Monitoring and managing a Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop environment can depend on the embedded Citrix components or, if they are deemed insufficient, third-party tools. From a realistic standpoint, (aka, non-marketing), this article will review the inherent Citrix tools, and Part 2 will focus on third-party tools.
Back in the days of MetaFrame/Presentation Server, Citrix administrators and engineers used Resource Manager, which was licensed from Lakeside Software, to monitor user sessions, server health, and application functionality. At that point, the third-party options for tracking and reporting activities on application servers were few, and administrators and engineers were content with basic monitoring functionality. In 2006, Citrix acquired Reflectent Software, and EdgeSight became part of the Citrix portfolio of products. One year later, EdgeSight was touted as a key value-add for the new Platinum edition. The product focused on monitoring Presentation Server/XenApp, and a clunky bolt-on for XenDesktop was later released; however, it was not scalable.
Fast forward to 2010: Citrix released Desktop Director, which was its internally developed monitoring and management tool for XenDesktop. In 2011, support for XenApp 6.5 was appended, but the XenApp portion was the clunky bolt-on this time. The Desktop portion of the Desktop Director name faded, and Director has continued to mature as Citrix’s go-forward product addressing service desk and administrator requirements. Starting with XenDesktop/XenApp 7.x, Director is the embedded monitoring tool and installs by default.
Although the tagline for Director states that it is powered by EdgeSight, that extra verbiage serves to hinder rather than help in understanding the underlying technology and functionality of the product. While Director takes many concepts from EdgeSight, it has been completely rebuilt from the ground up by Citrix and does not depend on the old EdgeSight in any way. For example, migration of data from any pre-7.x farm/site that used EdgeSight is not possible.
Where Embedded Citrix Monitoring Tools Make Sense—And Where They Don’t
Depending on which version of XenApp or XenDesktop is primarily used for production, as well as on the monitoring and management requirements, the embedded Citrix monitoring tools may or may not suffice, and third-party solutions may be required. In addition, where functionality for a platform was an afterthought and the monitoring tool was appended (e.g., Director 2.x added XenApp 6.5, and EdgeSight added XenDesktop 5.x), its usefulness doesn’t match the originally intended platform, and administrators will likely find that the appended functionality is unsatisfactory.
For licensed Platinum editions of XenApp or XenDesktop, reviewing the embedded monitoring options enables an organization to gain additional value from its investment, as well as to determine when and how a third-party monitoring tool may present a better solution.
XenApp 6.x/XenDesktop 5.x
For businesses that plan to stay on the XenApp 6.x platform for six months or longer, revisiting EdgeSight may be beneficial, because it installs easily and provides an interface that requires little configuration. Because EdgeSight requires an interim database agent that can only support up to about 100 virtual desktops, EdgeSight does not scale for XenDesktop 5.x. Be forewarned that EdgeSight requires administrator intervention at times, for devices that cease reporting and the loss of real-time monitoring profiles when Provisioning Services is used, among other issues. Although EdgeSight is free with Platinum and fully supported by Citrix, working through these deficiencies does require extra effort.
Desktop Director was initially released for XenDesktop to give help desk associates access to virtual desktop resources and visibility into the real-time user experience. For XenDesktop 5.x, this tool is easy to install during or after initial implementation, and with the exception of maintenance of the SQL Server database, generally requires no administrator intervention. However, the adaptation of Director for XenApp 6.5 where XenDesktop 5.x is not used is overly complex and poorly documented by Citrix.
In addition to EdgeSight and Director, Citrix XenApp 6.x includes Configuration Logging, which is a useful feature for monitoring administrative changes and may address industry tracking requirements such as HIPAA and GLBA. This feature is easy to implement and use and generally requires no administrator intervention.
Scout is a free tool from Citrix, and it incorporates a plethora of individual monitoring utilities. Scout requires merely the installation of the utility, confirmation of several configuration settings, and initiation of the capture of data. Windows Remote Management (WinRM) must be enabled on target devices; this is done by simply designating winrm quickconfig. The data is then uploaded to Citrix for automated analysis, and the report is generally available within a few minutes. Scout does not use a Technical Support incident, and the analysis is provided at no charge.
By default, Director and Configuration Logging are installed with XenDesktop/XenApp 7.x and are incorporated into the same site database during implementation. Citrix recommends changing the location for these two databases and adjusting the grooming schedule. In addition, at setup time, delegated administrator permissions and HDX Insight (NetScaler) should be configured in order to obtain additional network data. Once these steps are complete, the need for administrator intervention is unlikely.
Further, Scout is installed by default with XenDesktop/XenApp 7.x; thus, it is not necessary to install any components to enable this functionality.
Part 2 of this Citrix Monitoring post will include an analysis and comparison of EdgeSight/Director with third-party monitoring products to help you determine when and if additional tools are necessary. Or better yet, if you’re at BriForum, attend the Citrix Monitoring session on Tuesday morning.