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.

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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:

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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.

4 Keys to a Successful Citrix Migration


bitsIf you are considering a Citrix migration, it is very likely that one or more of needs is driving your decision making.

  • Your Citrix licenses are about to expire and you are concerned about losing access to Citrix support
  • It is time to move from a less secure messaging, email or collaboration application to a more secure and flexible Citrix solution.
  • You are not sure how you are going to measure key performance before during and after you migrate to Citrix XenMobile MDM
  • You want and need access to more in depth reporting for all aspects of your environment before a migration plan is created
  • Application “slow-time” or intermittent issues are affecting the productivity of end users and it needs to be tracked down and eliminated before a migration can take place

Everyone in IT from the CEO to IT Managers and Admins all have their own concerns and perspectives about initiating a Citrix migration and they often overlap.

Executives and IT Managers care about automation, modernization, reducing OPEX, increasing productivity and maintaining a seamless user experience.

While they are concerned with the strategic business needs and outcomes, the responsibility for delivering a Citrix migration on time, on budget and seamlessly to end users rests on the shoulders of the admins in the trenches.

Simply stated, migrations are difficult, managing multiple apps, platforms and domains all with their own tools, different levels of visibility, unique interfaces and data, makes it hard to pinpoint and troubleshoot the root-cause of problems when they occur.

IT needs a single solution that provides universal insight, correlates the performance of all interdependencies and uses a simple methodology to help accelerate time to resolution.

They need advanced KPI and performance metrics so they can profile performance and model the new environment easily in order to bring the migration project in on time and on budget.

So how important is performance management to a migration?

Bloor Research and the Harvard School of Business found the following to be true after studying almost 1,500 different enterprise migration projects.

  • 28% of migrations result in cost overruns
  • 38% of migrations result in cost overruns, failure or are abandoned
  • 17% of migrations result in a cost overrun of 200% and 70% schedule overrun

Their research revealed there are three common reasons why migration projects are abandoned; fail or suffer from time and budget overruns.

  • Limited or no insight across enterprise interdependencies
  • Limited or no KPI data profiling solution
  • Limited or no data driven decision making

When organizations were trying to plan their migration or manage business and IT changes due to acquisition, merger, consolidation or virtualization, either a KPI data profiling solution wasn’t in the original budget or a KPI profiling solution was cut from the budget leaving the project at risk.

KPI Data StatsBut all is not lost, they also discovered the following encouraging statistics during their research.

  • 72% of migrations that are both on time and on budget included a KPI data profiling solution as part of the original budget plan before work began.
  • 62% of ongoing migration projects can be brought in on time and on budget by implementing a KPI data profiling solution

Their research suggests the following.

  • Only two-thirds of data migration projects are on time and on budget.
  • CIOs can be “firewall executives” and reduce the risk of potential damage to the company’s image and reputation from a failed or late project by instituting a KPI data profiling solution.
  • Establish funding for a KPI and data profiling solution as part of a migration plan before the project begins!
  • Using a tried and tested methodology for measuring performance can help ensure a successful migration

Successful Migrations Start with Universal InsightWe have determined at eG Innovations that there are four keys to a successful Citrix migration.

  1. Universal Insight Across the Enterprise
  2. Testing and Troubleshooting
  3. Building accurate Performance Profiles
  4. Maintaining a Positive End User Experience

eG Enterprise and the universal insight it provides can help you with multiple aspects of your next Citrix migration project by making it easier to do the following.

Identify all interdependencies regardless of where they reside

  • Test and troubleshoot issues that could result in downtime, slow-time, budget and schedule overruns
  • Maintain a working coexisting model and active user profiles until migration is complete
  • Prototyping, profiling and right-sizing the new environment
  • Verify that performance expectations are met before archiving old data and retiring obsolete systems

Here is a breakdown of the four keys to a successful Citrix migration.

Successful Citrix Migrations START with having universal insight across the enterprise. That includes all interdependencies, from apps to platforms and domains whether in the data center, virtual space or the cloud. Everything from end user experience metrics to network latency, application and database responsiveness, server health, the virtual machines and OS, to CPU, memory, disk resources and more.

Testing and TroubleshootingTesting and trouble-shooting an environment proactively is key to ensuring that the migration process is seamless and doesn’t negatively affect end user productivity. Correlated performance metrics will help reveal hidden or intermittent issues that exist within the current environment so they can be avoided within the NEW environment. It will also help admins quickly determine where the actual root-cause is so they don’t waste time diagnosing symptoms.

