in addition to our Citrix Session Reporting Kit, including some focused on security, NVIDIA graphics analysis, and data center modernization. Look for more as our collection grows.

MechanismEdgeSight ReportSysTrack Report
DashboardICA client version ICA Client Version
DashboardLicense Server Monitor Archive Citrix License Consumption in Different License Models
DashboardNew Processes New Processes
DashboardSession Auto-ReconnectsSession Reconnect Count
DashboardSession Server Startup Duration Citrix Session Startup Duration Details
DashboardSession Startup Duration Details Citrix Session Startup Duration Details
DashboardXenApp SummaryXenApp and XenDesktop Summary
DashboardXenApp User SummaryXenApp and XenDesktop Summary
DashboardXenDesktop Summary XenApp and XenDesktop Summary
DashboardXenDesktop User SummaryXenApp and XenDesktop Summary
OperationsAlerts Operations
OperationsHardware Alerts Operations
ResolveAssets for a Device Resolve
ResolveRebootsResolve boot/login area
ResolveSystem Page Faults Resolve
Resolve/Operations/vScapeReal-Time Alert ListResolve/vScape for real-time data
Resolve/Operations/vScapeReal-Time Device SummaryResolve/vScape for real-time data
Resolve/Operations/vScapeReal-Time Network PerformanceResolve/vScape for real-time data
Resolve/Operations/vScapeReal-Time System Compare Resolve/vScape for real-time data
Resolve/Operations/vScapeReal-Time System PerformanceResolve/vScape for real-time data
Resolve/Operations/vScapeReal-Time XenApp SummaryResolve/vScape for real-time data
Resolve/Operations/vScapeReal-Time XenApp User SummaryResolve/vScape for real-time data
SysTrack ReportingAsset ChangesAsset Changes
SysTrack ReportingEnvironmental UsagePublished Application Launch Count Details
SysTrack ReportingEvent Log Alerts Event Log Alerts/operations
SysTrack ReportingEvent Log Alerts for a User Group Event Log Alerts/operations
SysTrack ReportingHardware Asset ChangesAsset Changes
SysTrack ReportingHDX MediaStream I/O Session Details
SysTrack ReportingHDX Plug-n-Play I/OSession Details
SysTrack ReportingICA Audio I/O Session Details
SysTrack ReportingICA Drive I/O Session Details
SysTrack ReportingICA Printer I/O Session Details
SysTrack ReportingICA Session Compression Session Details
SysTrack ReportingICA Session I/O Session Details
SysTrack ReportingICA Session Latency Session Details
SysTrack ReportingICA Session Latency for a User GroupSession Details
SysTrack ReportingNew Sites New Sites
SysTrack ReportingPort Network VolumePort Network Volume
SysTrack ReportingProcess CPU Application CPU and Memory Details
SysTrack ReportingProcess Memory Usage Application CPU and Memory Details
SysTrack ReportingProcess Network VolumeApplication Network Volume
SysTrack ReportingProcess Not Responding AlertsApplication Hang Summary
SysTrack ReportingProcess Not Responding Alerts for a User GroupApplication Hang Summary
SysTrack ReportingProcess Performance Summary by ProcessApplication Performance Summary
SysTrack ReportingProcess Stability Summary by ProcessApplication Stability Summary
SysTrack ReportingProcess Usage Application Usage
SysTrack ReportingPublished Applcation User Count Details Published Application Launch Count Details
SysTrack ReportingPublished Application Launch Count DetailsPublished Application Launch Count Details
SysTrack ReportingPublished Application Launch Count for a User Group DetailsPublished Application Launch Count Details
SysTrack ReportingPublished Application Launch SummaryPublished Application Launch Summary
SysTrack ReportingPublished Application Summary Published Application Launch Count Details
SysTrack ReportingPublished Application Summary for a User GroupPublished Application Launch Count Details
SysTrack ReportingPublished Application User Count for a User Group -DetailsPublished Application Launch Count Details
SysTrack ReportingPublished Application User SummaryPublished Application User Summary
SysTrack ReportingPublished Application User Summary for a User GroupPublished Application User Summary
SysTrack ReportingPublished Appliction Launch Summary for a User GroupPublished Application Launch Summary
SysTrack ReportingSession Client and Server Startup Duration Session Ready Time
SysTrack ReportingSession Client Startup Duration Session Ready Time
SysTrack ReportingSession Client TypeSession Client Type
SysTrack ReportingSession CountsSession Count by Day
SysTrack ReportingSession CPU Session Resource Consumption Details
SysTrack ReportingSession CPU for a User Group Session Resource Consumption Details
SysTrack ReportingSession DurationSession Resource Consumption Details
SysTrack ReportingSession Duration for a User GroupSession Resource Consumption Details
SysTrack ReportingSession Login Time Session Login Time
SysTrack ReportingSession Login Time for a User Group Session Login Time
SysTrack ReportingSession Memory Session Resource Consumption Details
SysTrack ReportingSession Network Bandwidth UsedSession Details
SysTrack ReportingSession Network VolumeSession Network Volume
SysTrack ReportingSite Network VolumeSystem Network Volume
SysTrack ReportingSoftware Asset ChangesAsset Changes
SysTrack ReportingSystem CPU System Summary
SysTrack ReportingSystem CPU Summary System Summary
SysTrack ReportingSystem Disk Usage Daily Performance Summary
SysTrack ReportingSystem Disk Usage Summary Daily Performance Summary
SysTrack ReportingSystem Kernel for a Device System Summary
SysTrack ReportingSystem Memory For a User Group System Summary
SysTrack ReportingSystem Memory Summary System Summary
SysTrack ReportingSystem Memory Usage System Summary
SysTrack ReportingUser Logon CountsUser Logon Counts
SysTrack ReportingUser Logon Details User Logon Details
SysTrack ReportingUser Logon Details for a User GroupUser Logon Details
SysTrack ReportingVisited Sites Visted sites
SysTrack ReportingXenApp Server Utilization XenApp Server Utilization
VisualizersDevice Summary Enterprise Visualizer for summary, Site Visaulizer/Resolve for selected system
VisualizersProcess ErrorsApplication Faults/Site Visualizer App Faults dataset
VisualizersProcess FaultsApplication Faults/Site Visualizer App Faults dataset
VisualizersProcess Faults for a User GroupApplication Faults/Site Visualizer App Faults dataset

