Case Study: eG Enterprise at St. Charles Health System


st-charles-healthcare-case-studyAs the largest provider of medical care in Central Oregon, with four hospitals and more than 120 medical providers, as well as the region’s largest employer with over 3,800 caregivers in total, St. Charles Health System plays a pivotal role in this burgeoning community.

When St. Charles decided to streamline service delivery for all of its units, the IT team identified the need for real-time visibility into performance across their physical and virtual infrastructure, and selected eG Enterprise as their solution to help ensure top performance for their clinical end-users. Wendy Howard, Infrastructure Engineer with St. Charles, describes the project as a “massive technology overhaul.” The project goals included:

  • Transition from physical desktops to virtual desktops via Citrix XenDesktop
  • Upgrading the Citrix XenApp 4.5 and 6.5 farms to the latest version
  • Adopting Citrix Provisioning Services and Microsoft App-V for images and application virtualization
  • Widespread physical IT expansion and component replacement
wendy-howard-st-charles-healthcare
Wendy Howard with eG Enterprise on the wall-monitors. “It’s invaluable for us.”

Richard Hussain with Denali Advanced Integration was engaged to advise and manage the project, and together Denali and St. Charles selected eG Enterprise to help ensure quality service and high patient satisfaction through this major IT transformation. Once implemented, they have not looked back.

“eG Enterprise is something we can’t live without. It is a fantastic tool, and it gives me confidence that our systems are running as they should. We have been able to use eG Enterprise to quantify performance improvements in areas that we were struggling with before. And with a few changes we were able to quickly see that we had a 50% improvement in user login times.
– Wendy Howard, Infrastructure Engineer, St. Charles Health System

I like the ability to monitor just about every component you can think of in this entire organization and be able to show it on one single dashboard. It’s just like, wow. It’s really an excellent product.
– Richard Hussain, Solutions Architect, Virtualization, Denali Advanced Integration

Read the case study here:
http://www.eginnovations.com/documents/case-studies/eG-Innovations-St-Charles-Health-System-Case-Study.pdf

It’s All About the User: Defining User Experience for Citrix/VDI


All-About-The-User-1The success of any IT initiative today is tied to the end user experience. If the user experience is poor, in the best case, efficiencies and productivity will drop, users will complain, help desk tickets will increase, and the IT team will scramble to solve problems in response. In the worst case, users will want IT to rollback the new technologies they have introduced – be it virtual desktops, cloud computing, or virtual storage – to regain the performance levels they are used to and rely on to do their jobs.

The importance of user experience is highlighted by a recent Gartner survey of enterprise customers. 49% of respondents indicated that they had adopted Application Performance Management (APM) solutions to improve the quality of the customer/user experience. Among the critical dimensions of APM, end-user experience monitoring was rated number one.

gartner-enterprise-customer-survey

Also, in a recent eG Innovations webinar we asked the 200+ attendees, “What are the key challenges you face in your VDI deployment?” The results were clear:

eG-Innovations-key-challenges-VDI-deployment-poll

End-user experience is by far the biggest issue on everyone’s mind, so we thought we’d take a detailed look into what we all know is the ultimate measurement for success and failure, no matter what application or silo you’re responsible for.

In performance management circles, there has been a lot of emphasis on monitoring, reporting and improving the user experience for web applications in recent years However, among all the different applications in use in an enterprise, providing a great user experience through virtualized applications and desktops – whether Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop or VMware Horizon with View – is among the most performance-sensitive challenges, and probably the most complex to manage.

So let’s break it down. This article is the first of a short series to discuss how to deliver a consistently great user experience from a performance management standpoint, starting with Citrix/VDI. First, what is it, exactly?

What Constitutes User Experience for Citrix/VDI?

Latency or response time is the most commonly referenced user experience metric in Citix/VDI, but there are many other factors that contribute to the user experience. Let’s look at the different tasks that a user performs when accessing a Citrix application or a virtual desktop, as filtered through the typical issues reported by users.

