Tag Archives: systrack

Digital Experience Management and Event Correlation with SysTrack

SysTrack provides the ability to score an environment’s end user experience using digital experience management metrics. The resulting end user experience score provides a clear view of the end user’s experience in that environment and is composed by a series of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These KPIs are structured to provide direction to any problems in the environment that may affect the end user. The key to the philosophical approach with SysTrack, though, is the joining of this scoring to event correlation and analysis through the use of proactive alerts. These proactive alerts tie that overarching score to triggered, targeted events to provide a fuller and easier to understand portrait of the IT environment.

This starts with our end user experience score, and it’s best thought of as a simple grade. Basically, the score comes in a range of 0 to 100, with a score of a 100 implying the environment is providing the best end user experience. The score is composed of 13 different KPIs that represent aggregate data points on potential sources of impact. These  roughly fall into the categories of resource issues, networking problems,  system configuration issues, and infrastructure problems. This results in a great, normalized score to understand across a broad set of different systems what kind of performance issues are occurring. Even more importantly, it provides a platform for long-term analysis for trending to see the trajectory and evolution of that experience over time. The image below displays an overall view of the end user’s experience of the environment and the ability to monitor the evolution of those impacts over time. 

For more operational items that require an immediate response the alerting mechanism comes into play. Alerts are an active component that are triggered by events generally correlated with negative impact. Alert items roughly correlate with the end user experience score KPIs to help further IT administrators’ direction towards resolving problems. The image below demonstrates an environment with active alerts.
The key piece is correlating these items to that impact in a meaningful way. So, the big question is this: how do they work with one another?

One of the most common ways alerts and user experience scores are used in conjunction is through a feedback loop.  An administrator determines which KPI is causing the largest source of impact and continues to drill down providing a clear view of placed and potentially triggered correlating alerts. The alerts will direct the administrator towards the underlying causes of the problem and finally to the potential source of impact. After the resolution the administrator can track the increase in user experience as a result of their improvements to see how successful their changes have been.

End user experience scores provide an overall indicator of the quality end users are experiencing, while alerts provide immediate information on the source of impact. The integration of both tools provides an easy and clear way for IT administrators to discover the source of a system’s impact. To learn more on this topic check out our white paper, Utilizing KPIs and Alarm Methods!

Focus on Personas

One area of particular strength in SysTrack’s suite of value added functions is its ability to provide automated EUC Persona insight, aka “End User Segmentation”.  In their research note, “Segment Users by Workspace to Allocate Physical Devices, Digital Tools, Support and Services,” Gartner analyst Federica Troni states:

IT leaders responsible for end-user computing are challenged with determining the right set of tools to maximize user productivity and engagement without duplicating costs and capabilities.

Such a framework helps IT leaders determine the right choices to accommodate diverse user requirements.

Lakeside’s approach to end user segmentation is consistent with and supportive of the process advocated by Gartner.  The granular End User Computing (EUC) data collected, aggregated, and visualized by SysTrack is exactly the kind of data needed to identify user groups within an enterprise who have common device, application, service, connectivity, and support needs.  No longer must IT rely on outdated questionnaires, anecdotal input, and/or educated guesses.  Using real EUC data, collected from actual systems, with real users; the results are accurate, fast, and non-controversial. Thus “data driven” vs “instinct and intuitive” based decisions can drive EUC provisioning, access, and support choices.

This data driven methodology for Persona discovery can pay big dividends.  Proper matches between end users, the devices, applications, and services they use, typically result in:

    • Productivity improvements – Having the “right tool for the job” is an age old adage and is as important in IT as in any other form of work.
      • An over/under provisioned workstation represents waste. Either too much was spent on an over provisioned system or an end user of an under provisioned system can’t effectively do their job.
      • Mismatched application suites to job requirements represent waste. Providing more applications than end users need results in unused licenses, increased support costs, increased workload demands, and an increased risk of application or system conflicts.  Failing to provide appropriate applications to do the job, results in lower end user output.
      • Mobile and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) initiatives require proper orchestration. Opening an enterprises’ infrastructure to any/all devices the EUC community chooses to use can be a security risk, support nightmare, and connectivity challenge.  A better approach is to understand the work behaviour of all end users and identify where mobile and BYOD adoption is appropriate.

 

  • Asset optimization – Rather than a “one size fits all’ approach, a proper understanding of the personas within an enterprise can lead to the distribution of end user devices which are appropriate for the job.

In a recent SysTrack assessment at a large auto manufacturer it was determined only 10% of the enterprises’ 25,000 laptops were observed to have been moved from their office location.   This while the average cost of a laptop was $150 more than a desktop and the average failure rate on the laptops were about 10% higher.