IT Assessments and Flying Airplanes

What do these two topics have in common? More than you might think…

I spent the majority of my career in professional services and product management in the software industry. Every product lifecycle follows the established pattern of “Assess, Design, Deploy, and Manage” or something along those lines. The focus is often brought on the assessment phase where we gather technical and business requirements, see what our users have and use today, add future requirements and then use that collected wisdom to design and build the “new” solution – whatever the new thing is. In my past at Citrix Systems and now at Lakeside Software, our customers are mostly concerned about assessing the existing physical desktop estate and translating the data into future virtual desktop and application delivery architectures. As a matter of fact, since joining Lakeside Software in the Summer of 2013, I have heard numerous times from customers, partners, and even competitors, that we’re known as the Assessment Company in the desktop virtualization and application delivery space.

Let me take a step back for a second and talk to you about my other career – that of a passionate pilot and flight instructor.

While I was in grad school back in 1999 my cousin gave me a ride in a 2 seat Cessna 152 over the Dallas / Fort Worth area at night. I was instantly hooked and started taking flying lessons about a week later. After a couple of months of hard work, plenty of tutoring sessions for high school students, building websites for the local flight school and other activities that would earn me some time in a 30 year old prop plane, I finally was the proud holder of a private pilot certificate. The flying bug had bitten me big time. I continued to earn my instrument rating, commercial pilot’s license, multi-engine rating and glider rating in the ensuing months and years. One night, I was invited to a barbeque with a couple of flight instructors and professional pilots and there was talk about how difficult it was to obtain a flight instructor license and how high the failure rate for the practical test was – especially compared to the practical tests for other certificates and ratings. “I can do it!” I blurted out (this was a few beers into the night) and found myself having to defend my personal honor. I studied hard and became a flight instructor in early 2005 (Yes, I did pass that beast of a practical test on the first try, but it wasn’t all that easy as I thought it would be.)

While I never attempted to earn a living in the aviation community, I have been teaching aviation safety and flying quite a bit. First as a weekend instructor at the local flight school and then conducting mostly checkouts and flight reviews as the chief pilot of my local aero club here in Florida. I also did a stint as a mission pilot with the civil air patrol.

