SysTrack and Citrix XenDesktop 7: Future State Virtualization and Performance Management

Abstract

The XenDesktop 7 release for Citrix represents an important next step in the unification of management for the FlexCast solution set. XenDesktop 7 customers will want to ensure they have the right tool for planning Delivery Groups and optimizing capacity. SysTrack can provide the necessary planning and architecture information for accelerated implementation. Additionally, new strategies in end user experience management through Citrix XenDesktop Director can be augmented by detailed trending information in SysTrack to allow for quick problem resolution and the best possible experience for all aspects of the environment.

Introduction

As Citrix again provides key innovations in the delivery of applications and desktops to the enterprise, it's important to understand how their new management architecture fits into an overall IT delivery strategy and how SysTrack can help provide the best possible end user experience. The unification of delivery management for server and desktop based operating systems as well as published applications produces an incredibly flexible and robust approach to meeting user needs, but it also presents some unique challenges. Of principle importance in taking this new approach to delivery and user entitlement is characterizing usage in the environment to create meaningful delivery groupings and understand what aspects of the portfolio fit where.

In an increasingly advanced world of work style options, it becomes essential to understand the relationship of users to applications and the methods they currently use to access them. Because the FlexCast solution set provides a wealth of configuration options for different areas of the enterprise the creation of a meaningful architecture first needs to assess the population that will be using it. Highly mobile users with a need for offline access or for easy web-based delivery to various client devices have a very distinct set of needs that are not necessarily shared with a more office-oriented worker. By first taking stock of the current set of needs a rationalized portfolio can then be provided to precisely meet the varied requirements of a complicated environment. Citrix AppDNA application migration software augments this rationalization with compatibility and remediation analysis to complete the picture of the plan, and that analysis is greatly simplified by SysTrack's direct integration. As a clear next step, the infrastructure requirements to support this planned environment must also be analyzed to provide the best possible performance.

Consolidating workloads from existing deployments or creating net new systems based on the characterized user segments depends on understanding the expected impact of application resource load and system configuration. Without first developing a model based on empirical, real world data it quickly becomes an exercise in frustration to size an infrastructure that balances cost with quality of delivery. As an aspect of the rationalization and planning process a resource and capacity projection assessment with SysTrack's Virtual Machine Planner (VMP) can provide key insight into how to architect a solution that both meets the immediate need of the transformation and later expansion.

As another key aspect of managing the migration, tracking the status of users and their readiness to move into their new solution presents another complication. By taking the choices made during the rationalization process and mapping the planned applications to their users, SysTrack Transform allows for detailed project management by reporting on compatibility and readiness of packaging. This functionality is greatly enhanced by the continued integration from the AppDNA software into Transform for a direct feed of the detailed results. This presents a convenient, unified reporting dashboard to maintain project timelines and determine when the solution is ready to migrate to.

After the implementation, maintaining consistent performance for all aspects of the infrastructure and the delivered desktops and applications is critical. The cultivation of easily reported metrics and a rapid response framework to proactively resolve problems can greatly simplify the steady state management of desktops. Tying the unified desktop and server management architecture available in XenDesktop 7 to the detailed performance management reporting in SysTrack provides just that in a complete and intuitive toolset. From detailed infrastructure and Citrix specific information available within XenDesktop Director to the normalized health analysis and trending information produced in the SysTrack suite, the complete picture of environmental performance can be painted to allow for deep and immediate understanding.

Delivery Group Identification – Characterizing the Environment

The versatility of FlexCast allows for an incredible diversity of work styles, and this can enable any enterprise to make the best use of resources that are available to it. However, this comes with the difficulty of planning out which members of the user population get access to what and how they should be provided with the applications they depend on. With an increased focus on the concept of Delivery Groups found in

FlexCast 2.0 it's essential to begin any assessment by first targeting specific user

segments and analyzing their behavior to see what kind of habits are common. Of special interest in modern delivery planning is the identification of candidates for mobile device enablement and characterization of applications to be used by those users.

A thorough analysis of the working habits of currently or potentially mobile users provides a high level of insight into the opportunity for moving application delivery into the Citrix infrastructure and making it more robust. Further, by highlighting candidates for XenClient rollout the image management process can be greatly simplified by moving already existing mobile users to a local hypervisor. SysTrack helps by identifying highly mobile users that already exist in the environment, focusing both on continually connected mobile styles and on those users that have periods of limited or no connectivity with a complete inventory of software used. For users with offline access requirements some options may be limited for delivery, but a XenClient based solution will provide a perfect mix of performance, flexibility, and supportability to these unique members of the computing population.