In another assessment it was observed that more than 80% of the enterprises’ users were not taking advantage of several of the applications within a suite of applications.  A lower license cost was negotiated with the application suite’s manufacturer based on the historical SysTrack data, this resulted in over $15M in savings for the company.

  • Service Desk Support Optimization – By reviewing “day in the life” data for various personas, an enterprises’ service desk resources can be staffed with appropriate skill sets for the times when needed. Frequently, a “one size fits all” service desk with 7 x 24 coverage is provided for the entire EUC community.  One recent study revealed a client had fewer than 5% of their EUC users accessing any resources after 8pm on Fridays and before 6am on Mondays.  The decision was made to curtail the service desk staffing on weekends and increasing the coverage during normal business hours, resulting in significant cost savings and improved EUC satisfaction, as the response time was improved during the time the service was actually needed.
  • EUC on-boarding optimization – Proper persona and job role identification, documentation, and definitions, provide a very efficient method for on-boarding new employees or changing employee job assignments. An enterprise with fully defined personas and job roles can quickly assign the proper resources (end user device, applications, services, connectivity, etc.) based on the job description of the end user at any point in time.

One customer reported the on-boarding time for new employees was reduced from 8 days to 1 day by properly identifying the various personas and job roles within the organization and automating the on-boarding process to take advantage of the persona insights.

  • Cloud Affinity – Significant savings are being realized by enterprises through adoption of “Cloud” services. SysTrack can identify which enterprise workloads are suited for “The Cloud” and who among the end users are ready to utilize cloud based services.

 

 

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

 

Lakeside Wins Citrix Best of Synergy 2014 Award – Virtualization

BestOfSynergyWinner_Black_RGB_400x400At this year’s Citrix Synergy conference, Lakeside Software won the Citrix Best of Synergy 2014 Award in the virtualization category.

Lakeside Software was selected for this top award in the virtualization category by popular vote of the Synergy attendees.  This award is thus the latest confirmation that SysTrack is the solution of choice for improving XenApp and XenDesktop end-user performance and accelerating the roll-out of desktop virtualization projects enterprise-wide.

SysTrack allows IT leaders and business owners to gain deep insights into the end-user experience, pinpoint application and system issues without lengthy replication procedures, and accurately scale and size virtualized environments based on actually observed user behavior.  Through its distributed data architecture, SysTrack scales to hundreds of thousands of monitored systems in a single deployment across the entire spectrum of physical and virtual desktops and servers.  Because today’s knowledge workers are interacting with a compute environment almost 100% of their working time, SysTrack’s data allows forward thinking organizations to gain insights into their workforce’s needs and behaviors, enabling them to run their businesses at peak efficiency and success.

Thanks to our many customers and partners for helping us win this prestigious award.

Learn more about SysTrack for user experience management for XenApp and XenDesktop.

SysTrack Basics: Build a First Dashboard

With the recent launch of SysTrack 7.0 it’s a perfect time to introduce one of the newest (and best, in my opinion) features: SysTrack Dashboard Builder. Even though it’s currently still just a tech preview it’s fairly feature complete, and there are some cool ways to present and customize data from SysTrack or other sources. The basic idea is to build a dashboard from some component pieces. You start with a set of data you’d like to work with (e.g. software utilization, health, vCenter system stats, etc. . .), and use this to create a query with the report builder. This then gets connected to a series of presentation tools. You can pick from standard (boring) tabular views, charts of a number of types, heat charts, bubble diagrams, and basically any way you’d care to think of to show some data points. To illustrate the process we’ll go step by step through the creation of a basic software inventory dashboard.

The first step is to create a new dashboard.

NewDashboard

Give it a name (I’ll pick Software Inventory because I’m not a very creative person), and then we’re ready to start dragging objects in. I’ll start with the Query object:

QueryDataBlock

There are some key areas here:

  1. Name and Description – Yep
  2. Query – This is the critical part of the dashboard, and the heart of the entire process. There are a few options (we’ll explore more in later posts), but because I’m pretty familiar with the data we’re working with here I’ll just put together a quick query (we’ll cover the report builder later, but it’s pretty easy to work with):

SELECT COUNT(DISTINCT SystemId) AS [System Count], PackageName AS [Package], Version

FROM RPT_Software

WHERE (Flags & 16) = 0 AND Version <> ”

GROUP BY PackageName, Version

ORDER BY COUNT(DISTINCT SystemId) DESC

  1. Connection String – Here an alternative data source can be specified.
  2. Hierarchy Setup – Basically a method for developing groupings within the datasets. This will also be covered later.

With this, we’re ready to add in some objects to view the data. I’ll pick a table and a bar chart:

GraphandTableParts

By dragging in the presentation objects and connecting them to the data source I’ve finished up a basic dashboard. From here I can specify some settings for my chart (column type, what appears on the X-axis, what the title is) and save. This is now a complete dashboard ready for use:

SoftwareInventoryDash

With that we’ve completed a very rudimentary dashboard. We’ll have some more blogs covering much more detailed nuances of how to work with the Dashboard Builder in the near future, but that’s all it takes to get started. Give it a shot.

