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Considerations for Monitoring Citrix

Introduction

We find that questions about effectively monitoring Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp (collectively referred to as Citrix in the rest of this article) performance occur frequently when we are discussing application and network performance with our Clients.

We’ve noticed an increase in enquiries in this area over the last 2 years, which we expect is related to a combination of increased adoption of home working and BYOD as well as more enterprises reviewing Citrix as a potential cost saving option when they need to refresh desktops.

The design of purpose of these technologies means that following two statements are true.
  • Citrix is always a critical service in organisations where it exists.
  • Citrix requires a different approach to other common IT Services when it comes to Performance Monitoring.

In this article, we discuss the challenges of monitoring Citrix and the different methods available, but also (and perhaps more importantly) how the complexity of the task often leads IT Operations down the path that leads to a segregated monitoring approach - which doesn’t always align to service monitoring best practices.

Challenges of Monitoring Citrix

In a 2016 survey carried out by Citrix and Virtualisation Industry Experts, whilst over half of the respondents identified Citrix as their most critical IT Service, 90% admitted that they were not satisfied with the way that they monitor Citrix.

We find that many Administrators of Citrix find that Citrix (legacy and current) provided tools don’t provide them with the integrated, end to end visibility they require to truly understand Citrix Performance in the context of the end user facing services and applications their end user community are consuming. 

Within the multiple Citrix infrastructure tiers and the ICA protocol itself (which is the foundation of the Citrix technology), there is a goldmine of valuable performance information available. However, many of the well-known performance management vendors out there simply don’t have effective methods of either retrieving, interpreting or visualising this information in a meaningful and relevant way. Those that do, often don’t provide the full picture to understand the Citrix journey end-to-end.

Approaches

The below are some of the available methods commonly deployed to monitor Citrix.

Wire Data
  • By analysing wire data by spanning/mirroring switch ports or utilising network TAP’s, real-time Citrix traffic can be viewed and analysed for performance.
  • This requires a solution that can “see” the ICA protocol and report on key Citrix performance metrics such as slow logins and load times and alert proactively when thresholds are exceeded. You should ensure that the vendor is certified by Citrix as “Citrix Ready”.
  • This approach requires no instrumentation of the Citrix Servers and can be deployed even on the highest speed networks.
  • Dashboards can be created and data can be viewed by users, location sessions, client type etc. The ability to query the data in this way allows the IT team to spot activities, users or applications that are causing bottlenecks and other performance issues.
Agent Based Monitoring
  • By deploying Agents on the critical tiers of the Citrix infrastructure key metrics can be gathered and reported back to a central console, where all tier data can be viewed in one place giving a powerful view of overall Citrix Performance.
  • Whilst Citrix provides guidelines on what to monitor, out of the box capabilities to extract them, enhanced custom metrics and data visualisation is what makes certain vendors stand out in this field.
Synthetic Tests
  • By emulating end user logon and measuring the response at each stage of the transaction through the Citrix service (authentication and handover through the multiple tiers, Citrix desktop/application load, profile and session load etc.) the Citrix service can be tested from multiple end user perspectives in a proactive way.
  • This is also an effective way to test performance and "stress-test" prior to an upgrade and new deployment in test environments.

So, Which method is Right for Your Business

Frustratingly the answer is not as simple as the question! In an ideal world being able to test all these methods would be optimal, as although there might be some cross-over in capabilities, they all offer a different perspective and a different basis of truth. This view is supported by the emerging discipline of ITOA (IT Operation Analytics) which is most simply explained as Big Data specific to IT (explained well here IT Operation Analytics by our partner Extrahop). Here there is recognised value in identifying multiple trusted sources of data to interpret, correlate and provide the most informed and accurate picture.

However, where budgets are limited and you are starting to monitor Citrix from scratch you need to look at where you are going to start and where you’re going to get the most value initially. The answer to this will depend on the nature of your environment, the specific challenges you’re experiencing and your budget.

Don’t fall into a Silo

If you take away just one point from this blog, this is probably the most important. Unlike many other applications our customer monitor, Citrix is not really the end result itself, it’s a vehicle for delivering applications and services to end-users or customers. It’s extremely important but monitoring Citrix performance and availability on its own, in a silo, will not allow IT operation teams to manage and view end-to-end services.

KedronUK very much support the approach of monitoring end-to-end services - completely, without blind spots. This means being able to understand Service Configuration, model that knowledge into your monitoring platform and alert and report on this basis. From this viewpoint, Citrix sits alongside network, virtualisation, OS, database, storage and back-end application technology in a single eco system of service.

More Info?

If that sounds too good to be true, speak to one of our experts about how we make this happen or alternatively sign up to our series of Citrix Webinars, where each week we show the audience a key vendor in one of the above-mentioned disciplines -wire data, agent based, synthetic and finishing with bringing all this information together in one single service view)

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