Figure 1: Characterization information from SysTrack Site Visualizer

Even beyond identifying potential candidate devices (see Figure 1), investigation of the application interaction of users can expose interesting information about which applications may fit well in a mobile device portfolio. SysTrack provides an analysis of what applications have been actively interacted with to segment those users who are more focused on creating content versus a more passive content consuming group. Through this characterization the complement of applications for usage on mobile devices can be clearly determined based on observed, real-world data. This allows for a creation of Delivery Groups for all client device types based on the actual needs of the environment.

Another key group to identify is those users that fit well with a non-persistent desktop. A non-persistent desktop offers numerous advantages over a persistent virtual desktop, but one of the most important is the ease of management. Through minimizing the number of applications to support and update the potential for adverse interactions and software problems is greatly reduced. By first isolating users with a highly common application portfolio, minimal personalization requirements, and highly connective work styles it's possible to pinpoint what opportunity exists for unifying potential nonpersistent candidates.

Planning the Deployment – Virtual Machine Planner and Transform

Architecting the new environment is really comprised of two key areas:

  1. Forecasting design and utilization of the supporting infrastructure
  2. The cultivation of a detailed desktop and application portfolio delivery plan.

For the first point SysTrack collects usage information both from a user and application perspective during the data collection period to allow for complex mathematical modeling to take place using SysTrack Virtual Machine Planner (VMP). By running an analysis of several representative weeks averaged together, VMP outputs a complete statistical picture of the patterns of consumption that can be anticipated in the new environment and will describe the supporting infrastructure required.

Because a FlexCast solution can be made up of numerous distinct components, it's important to differentiate varieties of load into categories. Through VMP it is possible to run distinct models for each scenario available. For a traditional desktop model a complete prediction of compute resource, memory, and IOPS is generated based on observed patterns to determine the server and storage needs of the users in the solution. In a published desktop based solution VMP can partition user account usage from system account usage to present actual future load accurately, avoiding overestimation by removing load that won't truly be present.

By far the most complicated part of architecting and gradually implementing a new solution is planning image provisioning for the desktops and servers to be added and mapping users and application delivery options to the correct groups. Based on the observed needs in the environment, the Image Provision Planner (IPP) in VMP allows a complete mapping of use cases to delivery groupings and users. IPP puts forward an interrelated representation of all the distinct usage habits discovered during the collection period to start the rationalization process. By presenting usage information and descriptive information around the consumption of each application a case can be made for a specific style of delivery that can then be committed and fed directly into Transform for project tracking.

Figure 2: A project overview in Transform

Usage of Transform to monitor the evolution of the environment (see Figure 2) while managing the project then provides a perfect method to ensure that as the solution is being implemented, the readiness of users to move into their new solution is clear. This is also another area where the AppDNA software can play a pivotal role in analyzing the decisions made for delivery. The deep integration between the AppDNA software and SysTrack has been improved with the ability to import compatibility analysis from the AppDNA software directly into Transform to help present a unified view of project completion. As applications are tested and verified new users are flagged as ready for migration and can be moved into their future-state environment.

End User Experience Optimization – XenDesktop Director and SysTrack

Blending the Citrix specific information available in XenDesktop Director with the more granular, trending information presented in SysTrack gives a complete picture of the end user environment. By first beginning with the overarching, normalized health score provided by SysTrack an overall view of the quality of the delivery begins to emerge. This provides critical insight into how the end user experience has been evolving, and what areas may be impacting it the most.

Figure 3: A summary overview of health for a desktop

Augmenting this in-guest and host system based performance tracking with session health (see Figure 3) and Citrix infrastructure performance via XenDesktop Director can help fully identify and remediate the root causes of issues detected in the environment. This ability to look anywhere in the solution stack from client access point through to guest operating system provides unparalleled ability to find and stop potentially large scale systemic issues before they become massive problems. As an even better feature, SysTrack can also provide proactive health and system monitoring to automatically generate help desk tickets or even remediate the issue without help desk interaction.

Next Steps

The combination of planning, project management, and health analysis from SysTrack with delivery from the new Citrix XenDesktop 7 solution provides a complete end-to-end pathway for optimization of the state of enterprise IT.

To begin, contact your systems integrator or technology provider for more information about an evaluation of SysTrack, or, for existing Citrix customers, go directly to the Citrix Project Accelerator (http://project.citrix.com/) to find out more about the FastTrack automated assessment tool.