  • “I can’t login” or “login is slow”
    To access the Citrix/VDI service, a user has to login and failed logins will lead to frustration. Likewise, if login is slow, productive time is lost. These effects can be amplified as user logins may happen multiple times: A user may first login to a Citrix StoreFront server and see a list of available applications. When the user selects a specific application, he/she is then logged into one of the Citrix XenApp servers in the farm and then can access the application. Slow logins to StoreFront or to the XenApp servers negatively affect the user experience. In many domains, users only login a few times in the day. But in some cases, a user may need to login many times throughout the day. For example, a doctor visiting patients at a hospital may login to devices in each room to update information after they have a patient consultation. So for example, when the doctor checks in on 120 patients per day, a 10-second delay per login can result in 20 total minutes spent on logins instead of providing excellent patient care and ensuring satisfaction.
  • “I can’t get to my virtual desktop” or “It takes a long time to be able to get to my virtual desktop”
    In the case of virtual desktops, especially when desktops are dynamically provisioned, a desktop may be created and booted up only after a user logs in. But, users expect desktops to be made available instantly so any slowness during booting of these desktops or communication failures between the connection broker and the virtual desktop software (agent) running inside the virtual desktop can present noticeable delays for the user.
  • “My desktop profile is not available” or “I see my desktop launch but it takes a long time to become accessible”
    In VDI terms, a user’s desktop and preferences are together referred to as the user’s profile. In a physical desktop, a user’s profile is available locally, but in a Citrix/VDI environment, profiles are stored remotely on profile servers and loaded dynamically when a user logs in. This is required because a user may login to a different server or virtual desktop each time and the profile has to be loaded dynamically to the correct server or desktop each time. The time taken to load a user’s profile also affects the user experience. If a profile is not loaded correctly, the user will not get access to his or her favorites, folders and applications and will not be able to perform the tasks that he or she needs to do.
  • “The application did not launch” or “the application is slow to launch”
    Client applications, such as web browsers, SAP clients, Microsoft Office applications, and EHR/EMR applications, are published through Citrix XenApp or made available from virtual desktops. The time taken to launch an application is another measure of the user experience; for example, if excessive time is required for an application to launch and be available for user inputs (due to various plugins loaded during launch, for example), the user experience degrades. Sometimes, mismatched DLLs can lead to application launch failures. Application launch errors may also occur if the Citrix environment has run out of licenses.
  • “My access is slow, the screen refreshes very slowly” or “there is a big lag between my keystrokes and their echo on the screen”
    Citrix and virtual desktop applications are very interactive. Since no processing or data is done on the user side, all the user interactions have to be communicated from the Citrix/VDI clients to the server farm. If the screen takes some time to repaint or if the lag between a keystroke and its echo on the screen is high, users will perceive slowness and become frustrated. Similarly, for audio/video applications, excessive jitter and patchy display can cause the user experience to degrade.
  • “My session drops randomly while I am doing work”
    A common issue faced in Citrix and virtual desktop infrastructures is session disconnects. When a user is in the middle of their work, a session can get disconnected and it can be very frustrating. This can also lead to productive work being lost, because even if the user connects back to the server farm, he/she may be logged into another server or desktop. Session disconnects can be caused by poor network connectivity between the user and the server farm (e.g., lossy wireless networks) or by glitches in the server farm. Session management and connection handling are closely coupled in Citrix/VDI, and the TCP connection between a client and a server must remain on while the session is in progress. If a network error happens for a short while, it will result in the TCP connection being dropped and the session being disconnected. Users will have to connect back to the Citrix/VDI farm again when this happens. There are techniques like Session Reliability (aka Common Gateway Protocol – see http://blogs.citrix.com/2013/01/23/session-reliability/) that are intended to alleviate this condition, but this feature is not always enabled. Session terminations because of unexpected errors on the Citrix servers/virtual desktops also affect the user experience. Such situations also need to be detected and corrected at the earliest.
  • “My application crashes randomly”
    Applications may also crash as a user is performing their work. Repeated crashes of course negatively affect the user experience.

Have we missed any typical Citrix/VDI user issues? Please comment below, or send your suggestions to marketing@eginnovations.com and we’ll include them in an addendum.