With eG Enterprise once an admin is alerted to an issue they can very quickly in just a few clicks drill down to the root-cause of the problem and determine a rapid solution such as locating where vm resources are constrained and moving the workload or adding more resources to remove the bottleneck.

Environment ProfilingBuilding performance profiles for both the current and the new Citrix environment is imperative to success. Using a solution that correlates performance metrics across all interdependencies within a single interface makes it much easier to measure and establish baseline metrics for the behavior and performance of current apps, databases, OS and supporting hardware. eG Enterprise empowers data driven decision making when modeling, profiling and right sizing the new environment. KPI data and performance profiling may be helpful with other decisions such as deciding

  • NEW standard images and profiles
  • What licenses and drivers as necessary
  • Applications required for all systems in NEW standard images
  • How to prioritize the different phases of the migration
  • What data and apps will be migrated and what end users will be required to transfer
  • What workloads or vm resources need to be load balanced
  • What can be archived, refreshed, repurposed or retired

Proactive MonitoringProactively managing and monitoring performance is what helps IT maintain a positive end user experience. eG Enterprise provides the universal insight needed to see and measure all of the interdependencies that can affect end user experience and productivity.

That includes but is not limited to log on times, CPU, memory resources, I/O reads and writes, latency, Storage Zones, NetScaler devices, XenApp, ShareFile, VMware, SQL, Oracle and more. Upon migration to the new environment and before repurposing or retiring any of the old systems its best to let the new environment run for several weeks to ensure availability, stability and to ensure that any intermittent issues are identified and resolved.

For more information about making eG Enterprise the center of your next Citrix migration, for a free trial, to schedule a live demo a request to info@eginnovations.com or go to www.eginnovations.com

How to Resolve a Complex IT Problem in Just a Few Clicks with eG Enterprise


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One of the most common and yet difficult things for any admin to accomplish is to trouble shoot end user “slow-time” issues. Application, database, network and server unresponsiveness or “slow-time” negatively affects enterprise performance and end user productivity ten times more often than downtime and can originate from just about anywhere within the enterprise.

Misconfiguration due to human error, missing drivers, intermittent memory faults, network IP cache errors, unbalanced workloads and constrained virtual resources can all be the root-cause of slow-time, or they could just be a resulting symptom, the key to resolving such issues is getting to the root-cause quickly before they spread to other systems and bring productivity to a standstill.

In the following walkthrough, I detail how such a scenario can be resolved quickly and easily before end users notice with the help of eG Enterprise. This example focuses primarily on Citrix and vmware but eG Enterprise can help IT departments maintain maximum productivity for millions of combinations of enterprise components.

eG Enterprise is a 100% web based solution making it possible for anyone in IT from the CIO and IT Managers to admins and helpdesk specialist to proactively monitor their environment anytime, anywhere on any device.

eG Alarms Window for Blog

When a “slow-time” error occurs, eG Enterprise automatically generates an alarm to the appropriate admin so they can take action immediately. The solution correlates and color codes the minor, major and critical alerts and displays them using a layer model with the most critical alert at the top.

eG Alarms Window Details for Blog

According to the alert Virtual CPU usage in the vmware ESX system console is high. The system console is a bootstrap operating system of ESX and should only be using about 2% of the CPU allocated to it, by scrolling over the description we can see the usage has suddenly increased to 100%; left alone this would surely affect Citrix performance and generate a large number of support calls to IT from end users.

eG Detailed Diagnosis Window for Blog

Fortunately, eG Enterprise patented detailed diagnosis technology makes identifying the root-cause a breeze. By scrolling to the right and using the magnifying glass icon, the root-cause is revealed within the Detailed Diagnosis window. The window is displaying information for the top 10 processes using virtual CPU resources; to the right of the window those processes are listed as SAMBA backups.

eG Fix Feedback Window

The root-cause is simply this, the vmware admin is performing a normal backup but it is taking place before the end of the workday potentially affecting Citrix users when they attempt to log on and access applications. The best solution is to contact the vmware admin, explain the situation and either agree to reschedule the backups or adjust virtual resources.