PA32 over Miami

Now – what does that have to do with assessments?

Let’s talk about how a typical flight is conducted. It all starts with the pre-flight planning probably a couple of days or hours before we go somewhere. This is all about where to go, what airports and facilities are available, what the weather might be like, if an airplane is available in the club or at the local flight school / rental place, etc. This is the general and initial assessment of the situation.

As we get to the day of the flight, we assess a bunch of additional things. The man (or woman) – in terms of physical fitness to fly. I assess how I feel and if I have taken any medication or gotten enough sleep. Next, I’d assess the overall environment. Weather, Air Traffic Control delays, best route of flight, best altitude, runway closures, etc. Then the machine (the aircraft): Does it have all the required documentation on board? Have the required inspections been performed? Do we have enough fuel and oil? Is the total weight and balance within the envelope? And is the airplane airworthy and fit to fly? All these items are assessed with the help of a checklist and by physically walking around the aircraft and asking ourselves every step of the way “Is this still good to go?” after checking the requisite items.

Then I’ll do an assessment of my passengers – are they good to go, comfortable, prone to motion sickness?

Finally, we get into the airplane and I again grab the checklist and follow the procedures to start the engine, taxi to the runway, talk to air traffic control and watch for other aircraft, people, and equipment on the airport. You can call that an on-going assessment of the situation.

After taxiing to the runway, there is a pre-flight run-up check where we test that the engine is producing power, all instrument show airplane parameters within the prescribed limits and then we can finally begin to be ready for takeoff.

My radio call is promptly answered by the tower “CHEROKEE FOUR SEVEN LIMA HOTEL, CLEARED FOR TAKEOFF RUNWAY ONE ZERO, LEFT TURN OUT APPROVED, CLIMB AND MAINTAIN TWO THOUSAND FEET”.

Ready to go. As I advance the throttle, I quickly check my engine instruments and we roll down the runway. At about 60 knots indicated airspeed, I gently pull back on the yoke which causes the nose wheel to just lift off the tarmac and we’re in the air a moment later.

I again constantly check for birds, other traffic, radio calls, changing weather, fuel status, passenger well-being, and so forth. I absolutely love the feeling of being in the air and controlling the aircraft, but I have to be constantly assessing the situation (again, man (or woman), machine, environment, external factors, etc.)

After landing, I taxi the plane to the ramp or back to the hangar, conduct my post-flight checklist, turn all systems off and basically conclude this final assessment before I begin to enjoy the destination.

Did you notice what I did NOT do? I did NOT unplug the GPS, the fuel gauges, engine monitor, volt and ammeter, oil pressure gauge, etc. the second I got into the air. Why not? Because I need those things to constantly assess the situation and bring the flight to a successful and safe conclusion. It would be insane to turn off my instrumentation the second the nose wheel leaves the ground, the air grabs the wings, and the ground vanishes beneath me.

Dash PA28
Having said this – WHY then do we in the IT world simply stop the assessment the minute the first user is live on our new system? Why do we think that once we assessed the current environment, that the users need, the system status and other things remain stable and constant? Sure – you might argue that nobody’s life is at risk if a server goes down, a service crashes, or the user experience starts to degrade. But come on – if I am trying to be as diligent and professional on the ground as I am in the air, I have to be in the habit of constantly assessing and reassessing the situation, recognizing patterns, learning how to remediate adverse situations and basically keeping the IT environment in perfect shape so that all users can successfully complete their flight, I mean, their work or project.

Some people call this “monitoring” or “IT operations” but what we’re really doing is continuously assessing very large and very complex IT systems and trying to control and manage them in the safest, most stable, and most flexible way.

As an example, this is particularly important for organizations who run Citrix XenApp in their environment and are looking to upgrade from the IMA architecture of XenApp 6.5 (and prior versions) to the FMA architecture in XenApp 7.0 an higher.  This whitepaper describes the process in detail.

Another interesting read is out solution brief for end user success.

Thoughts? Ideas? Please comment or contact me on twitter:

@florianbecker

 

 

THE dashboard for the Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop Manager

Our SysTrack product collects a lot of invaluable data points across a potentially very large and diverse IT environment. Each individual system provides up to 10,000 data points every 15 seconds and the IT landscape can include everything from physical desktops and endpoints to a myriad of servers with various functions to the Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop environments.

