Citrix Health Assessment

Introduction

Understanding the user experience and how the environment is performing is critical to getting the most out of your Citrix investment. Lakeside Software's SysTrack is the industry leading tool for gaining visibility into your IT infrastructure. Having insight into applications with which the users are interacting, what kind of compute and network resources are being consumed, hardware profiles, software portfolio overviews, mobility summaries, and a variety of other IT data, allows you to make smart business decisions.

Managing a large Citrix environment can be especially challenging without the right data. A published application experiencing performance issues can have a large impact on the productivity of everyone launching that particular application. Also understanding which users are better fits for XenDesktop versus traditional desktops based on actual user data can greatly save on management and overhead costs. SysTrack provides the granular, detailed data required to effectively manage a Citrix environment.

Lakeside's traditional deployment of SysTrack consists of setting up a server in the environment to act as the SysTrack master system. This requires an investment of time and resources from the IT staff, and while it's a worthwhile investment for monitoring a steady-state environment, it can be somewhat of a burden for smaller scale assessments that are intended to last only a matter of weeks. Realizing there was a need for streamlining the process and reducing what's required from the customer, Lakeside has introduced the Citrix Health Assessment, a Cloud Edition version of SysTrack designed specifically to assess an environment that's considering investing in Citrix infrastructure, is already relying entirely on Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop, or has a mix of both traditional systems and Citrix systems. This cloud based assessment eliminates the need for an on-premises server by moving that infrastructure into the cloud and simplifying the process to get started down to registering on the site, downloading the agent, and deploying the agent to the endpoints. After that the user can login to the assessment website and get access to dashboards, reports, and data visualizers that illustrate exactly what's going on in the environment.

This cloud based, SysTrack as a service, model delivers the same level of granularity and detail that Lakeside has come to be known for, but makes the upfront requirements for preparing for SysTrack as simple as registering on a website and deploying the data collection agent. The net result is a secure and simple way to gain critical insight that helps you get the most out of your investment in Citrix.

How it Works

The foundation of SysTrack is the distributed database architecture, which spreads the compute and storage requirements across the endpoints. This allows SysTrack to collect incredible amounts of detailed and time-correlated data without having to constantly create network traffic to centralize all the data into a single SQL database. The result of this type of architecture is a massively scalable solution that provides both aggregated information and trending data across the enterprise as well as granular data at the system level to look at what was going on at a particular point in time.

The Citrix Health Assessment leverages this distributed database model by installing an agent on the endpoint, a Citrix XenApp server, for example, which collects and stores point-in-time data locally on that server and then summarizes and condenses the data once every 24 hours to a cloud based SQL database. The communication is done using SSL technology over port 443 to ensure the data is kept safe and secure. There's also a data forwarder included with the assessment that allows for a secure connection to be made directly back to one of the endpoints to utilize SysTrack Resolve, our tool for analyzing the most granular, point-in-time level of data collected. The figure shown below illustrates the basic concept of the cloud based SysTrack model.

All of the trends and aggregated data that summarize the systems and the environment as a whole are stored in the cloud. These data can be viewed through dashboards, SSRS reports, and data visualizer applications starting about 24-48 hours after the agent was installed. The point-in-time data that is kept on the endpoint can be accessed at any time using SysTrack Resolve.

Leveraging the Data

The Citrix Health Assessment provides more than just a repository of data. Tools to visualize and analyze the data, including tabular datasets and graphing tools, are also provided. In addition to those platforms there are also reports and dashboards that analyze the data for you and present succinct information regarding the performance and usage of the environment. The Citrix Health Assessment was designed to answer questions such as:

  • What quality of service are my end users enjoying?
  • What level of demand exists in my Citrix environment?
  • How can I continue to innovate and evolve my delivery options?

By continuously assessing the environment, SysTrack collects the data required to answer those specific questions all while providing you the tools to dig deeper and gain a variety of other insights. You'll have access to common SysTrack tools like Enterprise, Site, and Data Center Visualizer, Resolve, and targeted dashboards and reports that present very specific Citrix related data and insights taken from the environment. Links to all the reports, dashboards, and visualizers are presented in a single pane website.

Lakeside's "Cloud Edition" of SysTrack is easy to implement and access, just follow the steps and links outlined below:

One of the first considerations when dealing with an already existing Citrix environment, or planning for one, is what type of users there are. Remote delivery of applications or full desktops is a key feature of Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop, it allows for central management of applications and infrastructure while allowing users to connect with a variety of devices. Whether users are good candidates for XenDesktop depends largely on the compute workloads associated with those users. The Citrix Health Assessment highlights which users are ready for virtualization and which might require more planning or should remain on traditional systems.

Starting with this type of high-level look at the users, provides context for the more detailed information around those user's work habits and the applications being used. It's also very valuable information for planning a Citrix environment.

