Thursday, 04 July 2019 12:21

How to properly monitor Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops?

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Citrix Director vs Enterprise Monitoring Platforms

Citrix provides a tool called ‘Citrix Director’ for monitoring Citrix Virtual App and Desktops (CVAD), formerly known as Citrix XenDesktop/XenApp. While this is a great tool for providing day to day end user support with real-time health information about CVAD software components and user sessions, there are a few important differences compared to an Enterprise Monitoring Platform, such as Microsoft System Center Operations Manager (SCOM). You should know this when monitoring CVAD stacks.

Scope

Citrix Director is a point solution and only provides information that is available within the CVAD database. This means it does not provide information for the whole stack. For instance, it lacks monitoring for StoreFront and Provisioning Services which are crucial tiers in a common CVAD stack.

Furthermore, it does not monitor the Windows Server Operating Systems, Hypervisors, Physical Hardware, Storage and Network components your CVAD stack components and user workloads are running on. Nor does it monitor infrastructure services like Active Directory, DNS, DHCP and File Services which CVAD heavily depends on.

This is shown in the diagram above. It shows which components and layers of a common Citrix stack are monitored by Citrix Director and which are not.

As you can see, Director does monitor the user layer and some components of the control layer. However, it lacks hardware, access and resource layer monitoring.

An Enterprise Monitoring Platform, such as SCOM, can monitor all components of a CVAD stack, as long as you have the right set of Management Packs installed. It is built for operators tasked with the overall health of datacenters and clouds with multiple vendors representing multiple software and hardware products.

Director is not an Enterprise Monitoring Platform. It is a point solution built for a specific task.

Depth

Because a point solution is built for a specific task you can often zoom in and get generally more detail than an Enterprise Monitoring Platform provides.

Role-based Event Management

An Enterprise Monitoring Platform is a standardized system maintained by a dedicated team to support your event management process. It is a system the whole IT organization heavily relies on when it comes to event detection, before actual incidents occur that affect user experience.

Events are handled according to an event life cycle and the system is also responsible for making user experience measurable (KPIs) and show trends over time. It can be used in every layer in the organization; by datacenter operators, system engineers, IT managers, CIOs etcetera, due to its role-based event management features (views, dashboards, event life cycling).

It integrates with ITSM systems to generate tickets (semi-)automatically and thus supports your incident management process as well. For SCOM there are several ITSM bi-directional connectors available that do this.

At the other hand a monitoring point solution, like Director, is typically a tool system engineers maintain themselves and use if they think they need too. Director has some role-based access, but because of its concept, there is no Role-based Event Management that groups events and dashboards into teams and manages event life cycles, like a typical Enterprise Monitoring Platform would.

Trend Analyses

Analyzing trends over time requires you to have descent data retention. Let’s say a retention of multiple years. Again, Citrix Director is not really appropriate for this. It only provides a maximum history reporting of 7 days for Standard and 1 month for Advanced license customers. If you want historical data beyond 1 month you would need a pricy Premium (previously called Platinum) license for CVAD. This increases data retention to 1 year only.

By default, SCOM’s data warehouse data retention is about 1 year, but can easily be increased unlimitedly. This enables you to baseline and do trend analyses over time spans you require for your organization.

Citrix Director complements an Enterprise Monitoring Platform

Generally, an Enterprise Monitor Platform delivers the following features:

  • Event Detection; to detect any health degradation of end user experience and technical components within the whole datacenter or cloud environment;

  • Role-based Event Management; Event Life Cycling and Role-based access to events, dashboards and views, to manage the process of solving detected events by multiple teams with different skills;

  • and Single-Pane-of-Glass functionality; to provide dashboards each showing the overall health of a particular service stack.

Some Enterprise Monitoring Platforms, like SCOM, are also able to let you drill down into objects when health has been degraded to find the root-cause of the degradation. Nevertheless, point solutions will always be very useful to support Root-Cause-Analysis.

Citrix Director is such a point solution and the following diagram shows how it complements an Enterprise Monitoring Platform.

 

 

In short, use an Enterprise Monitoring Platform like SCOM to detect and manage events and let Citrix Director excel in further deep-diving to solve it. Make sure you understand this when monitoring CVAD stacks to get in control.

SCOM as an Enterprise Monitoring Platform for Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops

In the next blog I will zoom in on using MS SCOM, as an Enterprise Monitoring Platform, for monitoring Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops (formerly known as Xendesktop/XenApp).

At GripMatix, we believe in no-nonsense tooling to help IT departments leveraging the quality of their infrastructure.

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