Because of that broad diversity, it is sometimes important and desirable to boil down the data to the specific use case and area of interest for a key class of IT stakeholders.

The dashboard builder functionality that was first introduced in SysTrack 7.0 provides just such a facility. SysTrack users can create their own dashboards and even include data from a variety of non-SysTrack data sources (such as Citrix Director, but also other items like HR systems or software license management tools). In many cases, the construction of a meaningful dashboard requires good knowledge of the underlying data structures. Therefore, we at Lakeside develop dashboards and make them available at no additional cost to any of our customers through the dashboard builder functionality.

Today, I would like to introduce a series of very useful dashboards specifically targeted at the XenApp and XenDesktop administrators and stakeholders.

Here’s how they work:

First, as many of you know, SysTrack assigns a health score to each system or user session. It is expressed as a value between 0 and 100 and is an indication of the percent of time (measured in clock minutes) that the system is operating without resource limitations. We have a secret sauce algorithm internally that weighs the various factors depending on their severity; i.e. an application crash may weigh heavier than a temporary spike in CPU or disk utilization.

I took the health score as a starting point and provided a mechanism to group the relevant systems. For example, I would look at all the servers and images in each of the following categories:

  • Connection Broker
  • License Server
  • Provisioning Server
  • SQL Server
  • Store Front
  • Web Interface
  • VDI Images
  • XenApp Hosts

Each group can contain one of more systems depending on my environment. At first, I pick a time frame in the dashboard and it shows the lowest observed health score in each group. That gives me an idea in which area I might want to have an additional look.

Citrix Health Dashboard
Citrix Health Dashboard

In this case, it looks like my infrastructure servers are doing mostly fine, but at least one of my XenApp hosts experienced a health score of 50, which I am trying to investigate now.

Citrix Health Dashboard with expanded node
Citrix Health Dashboard with expanded node

The expanded node shows the server with the potential issue and a double-click on the system name takes me into the next dashboard:

Citrix Health Details Dashboard showing all health related alarms
Citrix Health Details Dashboard showing all health related alarms

This view shows all the health alerts that indicate a reduced health score over the past 24 hours and I highlight the one with the score of 50. By doing so, the rest of the dashboard refreshes and shows only data that is time correlated to the time frame around that diminished health score – give or take a few minutes in each direction. The next pane in the dashboard now gives me a pretty good indication on where I need to focus my attention:

Percent contribution of each focus area to the diminished health score
Percent contribution of each focus area to the diminished health score

50% of the diminished health score was related to disk, 10% related to Event Logs and 40% related to application faults.

The rest of the dashboard has a number of detailed panes that I can use to get a better idea of what’s going on here. Let’s start with the Disk:

Application Disk details show all the running applications along with their disk related performance indicators:

Application Disk Details
Application Disk Details

The one application towards the bottom sports almost 700 read IOPS, 29 write IOPS, and large number of total IO operations and data read from disk. Now, let’s have a look at the disk volume metrics:

 

Disk Volume Metrics
Disk Volume Metrics

The C drive (which happens to be the only drive on this server) has a 32% disk time, indicating that the disk is not fast enough to deliver the IO load demanded by the applications.

Before we dig deeper into the disk topic, let’s have a quick look at application faults and the events:

Application Faults
Application Faults

It looks like that this example shows a single application that is faulting, which in this particular case is also showing up in the events log. This may or may not be related to the disk topics we investigated earlier and we can now focus our investigation. The application memory list may show more relevant information:

 

Application Memory Metrics
Application Memory Metrics

I may also wish to look at additional panes on this dashboard that show virtualization impacts like CPU Ready Time or the effects of memory ballooning, network details, latency to user sessions or backend systems, and a slew of other metrics.

Alternatively, I can simply drill down into the black box data recorder by double clicking on the alarm that was shown at the very top. This brings me right to the specific server and the specific time frame:

Black Box Data Recorder
Black Box Data Recorder

From here I can see the general state of the XenApp Server, the applications that were in focus at the selected point in time, and a slew of other data to help me in the IT efforts. In this particular case, the disk state, application focus, and application faults all point to the same application that I can now investigate further and work with the vendor or the in-house development team to address.

