The previous article in this series covered the complexity of transitioning apps to a virtualized environment. This article discusses end user analytics tools primarily from the standpoint of a Citrix® environment. It then compares them, with an eye toward minimizing the time and effort necessary to implement a virtualization infrastructure.
Two primary analytic tools gather data on applications in order to transition to a virtualized environment. These tools are:
- Lakeside® SysTrack™
- Liquidware Labs™ Stratusphere™
After delving into these tools, we’ll discuss integration with AppDNA, an application assessment tool that Citrix provides to its Platinum edition customers. For the purpose of this discussion, we will compare the two products only from the standpoint of assessing applications on the user desktop as part of a virtualization initiative. Each product provides additional functionality that is beyond the scope of this review.
Lakeside focuses on monitoring and data analytics. Citrix has teamed with Lakeside for nearly twenty years to provide data analytics. What many knew as the Resource Manager add-on for MetaFrame (predecessor of XenApp) was actually licensed from Lakeside. This tool enabled IT professionals to see the exact state of a server at fifteen-second intervals, including CPU, memory, and applications that consumed greater than 5% of each.
In 2011, Lakeside’s SysTrack product became part of the Citrix Virtual Desktop Assessment tool, an automated tool for assessing applications as an early phase of a virtualization initiative. A scaled-down version of SysTrack is provided with the Virtual Desktop Assessment tool, and a more robust version is also available for application assessment.
Setting up SysTrack requires a Windows server with an SQL Server database. Where the data collection is minimal, SQL Server Express can address the database requirements.
SysTrack provides an easy-to-use administrative console that displays data intuitively. Without any training, most administrators should be able to view the application data points required and import into Citrix AppDNA with just a few clicks.
Liquidware Labs Stratusphere
Like Lakeside, Liquidware Labs is a Citrix Ready partner. Founded in 2009, the company focuses on several areas related to virtualization. Many administrators’ first contact with Liquidware involved its user profile product, ProfileUnity™. Most recently, FlexApp™ has proven to be a solid third-party application layering tool. These three products are bundled in the Essentials Suite.
Liquidware Stratusphere is based on a hardened Linux virtual appliance. As such, neither the virtual appliance nor the database requires a license, which represents a cost savings.
While the console readily shows basic information, extrapolating detailed data requires some training and system knowledge. For example, rather than appearing onscreen, specific applications must be selected from a dropdown in order to assess them.
Liquidware is currently working with Citrix to enable a data feed directly into AppDNA; however, the exact timing of this capability is uncertain. Similarly, an upcoming feature of Stratusphere will be the ability to identify TCP/UDP port requirements of apps, which is useful for firewall configuration.
Which Product Is Best for Physical Desktop Application Assessment in Preparation for Virtualization?
The product that best suits your needs depends on your requirements. A comparison of the two aforementioned products follows:
|Functionality||Lakeside SysTrack||Liquidware Stratusphere|
|Ability to control specific data collected||Yes||Yes|
|Collection of functional data within applications (e.g., non-public information)||No||No|
|Assess application CPU/memory||Yes||Yes|
|Red/Yellow/Green user experience metrics||Yes||Yes|
|Identification of Layer 4 ports used by applications||Yes||Soon|
|Feed into AppDNA||Yes||Soon|
|Console ease of use||Easy||Moderate|
|Collection mechanism||Windows Server with SQL Server database||Linux VM|
Whether or not one of the aforementioned tools was used to capture end user analytic data, Citrix application assessment projects should include AppDNA. While assessing apps via AppDNA does not reveal every possible issue, it does serve to maximize automation of application assessment.
In addition to offering an easy installation and setup process, the management console of AppDNA is extremely easy to use. AppDNA furnishes detailed output regarding each application, and color coding provides an easy-to-view assessment of the complexity of the application set. Where there are known or potential issues, remediation steps are presented, along with documentation references.
Further, output reports can be produced at a high or detailed level for review by management. These reports can be used to gauge the amount of time necessary to transition applications to the new virtualization platform.
Now that you are armed with end user analytics tools to automate apps assessment, it is unpredictable and unreliable to rely on manual processes to determine the complexity of transitioning apps as part of a virtualization project. Projects can be accelerated greatly with the use of tools such as Lakeside SysTrack, Liquidware Labs Stratusphere, and Citrix AppDNA. Not only do these tools shorten and improve the process of assessing applications, but the output data provides the application engineer with numerous data points that minimize the amount of time and frustration expended during the most complex aspect of a virtualization project.