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.”

eg-innovations-citrix-lifecycle-mangament

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.

How to Detect and Resolve Five Common Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop Performance Challenges [Webinar]


Five Common Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop Performance ChallengesPeak performance and a positive user experience are the keys to the success of Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop deployments to virtualize your applications and desktops. When application slowness occurs – and users notice – productivity and business revenue can be negatively impacted.

Join us for the ‘ How to Detect and Resolve Five Common Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop Performance Challenges ‘ live webinar to learn how to optimize your virtualized Citrix infrastructure for peak performance and end user satisfaction.

Date: Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Time: 11:00 AM PT | 2:00 PM ET | 7:00 PM UK | 8:00 PM CET

Register Now

Bala Vaidhinathan, CTO of eG Innovations, a Citrix-Ready Partner, will help you discover how to address common performance challenges as well as discuss Citrix performance monitoring best practices, including how you can:

  • Resolve user complaints at the helpdesk, without escalating issues to Citrix experts
  • Troubleshoot and resolve Citrix logon slowness issues quickly
  • Find the root-cause of “Citrix is slow” complaints and determine what is causing the problem – i.e., network, VMware, Active Directory, application, Citrix, storage, etc.
  • Respond to ‘my browser is slow in Citrix’ – is it the browser users are accessing or something else?
  • Go from reactive to proactive monitoring of your Citrix services and keep users satisfied and productive

Register Here 

We look forward to seeing you online!

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.