To summarize:

  • SysTrack provides a wealth of data about the infrastructure and the happenings from within the XenApp or XenDesktop workload, as well as from within the physical end-point. It can sometimes be daunting to focus on the pieces of information that are  helpful for me in my specific role in the IT organization. I hear from Citrix administrators over and over again that their primary objective is to either show that “it is not Citrix”, or to resolve the problem quickly and efficiently and take steps to prevent a reoccurrence.
  • The dashboards provide customers and partners the opportunity to create detailed visualizations that can be very specifically targeted at a job role, team, or function within the organization. SysTrack dashboards also integrate very easily with non-SysTrack data sources such as the Citrix Director database, ERP systems, HR systems, etc.
  • This specific pair of Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop health dashboards is available to all SysTrack customers and partners via the download function in the Dashboard Builder.
  • All health alarms described here can be disseminated to the right target audience in the organization via SNMP or email alerts in real time.

What ideas do you have? Please provide your feedback and comments!

Florian Becker

Florian Becker

 

Twitter: @florianbecker

 

Citrix Licensing – Deciding between concurrent and user/device licenses

Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop are available in two general licensing models:

  1.  Concurrent licensing. This model is intended for one connection to a virtual desktop or unlimited apps for any user and any device –  a license is only consumed for the duration of an active session. If the session disconnects or is terminated, the license will be checked back into the pool.
  2. User/Device licensing. Under this model, the license is either assigned to a unique user or shared device. If assigned to a user, it allows that single user unlimited connections from unlimited devices. If assigned to a device, it allows unlimited users, unlimited connections from that single device.

The User/Device license is typically half of the price of a concurrent license and can be an attractive model for organizations that follow a “traditional” work schedule (as opposed to shift workers in manufacturing or healthcare, where they may be a large number of individuals, but only a fraction of which are concurrently using the XenApp or XenDesktop environment.)

Internally, and this is the topic of this article, if Citrix XenApp / XenDesktop is configured for the user/device license model, the Citrix license server has to decide whether to assign the license to a user OR to a device. These are two different things, although customers purchase a user/device (as in user SLASH device)  license. So, how does this work?

Assume I, florianb, log into my organization’s environment and launch a session. At that time, a user license is consumed. I can run as many sessions from as many XenDesktop sites that share the license server as I like and use as many devices as I care to – it’s still one user license.

Assume that one of the devices I use is a shared thin client in the office. An hour after I leave, my co-worker Alex uses the same client to access his virtual desktop. Citrix internally then marks that particular thin client as a shared device and it consumes a device license. Theoretically, I could have 100 employees each use the same thin client and only consume a single  user/device license.

It becomes apparent that the recognition of shared devices is an automated way for organizations to minimize the number of licenses they need.

Most of us, however, have a mix of environments, so Citrix is calculating the total number of user/device licenses as follows:

# User/Device licenses = (# of total users) + (# of shared devices) – (# of users who only access from a shared device)

Makes sense?

Here’s a simple example:

User/Device Devices Used User License Consumed? Device License Consumed?
Paul Client01 No, because Paul is only using a shared device (Client01, which is also used by Florian, Alex, and Amanda) N/A
Florian Client01
Florian’s PC
Florian’s iPad
Florian’s Laptop
Yes, because he is using one or more non-shared devices N/A
Alex Client01 No, because Alex is only using a shared device N/A
Amanda Amanda’s iPad
Client01
Yes, because Amanda is using a non-shared device (her iPad) N/A
Client01 Used by: Paul, Florian, Alex, and Amanda N/A Yes – because Client01 is used by more than one user
Florian’s PC Used by Florian N/A No – because Florian is consuming a user license so he can use an unlimited number of licenses
Florian’s iPad Used by Florian N/A No – Florian is consuming a user license so he can use an unlimited number of devices
Florian’s Laptop Used by Florian N/A No – Florian is consuming a user license so he can use an unlimited number of devices
Amanda’s iPad Used by Amanda N/A No, Amanda is consuming a user license so she can use an unlimited number of devices

 

So, in this example, we would need a total of 3 user/device licenses, even though we have 4 individual users and 6 individual devices in the mix. Given that the price point for a concurrent license is 2x that of a user/device license, this small sample organization would absolutely benefit from user/device licensing as they may need as many as 4 concurrent users licenses.