Citrix Synergy 2014 and Big Data for End User Computing

When I started working at Citrix in the summer of 2005 in the consulting organization it was considered a special honor to attend the Citrix Synergy events (back then, it was called iForum and the format was slightly different, but we’re talking generally here about the large annual customer conference). As an employee, one had to have some sort of special assignment in order to get the authorization to go and my co-workers and I always scrambled to get on the list. A speaking slot in one of the many breakout sessions or learning labs would typically do it and many of us became very creative in terms of proposing a session and positioning ourselves as the speakers.

Since then, I rarely missed the event and I had the honor of speaking on topics of implementation methodologies and practices in the area of Network Application Delivery, WAN optimization, and later on desktop transformation.

Besides the big keynote sessions and breakout presentations, the exhibit floor was always a big draw at the event and one of the many reasons why we wanted to attend. This was the opportunity to speak directly with the various Citrix product and business groups, but more importantly with the exhibitors and technology partners. This allows attendees to get a really good overview of the entire ecosystem of technologies, partners, and competitors that make up the entire landscape around the core Citrix technologies of virtualization, mobility, cloud, and networking.

This year should be no different and I am excited to attend Citrix Synergy for the first time as a sponsor and technology partner. This will provide me with the opportunity to connect with many of my friends at Citrix and the partners and to talk about Lakeside Software’s move into the Big Data for End User Computing space.

Long before “Big Data” was the buzzword it is today, long before Google published the MapReduce paper that led to big data and its associated technologies, long before hadoop was a thing, Lakeside SysTrack took a big data approach to end user computing. “Big” because large enterprises generate terabytes of end-user data, but due to the highly distributed nature of end user data, have virtually no good way of harnessing the information contained within the data in a meaningful way. SysTrack started solving that problem in the late 1990s and has been on the forefront of data collection and analytics in de-centralized environments at unprecedented scale ever since then. Today, we’re moving beyond the IT centric view of machine generated data and we’re presenting unique and innovative ways to gain deep insights into the human side of end-user computing.

Sounds too esoteric? For those of you interested in the virtualization side of end-user computing, please stop by our booth at Synergy and let’s have a conversation about the established best practices in monitoring and managing XenApp and XenDesktop deployments – including the latest 7.5 releases. Let’s have a conversation about planning, designing, and executing the implementation or migration to 7.5. Let’s have a look at our latest release. We hope that you’ll like what you see and give us your vote in the Best of Synergy award election.

See you in Anaheim next week!

Florian Becker

florian.becker@lakesidesoftware.com
Twitter: @florianbecker

Big Data for End-User Computing – An Introduction

There are a tremendous number of conversations going on regarding Big Data in the enterprise, and the IT industry is certainly not an exception. In fact, IT represents a particularly interesting area in the exploration of interrelated datasets and user behaviors as it provides not only supporting infrastructure and server data, but the much more interesting distributed endpoint usage. This allows characterization of end-user behavior across platforms to start drawing some very valuable conclusions about how to deliver solutions and improve work experience with workstations, applications, and mobile devices.

In general the principle is fairly straightforward: by using a distributed database architecture and capturing details on the local device SysTrack uses the power of each client for analysis and summarization. This frees up central resources that may otherwise be tied up with resource intensive traditional big data solutions with heavy infrastructure requirements. That way our End-User Computing Big Data platform can capture the thousands of data points that are generated every second on an endpoint and perform meaningful analysis in real-time. With our latest version (SysTrack 7.0) we also leverage an innovative operational packet of processed data to communicate health and application activity from each endpoint to provide immediate insight into utilization across a deployment.

Florian mentioned DaaS as one specific area of interest for Big Data oriented around end-user compute devices, but there’s really a lot more that can be determined from the various devices that users interact with. SysTrack provides a wealth of information that makes workforce management and characterization simple. This includes everything from software rationalization to performance characterization to not only perform transformations to be completed to improve user experience, but also develop new workflows and business solutions.

Another interesting facet to SysTrack’s DataMine is the ability to integrate other solutions or analytical engines in with the processed datasets provided through our architecture. With OpenAPI many leading technology solutions, such as Citrix AppDNA and ServiceNow, can take advantage of our data management techniques from the client to gain insight into environmental characteristics like deployed software and utilization habits to augment their solutions.

Check out our new whitepaper about Big Data for EUC to find out more about how SysTrack leverages its unique architecture to provide actionable information without the complexity.

