Insight Services: The Virtual Virtualization Assistant

Easy, fast, and free. These three words aren’t typically associated with Citrix, but in the case of Insight Services, Citrix has provided an automated way to analyze multiple Citrix products and provide suggestions and best practices to improve your environment—for free! It gets better: The analysis typically takes only a few minutes, and this isn’t just a one-time or limited-time offer.

Currently, Insight Services can be used to assess XenApp, XenDesktop, XenServer, NetScaler, and Provisioning Services (see CTX135408). Support for CloudBridge and XenMobile are coming soon; these products will be added later this quarter. Between the currently supported products and those that will be added in the near term, the entire product set is nearly complete.

Probably the most difficult aspect of Insight Services is understanding the name—or rather, the names, plural. In typical Citrix style, the name for this product has changed numerous times since it was launched nearly two years ago. Insight Services is now the umbrella name for a set of tools including Scout, the mechanism to gather data for XenApp/XenDesktop; PVSDataTool, for PVS; Server Status Report, which relates to XenServer; and the Show Techsupport Collection script, used for NetScaler. The CloudBridge and XenMobile tool names are still unknowns. Formerly, Auto-Support and Tools as a Service (TaaS) were used as the umbrella names. Having of these names is much too confusing; they likely hamper IT professionals’ ability to find the name of the tool needed for the specific Citrix product to be analyzed. Nonetheless, the value of running a self-check via Insight Services is worth wading through the plethora of names.

Let’s face it: Citrix products are not easy to implement correctly. The ever-increasing complexity of the various components, combined with the specific environmental variables, make Insight Manager a welcome virtual assistant. Until the day when default settings align with general best practices and items such as post-installation optimizations are preconfigured during installation, Insight Manager certainly fills a much-needed gap.

Citrix has absolutely done it right with Insight Services. The report output is a value-add that inspires loyalty to Citrix and its products. Because this analysis doesn’t even use a Citrix technical support incident, there’s no downside to gathering data via the respective Insight Services tool and uploading for analysis. In the event that a complex issue was the basis for submitting the Insight Services analysis, the data already uploaded and analyzed can be used by Citrix technical support when an incident is subsequently opened. As was the case previously, there is a charge for opening a technical support incident; only the Insight Manager analysis is free.

Even better, the services team that supports Insight Services appears to be sharply focused on improvement. Further, there’s no talk about charging for Insight Services, which is a refreshing change.

The analysis provided by Insight Services is far superior to that of the past, in which an infrastructure assessment was manually performed by Citrix Consulting or a partner, and it took several days of poking and prodding the Citrix infrastructure to find what appeared to be relatively simple items that were key root causes. Citrix Consulting now uses Insight Services to provide valuable data before starting an engagement in order to maximize the effectiveness of on-site time.

Is the Insight Services output perfect? No. The report may make some extraneous or impractical suggestions, but overall, it’s certainly a huge step toward improving the currently deployed Citrix infrastructure. Not bad for easy, fast, and free.

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