Many IT departments view new or recently migrated XenApp/XenDesktop implementations as complete when users start accessing the production environment successfully. However, the use of a monitoring tool is often overlooked. The Virtualization Practice has published a new checklist-style white paper entitled Monitoring for Your Citrix® Infrastructure: Considerations and Checklist to help you determine how to best address this. The document provides the reader with numerous thought-provoking questions and line-item checklists without a single mention of a third-party vendor. By considering all aspects of monitoring, you are equipped to draw the best decision for your particular environment.
Let’s step back and discuss why a good mechanism for monitoring your new Citrix environment is so critical. Maintenance mode typically starts after the implementation is complete. At this point, the service team takes point for the Citrix environment. No matter how well deployed, issues will arise, and the service team must tackle these problems quickly and efficiently.
The IT organization walks a tight line to balance user experience requirements, administrator/engineer time constraints, and data center resources. With many IT departments segregating administrative functionality, no one person or group has extensive insight into the entire infrastructure. Citrix administrators are constantly tasked with fast resolution of issues—typically without insight into the multitude of components that are managed by other administrators, including storage, virtualization, networks/firewalls, etc.—and users are often caught in the middle. Thus, problems such as slowness that are caused by components controlled by other administrators cannot easily be troubleshot and resolved, and the resulting user experience is far less than perfect.
Citrix provides some monitoring capabilities with XenApp/XenDesktop 7.x, including basic features of Director for all editions. For those Citrix customers who have licensed XenApp or XenDesktop Platinum edition, additional monitoring capabilities are provided, including:
- Hosted app usage reporting and trending
- Historical performance trending
- User experience network analysis
- Integration with NetScaler HDX Insight
- Microsoft Systems Center Operations Manager (SCOM) management packs for Citrix components as licensed from Comtrade
Even for Platinum customers, the inherent tools may or may not provide the necessary insight into problems within the infrastructure. Citrix environments incorporate numerous components, including storage, hypervisor, network, delivery controller, provisioning mechanism, XenApp and/or XenDesktop VDAs, Citrix database, and StoreFront. Also, diverse back-end application components, such as file servers and databases, and user-specific items, such as Receiver version and network packet loss, are complex variables that affect the user experience.
At any given time, one or more of these components may fail or experience an issue. Tracking down issues can be extremely complex, especially when more than one component is at fault.
When Citrix administrators start down the path of researching monitoring solutions, the Citrix and third-party options can be overwhelming. Do I really need to monitor X? Why should Y be important to me? Have I considered all of the options and capabilities necessary?
Of course, it’s prudent to first review the capabilities of the Citrix tools that are included based on the edition of XenApp/XenDesktop that you have licensed. If you have licensed VDI, Advanced, or Enterprise editions, your entitlement provides basic Director functionality. While you’ll be able to see user sessions and drill down to some extent, the full realm of real-time and historic data that is pertinent to understanding the user experience and resolving user issues simply isn’t there.
The Platinum edition provides the full inherent capabilities of Citrix monitoring tools, including network data and the new Microsoft Systems Center Operations Manager (SCOM) management packs for Citrix components (licensed from Comtrade). For some organizations, this addresses monitoring requirements, but for others, it just isn’t enough because of the non-Citrix components that also play a major part in the virtualization solution. For example, if you use VMware as the hypervisor, the management packs that Citrix provides would not identify an issue within that component.
The white paper, Performance Monitoring for Your Citrix Infrastructure: Considerations and Checklist, takes a neutral approach to monitoring. In addition to many thought-provoking questions, the document provides several pages of checklist items that you can use when evaluating both Citrix-inherent tools and third-party products. It includes checklist items based on the various data center components, items related to the user experience, monitoring key performance indicators, administration and reporting, and monitoring system functionality, as well as vendor support and product development.
We invite you to download this white paper at no charge.