The Citrix license optimization definitely works in the customer’s favor and the license allocation happens on a 90 day schedule for user/device licenses (i.e. the license of a user who is no longer in the organization or a device that is no longer in use get automatically released after 90 days or can be released immediately with a license management tool under terms of the Citrix EULA).

However, it can be a little difficult to predict what an organization might need. Lakeside SysTrack is a great tool to look at all sessions (say in an existing XenApp concurrent environment) to determine if a trade-up to user/device licensing would make sense. To illustrate the point, I’ve mocked up a quick and easy dashboard in SysTrack’s dashboard builder to look at one of the many environments we’re running internally.

license_dashboard2

 

In this particular example, our peak user concurrency was 11 and we would have needed 29 user/device licenses. We’re better off staying with concurrent licensing in this example.

Equally, if a traditional desktop environment is being assessed, SysTrack can make the choice between concurrent and user/device licensing very easy.

 

Florian

Twitter: @florianbecker and @lakesidesoft

Email: florian.becker@lakesidesoftware.com

On the web: www.lakesidesoftware.com

References/Notes:

  • While Citrix has reviewed this blog for accuracy at the time of this writing, Lakeside Software cannot make any representations on behalf of Citrix. Please always check with your authorized reseller, Citrix account manager and on citrix.com for the latest updates in product and licensing functionality.

Citrix XenApp Session Monitoring

At Lakeside Software, we’re all about the end-user computing experience and our SysTrack product is well known to instrument desktops and servers across the physical and virtual world.

We realize that each use case and environment is different and that customers often like to have information readily available that is relevant to their specific environment and to their individual job. In the case of Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop, we recently published a paper that outlines some general best practices and walks readers through the various areas of SysTrack that are relevant to this use case. For best practices regarding XenApp monitoring right out of the box:

http://portal.lakesidesoftware.com/support/Monitoring_Citrix_XenApp.aspx

Today, I am excited to introduce another example of how  SysTrack supports Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop environments in a  very powerful way through the Dashboard Builder, which ships with SysTrack 7.0 and later.  The dashboard configuration discussed here is available for download from our servers through the dashboard builder tool in the product:

Import Dashboard

 

Import from Web
Import from Web

Then select the Import from Web option and select the Citrix XenApp Sessions dashboard.

Here’s what it does:

  • First,  select a time frame of interest. The default is the last 7 days, but any time scale can be selected
  • The first graph shows the number of sessions and number of unique users on each individual XenApp server, as well as the total across all servers:
Session Summary
Session Summary

 

  • The second pane is interesting because it shows data that is actually being pulled out of the Citrix Director / EdgeSight data set. It shows the number of machine failures across the selected time frame as a line graph. Clicking on any of the data points reveals a complete list of machine failures for the time interval that is associated with the data point (A machine failure in this context is a failure to register with the Desktop Controller, being stuck on boot, etc. )
Citrix Director Data
Citrix Director Data

 

  • In the third pane, users can select a specific XenApp server from a list, which also shows average per session resource utilization on each server. Doing so shows all application faults and hangs on that server for the selected time frame along with details about the failure, time stamps, etc.
Application Faults
Application Faults
  • The line graph right below  shows concurrent sessions on the selected server.
Session Concurrency
Session Concurrency
  • Next, select any user that had a session on the selected server. The list then shows all sessions for that user.
Session Information
Session Information

 

  • From here, there are two drill-down capabilities:

(a) Double clicking on the session opens the SysTrack Resolve / Black Box Data Recorder for the Server / User combination and allows administrators and architects to grab the most granular data, views, and visualization that is relevant for the user / server combination.

(b) clicking on the session shows all alarms that were recorded on the server during the user’s session.

 

Session Alarms
Session Alarms

In summary, this is just one example on how SysTrack can help put all the relevant information for a specific use case into a single view without the need to navigate through multiple visualizers. It also demonstrates the ability to pull in data from multiple data sources (in this case SysTrack and the Desktop Director).

Note: After importing the dashboard into the builder, have a look at the Description on the Dashboard Properties Tab. It has a link to a short document  on a few simple configuration steps that are required for this particular  dashboard in your SysTrack deployment.

Please share your questions or comments with us.

Florian Becker

twitter: @florianbecker