For our next article in this series, we’ll step through the primary available methods for monitoring the Citrix/VDI user experience, and the advantages/disadvantages of each.

eG Innovations Launches the eG Enterprise Blueprint for Citrix Lifecycle Management and Citrix Workspace Cloud


CitrixReadyeG Innovations is pleased to announce the availability of the eG Enterprise Blueprint as part of today’s launch of the Citrix Lifecycle Management solution for Citrix Workspace Cloud. Now, eG Enterprise’s end-to-end, answer-focused performance management capabilities can be deployed into any 7.x Citrix environment with a single click, offering the fastest and simplest way to begin seeing exactly how slowdowns anywhere in your infrastructure are impacting your end-users’ experience.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Citrix around Citrix Cloud Workspace and Lifecycle Management,” remarked Matt Wrabley, VP of Business Development for eG Innovations. “We see Citrix Workspace Cloud and its lifecycle management as a great way to accelerate deployment and management of virtual desktops and applications. The eG Enterprise blueprint for Citrix applications makes our industry-leading performance monitoring solution available as a one-click install for any Citrix solution. With this blueprint, customers can deploy Citrix solutions and manage them in a few seconds.”

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As a long-standing Citrix Ready partner, eG Innovations has worked closely with the Citrix team to ensure day-one integration with this next-generation, cloud-based management solution. Citrix’s forward-thinking vision for the management of the Citrix Workspace Suite focuses on accelerating time-to-value, facilitating repeatability in deployments and enhancing IT productivity, efficiency and value. This vision aligns perfectly with eG Innovations’ mission, to provide leading-edge unified monitoring capabilities across today’s hybrid infrastructures and automating performance management for Citrix Workspace services.

For more information about today’s Citrix Lifecycle Management and the Citrix Workspace Cloud launch, visit the Citrix Lifecycle Management page.

To learn more about the eG Enterprise suite for Citrix performance monitoring, request a free trial or get a quick demo, visit our Citrix Monitoring information center.

Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop 7.x: Upgrades/Migrations are Lagging


As a follow up to our previous post, we have some more poll data to share from our Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.x webinar in late August. During the webinar we polled the 500+ attendees to find out where they were with the Citrix XA/XD 7.x rollout.

Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop 7.x was first released almost two and half years ago. But interestingly, we found that many Citrix customers are continuing to run earlier versions of Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop.

eG Innovations Poll: Citrix XenApp / XenDesktop Pre-Version 7.x Installations

Citrix XenApp 6.x continues to be popular, with 63% still running this version. This number is roughly unchanged from a similar poll we conducted a year ago. In our previous blog post we reported that Citrix XenApp 7.x deployments have doubled in this same period, but this new figure suggests that much of the current XenApp/XenDesktop 7.x deployment is concentrated in new farms, rather than upgrades/migrations from XenApp 6.x.

Also, while 19% reported having Citrix XenDesktop 5.x running in their infrastructure, a surprising 16% are still running Citrix XenApp 4.x, despite it having reached end of life.

Considering a migration to Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop 7.x? eG Innovations can help:

eG Enterprise is an invaluable resource to help ensure smooth, successful migrations and new farm launches. Gathering benchmarked performance data from your legacy infrastructure is the best way to know exactly how your new version launch should perform, allowing you to tune your users’ experience before you go live. eG Enterprise makes it easy to eliminate the guesswork.

For detailed information about Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop performance management, please read our free white paper, Five Common Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop Performance Challenges – DOWNLOAD NOW.

Also, please note that the popular webinar Top Eight Best Practices for Deploying Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.6 is available on-demand. This webinar discusses important, field-proven best practices to ensure success in your Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.x deployments, whether you are planning a new farm or looking into migration from a legacy version. To watch now, CLICK HERE.

Citrix XenApp / XenDesktop 7.x Adoption Growing Rapidly


As part of our Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.x webinar in late August, we polled the 500+ attendees to find out where they were with the Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop 7.x rollout:

chart

These numbers indicate the rising adoption of XenApp/XenDesktop 7.x in live deployments, as they are roughly double the adoption percentages we collected only one year ago.