In this case, the Citrix and ESX admin agree to reschedule the backups and then the Citrix admin uses the Fix Feedback feature within eG Enterprise to document the event, as well as the agreed solution and save the record. Resolving the issue took just a few clicks and a quick phone call between admins.

eG Enterprise provides universal insight across platforms and domains whether they exist in the Cloud, the data center or in virtual space, it is for this reason that the Citrix admin had the visibility they needed to identify the root-cause as a virtual resource constraint within the vm’s that support Citrix.

The following is a more detailed look at the Citrix admins view of the eG Enterprise Universal Insight dashboard as well as the methodology and technology behind the solution.

eG Universal Insight Dashboard for Blog

The color codes of eG Enterprise are familiar, green is “Normal”, yellow is a “Minor” alert, orange is a “Major” alert and red is a “Critical” alert requiring immediate attention.

The dashboard provides universal insight for the 12 different components that comprise the two Citrix services they are monitoring. The Component Type panel lists the details for each of the 12 components.

Clicking on the listed services in the middle of the Infrastructure Health panel on the left will reveal which of the two services is generating alerts.

The Measure at – A – Glance panel at the bottom left lists the measurements and tests conducted for each of the 12 components that comprise the two different Citrix service being monitored. Details include CPU utilization, Free memory, Active Citrix sessions, and more.

The bell icon on the top right of the window is a link to the alarm window details viewed previously.

eG Infomart Services Window for Blog

After clicking on the Services panel eG Enterprise presents two Citrix service icons for the different services, it appears that Infomart is the service experiencing major issues, clicking on the Infomart icon opens the list of Web Transactions for the Infomart service.

eG Informart Transactions Window for Blog

The list indicates that Application Access and User Logons are experiencing errors. The Citrix admin may click on the Topology tab or the transactions themselves for a service topology graph for the Infomart service.

eG Citrix Topology Window for Blog

Navigating the Infomart service topology from left to right, end users are connecting to Infomart through a network node, then a web server that is experiencing minor errors; the requests then reach a Citrix Zone Data Collector, which sends the request to one of the Citrix XenApp servers, which is experiencing major errors. The XenApp server then accesses the appropriate file, print or database server on the backend.

Based on the color codes eG Enterprise is indicating that the primary focus should be on the Citrix XenApp servers. Clicking on them will present the Citrix admin with either a physical or a virtual topology for Citrix XenApp depending on the supporting host.

eG Virtual Citrix XenApp Topology Window for Blog

The virtual topology indicates that the vmware ESX virtual machine hosting the Citrix Zone Data Collector, the Web server and Citrix XenApp are experiencing critical errors, that is where the focus needs to be. Clicking on that area of the virtual service topology reveals the elements that support those virtual machines.

eG Layer Model Window for Blog

This is the eG Enterprise Layer model for the Citrix XenApp service topology. On the right are all of the elements that support the virtual machines as well as the various tests that correspond to that layer. As an example within the OS layer for the virtual hypervisor are measurements and tests for the System Console, CPU, Disk Space and more; depending on which layer is selected the information within the right panel changes accordingly.

eG Detailed Diagnosis Window for Blog

eG Enterprise has already identified that virtual CPU resources within the system console are constrained. Using the magnifying glass icon on the far right opens the same Detailed Diagnosis window previously accessed from the Alarms window and the same SAMBA errors are viewable, this confirms the previous diagnosis.

Regardless of the path an admin chooses to use, identifying the root-cause of a complex IT problem takes just a few clicks with the eG Enterprise.

eG Infrastructure Health Reporting Window for Blog

The last thing I will cover are some of the reporting benefits that eG Enterprise provides. By returning to the Universal Insight dashboard and selecting the Reporter tab, anyone in IT can pull performance reports for the infrastructure.

Reports are available based on Function, Component, Service, or Segment; two of the more important are Operational KPI and Capacity Planning. Easy access to comprehensive reporting make it possible to maintain business continuity, predict peak needs, ensure future readiness for emerging technologies while keeping costs down and increasing productivity.

The eG Enterprise methodology is simple, the technology is powerful and the universal insight is comprehensive.