X-IO and Lakeside Simplifying the Search for Storage Solutions

When you’re looking into enterprise storage options, the amount of information available to you and the in-depth knowledge you need of your environment to make an informed decision can become overwhelming. It’s easy to ballpark how much overall space you need and tack on some extra for expected growth and overhead, but that can quickly become very cost inefficient. The best way to approach the storage solution search is to gather some data and insight into your environment so you know things such as current space used, how that space is allocated, and IOPS details.

Getting all of this information and making sense of it is no small task, but luckily Lakeside Software has teamed up with X-IO to provide an easy way to address questions about storage solutions. As an innovator in the storage industry, X-IO’s products fit well with Lakeside’s data analysis capabilities. X-IO has taken the stance that not all storage is created equal, and here at Lakeside we were happy to work with them to provide data to illustrate that there’s no one-size-fits-all storage solution.

As a new partner to Lakeside’s MarketPlace program, X-IO worked closely with us to produce a report that highlights all of the storage related information about your environment and helps you decide which X-IO storage solution is right for your enterprise. After a short assessment period, usually two-four weeks, with Lakeside’s core product, SysTrack, the report can be produced through our Virtual Machine Planner assessment tool and auto-populated with data collected from your environment. This provides invaluable insight that would otherwise be very difficult to produce.

Armed with this information you can feel assured that you’re choosing the right storage solution. No more guessing on the specs your environment requires, simply let SysTrack collect the data and do the analysis for you. If you’re considering a new storage solution for your enterprise, contact us so we can set up SysTrack to do the work for you.

Monitoring Citrix XenApp 7.5 and XenDesktop 7.5 Has Never Been Easier

Citrix has made some waves in the IT community with the recent releases of XenDesktop 7.5 and XenApp 7.5. Whether it be an app or a large desktop infrastructure, the newest versions of these leading products provide some of the best the market has to offer for virtualization solutions. Here at Lakeside we get pretty excited over software and IT product releases, and the new Citrix offerings are no exception. In earlier blog posts we talked about how SysTrack’s monitoring abilities can add value to XenApp and XenDesktop, but how do you best monitor the environment these products are running in?

Log files and performance monitor are one way, but those methods can be unreliable and time consuming. Lakeside Software works to make monitoring easy with SysTrack. SysTrack collects an extremely large amount of data out-of-the-box, but each enterprise is different and we recognize the need for additional data collection based on what software is being used. That’s why Lakeside offers Roles that are designed with a specific product in mind to ensure we’re monitoring that product as best as possible.

A number of Roles are already available and we work to add additional ones as new enterprise software hits the market. The new Citrix XenApp 7.5 and Citrix XenDesktop 7.5 Roles will make sure that you have the data and business intelligence needed to keep your Citrix solutions running as smoothly as possible. Research into best practices for these products recommended by Citrix as well as Lakeside’s experience in the monitoring space has allowed us to tune these Roles to be just right. They’ll monitor performance counters, events, and more and can be configured to alert you when something has gone wrong or even to take action.

Between Roles and SysTrack your enterprise is being closely monitored to make managing it a little easier, because deploying enterprise software on a large scale is already a big enough task with real costs associated with it. Delivering the best possible user experience by ensuring your environment is performing well will help ensure those costs deliver their best possible return. Check out Lakeside if you want to learn a little more about how Roles or SysTrack can help.

 

Lakeside Software at GTC – vGPU Planning and Optimization

With GTC coming up shortly it seems like an ideal time to discuss some of the key concepts that we’ll be covering in our talk at the conference about designing and optimizing a virtual environment with complex graphical needs using NVIDIA’s innovative GRID technology.  A recurring theme with us here at Lakeside is a focus on characterizing end-user demand, and planning for successful vGPU provisioning is another thing that’s totally contingent on taking the actual user usage and applying solid mathematical analysis for use case development. This is where SysTrack comes in.

The overall strategy is covered in more detail in a white paper and a MarketPlace report, but to summarize, the key to assessing and delivering a useable environment is understanding the usage habits and needs of the users, including the GPU demand of the current applications they interact with. By continually collecting these details and providing quantitative analysis of the different types of graphical profiles people may require SysTrack provides an in-depth, accurate way to architect a solution that will provide the best possible experience for end-users.

Once this plan has been developed, the next step is delivering and ensuring steady state performance through observation and optimization. Through the use of NVIDIA-specific driver details SysTrack can provide vGPU utilization metrics in the virtual environment to ensure that as usage evolves the profiles and provisioning can keep up. Ultimately this improves the adoption rate by providing advanced users with more demanding needs a seamless, well performing experience.

For more details, check out the talk that Florian and I will be giving at GTC on Tuesday: “S4686 – NVIDIA GRID for VDI: How To Design And Monitor Your Implementation” or our website (www.lakesidesoftware.com) for details about solutions for your VDI or application delivery implementation.