If you're managing an already existing Citrix environment, you might be more interested in how well it's performing. The true test of the success of any IT project is the experience of the end user. SysTrack's proprietary health score combines the productivity impact of 13 different performance indicators and rolls them into a 0 – 100 score that quantifies the user experience. Similar to the XenDesktop Fit graphic shown above, it's a fantastic metric for summarizing the environment and providing context and starting points for deeper investigations into the data.

Looking at the data through different layers provides a full picture of what's going on. The Citrix Health Assessment, and SysTrack in general, were designed to look at every layer. The two previous graphics are the top-level, or summary layer. That layer allows you to see trends, patterns, and summaries of the environment as a whole. Not only is getting quick looks on the current state of the enterprise good information, but it's also a great way to visualize the impact of large changes in the environment such as new hardware or large-scale software upgrades. It's extremely easy to compare the before and after health of a XenApp deployment, or a version upgrade.

The next layer of data is aggregate data for individual systems and users. This drills a little deeper into the data and allows you to identify which systems and users might be experiencing performance issues, or which require above average compute resources. In the case of XenDesktop, you can look at the resource consumption for the systems or users who were identified as possible fits or poor fits for XenDesktop to understand why they were designated that way.

The final layer of data is point-in-time and includes extremely detailed data specific to a system of interest. This level of detail can be seen using Resolve, which creates a secure connection to the locally stored database on the endpoint. This tool is particularly useful for detailed troubleshooting, session analysis, event correlation, and other similar activities. You can, for example, focus on a particular point in time and view detailed ICA performance counters and each process that was running to understand issues such as what was driving poor performance at that time.

The various visualizers and tools included allow you evaluate the enterprise from a perspective of trends and patterns all the way down to the resources being consumed by an individual system, user, or application at a specific point in time. This amount of data is unparalleled and will ensure you have the tools necessary to plan for and keep your Citrix infrastructure operating smoothly.

In addition to the visualizers, which can be thought of as platforms for doing your own investigations, the assessment includes specialized SSRS reports to summarize key data as they relate to Citrix solutions. Enterprise summaries are presented to illustrate XenApp and XenDesktop considerations that can help you to plan for migrating towards those solutions or evaluating your current use of them.

Secure Browser and Skype for Business

Citrix is also staying ahead of the market with the introduction of Secure Browser and the HDX RealTime Optimization Pack, which allows for Skype for Business to be delivered as a virtualized application or within a virtual desktop. Evaluating these solutions and how they might fit into your enterprise is done using SysTrack data and presented in SSRS style reports.

Secure Browser is a way to reliably and safely deliver web applications to your users while simplifying and centralizing the management and overhead associated with that. The Citrix Health Assessment delivers a comprehensive overview of the browser usage in the environment and assesses how Secure Browser may be of benefit.

The HDX RealTime Optimization Pack allows you to deliver Skype for Business as a published application or within a virtual desktop. With Skype becoming one of the most widely used enterprise communication tools for everything from instant messaging to screen sharing, it's critical for IT to have it working properly for all users. Traditionally, Skype was installed locally on each user's device, but with large enterprises this can quickly become a burden for IT to ensure each instance is not only functioning properly, but also securely. Citrix has solved these issues by introducing the ability to virtualize the app, moving the management and control of it to a central location.

Bringing it All Together

The Citrix Health Assessment is a cloud based service that streamlines the process of setting up SysTrack and provides extremely detailed data that allows you to assess, plan, and manage Citrix environments. Access to standard SysTrack tools like Resolve and the Visualizers provide a platform for doing detailed planning and analysis, while on-demand

SSRS style reports provide a comprehensive overview of the environment as it relates to Citrix XenApp, XenDesktop, Skype for Business, and Secure Browser usage and readiness. Some of the datasets you'll have access to are:

  • System Health
  • Mobility Summary
  • Secure Browser Assessment
  • Skype for Business Usage Assessment
  • Published Application Resource Utilization
  • Session Concurrency
  • ICA Session Counters
  • Virtualization Fit
  • Latency Summary
  • Software Portfolio Overview
  • IOPS Demand

Leveraging this service is an easy way to make sure you're getting the most out your investment in Citrix, or to make sure you're ready for an investment in Citrix. Powered by SysTrack's continuous monitoring and distributed database architecture, the Citrix Health Assessment provides the data our customers are accustomed to when using a traditional, on-premises SysTrack setup with the ease and simplicity of a cloud based service.

Methodology

Lakeside Software's methodology is to continuously monitor the environment to allow for continuous improvement. The landscape is constantly evolving with new technologies being introduced all the time, users changing their work habits, and aging software and hardware not performing like they once did. This means IT will need to constantly assess if they're meeting the needs of their users with the current infrastructure, or if they need to plan for and invest in new infrastructure.

Citrix provides industry leading delivery options for published applications with XenApp and fully featured desktops with XenDesktop. The convenience of these solutions can have a very positive impact on the end users, but in order to realize that positive impact the solutions need to be carefully planned for, implemented, and managed. SysTrack provides all the data necessary to make each of these phases easier and more cost effective.

For More Information

For more information about SysTrack and Lakeside Software please visit us on the web http://www.lakesidesoftware.com.