For a free trial, to schedule a live demo or obtain more information about eG Enterprise send a request to info@eginnovations.com or go to our website at www.eginnovations.com

Enhanced Browser Monitoring in Citrix Infrastructures


A couple of application deployment and usage trends are causing interesting performance monitoring challenges in Citrix infrastructures:

Browser Performance Monitoring

  • Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop are used to host client applications that users access through thin clients. With a lot of the corporate portals and intranet applications being web-based, one of the most widely used client applications on Citrix infrastructures is the ubiquitous web browser. SaaS applications like Salesforce and ServiceNow are accessed using the browser.
  • A second key trend is that web applications are being designed to use client-side scripting (JavaScript, Ajax, etc.) for rendering and processing of information.

On a Citrix infrastructure, since browsers are hosted on the Citrix servers, client-side processing uses CPU, memory and disk resources on the Citrix servers.  Any script malfunction or errors can cause the corresponding browser instances to take up excessive resources.

When users had physical desktops, a browser instance taking up CPU, memory or disk resources would only affect the performance seen by the corresponding user. However, since a Citrix server is shared by multiple users, one user’s browser instances taking up excessive resources can affect the performance seen by all other users of the same server. Therefore, identifying and fixing browser performance issues is a key challenge for Citrix administrators.

Most Citrix performance management tools report on the resource usage by applications running on the Citrix servers. With this approach, an administrator can see that specific browser instances are using excessive resources but they will not be able to determine why – i.e., which URLs or web sites are being accessed by browser instances that take up excessive resources?

Windows Task ManagerTo illustrate this further, look at the figure below which shows a snapshot of Windows Task Manager showing the processes running on the server. From here, an administrator can see that certain browser instances are taking up excessive CPU but not which URL is being accessed by that instance.

eG Enterprise v6 maps browser instances to the URLs/web sites being accessed. This allows administrators to easily determine when a browser instance is taking excessive CPU or memory or is causing high IOPS on the server, which URL/web site is the user accessing.

To illustrate this capability, consider the figure below which shows the users currently logged on to a Citrix XenApp server and the resource usage and bandwidth usage for each session.  As is evident, the user Charles’ session is consuming more bandwidth than the others and his session is also consuming 85% of the CPU of the server.

Users currently logged on to a Citrix XenApp server

eG Enterprise’s detailed diagnosis capability provides more details on why charles’ session is consuming excessive resources. In the figure below, you can see the applications that this user is running. From the table below, it is clear that the user has three browser windows (or tabs) open and the process consuming CPU is “Internet Explorer” with PID 3566.  From the browser title, it is clear that the user is watching a movie from www.youtube.com!

eG Enterprise’s detailed diagnosis

This information helps Citrix administrators track the usage of their Citrix servers, watch for unexpected usage on their servers and track down users who may be accessing non-corporate applications and may be affecting the performance seen by other Citrix users.

PS: A mapping of process ID to URL is available only for Internet Explorer on Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop.

Customer Testimonial – Citrix Monitoring


Many thanks to Mr. Jacob Ackerman, Director of Information Technology at Horizon Business Services for taking the time to write about his experiences with the eG Innovations software and services. We value every one of our customer relationships and it is accolades like these that motivate us to even greater heights.

In his recent blog post, Mr. Ackerman writes:

Anyone looking to monitor your Citrix farm needs to take a serious look at eG Innovations – http://www.eginnovations.com/. They have a great product and unbelievable support.

Originally, I was looking at Citrix EdgeSight to monitor our XenApp 5 farm. While it’s a good product, it didn’t monitor the health of our entire farm/network. Problems caused by logon servers, database issues, firewalls, etc. just weren’t caught by the EdgeSight – it was just too focused on XenApp. We needed something that went beyond just XenApp.

We’ve been using eG Manager for about a month and a half, monitoring Citrix XenApp, Citrix STA, Citrix Web Interface, Citrix License Server, Domain Controllers, Active Directory, SQL, Windows DNS, Dell iDRAC, standard WMI and Cisco ASA.

Setup and implementation times were a fraction of what I thought it would be. The system comes with many preconfigured components each with their own preconfigured tests and thresholds. Within several days, we had metrics that made sense and allowed us to tune our farm.

They also have some of the best support I’ve seen. The software is easy to use but with the scope of what can be monitored, questions come up. Their technicians have been fast to respond and have been spot on in their responses.

Mr. Ackerman has picked on every one of the points we strive to be the best at:

  • Monitoring of business services end-to-end, not just silos;
  • Rapid implementation, ease of use, and low cost of ownership
  • Delivering return on investment in weeks, not years!
  • And the best support possible, so customers value and enjoy the value of working with us.