Considering the move to Citrix XenApp / XenDesktop 7.x? eG Innovations can help:

Our on-demand webinar Top Eight Best Practices for Deploying Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.6 features Rob Beekmans, Senior Consultant with PQR and Srinivas Ramanathan, CEO of eG Innovations. The presenters discuss important, field-proven best practices to ensure success in your Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.x deployments. To watch now, CLICK HERE.

Going Beyond IT Performance Management: A Strong Foundation for IT Security and Compliance


Did you know that eG Enterprise offers far more than IT performance monitoring?

As our customers know, eG Innovations provides exceptional IT performance management or as our tagline says, “total performance visibility,” but that’s really just the beginning of the story. Going Beyond is a periodic post where we talk about other, somewhat less well known eG Enterprise capabilities and features. This week, we’ll discuss some of eG Enterprise’s outstanding capabilities to proactively manage critical IT security and compliance tasks.

eg-innovations-it-security-and-complianceAs recently as last week the news has been filled with new security breaches in social media, e-commerce and healthcare, and the sheer numbers involved can be staggering. Thousands, tens of thousands, and sometimes millions of records are reported to be exposed to identity theft and other dangerous outcomes. As the potential risk grows, the government’s response traditionally involves requiring more detailed reporting by IT departments. And inside of individual organizations, increased exposure to risk often results in internal IT security and compliance policies designed to preempt legal requirements and market-driven expectations.

In particular, the healthcare and financial industries are subject to extensive government mandated documentation of access to IT resources.  Companies in these industries must participate in audits that are focused on administrative and end-user access to and usage of resources. For example, when a bank or medical facility has an upcoming audit, the Security or Compliance Officer will likely request documentation relating to most or all of the following:

  • Administrative access
  • System security
  • Change control
  • Resource access
  • Mechanisms to safeguard against inappropriate user activity

Without an end-to-end monitoring solution to rely on, the IT organization and the security/compliance groups can only communicate reactively rather than proactively, and thus must expend countless extra man-hours to meet the documentation demand by tracking down information from various siloed resources.

Fortunately, eG Enterprise has a solution for this ongoing (and escalating) situation.  Its standard web-based reports enable your team to easily fulfill required security/compliance audit requests, as well as meet internal company policies, all from a single, user-friendly interface. Centralized data collection and reporting eliminates errors, saves time and reduces the stress often associated with these critical tasks. Further, the reports can be automatically generated on a scheduled basis, or ad hoc anytime.

For a detailed description of how eG Enterprise expedites security auditing, we have assembled a solution brief entitled, Unified Monitoring and Reporting for IT Security and Compliance. This document describes how organizations can use eG Enterprise’s prebuilt reports to quickly and accurately document all required data related to access, security, and verification. Download Here

These embedded security and compliance capabilities are included at no additional charge, and we encourage our customers to utilize these time-saving features to take a step beyond “total performance visibility.”

eG Enterprise Solution Brief: Unified Monitoring and Reporting for IT Security and Compliance

Running Well: IT Problems in the News


IT-problems-in-the-news-performance-managementLast week’s news put a bright spotlight on how much impact IT professionals have on our world. Unfortunately, it’s the bad news that gets the headlines, from a configuration error at NYSE down to a single router “glitch” for United Airlines, but there is a positive side to the unfortunate delays and lost productivity from the past few days. These outages, whose negative impact was thankfully limited, have given many outside of the IT world a brief, visceral understanding of all the work that goes into the interdependent, global technology ecosystem we live in. Inside companies around the globe, executives may have taken an extra moment last week to appreciate the solid IT pros THEY have on the job, keeping their business running, and running well.

Here at eG Innovations, we live and breathe IT performance, because this is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, for our clients. The driving goal behind our unified performance solution, with specific emphasis on Citrix monitoring, Java application monitoring, SAP monitoring and others, is to provide you with immediately actionable information about slow-downs and outages throughout your network, beyond just data and metrics. While most of our customers focus on preventative and proactive performance management, we’d like to throw in a mention that our Correlative Intelligence engine is a time-tested technology for dramatically reducing MTTR when outages do occur.

To learn more, below is a link to what our customers say about how our eG Enterprise technology helps them keep their IT engines running, and running well: http://www.eginnovations.com/web/usersurvey.htm